Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Where Next?

Still haven't put all my pots and pans away. Spent much of yesterday 'relaxing' again (this meant nodding off in my chair most of the day). Because of this was wide awake again later, and even though going to bed at midnight could not sleep until after 4.00am this morning (I kept looking at my bedside clock to see the time). Up at 7.30am so still a bit bleary-eyed.
It seems as though physically I've packed up for a few days, but my brain is still working feverishly when awake. At least managed to make B's supper yesterday (Beef Strogonoff), this being was a doddle compared to previous days. So easy I could almost make it in my sleep!

Thank you sue15cat (and others) for kind words. We welcome a new reader: 'And', and I was pleased to read that she had met Erica Griffiths who was a 'working friend' of mine for many, many years. When Erca left the BBC, she asked me to keep in touch but never gave me any contact address, so I've never managed to catch up with her again.
The 'Floating Islands' dessert probably was in Woman's Own (I was commissioned by them to do several cookery features for them). Basically this dish is a custard base with soft meringues 'floating' on top. The meringues are made in the usual way (beating egg white with caster sugar), but instead of drying out in the oven, they are poached in the milk (used to make the custard), then removed to drain on a clean tea towel to put on top of the custard once that has been made. If deciding to make custard using custard powder (and why not!!) then the meringues can be poached in simmering water.
Sometimes I would use a flavoured custard (like chocolate!) for the base which make the floating 'islands' look even better.

There were two servers behind the hatch at the 'curryfest' minimiser deb, one was my Beloved! Never let it be said he isn't prepared to help in the kitchen (as long as it is someone elses!!). One server put the rice on the plates, B then was there to put the chosen curry on the top of the rice. Being B he probably put a larger portion (still small to him) than was intended, but as I mentioned, having the back-up curry there was enough for everyone, including the committee members. At the end of the evening B himself had another plateful, as did my daughter (not sure about Eileen), so obviously enough of the curry/rice.

Although just about everything on the front table went (only a little salad and raita left), think there was enough of the 'additions' to go round gillibob, as B seemed to a good seleciton on his plate at the end of the evening. Maybe it was he and the committee who cleared the decks so to speak, as I didn't check the table until everyone was fed and the boxes of sweets given out.

Yes, B did buy me those two casseroles from Lidl Jane, one of each size. They seem to be very good, non-stick interiors, oven-proof up to 180C (mainly due to the plastic handles I think), but on the hob can reach a higher heat.
I really must take a look at the Approved Foods site again as I think they keep showing different products as they get them, and not enough to be always available. Would hate to miss something good.

Regarding double cream Eileen, this will freeze (as long as over 40% fat) so you could just pop your surplus tub/s in your freezer to thaw out later. Ganache will also freeze. Also a thank you for your kind words about my food. It isn't THAT good (or maybe it is - how would I know?). But it is only as good as when freshly made. Keeping hot the dhal, samosas, bhajis, naan.... never improves these, usually the opposite. Things that were fried for the venue tend to lose their crispness, and those that should have remained soft (naan) tended to dry up. So the 'venue' food was not as good as it could be. Obviously my 'best food' (but am not perfect, so not always), are those served in my own home. As you will find out when we next have a party!

Good to hear from you again Margie. Have to admit that those 'skills and ability' you mentioned have been very slowly learned over a very long lifetime of cooking. When we do something every day we all gain experience. Once I became interesting in the 'cost-cutting' side of cooking, I probably did get more interested in the subject.
I can't understand myself how I manage to be so organised (and rarely) when in my 'normal' day to day life I am a complete disaster. Born lazy in fact, although once 'bitten by the bug', can then spend hours (and hours, and hours) and days (and days, and days) working feverishly non-stop.

My first memory of mine of this 'concentrated work' was when I was just 13 and I suddenly wanted to paint a picture. I asked my Dad if I could borrow his oil paints (he was an amateur but very good artist), and he said I could, so I went up into a spare bedroom in the morning and began to paint. Mum called me down for lunch and I said I couldn't as "I couldn't stop painting". She called me down for tea, and again I was 'busy'. Eventually, late evening, my picture was done (but never to my complete satisfaction, and always have this feeling with every picture I paint or dish I cook with the feeling 'I could do better' etc, etc). My daughter still has this picture, and have to say it's quite good.
Since then have painted many pictures (given most away but also sold several). But then I can't paint 'to order', and never have been able to. The 'feeling' has to come over me, and when it does (like once every 10 or so years) then I paint and paint and paint for days and days and do nothing else and then stop. It's almost as though someone else had taken over my body and done all the work, then suddenly decided to leave. Very strange.

Not sure my mother understood my reason for not wanting to eat that day I began to paint (as normally was always hungry - this being 1946 and still the days of wartime rationing - but certainly my Dad knew how I felt when it came to painting. If only I could always be like that I could have achieved so much more with my life.

This time I've done all the 'catering' by myself, and although did have offers of help, it seemed very important to me to know I could still do it, however old I have become. Next time will almost certanly delegate. Let someone else cook the rice. Chefs have helpers, old-time cooks had scullery maids, all doing the prep/washing up, and 'menial work'... Why should I do it all? Just leave me to get on with 'the clever stuff'.

The other evening watched Heston B talking about cooking beef. Had seen a bit of it before, and did try his way of frying steak - which really does work well. In the later part of his prog (I didn't see all of it first time round), he was making his own beefburgers, first mincing good steak then rolled the 'strings' of mince into a fat 'sausage' that he tightly wrapped in clingfilm and chilled. He then showed how he sliced across the sausage to make thick 'burgers', saying that 'cutting across the grain means the meat is then very tender'. Which it is when still on the joint, but SURELY, mincing the meat loses all the 'grain'', so it makes no difference if the 'sausage' is sliced or the minced meat is hand formed into burgers.

I have to smile when I open the fridge door, there are two shelves in there nearly empty. This is the first time this has happened since we bought 'Boris'. Even the smaller freezer has food rattling around inside it with room to spare. Intend keeping both this way (or nearly) as then this gives me more room to chill/freeze something when 'experimenting'. Usually I keep having to squeeze things in to gaps, and then can never find things when I want them.
From now on will try to be a lot more organized with my chilled/frozen food storage. My larder (as you know) is VERY organised. It all helps to save time when needing to cook when I don't feel like it.

You'll have to forgive me for giving only one recipe today for truth be told the last thing I want to do is think about food. When I write out a recipe I tend to 'sense' the dish, and 'taste' the flavours, and as long as I keep well away from a recipe for a spicy curry dish, then today can probably just about enjoy the 'writing up'.

One 'light meal' I enjoy eating is a dip (or three) with raw veg (aka 'crudites'), and although would probably prefer to eat either a hummous OR a guacamole dip, this recipe make a lunch dish that is a combination of both, eaten with a tomato salad instead of the normal 'cruds'.
tip: turn the empty avocado shells inside out and use to rub over your face, hands, or elbows. The slight residue of avocado on the skins (contains oil) helps soften the skin and is very beneficial.
Stuffed Avocado with Tomato Salad: serves 2
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 tomatoes, chopped
few pitted black olives (opt)
juice of half a small lemon
olive oil (for drizzling)
salt and pepper
1 large avocado
2 tblsp hummous
toasted slices of baguette
Put the onion, tomatoes and olives into a bowl with most of the lemon juice. Drizzle with oil and add seasoning to taste, then toss together.
Cut the avocado in half and remove the stone. Brush the cut surface of the flesh with the remaining lemon juice (this prevents it from discolouring), and spoon the hummous into the cavity left by the stone. Scatter the tomato 'salad' on top and serve with toasted bread.

Tomorrow is Norma the Hair day, so this blog will probably be written after she has left (as I cannot see me getting up early!), so expect me to 'arrive' on your comp later than usual.
Still have loads to do in the kitchen, and also have to do a lot more work with my new 'blog' that should be almost ready by the end of this month (but expect it will be later rather than sooner my mind having gone rather blank - suppose this could be called 'cook's cramp' - and need to get back on track with that. Think life would be much simpler if I'd stuck to painting pictures!

Hope to hear from as many as you as possible over the next few days, as need to have some cheering words to lift my weary spirits. Yet am pleased I managed to accomplish what I did, and how I feel now is just the 'withdrawal symptoms'. By the end of this week it will feel as though it was all a dream and life will be back to boring normal. I can't wait? TTFN.