Saturday, May 05, 2012

Behind Closed Doors

Took a look at your review of "The Goode Kitchen" Sarina, and was most impressed as I tend not to think that anything I do/write is worth noting. So it is good to see how others view my 'work', although have to say the book was written to go with the TV series and I had to conform to the directors requests re content, it was also heavily edited as I always 'ramble' on too much. The second BBC book 'Goode for One' was commissioned by the Beeb and I didn't want to write it anyway, so have always felt it wasn't as good as it should have been. Once that was written they allowed me free hand to write 'Have a Goode Year', and this I really did enjoy writing as was then able to mention other things than cooking, and also some past memories.

Your mention of open shelving in the kitchen is what a kitchen should always have. Anything behind closed doors usually gets forgotten, especially if it is at the back of a shelf. What we see is what we tend to use regularly, and although a neat and tidy kitchen looks very good, it certainly never looks like a 'working kitchen', in a similar way, a very neat and tidy minimalistic decor to a house never really looks (or feels to a visitor) like a 'home'. Or is that just me?

Interesting what you said Lynda about trees planted round houses in the US to provide shade. We do have trees planted along many roads along pavements (these roads are then usually called 'avenues'), but trees planted too close to houses will cause problems as their roots tend to move the foundations and cracks then begin to appear in the walls and ceilings of the houses. But have also noticed that many US houses are built 'up' on low walls, perhaps to allow ventilation from below (or to prevent animals/snakes getting into the houses). Much I suppose depends on area/states as to the architecture of the US houses.
(Not sure if you are a new reader Lynda, but if so welcome. If you've written before, then welcome back).

In this country Lisa we don't have the same really hot weather as so often seems to be in the US, also rarely have mosquitoes (although believe Hayling Island on the south coast does have these). Scotland has 'midges' in early summer that are extremely annoying, so visitors tend to avoid holidaying at that time. We do get a few insects that could be kept out with screen doors, but again seasonal, and never a real problem. These being tiny dark flies that appear when the corn is being cut (but only in houses close to the countryside and corn fields), also Daddy-long-legs (Crane flies) appear in autumn (I really hate these when they come into the house, but only when they fly around my head).
We get a cloud of mayflies sometimes dancing in the garden, but they keep themselves to themselves and are pretty to watch. What we do hate is late summer when the fruit is ripe on the trees and the wasps then start to fly around. Wasps often build their nests in a house roof or eaves and then we get loads. If we put some jam in a jar, then half-fill with water, put a foil or paper lid on top with a hole in the centre, put those on windowsills or around the garden, then the wasps aim for those first, crawl in and drown. We usually end up with jars full of dead wasps and very few flying around us. They won't normally sting unless we start flapping at them and annoying them, but when they do it really hurts.

Making crepes on a flat griddle is the right way Campfire. Crepes being even thinner than our normal 'pancake'. I used to have an old cast-iron griddle on which I made crepes and drop scones, but gave it to my daughter (by request) for her to use on her old range in Ireland. Do hope she does use it for I miss it very much. Otherwise I use a very shallow flat 'pancake' pan that is not quite as good, but nearly.

My cooking at the moment is for my 'new' site-to-be, so don't wish to show photos or chat about them or you won't then need to look them up later. But of course will still be cooking enough things to talk about on this site, and did mean to do some yesterday, but was far too busy sorting out my kitchen to bother with such mundane things as food. The only thing cooked was B's supper (lamb shank, new potatoes and peas with mint sauce and redcurrant jelly, plus wine gravy). Myself made do with a Spam sandwich and some fruit. Don't know why but have a real craving for Spam these days, can't eat enough of it (even the mention of it is making my mouth water and I want to trot off into the kitchen and make myself another Spam sarnie, if I was forty years younger this craving would make me think I was pregnant!).

Time now for me to cut the 'chat' and return to important things - like the ever increasing cost of food, as now I too am feeling the pinch. It's not that I'm spending any more per monthly on-line order than I do normally, often still managing to spend less than my 'budget'. But the amount that arrives is now considerably less than (say) a couple of years (or even a year) ago.

My larder shelves are now not quite as full as they used to be, but this doesn't mean there is a shortage. As long as I have about four of everything (or almost everything) then I still feel 'secure'. Four of everything means 'one on the go, one to take it's place when finished, and then two for back-up'. When I get down to only three cans of baked beans, its then I begin to feel a mite worried, and have to say this has happened more than once recently. But then having a good stock of home-made baked beans in the freezer, an dried haricot in store 'to make more if necessary', am finding that keeping a lot of cans of baked beans now is really not that important.
At one time I used to love 'snacking' on baked beans, but suddenly have gone off them and it is Spam that is taking its place, so now have to make sure I have enough cans of that. No wonder my money doesn't go quite as far as it used to.

Beloved has told me that the Cup Final is on today. Yippee! That means I can spend all afternoon in the kitchen cooking my socks off. I'd probably do that anyway on a Saturday as there is little on other than sport during the afternoon (at least on the terrestrial channels). Mind you, I do like to watch snooker, that also on at the moment.
People are complaining that the weekly 'Gardener's World' has been shelved whilst snooker is on, because at this time of the year people are 'needing to know' what to do in their gardens. Not everyone likes watching snooker/football/tennis... not everyone likes cookery programmes. Am myself not really interested in watching many sports on TV, so looks like during the Olympics, I'll have time on my hands to do more cooking/gardening/crafts.

Problem with the 'satellite' channels, unless you pay for the right equipment we cannot watch much of what is listed in our TV mag. Freeview we do have, but even that is mainly repeats, and the one I'd like to watch (a cookery (Food) channel), is on Sky or Virgin or something, and we don't subscribe to that. Had thought of it, but know that B would then be watching the sports channel and it would mean less time for me to sit and watch what I would like to see. Suppose the answer is to buy a second TV and then we can each watch what we want, but am not going down that road. TV can be a 'time-waster', and if we did without it in the 'old days' we ought to be able to do without it now. Having said that, if there wasn't TV, then I wouldn't have got to where I am now - writing to you, so should be thankful.

I can feel myself 'rambling' on and on, so had better put a stop to that and start writing about food. So here are a few suggestions for dishes you might like to make.

The first recipe uses butter beans. These are cheap enough bought ready-cooked in cans, but even cheaper when we cook the dried beans (after soaking) ourselves. I cooked one 500g pack and it made LOADS (many still in the freezer in several boxes).
On their own butter beans are a bit tasteless, but can be mashed up and used in much the same way as potatoes when making fishcakes, or veggie burgers. As not a million miles away from chickpeas (other than the c/peas have more flavour), the butter beans can be made into a type of hummous, and here is a recipe to show how:
Butter Bean Hummous: serves 4
1 x 410 can butter beans, drained and rinsed
2 tblsp olive oil
zest and juice of 1 small lemon
pinch salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 x 125g tub garlic and herb cream cheese
Put the beans in a food processor (or basin) with the oil, lemon zest and juice, and the seasoning and blitz (or mash with a fork) until it forms a smooth paste. Add the flavoured cream cheese and - when combined - spoon into a container. Cover and chill. This will keep in the fridge for up to three days.
Serve with 'crudites' (celery and carrots sticks, sugar snap peas, fingers of sweet peppers, tiny cauliflower florets, button mushrooms etc) and tortilla chips and start 'dipping'. Alternatively spread the hummous on the insides of pitta bread 'pockets' and tuck in some salad leaves and sliced tomatoes to eat as a 'sandwich'.

Once we have a 'hummous' (trad. chickpea or butter bean as above) we can then go one step further by using it more as an accompaniment to a meal rather than as a dip or spread.
Here is an example:
Avocado Hummous with Salad: serves 2
1 small red onion, finely sliced
6 cherry tomatoes, halved
few black olives, pitted and halved
juice of 1 small lemon
1 large avocado
2 tblsp hummous (see above)
olive oil (for drizzling)
Put the onion, tomatoes, and olives into a bowl with half the lemon juice, and toss together.
Halve the avocado and remove the stone (and then why not wash the stone and stand it in a pot of moist soil, cover and place in a warm place to root and shoot and grow your own 'tree'). Spoon the remaining lemon juice over the cut surface of the avocado (this prevents the flesh going brown), then spoon the hummous into the hollows left by the stone. Place on a serving plate, and scatter around the salad ingredients (onion, tomato, olives). Drizzle a little oil over (opt), and serve with thin slices of toasted baguette (or ordinary bread if that's all you have).

This next recipe is included because it can be prepared a day ahead, so perfect for a busy cook who needs something he/she can pop into the oven on return from work (or a day's shopping!). It can even be frozen, but thaw overnight in the fridge before cooking.
Apart from the obvious time-saving mentioned, this is a good recipe to use up butternut squash, as although this veg will keep for weeks when uncut, once it has been started can then soften and 'go off' fairly rapidly, even when kept in the fridge. I always cover the cut end with cling-film to help prevent the flesh going soft and mouldy before putting in the fridge, but best used sooner than later.
It doesn't really matter if a shallow casserole dish is used, other than that there will be less layers. Myself prefer as many layers as possible, so use a smaller and much deeper ceramic oven-proof dish. This can also be assembled and cooked in individual (oven-proof) serving dishes if you wish
Squash 'n Cheese Pasta Bake: serves 4
approx 1 lb (450g) butternut squash, cut into chunks
1 tblsp olive oil
5 fl oz (150ml) creme fraiche
2 oz (50g) grated Parmesan cheese
8 sheets dried lasagne
7 oz (200g) ricotta or cream cheese
few sage leaves, chopped
salt and pepper
Put the squash chunks into a roasting pan and drizzle over the oil, then roast in the oven (200C, 400F, gas 6) for half an hour or until soft and turning golden. Then leave to cool slightly and peel away the skin.
Meanwhile mix the creme fraiche with half the Parmesan, and boil the lasagne sheets for 3 minutes to soften them, remove and drain and toss in a little oil.
Put the ricotta/cream cheese into a bowl with the sage, the remaining Parmesan and seasoning to taste, and beat together. When combined, gently fold in the cooked flesh of the pumpkin.
Assemble the dish by spreading a thin layer of the creme fraiche mix over the bottom of a shallow cassserole dish, then topping with a layer of lasagne. On this put some of the ricotta/squash mixture, and then some of the creme fraiche mix. Then add a layer of lasagne and repeat, finishing of with a layer of pasta and a final topping of the creme fraiche mix.
Bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for half an hour or until bubbling and golden.

Although the weather forecast is not that good for the Bank Holiday, today has begun with wall to wall blue sky and - of course - sunshine. There is very little breeze, so am hoping the sun stays out all day.
Apparently the moon is at its closest to the earth, and as this coincides with full moon here in the UK, this could cause exceptionally high tides, so something to go and check out (probably this will be on Tuesday), Sunderland Point may have an even higher tide, especially if the wind has got up by then.

I cannot believe that 'officially' it is already the start of summer, and can only hope we do get plenty of good weather in June/July for the Jubilee Celebrations (street parties), Olympics (outdoor events), Wimbledon (tennis) et al. If there is one thing guaranteed to let Britain down, it is our weather. It always rains at the worse possible time. Fingers crossed this year the gods smile down on us and allow us to have our celebrations on at least dry and warm (if not sunny) days.

Yes, I know it's an early finish to my blog today (how unusual is that?), but have so much I wish to do today, and as I always work best in the mornings (especially early mornings) should really take the opportunity to make the most of the time I have left before noon, even though will still be working until footie finishes.
Please enjoy your Bank Holiday, and hope the weather stays fine for you. Hope you can use your extra free time this weekend to cook and garden (this will save you loadsa money), or just relax and put your feet up (this could also save money if you stay in and not decide to have a drive out and use expensive fuel in the car!). But whatever you do, make sure you enjoy doing it. Otherwise is it worth doing? Depends what it is.

Join me again when you can, and as ever - keep those comments coming. I'll be back again tomorrow (maybe a bit late if I can't get the blog published before Gill's hour-long phone call), and hope to meet up with you then. TTFN.