Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Is it Worth It?

There are times when I feel that all the hard work we do to keep the wolf from the door can be very stressful. Many people today are in the depths of misery because their life has not worked out as they hoped and planned for. The recession has bitten deeply and they cannot see beyond that. Myself like to feel that is light at the end of all tunnels, as long as we keep walking (or should that be 'working') towards it and meanwhile enjoy what we have, not what we don't have.

At the moment I'm 'enjoying' using up the odds and ends of food, and yesterday managed to cobble together a very attractive looking fresh fruit salad using four large strawberries (quartered), one kiwi fruit (thinly sliced), one apple (ditto), a handful of loose grapes that had fallen from a bunch, and segments from an orange. It helped (of course) to have all these in the first place, but they were (sort of) almost 'left-overs', having reached and passed their best before date.

Managed to make 16 jars of marmalade yesterday (took less than one hour to make the lot as I used the canned prepared oranges and lemons), and although these were made for a charity stall, there is enough there that would keep one family in marmalade for a year. Shows how a minimum of effort in a very short time can fill the larder shelves. Definitely worth it!

Not everything is worth doing, but by now have learnt what is and what is not and I'm still inclined to use SOME 'convenience' foods (rather than make from scratch) purely because the are good (quality curry sauces etc). Suppose in this 21st Century the ideal way to cook is do as much as possible at home, but still take advantage of (some) of the 'readies'. Best of both worlds.

Again have been watching the repeats of Superscrimpers, and do hope this series continues, for although I've 'been there done that', it certainly gives excellent advice to younger people, and who knows - perhaps the 'old ways' of make do and mend will become fashionable again, although I think most of the reasons why these skills were lost was because in the old days they HAD to be done, because there wasn't the money. Making do is the cry of poverty and nobody liked to be thought of as poor.

What used to be made from necessity, was then turned into a money-maker for industry. In the old days patchwork quilts were made from old, used material, normally thrown into a rag-bag, nowadays brand-new material is used to make quilts, often sold pre-cut (and of course this now costs a lot when originally all was 'free'). Recycling had become almost obsolete, and we were almost encouraged to use up everything as quickly as possible, then throw it away and buy another.

Depending upon our age, there can definitely be a great divide between certain generations, one not understanding the other at all. My way of thinking has more than once been likened to 'living on another planet', and I have to smile for the youngsters really don't know very much about 'real life' do they? I expect I felt the same when I was young, but in those days things really were very different than today anyway. Now it seems we have turned into a very selfish society that believes personal needs come above all others, and with the recession forcing people to cut corners is not turning out to be popular at all. Yet in many ways this is quite a good thing to happen. Or so I like to think. Otherwise we would end up doing nothing at all, always paying for someone else to do it for us. And end up bored, bored, bored.

Obviously one of my more philosophical days today. Put this down to the weather, today being cloudy with a feeling of thunder in the air, this always makes me feel gloomy. Yesterday was another gorgeous day, slightly cooler in the breeze. My Beloved and I took a bottle of chilled Chardonnay into the garden and sat and drank it between us, ending up full of giggles (as we do after a drink with no food inside us). We decided to leave our bodies to science (true), and if we are eventually handed back to the family in pieces we wish them to be put together and buried, our tombstone with the inscription: 'Bits R Us".

Suppose my mind should return to the present and should concentrate on food. Still have plenty to do for the Jubilee weekend, and have to fit it in between bouts of aching back - which isn't getting any easier. Possibly the hot weather doesn't help, as I find it hard to stay cool at night and so toss and turn, and when this happens it makes my back worse. Still, as B says "there are millions in the world who are far worse off than we are, many crippled, blind, dying from starvation" and have to always keep this in mind when beginning to feel sorry for myself. It could always be a lot worse and I should be grateful for what I have, not continually (as I seem ot be prone to do lately) gripe about it.

Anyway, food is what this site is (or should be) all about, so let's get on with today's suggestions. l A recipe for a vegetable curry comes first, vegetables only because cheaper than making it with meat, and also curry is one of those temperature-hot dishes that make good eating during the very warm weather we are having at the moment.
The vegetables can be varied (include butternut squash if you wish), but am keeping it fairly simple using a few vegetables that (hopefully) we all have. As there are not too many spices, would probably make this dish as given, if there were a lot more spices (as can often happen) I'd be more inclined to omit all these and use a jar of curry sauce. Cook's choice.

Potato and Cauliflower Curry: serves 4
2 tblsp sunflower oil
1 large onion, chopped
chunk of fresh root ginger, peeled and grated
1 - 3 garlic cloves (or to taste) crushed
half tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground curry powder (or paste) - or to taste
8 oz (225g) canned (or fresh) chopped tomatoes
good pinch sugar
1 cauliflower, divided into florets
2 potatoes, cut into chunks
squeeze of lemon juice
Heat the oil in a pan and fry the onion over medium heat until softened, then stir in the ginger, garlic, turmeric, cumin and curry powder/paste. Cook for a further minute then add the tomatoes and sugar, then the cauliflower and potatoes. Cover and reduce heat and simmer gently for about half an hour (giving a stir occasionally) for half an hour or until the veggies are tender. When ready, add lemon juice. Serve with either rice or naan bread, and a side dish of raita.

Next dish is a sort of 'spicy pie'. Not quite sure how to describe it - similar to a pork pie but without meat. Not a million miles away from a quiche - but without using eggs. A touch of the Spanish omelettes also comes also to mind. Perhaps this is true 'fusion food'. Who cares? It certainly tastes good and a good one to be eaten hot as a main meal (with salad?), and eaten at 'room temperature' is great for picnics or an al fresco buffet.
Bombay Pie: serves 6
1 lb 9 oz (700g) potatoes, sliced and cooked
1 lb (450g) sweet potatoes, sliced and cooked
1 onion, chopped
1 tblsp olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp ground coriander
1 - 2 cloves garlic, crushed
chunk fresh root ginger, grated
7 oz (200g) frozen peas
juice of 1 lemon
1 x 275g pack filo pastry
1 oz (25g) butter, melted
half tsp poppy seeds (opt)
After cooking the two types of potatoes, drain well and leave to steam-dry. Meanwhile, fry the onion in the oil until softened, then add the ground spices, garlic and ginger and fry for a further 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add the potatoes, peas and lemon juice, turning gently so everything is coated with the spices.
Halve the filo sheets and use two-thirds, laying one at a time (and brushing with butter) overlapping at angles to line a 9" (23cm) loose-based cake tin - allowing the pastry to overhang the rim (cover the unused pastry with a damp tea towel to prevent it drying out - which it can do almost instantly when exposed to air).
Spoon the spicy filling into the tin and cover with the remaining pastry (also in butter-brushed layers), then gather up the overhanging pastry and tuck back over to give a 'scrunchy' edge to the pie. Make a few slits in the top with a knife, brush with butter and sprinkle with poppy seeds (if using).
Bake for 40 - 50 minutes until golden brown. Serve cut into wedges, to be eaten hot, warm, or at room temperature.

Final recipe is a sort of hot tortilla 'sandwich (aka a quesadillas). Myself like this dish as it uses storecupboard ingredients and makes good use of those wonderful chicken scraps we pick from the carcase bones. Any oddments of hard cheese (grated) can also beused, and together they ingredients make a wonderfully tasty 'light lunch/supper' dish, good served with a crisp salad.

We could - I suppose - make our own tortillas and salsa - and I suggest (for economy) this is what we do, but otherwise take the easy route and buy these. Packs of tortillas have a reasonable shelf life (can also be frozen) so essentially this dish is 'storecupboard'. Salsa can be bought in small jars and - unopened - will have a long shelf life.
Chicken and Cheese Quesadillas: serves 2
4 tblsp tomato salsa (medium or hot)
2 large flour tortillas
1 x 220g can red kidney beans, drained and mashed
1 spring onion, chopped
2 oz (50g) cooked chicken, shredded (see above)
3 oz (75g) grated mature Cheddar cheese
fresh coriander leaves, chopped
oil (for brushing)
Spread the salsa over one side of each of the tortillas, then spread the beans on top of just one, followed by the onion, chicken and cheese. Top with the second tortilla, salsa side down, brushing the top with oil. Place in a pre-heated frying pan, oil side down, and fry for 4 minutes then carefully turn and cook the other side for 2 minutes until golden.
Slide onto a plate and cut into wedges to serve.

Another working day in the kitchen awaits me - between times I am continually sorting out papers and trying to keep control of all the 'clutter' that seems to come from nowhere.
Tomorrow is Norma the Hair day, so my blog will be published closer to noon (unless I get up mega-early and do it before she comes.

Thanks to Eileen for her comment. The info given is duly noted. No other comments arrived for me to reply to - so hope for a few more today. Not that I wish to be 'pushy', at this time of year we all have a lot more things to do than sit in front of a computer. Mindful of the 'recession' (now being called a 'double recession' as it is getting worse) hopefully those that are able will keep sowing and growing their own now that the weather has warmed up, for every seed sown (that grows) could save us a lot of pennies later this year. Not just pennies, POUNDS!
With that thought will leave you to get on with your own lives, and will be back having my usual 'chat' again tomorrow. See you then.