Monday, May 21, 2012

Making the Most of It

Tried sleeping in my bed last night, and this was quite painful until I settled into a comfortable position and eventually went to sleep. This morning am still having 'back trouble' but it is now slightly different. Less pain, more like the muscles have 'locked', and now I am walking without pain but bent almost double (and also needing to use a stick). When I straighten up, the pain begins again, but in a slightly different place than before. Also I can 't sit for any length of time in any chair (but my own easy chair in the living room) without my back hurting again, so for the next few days this blog will probably be shorter than usual.
If I find I need to stay in bed to heal my back, then will get Eileen to let you know I'm taking a few days off (so check the most recent comment box if I suddenly disappear!).

Well Sarina, it does look as though this week we will be having an English summer. Who knows, it may last even longer (and - fingers crossed - even longer so we can all have a pleasant Jubilee Bank Holiday).
Am giving a few more salad recipes today, useful for al fresco eating as well as taking in a lunch box to work.

My suggestion for 'camping recipes' Kathryn would be to take some 'home-made readies' with you that you have frozen, so these can be thawed and slowly reheated. Chilli con carne, curries etc. If you take the frozen food in a cool box surrounded by cartons of frozen milk, the milk should keep the food well-chilled for several days, and you can thaw out a carton of milk per day.
Am also including a 'pan-fry' recipe that would be good to cook when camping.

If anyone has a large a large freezer, put the cold box/bag into the freezer the night before travelling, and pack the food in it before removing from the freezer. This keeps the food chilled for far longer. But don't do as I once did - put the lid of the (plastic) cold box in as well, for once I put the lid on the box and lifted it, the heavy weight caused the handle to break (plastic is fragile when 'frozen'). So have the lid at room temperature when you put it on the box. Fabric insulated 'cool-bags' won't fall to bits when chilled.

Regarding mincer discs Kathryn. Think the oval shaped ones are probably for 'grating' cheese or for making breadcrumbs. The old-fashioned way of cleaning a mincer after grinding up meat was to run a crust or two of bread through the machine (then of course give it a final wash). These crumbs of bread would normally be added to the minced meat to be cooked.

Myself have 'minced' meat fairly successfully using a food processor. But only using the 'pulse' button to chop it up. A continual blitz will turn the meat into more like 'paste', although this can be useful when using a cheaper cut of meat when making (say) meatballs. With other ingredients (onion, breadcrumbs etc) added, the meatballs are then beautifully tender once cooked.

That Pea and Ham soup sounded lovely Lynne. Please everyone, do make sure anything made with gammon 'stock', is reheated THOROUGHLY (or made with any meat or veg stock for that matter) to be on the safe side. I keep remembering reading about a big wedding where everyone was served home-made food, and all came down with food poisoning because the 'mushy peas' had been made using gammon stock, and was left standing around and then only 'warmed up' before serving.

So pleased that you found the 'extended' bread mix works for you Lynne. This is another way we can use a naughty convenience mix, but end up saving both money and time.

You had a marathon 'cook-in' for your freezer Jane. Loved the sound of our couscous burgers. The other day read about 'fish burgers' (fish cakes to you and me) made with mashed butterbeans and fish instead of using mashed potatoes (and fish). Possibly any cooked beans (even baked beans?) could be used as the 'carbohydrate' part of a fish-cake/burger.

If you went into Morecambe via the Bare railways station Cheesepare, then you would pass close to the road where we live, being just a spit away from the main road. Read in our local paper that it was the Kite Festival at the weekend, and I missed seeing it!! B was out most of that day and he didn't mention it (he had other more important things he wanted to do no doubt). Being a very windy day, it was a good day for kite flying.

First recipe today is for a 'made on the spot' chicken curry. Having said that, any leftovers can be chilled and eaten cold for lunch the following day. This is a good recipe to use up those chicken 'fillets' that are at the back of chicken breasts, as these cut easily into chunks - perfect for this and any similar recipe, and work out cheaper than using chicken breasts. When camping, take a bag of frozen 'chunks' and thaw to cook for this dish.
West Indian Chicken Curry: serves 4
1 large onion, chopped
1 - 2 cloves garlic, chopped or crushed
2 tblsp curry powder
1 tsp sunflower oil
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
2 large chicken breasts, chopped into chunks
1 x 400g can coconut milk
4 oz (100g) cherry tomatoes
Fry the onion in the oil for five minutes, then add the garlic and curry powder and cook for a further minute. Add the potato and chicken and give a stir to coat with the mixture in the pan. Pour in the coconut milk and simmer for 12 - 15 minutes (over a very low 'camping' heat, allow about half an hour). Add the tomatoes five or so minutes before the end of the cooking time. Serve with warmed naan bread.
Alternatively, open and tip in the contents of a sachet 2 minute (microwave) rice, give a stir and leave to cook for 3 - 4 minutes. The rice will heat through and also absorb some of the liquid at the same time.

This next recipe can be made 'from scratch' and is a good one for camping if you wish to leave it to 'slow-cook' for some time. On the other hand it can be made in advance as it freezes well, and then just thaw and reheat THOROUGHLY.
The original recipe uses skinless, boneless chicken thighs, the flesh then cut into chunks, but those chicken fillets could also be used. Instead of haricot beans, use cannellini, pinto, butterbeans or any other canned bean you fancy. Could even use chickpeas.
Although home-made stock is preferable, when camping worth using a stock cube and water.
Chicken and Bean Stew: serves 4
2 tblsp sunflower oil
14 oz (400g) chicken, cut into chunks (see above)
1 onion, finely chopped
2 large carrots, finely chopped
3 ribs celery, finely sliced
2 sprigs fresh thyme (or half tsp dried thyme)
1 bay leaf
1 pint (600ml) vegetable or chicken stock
2 x 400g cans haricot beans, drained
Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the chicken until lightly browned all over. Add the prepared vegetables and 'stir-fry' these for a few minutes more before adding the herbs and the stock.
Bring to the boil, give a good stir, then cover, reduce heat and cook for 40 minutes (or longer) until the chicken is very tender. Add the beans, bring back to the simmer and cook for a further 5 minutes. Serve with chunks of crusty bread.

Now a salad recipe, and with any luck all the ingredients we will have in store. Omit any we don't have and substitute something else (canned sweetcorn instead of capers, mayo instead of - or as well as - the oil). By now am sure we know how to be both flexible and adaptable when it comes to using one ingredient for another. The only 'advance preparation' needed is to have cooked pasta shapes to complete this dish.
Once made, this salad can be kept in the fridge (covered) for a couple of days.
Storecupboard Salad: serves 4
1 small red onion, finely chopped
2 tsp capers
1 - 2 tblsp pesto (to taste)
3 tblsp olive oil
2 x 185g cans tuna, drained and flaked
7 oz (200g) leftover cooked pasta shapes
4 sundried tomatoes, chopped
Put everything into a bowl and gently toss/mix together.

Final recipe today is a warm dish, perfect for eating 'al fresco', but also makes a good supper dish for eating indoors. A good dish to make when camping (or maybe in the pan on a barbie in the garden), whether made indoors or out, this is a 'one dish suits all'. Although vegetarian, some chopped chorizo could be fried with the courgettes, or sliced cooked sausages heated in the same way - or maybe even crispy bacon. As ever the cook's choice as to 'make the most of it'.
Summer Vegetable Pasta: serves 4
12 oz (350g) pasta penne (or other pasta shape)
5 oz (150g) broccoli, small florets only
4 oz (100g) sugar snap peas, halved
2 courgettes, diced
1 tblsp olive oil
4 oz (100g) soft cheese (light Philly type)
2 oz (50g) grated Parmesan (or other hard cheese)
zest and juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper
Cook the pasta per pack instructions, adding the broccoli and peas for the final 3 minutes of the cooking time. If using cooked pasta, first cook the veg then add the pasta to the pan to reheat. Set the pan aside, then put the oil in a frying pan and fry the courgettes for about six minutes or until soft and golden, then add a ladle of the veg/pasta water to the frying pan, stir in the soft cheese, the grated cheese, all the lemon zest and half the lemon juice and seasoning to taste. Stir gently to make a creamy and smooth sauce.
Drain the pasta and veg, add to the frying pan with the remaining lemon juice and extra seasoning (if needed). Mix to coat everything with the sauce, then serve immediately.

Looks like the weather forecast is turning out to be right. Wall to wall blue sky, and although not yet ventured outdoors, am hoping there is more warmth in the sun than there has been lately. Barely a breeze, so might even take a 'hobble' outside to sit in the sun for a while. At least do know that our old 'family' teak garden bench is very comfortable to sit on.

If my back doesn't get worse, am hoping to be blogging again tomorrow. See you then.