Thursday, May 17, 2012

Oh, My Aching Back!

Early the other morning, deciding it was too early to get up, ended up spending an hour lying flat on my back thinking about life in general. A great mistake! When I got up could barely move for the pain. Normally I always sleep on my right side, and occasionally turn and lie of my left side, this doesn't cause too much trouble, but when on my back - obviously does.
A good forty years ago lifted up a crate of empty bottles that had been in the middle of our living room floor for a month (despite asking B to shift it, so as ever - ended up doing it myself) and slipped a disc! Had a trapped sciatic nerve and since then have occasional 'bad backs' where sometimes the only way to relieve it was to lie flat on my back on the floor for days (and days).

Since then have bought myself a very firm mattress which helps no end, but once I sleep in 'the wrong position' this is almost guaranteed to make my back ache again. It was silly of me to believe that as I haven't had a bad back for several years, the problem was over.
So - at the moment - am hobbling around the house using a walking stick for support (and this really has been helping) and today the pain is far less. Hopefully by tomorrow will be almost back to normal.
Thankfully B offered to make his own supper yesterday: ham, egg and oven chips. He seemed to managed that successfully once he knew what temperature the oven had to be on, and how long the chips had to be cooked (he could have looked on the bag for these details, but as ever runs back and forth to me to ask).
Myself didn't eat much yesterday and just as well for horrors upon horrors, I seem to have gained nearly a stone since I had my weigh-in at the beginning of this month. Due entirely to me eating all the 'naughty' things (as I always do after a weigh-in as it will be six months before the next). Time now for me to stop and bring my weight back to what it was, then try (and I do mean TRY!) to get it down even further. Still need to lose a couple of stone (who am I kidding, need to lose at least 3 more), before I am at 'fighting weight'.

Checked up Tudor Close Hotel on the Internet before I began blogging today, and there was an old photo that seemed to be the view from what I recall as the internal quadrangle. Was almost sure we entered the building from the road at first floor level, so perhaps there was another and higher road the opposite side of the building. The old photos of the village were not much different to when we stayed there, the village pond, Rudyard Kipling's house, the shops etc. How sad it is that places can change so much in a life-time. Progress I suppose, but not always for the best.

Sorry to hear your choux buns stuck to the paper Jane. Not sure why this should be other than perhaps you removed them from the oven too soon. Once fully baked the bases (and tops) are so dry and crisp they just slide from the paper. I've successfully baked choux pastry on greased and floured baking sheets and these also are easy to remove, but only when fully baked. Do hope you have another go.
Myself don't add sugar to the pastry, but do add icing sugar to double (or whipping) cream when whipping it to fill the buns. The chocolate on top also gives extra sweetness. Some recipes do suggest adding a little sugar when making the pastry, so it all depends which recipe is followed. I haven't always had success with other recipes, but have to say 'my' recipe seems to be foolproof.

We have a comment from Lynda (in the US) who I believe is a new 'commenteer', so very welcome. Hope you will write again.
I've always believe food in the US to be cheaper than in Britain Lynda, certainly when we visited America some 17 or so years ago it WAS very inexpensive (but then the rate of exchange was good ($2 = £1). Also meat (esp beef and chicken) seem MUCH cheaper than over here (at least watching the Man v Food progs and seeing the prices marked on the chalkboards leads me to believe this - considering how much meat is served per portion. Much depends upon who sells the meat here (supermarkets to quality butchers), but topside beef can be anything from £4 per lb (£8 per kg) upwards. Pork is getting more expensive and lamb very expensive.

You must be getting better weather in Missouri Lisa, to be able to be doing all that gardening. You must have a big plot to grow all that food, but how wonderful you are able to, for it certainly keeps costs down. Over here it is still very chilly. Would you believe they had snow in the Midlands a couple of days ago, and huge hailstones further south? The night before last the temperature was minus 2 deg C, and still expected to stay in single figures (9C) during today (here in the north west). The long-term weather forecast say we should expect the weather to stay the same until at least the Jubilee Celebrations (early June) and maybe then to expect rain (we always expect rain!).

Am pretty sure it WAS in Philadelphia that Man v Food prog was filmed. In fact the presenter asked that slices of 'real cheese' be placed on top of his meat, then grilled instead of the usual Cheese-Whiz. His final piece of 'sub' he did allow to be topped with Cheese-Whiz, and then that came from a tap!

Don't suppose it matters whether tea is served in a cup or a mug these days (especially when T bags are used), but as you say minimiser deb a mug made of china is certainly better than using an earthenware mug when tea-leaves are used. In the old days, the cooks saved all the used tea-leaves, then these (whilst still damp) would be sprinkled by the maids over the carpets and then brushed off. All the dust and dirt would be held by the leaves and kept the carpets very clean. This in the days before vacuum cleaners of course, but worked well then, and probably would do the job as well today.

The other day said I would probably go out with Norris and have a bit of a 'naughty' (like buying something I didn't really need). When it came to it, couldn't do it. So stayed at home. Being naughty is not really me, for have found it always ends up with me feeling guilty, and this lingers far longer than those few minutes of enjoying myself. These days it is not very often I feel like leaving the house at all. My mother used to be the same, when I was in my teens she hardly ever went out, I used to do all her shopping for her, and in those days most foods were delivered anyway. So this solitariness of mine is either how I expected life would be once married, or its in my genes.
Not that I feel I'm missing much by staying in, as rarely feel bored, and perhaps this is because I'm an 'only child' and have always had to amuse myself. Obviously in teenage years had many school friends, and we did go out and about a lot. It was once I was married and the children were born that life within home boundaries became the norm (apart from the obligatory daily walk with the children). There was far too much to do and very little (if any) free time for a mum in those days.

Happened to catch part of a programme last night about rising prices. Eggs have risen nearly 30% since the end of last year. This mainly due to the new rules about how the commercial egg-laying hens are now to be kept. With the ban now on the import of caged hen's eggs, this means a lot of products that used cheaper eggs will now also be more expensive. There always seems to be a reason why food prices rise. If it isn't the added cost of proper care of animals, it is the higher cost of fuel to bring food to our stores (either by air or by road - and possibly by sea). I cannot see prices ever going down very much, and the only way to keep our heads above water is for wages and salaries to increase, and that is not likely to happen in the near future.

Even seeds-for-sowing now seem to cost a lot more. As far as I am aware, a plant still gives as many seeds as it did a century or so ago, so it is the cost of packaging, or the cost of machinery/labour that adds more than a few pennies to each packet we buy? At one time we could buy a packet with at least 20 tomato seeds in it, and costing very little. Now we are lucky to get 6 seeds each working out at about 30p EACH. Just think of how many seeds there are in each fresh tomato we buy. If we find a variety that tastes good, then worth saving the seeds to grow on the following year.
There are several veggies we buy from the supermarket that have seeds we can keep to grow later. Marrows, butternut squash, pumpkins, bell peppers, tomatoes.... and probably a lot of others. We can also grow the stones/pips from avocados, citrus fruits, apples, plums, cherries, peaches etc, and while some may never fruit, they do make good house plants.

At the moment and feeling the urge to plant as many seeds outdoors as possible, but every time I step outside I feel the chill, and just know I've got to wait a bit longer. Then maybe it will be too late. Have a feeling this year - if our country as a whole is going through this 'big unseasonal chill', this will also mean fewer crops will be grown and so we will have to pay more for what is available at the respective harvest times. Have to say the outlook is gloomy, so the more we can no do to stock up with 'long-shelf-life' foods - including frozen (it goes without saying we buy these only when at reduced prices), then come next winter we may still have enough of our budget left to cope with the higher prices we will be expected to pay (and not all for food).

The other day was sent some info about people who used to 'dine out', but are now not even able to 'dine in'. As this was embargoed until today was not able to give it a mention. Briefly it seems that home-cooking is not really being done as much as it could be. Wales has the most people who prefer to home-cook (and this is less than 50%), the east and south of England, a lot less.
The info given was titled 'Don't Dine with Me', and other than giving percentages of those that don't home-cook and the reasons why, ended up with urging people to begin cooking again. And so we should, and one reason for my new site - this showing the simplest way to get fabulous food on the table with the minimum of effort and expense. Still a bit more to do before the site is ready but hope it will be sooner rather than later.

Time now for a few recipes. The first being a soup that has become quite familiar although today generally made using fresh coriander. Neither B nor I like the flavour of this herb, but do enjoy the much spicier (and quite different) flavour that comes from dried coriander seeds sold as a spice. I normally buy the whole dried coriander seeds (incidentally, when sown these seeds will grow into coriander leaves, although not quite as large-leafed as the seeds sold specially for growing as a herb) then grind it myself, but ground coriander is also on sale.

This soup is made using the dried coriander 'spice', low-cost ingredients and is very easy to make. Worth making a large batch and freezing some for later.
Carrot and Coriander Soup: serves 4
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1 onion, chopped
1 - 2 tsp ground coriander
1 large potato, peeled and diced
1 lb (450g) carrots, scrubbed and chopped
2 pints (1.2ltrs) hot vegetable or chicken stock
salt and pepper
fresh coriander leaves (opt)
Put the oil in a large saucepan over low-medium heat, then fry the onions for about 5 minutes or until softened but not turning brown. Add the ground coriander and potato, give a good stir then fry for a further minute before adding the carrots and stock. Bring to the boil, then cover and reduce heat, then simmer for 20 minutes or so until the carrots are tender.
Tip into a food processor (you may wish to to this in two batches or use a stick blender directly in the pan), and blitz until smooth, then return to the saucepan and add seasoning to taste. Reheat and serve. If wished, garnish with a few fresh coriander leaves.

Sweet potatoes are not a favourite of mine, although they are included in many recipes. Perhaps I dig my toes in at paying money for something I feel doesn't give me value back. However, many people DO like sweet potatoes and for these am giving a great recipe that makes a 'posh nosh' soup that is relatively very cheap to make. Great to make and serve when entertaining.
Sweet Potato Soup with Coconut: serves 4
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1 onion, chopped
1 - 2 tsp Thai red or green curry paste
1lb 10 oz (750g) sweet potatoes, peeled and grated
1.75 pints (1 ltr) hot vegetable stock
half sachet creamed coconut OR...
...quarter of a can coconut milk
salt and pepper
fresh coriander leaves for garnish
mini-naan breads (pref Peshwari) for serving
Put the oil in a large saucepan and fry the onion over low heat for about five minutes until softened, then stir in the curry paste and fry for a further minute. Add the grated sweet potatoes and stock, raise the heat to quickly bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered for 5 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Remove from heat and stir in the coconut and seasoning to taste. Pour into a food processor (or use a stick blender and blitz in the pan) and blitz until smooth. Serve in individual bowls with a sprinkle of fresh coriander leaves on top. Serve with mini-naans or your choice of bread.

Final recipe is another soup, this time one based on tomatoes. Although this doesn't contain peaches, did once read that peaches were used when making a well known canned soup. Tried adding a few canned sliced peaches when making tomato soup some many years ago, and these certainly did give the same sort of flavour. So you could try using adding some peach syrup from the can can instead of the sugar. Worth experimenting.
Myself don't like finding seeds in 'cream' of tomato soup, so would myself mash up and sieve the plum tomatoes before using. Always used canned plum tomatoes as these have a much stronger flavour than the chopped.
If you wish you can omit swirling in the pesto, and just drizzle in the soured cream, then serve with warm slices of French bread made like garlic bread but spread with the pesto instead of garlic.
Rich Tomato Soup: serves 4
1 oz (25g) butter (or 1 tblsp olive oil)
1 - 2 cloves garlic, crushed
5 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, chopped
3 x 400g cans plum tomatoes
18 fl oz (500m) chicken or vegetable stock
2 tsp white sugar (any type) or to taste (see above)
salt and pepper
142g pot soured cream or creme fraiche
basil pesto for serving
Heat the butter or oil in a large saucepan. Stir in the garlic and fry for a couple of minutes over low heat, then add the sun-dried tomatoes, stock, sugar and seasoning to taste. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes until the tomatoes have broken down.
Blitz soup with a hand blender (or in a food processor) adding half the soured cream, then taste and adjust seasoning. Add more sugar if you wish (tomatoes are very acidic and always need some added sugar whatever dish is being prepared). Serve in individual bowls with a couple or so teaspoons of pesto swirled on the top of each, and also swirl in the remaining soured cream.

Time for me to depart again as have several more 'new' recipes I wish to try out ready for the new site. Something I enjoy doing especially as most of the time I can sit comfortable at the kitchen table.

By the way thanks for those who gave suggestions for getting rid of ant. I had looked it up on the Internet and all I seemed to need was Borax, but Morrison's didn't sell that (who does sell Borax? Anyone know?), but they did sell ant-killer spray, and just one spray of that in the area of our living room where they seem to congregate seemed to get rid of them almost instantly. Despite leaving 'tempts' around for the ants to find (in the hope of discovering their 'walk-way' back to their nest) no further ants have appeared. So after a good vacuum and a spray all round edges of the fitted carpet, hope they don't return.

Hope to meet up with you all again tomorrow. Enjoy your day, keep warm (never thought I'd need to say that at this time of year) and keep cooking! TTFN.