Friday, May 25, 2012

Positive Thinking.

Must give a mention to the 'Man v Food' I watched yesterday, mainly because I believed this one to be set in Lisa's state but possibly got mixed up (am now not sure it it was Missouri or Minnesota, but the town visited was Kansas City where barbecue food seems to take over).
For some reason this programme is becoming quite addictive, maybe because I'm British and the food consumed by the 'average' American always seems far more than we get served here in the UK (and often envy the choices). But not only that, it is the way the meat is prepared and cooked that goes far beyond any 'cooking' we do in our small island.

The first 'stop' was at Oklahoma Joe's where brisket was cooked in an oven after being liberally spread with a special 'glaze'. Now, am not sure whether the 'brisket' was beef, for quite a lot of mention of pork was given. Here in the UK, brisket is always beef.
Once the US 'brisket' had been basted and 'slow-roasted' for a good 12 hours, it was sliced to be served in split rolls - and always the last the last bit of meat (the 'tail end') was then basted again and cooked for a further six hours, then cut into cubes and served as 'burnt ends', and believe me my mouth was watering. I wondered that if the 'brisket' was pork, then maybe I could do the same thing myself using belly pork. Worth a try.

The next venue's name I've forgotten, but it was a 'historical building of great age'. Had to smile when they said the date was 1933, for that was the year I was born (so does that make me a 'historical figure'?). Here they were famous for their fried chicken. It looked simple enough, very thickly coated in 'only flour, salt and pepper', then fried in plenty of soy oil in a 'skillet' (think we call this a deep frying pan), in preference to proper 'deep-frying'. Once the chicken had been turned a few times during 20 minutes, it had a lovely crispy golden coating, then to be served with a special 'sauce'. We saw the oil beingdrained, leaving a lot of crispy crumbs (crackling) to be served with the chicken.
Then (and have to say my stomach turned when I saw this bit), a lot of fresh soy oil was put in the pan with a lot of cream and boiled down until it was a very, very thick 'sauce' ("too thick for drinking" said one customer "but gorgeous"). This was served with the chicken as a 'side sauce' (or possibly poured over). The cholesterol ingested by each diner must have hit the roof!

Third visit was to Papa Bobs, a short distance away from the city. This 'diner' was famous for it's 'seven meats' and the challenge to the presenter was to eat all seven layered in one huge 'Hogi Bun' (think that was what they called it - it looked like an 18" long baguette that had been split in half lengthways. But that wasn't the only bread served. Read on - I took notes!).

The Hogi started with a layer of cold pork, this topped with thickly sliced pork (from a different cut cut), then sliced ham. For some reason this was then topped with a thick slice of bread (to help separate some of the layers), and the layers continued with cooked turkey breast, and then smoked hamburger 'patties', then (horrors) another thick slice of bread, then came slices of tender 'brisket', and finally lean barbecue sausages with the Hogi 'lid' placed on top, all held in place by three long skewers pushed in and through to the base. As half a lb of each meat was in this gigantic Hogi, that meant three and a half pounds to be eaten (plus the bread). But not only that, the meal was also served with one and a half lbs of 'fries' (potato chips to us Brits)!!!

With 45 minutes to eat the lot it was not surprising that the presenter didn't quite manage it, and he blamed the 'burger patties' as he said they were tough and needed a lot of chewing (the other meats 'just melting in the mouth'. He constantly poured ketchup, brown sauce etc over what he was eating, and it was just unbelievable how he managed to eat the amount he did. Not that he actually 'ate' it - just stuffed as much as possible into his mouth all the way through, and kept swallowing.

Normal customers ate smaller Hogis filled with perhaps only a few of the selection of meats above, but me being able to see all the different meats and how they were cooked (fried, oven-roast, smoked) etc, made me realise how much care and attention is given when cooking/preparing meat in the US (especially in these barbecue diners), and the preparation and cooking of meats at this 'grass-roots' level of catering seems to go far beyond anything done in this country at any level.
Being able to see seeing meats that have been slow-cooked for a good 12 hours (slow-roasted in an oven, none of this sous-vide poncy stuff), ending up with a surface almost saturated and caramelised with the mouthwatering glazes, and then cooked for a further six hours to improve it even was incredible. We have to ask ourselves, where could we find meat cooked this way in the UK? And will it ever be done?

Below is a barbecue/grill recipe that is the English version of the above. Just shows the difference, and although good in its own way, could be improved I'm sure. Myself have 'test-tried' using Levi Roots Jerk sauce and this really is very good and if 'some like it hot', this could make a spicy alternative to the marinade in the recipe as given.

Here is a little known tip. Cheaper 'grilling' meat is almost certainly going to be tougher than well-hung 'quality' meat, and a good way to tenderise it is to rub the surface of the meat (on all sides) with a cut kiwi fruit. The fruit's juices contain an enzyme that helps break down the 'toughness' of meat fibres (the same enzyme that prevents gelatine from setting). After rubbing, leave the meat to rest for half an hour before cooking. Apparently this works like magic.

Barbecued Beef with Hot Dressing: serves 4
1 lb (450g) lean rump steaks
2 tblsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tblsp black pepper, coarsely ground
4 tblsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tblsp sherry (or wine) vinegar
2 tblsp horseradish sauce
8 oz (225g) pasta (pref fusilli)
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 red bell peppers, deseeded and sliced
Put the steaks in a single layer in a dish and spoon over the sauce, after 5 minutes turn the steaks so all side have touched the sauce, then leave for a further 5 or so minutes. Sprinkle the black pepper over the steaks.
Meanwhile, mix the oil, vinegar and horseradish sauce together, then set aside.
Cook the pasta as per packet instructions, then drain and put into a bowl with the onion and peppers.
To cook the meat: heat a barbecue or griddle pan until very hot, then cook the steak for 3 minutes on each side, or longer if you prefer it medium to well-done. Remove to a plate or board, cut the steaks across the grain into thick slices, then add to the pasta salad with the horseradish 'dressing'. Toss everything together, then serve.

Yesterday my Beloved said he'd like home-cooked ham for his supper, with fried eggs and oven chips, he even offered to cook it himself. Unfortunately I mentioned later that I'd found a pack of paneer cheese in the fridge so thought I'd make myself a curry with it. So of course B said he thought he'd like that instead of his first choice of supper.
Decided to thaw out a quarter chicken and cook this in some Tikka Madras sauce (from a jar, well you know me - take the easy way when I can), to make sure there would be enough for both of us. Made it in two parts - the chicken cooking with some onion in the sauce, and in another pan more onion fried with half a (diced) red bell pepper, and also fried the cubed paneer.
When the chicken was cooked, decided to take it off the bone, return the meat to the pan and then put most of the veg/paneer mix also in the pan, saving a very little bit for me - spooning a bit of the sauce over 'just to taste'.

Left the curry in the pan for B to reheat (and also heat up a 2 min microwave rice as well). He asked if I'd had any and I said "just tried a spoonful to see if it was OK", and after he'd had his supper I asked him what he thought "you made too much" he told me. "That's OK" I replied "I said I was going to make some for my supper, so was going to wait until you'd taken what you wanted and then have the rest.". "Oh" he said blankly "I thought you said you'd eaten, so I ate it all". Bless the boy, he always needs everything explained in black and white, or he doesn't seem to understand (or is it that he thinks one spoonful makes a supper?). A lot of men are like that (not all, but most). At least this enabled me to eat less than intended, and one good way to lose the large amount of weight I seem suddenly to have gained (thankfully this morning found I weigh 2 lbs less than yesterday). It helps to have a positive outlook on life.

Don't envy Lisa with her high temperatures, we never seem to get them that high, although this week is turning out to be hotter than usual. Our night-time temperature is around 11C (or less according to the region), and day-time today is expected to peak at 28C max (less where we live as we get a cool breeze from the sea).

I didn't go outdoors yesterday Jane, as I had another allergy attack - this time 'hives' - a rash that often appears the day before my face swells up (but took extra anti-histamine pills, and although they helped they always make me feel a bit 'off' and very sleepy, so ended up going to bed very early). Today hope to have an hour sitting out this morning, and maybe another this afternoon.
Seems as though another high-pressure will shortly be coming from the east so with any luck this should stay with us until the Jubilee celebrations are over.

Have a lovely holiday in July Sarina, let us hope by then most of the midges will have disappeared and you will not get bitten. The Avon Skin-so-Soft (I have read)is an excellent anti-midge deterrent. As are elder leaves, crushed and rubbed over the skin.
Do hope you get to visit Istanbul and see some of the ancient buildings there. Believe there is a very famous mosque/church where both the Islamic and Christian faiths used to pray. Maybe not at the same time of course. Can't now remember the name, but I believe well worth a visit and the interior decor is wonderful.

Still feel tired, due to me taking more anti-hists, but at least these are keeping the hives/facial swelling away. My back ached a lot during the night, due to me sleeping in the wrong position (again), but after painkillers this seems to have eased a bit.
Have a lot to do today - only a week to go before the Jubilee, and as I'll be providing a goodly amount of preserves and cakes for two different 'celebrations' need to make sure I've done as much as possible well before the events, just in case my back gives up completely. The older I get the more I feel I need to 'be prepared'. In the old days I'd leave everything until the last minute, and still get it all done.

Life is strange, when I was much younger, able to walk for miles, have loads of energy, it was all taken for granted. It's only now the realisation how lucky I was then to just be able to do all this. It never occurred to me that I'd end up barely able to walk to the gate without having some pain or other, or ending up mainly living a life indoors (and how often I think that if I was in a prison I'd get a better life than I seem to have at the moment). On the other hand, never believed I'd live as long as I have, so possibly a bonus there. All I have to do is make the most of the time I have left, and if this is just 'chatting to you', then certainly that part I DO enjoy. As I said, 'think positive thoughts'.

Enough 'rambling', and now into the kitchen to make the most of today, for who knows what the future will bring. Beloved keeps asking me when he can start eating the ginger cake made a couple of days ago (was hoping to keep this for one of the Jubilee parties), but he can be very persuasive, so it will probably end up with him eating this one and me making another. But I enjoy cooking (positive thoughts again).

Seems that most of the UK is now bathed in sunshine, so hope all readers managed to get a chance to sit outside and soak up some of the essential Vitamin D (that we all need), above all relax and let the rest of the nation (and the world) worry about its own affairs.

Some good news (well almost), the electricity bill arrived yesterday and it seems to be much the same as previously and no further increases will be taken from our D.D. as far as the 'leccy' goes. So things could be worse. All I need now to do is save £5 a week to cover the extra gas charges, and the bank balance should remain at the same level. Let's just hope no other charges rise in the meantime.

It's useful to remember that although food is our body 'repair kit' and needed to repair our body parts, it is also our 'fuel' to give us energy and warmth and so natural to eat more during the winter to keep ourselves warm (well that WAS nature's idea as in the old days there was no central heating, so now we could eat less all year round). During the warmer weather (like now) we don't need to eat nearly as much, and this is a saving in itself. Must now get into 'summer mode' when it comes to cooking/eating and lose a few more pounds (both lbs and £££s).

Hope to meet up with you again tomorrow. Keep thinking positively and you will enjoy your day. TTFN.