Friday, May 04, 2012

Work in Progress!

Have to say my new 'activity' (role-playing) is working a treat. Yesterday moved things around the kitchen and put a wooden bread bin (that our son made for me when he was at school - over 40 years ago) on top of the bin, and stood this at the back of our chest freezer, with three drawers (open side facing out), piled on top - these luckily being exactly the same width as the top of the bread bin.
Not that we use the bread bin for holding bread any more, as now I keep it full of the flour, yeast etc, and other makings for 'bread mix'. One of the 'shelves' above will now hold extra bought packs of bread mix, and the top shelf may hold the loaf tins. Still have a shelf to fill, but once it is all set up will take a photo to show you.
In front of the bin and shelving and on the top of the chest freezer there is plenty of room left to stand my 'lazy Susan' holding salt/mustard/vinegar/pepper, and my egg rack.

Have also moved the large waste bin to sit at the side of the washing machine (this washing machine juts out into the kitchen so the bin fits neatly beside it, albeit partly in front of a cupboard door, but will now be far more conveniently sited for me when sitting at the table to throw anything in that needs to be thrown. In its original place have now put a shelved bamboo table (that was in the conservatory) to holds a linen bag of spuds (the bag placed in a basket as it fits in well on one of the shelves and also looks good), and another same-size basket on another shelf that at the moment that holds lots of plastic containers and lids that are used to store food in the fridge/freezer, but might put something else in that. On top of the table is a big basket of fruit (cooking apples, lemons, limes, and a couple of avocados). Am well pleased with the arrangement.

This has left me an empty shelf where the bread bin used to sit, where I can now put all my mixing bowls (must have about a dozen of differing sizes), and also another shelf where my new larger casserole pans can be kept as they will probably not be as often used as my smaller ones. It is all getting very organized and this will make it so much easier for me when I (suddenly, as is my wont) wish to make or bake something.

Time now to repley to comments. Firstly a welcome and group hugs to Margaret who 'knew' me from years back. Didn't realise there would be anyone 'out there' who would still remember me. Keep logging on Margaret for shortly (within a few weeks) my new site will soon be unveiled and hope both that and this will be interesting enough for everyone. The new site will be only about cooking, this site will still continue in the same way and will allow me to continue with my 'rambles'.

Liked the sound of your rice dish Sarina. It grieved me to have to throw away rice left over from the 'curryfest', but it had been standing around 'keeping warm', all evening, and unless cooe is cooled very rapidly after cooking, the advice is that it should not be frozen or used again due to some dangerous bacteria that can form and this being one that is not able to be killed off by reheating (unlike most others). Possibly readers have used cooked rice the following day without any problems, but due to the lengthy time the curryfest rice hung around (and too tired to deal with it on my return home - it was still left in the pan sitting in the polystyrene box), decided better be safe than sorry.
We do see cooked rice sold as 'sushi', but do know that this rice is cooled rapidly before use (the recommended 'domestic' way to do this is spread the cooked rice in a very thin layer on a baking sheet and flap a piece of card or magazine or something back and forth over it to help cool the rice, then place it in the fridge. Also sushi rice is made using some vinegar which may also help to prevent bacteria.

Not sure that sending reservoir water along canals would work Les. For one thing not all canals over the country are linked up. The one in Lancaster has one end open to the sea (via a lock) at Glasson Dock, the other direction going for 40 miles without any locks, and then think comes to a dead end. But anyone who fancies a holiday in a narrow boat and doesn't want to bother with locks (that's me folks), the Lancaster canal is the one to aim for. The canal flows at the bottom of the Hest Bank Hotel garden, which is - as readers know - well worth mooring there to have a great meal. Also the canal goes to Barton Grange - a wonderful place where I love to go to visit their Cook's Shop, Garden Centre, cafe/restaurant and Farm Shop (food). Not to mention the canal flowing through Lancaster itself with all its lovely architecture and history. Plus the proximity to Morecambe Bay and beautiful surrounding country.

The canals are full of wild-life (have seen water rats swimming there, and there must be fish as men sit on the banks with their rods), and we are always warned never to swim in the canals as 'normal' rats can contaminate the water. Possibly you might have mean water pipes laid either in or along the canals to send reservoir water cross-country Les, but not sure what would happen when it comes to the locks.
Am surprised at you not following Heston B. Les, for if there was one reader who would attempt most of is type of cooking, expected it would be you. Not just the scientific stuff, but the easier 'domestic' that he has been demonstrating on TV at the moment. Even I am having a go at that.

Sorry to hear your son has now succumbed to the virus Lisa. Hope everyone in your family who has had it soon gets better and you also don't fall prey to it.
It does seem that in the US there are many more 'local' people to help out others when they have family problems. Yesterday read that in the States over 55% of the population went regularly to church. Don't know the numbers here, but am sure it is more like 25% (but could be wrong and it could be a lot less). Within any religion there can be a great community feeling, where everyone does tend to help others - within their groups - more than non-church goers. In Britain it is usually only in small villages (or similar communities) where people seem to look out for each other, and probably the church has much to do with that as well (every village having a church I think - and also a pub or two!!). In urban and suburban areas we are lucky if our nearest neighbours knows what is happening next door. We sometimes hear of someone who lives alone having died in their home and no-one knowing for days and days (sometimes weeks)..

When everyone used to have their milk delivered to their doorstep by a milkman, it was then obvious that something was wrong when couple of days milk was still left on the doorstep when the new bottles were delivered. The milkman would then alert the police or a neighbour and steps would be taken to make sure the occupant was OK.

Something else you mentioned Lisa made me feel wistful. Many houses in the US seem to have a front porch, open at the sides to the air (but maybe with a fly screen in damp areas), and they always have a rocking chair or swing-seat there to sit on.
When we visited my cousin (who lived in New Jersey close to New York), I couldn't wait to sit on her porch, in her rocking chair (even though it was just after Christmas and very, VERY cold). Silly really, but I wanted to see how it felt to live like an American (bet the neighbours thought I was mad). All the houses had 'open' front gardens, unlike here where most of us have a boundary wall or hedge. Some of the newer estates have 'open' frontage, but nobody really likes this as the dogs walk over and foul their lawns. We have few (if any) of those lovely white picket fences seen so often in TV films. Think we probably avoid anything painted as this means it has to be done regularly to keep it looking pristine. If we have a fence at all it is plain wood, usually with overlapping slats so no-one can see (or get) through, and creosoted to prevent it rotting. We have these surrounding our back garden and down the side of one drive, although as it deteriorates our neighbour is replacing it with concrete 'fencing' (and very horrible it looks too). The drive on the other side of our house has a low brick and rendered wall between our house and next door. But it still has a tall wooden fence at the garage end of the drive, but not that bad looking as it is partly covered by a clematis montana that is in flower at the moment.

We don't seem to have these front porches here at all (some may have them at the back, now normally closed in and called a 'conservatory', or if left open a 'loggia', and this year is the first time I've seen screen doors for sale (that we can fit in front of our back doors), and wonder why for we hardly get any flies any more. Before fridges, we had quite a few blue-bottles (blow flies) and no 'fly-killers' other than fly swatters. Perhaps today, with no food left around to tempt flies, they are not able to breed in such vast amounts.

Sometimes I occasionally stay up all night and watch TV, and last night was one of these. I was hooked on a very lengthy programme on BBC 4 (was it?) all about what happens when living things decompose, and it was absolutely fascinating. As was said, everything in life just moves from one state to another and it is always reused. All the cells in our (living) bodies are continually being formed/replaced by consuming something that itself is composed of other things from the past, so it is a continuous cycle of life, and death is just a part of this.
They even showed rotting vegetation (like a compost heap) and treated some of it so that when new plants grew in this compost it was possible to trace whether they had taken up some of the (old) nutrients, which they had.

The most remarkable thing in the prog. was the slime mould. This is a one-cell mould that can expand itself considerably to gain the food it needs. It has no brain of course, and no real 'anything', yet it is so 'clever' that it is now being used to control a computer, to find out just how it works.
An example was shown. A scientist laid out a good number of cornflakes in a special pattern, the put the one-cell slime mould in the centre. Speed photography showed how it spread out in all directions taking up the cornflakes at it did so. But not only that, it also grew fibres that linked each cornflake to others so that more nutrients were taken up.
When the spread was complete, the scientist then showed a map of a railway where all the stations and connecting lines were shown, and laid this on top of the photo of the slime mould, and everything matched, all the link lines were the same. As was said, it took men many working hours (months and maybe years) to come up with the railway linking system, yet it took the slime mould only a few hours to do the same using no brain at all. Truly, nature is far more wonderful that we can ever believe.

After the above programme, then went over to BBC 1 to watch the local election results (also did a bit of 'tidying' of our living room whilst in there - I thought: 'why waste the time'). Seems there has been a massive swing over to Labour over the whole country (and why am I not surprised?), but as half the results have still to come in, we won't know the true result until the end of today. Could be the percentage is even higher.

Recipes today are 'making the most of' (are there any other kind on this blog?), and although a 'pate' might seem a tad 'gourmet' or 'posh nosh', this doesn't mean it has to be expensive. Pates are usually very cheap to make (chicken liver pate/parfait especially).
The diabetic nurse told me that oily fish are on the 'good list' for those who are concerned about their heart or cholesterol etc., and she recommends mackerel and sardines, pilchards and tuna (but not canned tuna as the 'good oils' are lost during the canning process. Canned sardines are OK).
The following recipe for pate is made with fish, but canned sardines, kippers, and smoked salmon trimmings can be used instead of the smoked mackerel. As ever, make it with what you have, and when serving even the cheapest sardine pate, when you serve it piled up high in empty lemon shells, it can look as impressive as any pate that a top chef might serve. And taste as good. This pate freezes well, so can be potted up in individual containers (or lemon shells) then covered and frozen for up to 6 weeks. Thaw in the fridge before serving.
Smoked Mackerel Pate: serves 4
14 oz (300g) smoked mackerel, skins removed
2 oz (50g) softened butter (pref unsalted)
4 oz (100g) creme fraiche
2 - 3 tsp horseradish sauce/cream
grated zest of 1 lemon
freshly ground black pepper to taste
Put all the ingredients in a food processor and give a quick blitz (or few pulses) to combine everything together, but still remain slightly 'lumpy' (don't aim to turn it into a puree). Alternatively blitz the fish and butter together, then put this into a dish and fold in the remaining ingredients. Spoon into a serving dish (or individual small dishes) and serve with thin slices of toasted brown bread.

The other day gave some recipes using couscous, and have discovered another that makes good use of cooked chicken (and you all know for this I would suggest using the scraps of chicken pulled from the carcase bones after making chicken stock!).
If you have time on your hands, you could roast/grill or hold over a gas flame the red pepper, to blister (then remove) the skin - as this gives is a much more intense sweet flavour. Otherwise just use the pepper as-is, but preferably one that is ripe (i.e. slightly softer then firm - and don't forget if you sow some of their seeds at this time of year, they will grow into plants and you can then harvest your own bell peppers).
Chicken with Couscous Salad: serves 4
7 oz (200g) couscous
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into chunks
3 - 4 spring onions, sliced
2 oz (50g) raisins
half pint (300ml) boiling hot chicken stock
2 tblsp toasted pine-nuts (or flaked almonds)
zest and juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper
approx 12 oz (350g) cooked chicken, sliced or scraps
mixed salad leaves or watercress
Put the couscous, pepper, onion, raisins and lemon zest into a bowl. Add the hot stock, then cover and leave to stand for 10 minutes. By this time it should have absorbed all the liquid (if not leave it a few minutes longer), then fluff up with a fork to separate the grains, before adding the nuts, and lemon juice. This can be served whilst still hot, or left to cool. Serve topped with the cooked chicken with the salad leaves at the side.

Final recipe today is quite a useful one as not only is it a traditional favourite (especially of children and men who never lose their childhood 'foodie' pleasures), and as it can be cooked either in a conventional oven or microwave, is suitable for those cooks who wish to save time, or for those who prefer to cook in the old-fashioned way. Myself believe that cooking in the oven gives a better flavour (as would steaming), but then if cooking only for my B would probably opt for the speedier way - he'd probably not notice the difference anyway).
Not sure why it is, but 'treacle' in a recipe usually means Golden Syrup. It has to be given its full name of 'black treacle' if we mean it to be that gorgeous dark and sticky stuff that we use when making gingerbread etc.
Experienced cooks will realise that the ratio of flour/fat/sugar to eggs are the same as when making a Victoria Sponge. Once remembered, never forgotten, so if you wish to turn this into a jam sponge, or ginger sponge, you just change syrup to jam, or sift ground ginger into the flour.
If you want to make chocolate pudding, the use one ounce less of flour and substitute with cocoa.
Treacle Pudding: serves 4 - 6
6 good tablespoon golden syrup
4 oz (100g) butter, plus extra for greasing
4 oz (100g) sugar
2 eggs
4 oz (100g) self-raising flour
half teaspoon vanilla extract
Take a 1 ltr (1.75pt) baking dish and grease liberally with butter. Pour the syrup into the base. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add the vanilla, then fold in the flour (if you wish you can make this in a food processor, creaming the butter and sugar first, then blitz in the eggs/vanilla, and giving a short pulse or two after you have added the flour to avoid over mixing). Spoon this cake 'batter' on top of the syrup.
To microwave, cover with clingfilm and cook on Medium for 7 and a half minutes until risen and spongy. Leave to stand a minute and serve with loadsa custard.
To oven cook: bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 30 minutes until risen and golden.
To steam: use a greased large pudding basin and cover with pleated greaseproof and foil, tying this down round the rim. Place in a steamer (or stand on a trivet in a pan of simmering water) and steam for 2 hrs. Remove cover and turn the pudding out onto a shallow dish so the syrup is then at the top and running down the sides.

Time now for me to go back into the kitchen and get on with my 'rearrangements'. Must also fit is some re-potting of my tomato and courgette plants. Plus starting to make mango chutney (in the slow cooker), and also some lemon curd (in the microwave). Have also to think about B's supper (this could be a lamb shank as convenient to cook in the oven - I add the small potatoes to the dish and they cook perfectly in the 1 hour 15 minutes needed to cook the shank from frozen - only need then microwave the frozen peas and pour the gravy into a small gravy boat).

One final thing worth mentioning before I go. Some time back had bought a bag of frozen chunky oven-chips because they were reduced in price. Then discovered B doesn't like chunky chips, preferring the thinner ones (but not too thin). Myself didn't like the chunky ones much either as they didn't crisp up enough in the time, and if left longer became too 'dry'.
Yesterday - as B was out with daughter for the day - decided to finish off the last handful of chunky chips for my lunch, and as the oven was on baking a loaf of (this time) white bread, decided to put the chips into a baking tray that had a very little (congealed) fat in it left over after cooking some sausages (other people wash their tins, if there is fat in them that can be used again soon, then I leave the fat in the tin).
After cooking the chips for a good half hour at a temperature slightly less than it should have been (due to the bread not needing such a high temp), was VERY pleased to find the chips had become beautifully crisp (but still tender inside), even better than roast spuds, and just how chips used to be in 'the old days'. From now on, when oven-baking chips, will always add a very little fat (beef or lard, not oil) to the tin before cooking. Defeats the object I suppose (oven chips being less fat that deep fried chips), but when it comes to chips, then I'd rather take the risk of adding more bad cholesterol to my diet - as long as only occasionally - than do without one of the greatest pleasures of my life. Cooking the oven chips this way is very little different to roasting potatoes (only this time started the chips off with cold fat and used much less fat anyway, and didn't even toss or turn the chips, they just 'crisped' up).

I could go on and on about food (and often do), but time for me to really do some 'cheffy' work as still have dishes to make to photograph and put onto my new site. It's all go at the moment, and looks like days/months before the work slows down. My B will be happy as there will be lots more 'treats' he will be able to eat during that time, and only hope he won't expect me to keep it up afterwards.

Just remembered it is another Bank Holiday Weekend coming up. Apparently we are going to get some quite chilly weather with unseasonable and quite heavy frosts forecast at night in many areas, but probably will get some sunny days where the temperature improves. Watching the world weather last night on TV, the US seems to be having some quite hot weather. Let us hope we eventually get some of it.

Expect most of you will be busy over the next few days, but if you can find time, do drop us a line. My days never vary even if it is a holiday, so I'll be back tomorrow as normal. Hope to see (some of you) then. TTFN.