Saturday, June 30, 2012

All Change!

Starting today with a photo showing how the avocado plant (on the left) and the lemon tree (on the right) are progressing. As you can see the avocado is romping away, but although the lemon tree is growing more slowly it is getting quite sturdy. Don't know what's got into me, but all of a sudden can't stop working! Yesterday tried baking a savoury loaf (Parmesan cheese with sundried tomatoes - yes, it was a mix), using the dough to make one small loaf then cut the remainder into six, flattened these out, sprinkled grated cheese over, then folded and formed into rolls. Fitted the six into a round quiche tin (five round the sides one in the middle), sprinkled more grated cheese on top. The loaf took 30 minutes to bake, the rolls 15 minutes. As leaving the bread to rise before baking, the rolls had swelled to just touching each other, so after baking they had a lovely 'tear and share' effect. B ate one before he went out, I ate a couple later, and as I went to bed before B returned, discovered this morning only one roll left, so seemingly enjoyed. Myself had a couple of slices from the small loaf toasted for my breakfast. Very nice too, although as far as I am concerned 'the jury is out' when it comes to deciding whether I prefer savoury to 'normal' bread.

Also decided to use up all the odds and ends I had in the larder that would go into a Chocolate Refridgerator Cake. Was inspired to do this by a similar recipe in a current cookery mag only this one was called 'Rocky Road'. As I did not wish to use all the ingredients shown, made my own version, this using 6 oz (175g) dark chocolate (ordinary, not the 79%). 1 oz (25g) butter, and 1 rounded tablespoon of golden syrup. These heated together in a bowl over simmering water until the chocolate/butter had melted.

In another bowl mixed together some mini-marshmallows, two sponge fingers (the dry sugar coated ones) broken into small pieces, 3 digestive biscuits (broken up), 4 broken up glace cherries, a handful of chopped crystallised ginger, three broken and crushed meringues....Think that was the lot. Poured the melted chocolate mixture over this and stirred the lot together. Only just enough chocolate to coat, but could have added more if necessary.

Lined a 9" (23cm) tin with clingfilm and put the 'cake mix' into that, spreading it as flat as possible, then placed another layer of clingfilm on top and pressed it harder with my fingers (so it all held together), put it in the fridge to set and then left B to help himself later. Haven't myself tasted it, but B liked it very muchPart of yesterday afternoon was spent hoovering. It always pleases me when I use our old Hoover Junior as it still works well (and it must now be over 60 years old!!!). Took me quite a while to sort out the piles of mess either side of B's chair, a mix of different books he had been reading, some empty envelopes, empty crisp packets, empty lemonade bottles..... but at least it looks good now. Was a bit annoyed with him when he came home and accidentally knocked over the large plastic sack containing all the rubbish so it spilled onto the floor - and he left it like that, so I got up and put it all back while he sat there and said "I was going to do that". As if!

My Beloved really doesn't do 'tidy' (in the same way he doesn't do 'stress') so is far happier when his home is a mess than when it isn't, however enough is enough, so will have to try and keep as much clutter out of the way as possible, and clean the living room only when he is out of the house. Even though I have put a box by one of his chairs, and a table by the other (for him to keep his things in (he also has a filing cabinet by his chair), he still piles things up and overflowing. Considering he used to be in the air force where the discipline was very strict when it came to 'tidy', and also sailing where everything has a place and be kept in it, you would think he would be the same at home. Maybe this his 'rebellious' streak coming out as he has often told me (when being asked - and nicely - to do something) he comes back with "I won't be told". So doesn't do what has been asked "until I'm ready to do it" (remembering his other bit of reasoning "If I wait long enough, someone else will do it for me". Well, maybe I was a bit like that when younger and my mum asked me (constantly) to keep tidying my bedroom. Not that I did this deliberately, just didn't want to go and tidyt it up THEN.

Not sure you would like our weather at the moment Lisa. Myself was amazed when I read the paper and saw the news yesterday. Our country - in many areas but not ours - had torrential rainfall, terrific thunderstorms, even a tornado, the like of which has never been known before. Trains were stopped because of landslides, and roads and houses were flooded. Hailstones as big as golfballs fell in Leicestershire. They are saying this is the wettest June on record. However, since records have been kept for only 100 years, this doesn't mean it is abnormal considering the age of this planet.

In 'Agricultural Records' (a book I once lent and never got back) it did give references to weather from about 1066, fleetingly at first, and then daily as it got closer to the publication date. Do remember a mention of huge hailstones falling in Yorkshire one year in June a few centuries ago. Another mention of when for two years the sun never seemed to shine at all (think this was because of a huge volcano somewhere that had erupted and caused clouds to hide the sun). Then of course a couple or so years of winter when the Thames froze over and they held fairs on the ice.
There were also years of drought, years of storms, years of heavy rainfall. So what's new?

Can understand Lisa not wishing to cook when the weather is hot. Salads seem the obvious meals to serve, although suppose with a pasta salad the pasta does have to be cooked first. Cold meats, pork pies, hard-boiled eggs and cooked shell fish eat well with any salads. Will have to look up some recipes and publish just in case we have a hot spell.

Am myself going to buy some lolly moulds so that I can freeze fruit juice. B prefers ice-cream but I love sucking on a frozen lolly when the weather is hot.

You certainly got caught in that bad storm Kathryn. Can't imagine how you coped (I can't even bear to go out in a light shower, let alone a torrent!). You must be an amazing person to manage to deal with it at a personal level let alone take care of the ponies and any other riders around.

Well done for your pony (and rider) getting a rosette, and also for your own.

What's the betting the cow decides to have her calf while you are 'in loco parentis'. Am sure she will manage well all by herself.

As to the boil and bake cake, have published my favourite before but will do so again. Myself do use dried mixed fruit (containing peel) as B likes the peel, but this can easily be picked out if not wanted. I also add a few chopped glace cherries and always soak the fruit overnight in either a little water or flavoured fruit tea before using. This helps to keep the cake nice and moist. If there is any water/tea left after soaking, use this as part (or all) the water used when making the cake.

The cake is best made several days before being eaten as it can then 'mature'. If you wish you could sprinkle a little rum or brandy over it before wrapping and keeping.

To avoid overcooking the cake, the tin is best wrapped round with brown paper before baking (or it could be stood inside a larger tin), also half-way through baking time, cover with tented foil to prevent the top getting too hard.

Although giving the original recipe, myself find the timings of the recipe not right for my own oven, and feel there might have been an error when it was first published, so best to check after the first hour of baking at the lower heat (total one and a half hours of cooking time) to avoid the cake ending up too dry. Use the skewer test to make sure the cake is cooked before removing from the oven.

Boil and Bake Cake:

12 oz (350g) mixed dried fruit

4 oz (110g) margarine

4 oz (110g) brown sugar

5 fl oz (150ml) water

8 oz (225g) self-raising flour

2 medium eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon mixed spice

Put the fruit, margarine, sugar, and water into a saucepan, give a stir then heat to boiling point. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Remember to stir occasionally to prevent the fruit sticking. Do not boil for longer or it will end up solid! Remove from heat and leave to cool for half an hour.

Meanwhile sift the flour and spice together in a bowl. Add the contents of the pan to the flour, add the eggs, and mix everything well together. Pour mixture into a greased and lined 7" (18cm) cake tin and bake in centre of the oven for 30 minutes at 170C, gas mark 3.

Reduce heat to 150C, gas 2 and continue cooking for a further hour and a half.

When cooked, leave to cool in the tin for 20 minutes or so before turning out to cool on a cake airer.

As this cake keeps well, when cold either store in an air-tight tin, or wrap closely in foil for protection.

In half an hour my groceries may be arriving. As we are at the Carnforth end of Morecambe (and this is where the deliveries come from even though we have a Tesco on Morecambe) we are usually the first delivery within that two-hour time slot. Sometimes they arrive even earlier than the chosen time, but not often. Am looking forward to filling up those empty shelves, but yesterday had a real guilt feeling when I was reading (or watching) something about the Third World and the poverty and starvation there. Why is it we are so obsessed with food here that we feel there is a need to keep writing about it and wanting to eat more and different dishes to tempt our palates? After all, food is only our 'fuel' and as long as we eat enough (and that needn't be a lot) of the right nutrition, that is all we need, and most of it could be raw with no need to even make it into a 'proper' meal.

I suppose having enough food (for us - and for everyone else) gives us a feeling of security, and during this recession, perhaps the only security we have at the moment. Also 'comfort eating' can also help when times are hard.

Perhaps it would be good to be able to switch lives now and again and experience life in (say) Greece at the moment, where we here of hospital workers not being paid for 8 months and having to eat at soup kitchens... even worse in the heat of parts of Africa where food and water is in very short supply. However much we grumble about the price of our food, when it comes to the variety sold in the stores - we have never had it so good, so should at least be more than grateful for that. Or should we? My mother managed to serve good meals (albeit 'plain food') without all the imports of today. In those days it was mainly locally grown and always seasonal food. We knew what to expect to be served throughout the year, this could be a bit boring, but it always tasted a great deal better than anything we have today.

Tesco has arrived - said it would be early. So have to dash. See you tomorrow.