Saturday, June 16, 2012

Dismal Days

Cannot believe what awful weather we have been having lately, and although we have not had the heavy rainfall that much of the rest of the country has suffered from, it has now reached our region. Waking to windy weather and rainfall does not make a good start to the day. However much of the rest of England seems to be having better weather for a change.

Am beginning to feel that it is the cold and damp that is making my joints ache. Although my back is still a a bit stiff, it is now my knees, shoulders, wrists etc that are continually aching. Perhaps I have arthritis or rheumatism. Will have to put the central heating on again this weekend to see if it helps.

Do have memories of my mother huddling over an electric radiator in the very cold weather, wearing her overcoat and with only one bar on for heat, even though she had two more bars she could have switched on. She said if she spent her savings there would be none left. Yet she really could afford to heat her house, she was just very careful with her money, as so many were in those days. Nothing we could say would make her change her mind. Am a bit like that myself, but it really doesn't make sense. Money is for spending, so they say, so why not spend a few of the money saved by thrifty cooking, and use to put towards the fuel bills.

It seemed not that long ago when we were advised to put our savings into the bank to gain interest, now my savings account pays no interest at all! Yet would charge over 19% if I wanted a loan. Seems to be we are lending the bank our money 'for free', and get nothing in return. One of the reasons why I put most of my money into Premium Bonds, that at least is paying me back at a much better rate of 'interest', even though this is a bit of a gamble, at least no worse than leaving it in the bank and getting nothing in return.

Anyway, nothing I can do about the national (and global) finances, so won't even bother to have my usual moan. Must think nice thoughts and do good deeds. But not yet sure what. Probably today will begin making up some 'keeping cakes' for the sailing club's 'tea' next weekend. Also bake more bread as can't believe how good the bread is now I've been making it up with half milk, half water. It stays moist and the crust doesn't dry out. It also slices easily and thinly if that is what I wish. Will add extra flour today to the 'bread mix' plus extra liquid and make bread rolls (aka 'baps') with the surplus dough. Beloved will enjoy these with some sausages that will be oven-cooked today.

Will also be making a bit pan of vegetable soup cooked in some chicken (or beef) stock that I have in the freezer, then I can have a bowl when I feel hungry. Really must lose some weight, as I've not had much success due to eating more trying to keep warm. Veggie soup with no carbos (other than spuds in the soup) might help me lose a few lbs.

Apparently many people are suffering with hay fever at the moment. Surprised me as there seems to be little pollen floating around due to the wet weather, but apparently it is the flowering grasses that cause this current 'epidemic' of sneezing. A good way to keep the pollen away from our lungs is to rub Vaseline (petroleum jelly) on our top lip and around the rim of our nostrils, this will catch the pollen and prevent it being breathed in. Myself don't suffer from hay-fever (although for some reason some sunlight can suddenly bring on the sneezes), so any reader who has tried the above and find it works well - please let us know.

Continuing with more 'storecupboard' recipes, the first is a supper dish that makes use of bits and bobs we may have in our fridge/freezer. Use the recipe as a guide, then alter the ingredients according to what you have - using common sense of course, not EVERYTHING can be substituted.
Raid the Larder Supper: serves 2
4 - 6 rashers streaky bacon, chopped
few closed-cup mushrooms, halved or sliced
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
5 oz (150g) long-grain rice
half pint (5 fl oz/150ml) hot chicken or vegetable stock
salt and pepper
1 oz (25g) approx, grated Cheddar or other hard cheese
Put the bacon into a large frying pan over medium heat and fry until the fat is released. Add the mushrooms, raise the heat and fry for 3 - 4 minutes, then tip the lot onto a plate. Place the pan back on the heat, add the oil and onions and fry these for 5 minutes, adding the garlic for the final minute.
Add the rice to the onions, give a stir to coat with the oil, then pour in the hot stock. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook - uncovered - for about 10 minutes or until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Cover the pan, remove from heat and leave to stand for 5 minutes (the rice will continue cooking in its own steam).
When ready, remove cover, add seasoning to taste, then stir in the cheese and divide between individual bowls, sprinkling the bacon and mushrooms on top.

Next recipe is - to me - similar to a kedgeree, but without the fish. This at least makes it cheaper than the traditional, although a little flaked smoked mackerel or canned salmon or tuna could be added if you wish for something more substantial. Another good lunch or supper dish, this time just enough for one. For speed, microwave rice is used (not necessary to microwave it, as it is heated in the pan) but of course home-cooked rice can take its place.
Spicy Rice with Poached Egg: serves 1
1 teaspoon sunflower oil
half onion, chopped
half red or green bell pepper, diced
1 teaspoon curry powder or paste (mild to medium)
1 sachet 2-minute microwave basmati rice
6 fl oz (175 ml) water
2 oz (50g) frozen peas
Put the oil in a frying pan over medium- high heat and fry the onion and pepper until softened and turning golden. Stir in the curry powder or paste, then add the rice and water. Stir well, then leave to simmer for 5 minutes or until most of the liquid has been absorbed.
Meanwhile poach the egg, then when ready, serve the rice mixture with the egg placed on top.

Final recipe today is another lunch or supper dish that can easily be multiplied to feed a crowd. Just allow one fat sausage per person and increase the remaining ingredients accordingly. Omit the spinach and instead use part of (or a whole) carton of passata. The recipe uses pasta penne, but macaroni or any other pasta shape could be used.
Almost Instant Meatballs with Pasta: serves 2
7 oz (200g) pasta penne
2 fat sausages
1 tblsp olive oil
1 x 250g bag spinach (see above)
pinch salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 tblsp toasted pine nuts
2 oz (50g) grated Parmesan cheese
Cook the pasta as per packet instructions. Meanwhile, remove the sausage skins (and discard), breaking the sausage meat up into 10 pieces, rolling each into a ball.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan and place in the sausage 'meat balls', cooking over a medium heat until golden all over - this should take about 5 minutes.
Tip the spinach on top of the meat balls, and cook/stir for 2 - 3 minutes until the leaves are completely wilted, then season with a pinch of salt and be generous with the black pepper. Sprinkle the pine nuts over the contents of the pan.
Drain the pasta, add it to the pan with half the Parmesan and toss together. Serve in individual bowls with the rest of the cheese sprinkled on top.

Just one comment today - this from Catriona who is at present on holiday, and finding the weather atrocious. Let us hope today clears up a bit to allow some pleasant trips outdoors. As not a million miles away from Blackpool might have suggested this as a good place to visit, but having been there recently not so sure it is anymore. It's gone downhill fast! People are now actually preferring to visit Morecambe rather than Blackpool "because it's cleaner!". Certainly Morecambe is kept clean (people out clearing up rubbish almost at first light), and suppose there are plenty of things to see, but not much in the way of amusements other than arcades. We used to have a pier but it got washed away and was never replaced. There is of course the Midland Hotel, but you need money to be able to afford even a cup of tea there.

Although the Midland Hotel has been used in a 'Poirot', the other day had another 'deja vu' moment when I switched onto a Freeview channel and saw a repeat of Jeeves and Wooster. "Am sure that is Highclere" (think that was the place) I thought as I saw the couple drive up to a stately home, and blow me it was the same location as Downton Abbey. As they went inside, the place was exactly as it was in the more recent D.A. series, and just shows how 'historical places' never change over the years.

And early start to my blog today means an early finish. First thing to do is to change the papers on the kitchen carpet, still soaking up the oil so just shows how much was spilt. At least the paper is absorbing most of it, so it could have ended up much worse. Pretty sure there won't even be a stain to show what happened.

Although still windy, the rain HAS stopped and the day is looking much brighter. As the forecast seems to imply that most of the country will have good weather today (other than on the west coast around where we live) we should make the most of it, tomorrow expected to be bloomin' awful (again). But we British are pretty used to bad weather, but this year has had the worst summer on record. It can only get better. Or can it?

Whatever the weather we should make the best of it. Like cooking something nice so we can 'comfort eat' whilst sitting snug and warm indoors. You can always send me a comment if you have nothing else to do.
Please join me again tomorrow and we can share our highs and lows. See you then.