Monday, June 25, 2012

Every Cloud....

My mood lightened a bit yesterday once the sun had come out. It turned out to be quite a lovely day, although a bit too windy for the sailing club to launch their boats. However, there were plenty of people calling in at the club house due to previously having booked to have a 'taster' (sailing). B returned home very pleased. All the scones and cakes I'd made had been bought and eaten (with enjoyment according to remarks). The club had provided refreshments (these had to be bought), and were selling a bacon butty with a cup of coffee for £1.50. A scone (with jam and butter, the jam was mine) were sold for 50p, a slice of my ginger cake also for 50p. Considering the scones were freshly baked and the jam (I have to say was gorgeous - mixed summer fruits), think that was a reasonable price.

Even so - interesting to work out profits, for - after working out the cost of making the gingerbread (they would have got AT LEAST 10 slices from that) and the five dozen scones, -the ingredients for the lot came to less than £5 total (rounded up to £5 as included a pot of jam). So selling 70 portions (scones/g.bread) this would have raked them in £35, less my £5 = £30 profit! Plus any more they got from selling their own cakes and bacon butties. This made me feel quite good (almost wishing I could open my own tea-rooms!).

Have to say have got my scone-making now down to almost perfection. Still not as good-looking as those sold in supermarkets (tops not quite flat) but risen enough and very light with plenty of fruit. Rustic enough to look 'artisan' (aka homemade I suppose), and when packed in a box (cardboard not plastic) between sheets of baking parchment whilst still warm, don't dry out and probably still retain 'oven freshness' when eaten a couple or so hours later.

Was so sorry to hear that the Hunstanton carnival was a disaster Sairy, especially as yesterday the weather improved here. Gill said it was raining heavily in Leicester when she phoned, so probably the bad weather had moved east. Seems now that many car-boot sales are being held indoors, rather than in open fields, so maybe you can find one close to home that is an 'all-weather' venue.

Thanks also to Frugal Queen for her comment. And still another from an anonymous (am sure it's always the same one) who wants us to visit his/her site. These all seem to relate to some cooking implement or utensil, not a proper blogsite. Am getting very irritated by them.

Stayed up all night and slept in my chair in the living room as a way to stop my joints aching. Have had far too many sleepless nights tossing and turning and wanted to feel more comfortable. Certainly my legs didn't pain at all, but will go back to bed tonight or this staying up will become a habit.

As expected, B 'ate out' (at the club), so was satisfied with a big bowl of the vegetable soup, and I finished off what was left. It really is amazing (well not really) how a few veggies (carrots, celery, potatoes, parsnip, onion, plus chicken stock) can make such a tasty and satisfying soup. Had it been winter I would have added a tea-cup full of pearl barley to turn it into a very satisfying 'broth'.

Knew that B was pleased that my scones et al had been enjoyed (basking in reflected glory?) as he'd bought himself a bag of Werther's Original and actually SHARED these with me without me even asking. That's a first (it's like getting blood out of a stone to get just one taste of B's sweeties). He even bought me a bar of peppermint Aero. Bang went my intention of not eating 'naughties' in my aim to lose a few pounds, but can start again today. Once I've eaten the Aero (this I managed to save until today). Let's hope the club keep wanting me to cook for them, then maybe B will bring me more.

Didn't make the bread yesterday, instead took a pack of pikelets from the fridge to thaw out, and as there was still a bit of the last loaf left thought that would keep B going until today. The first thing to do this morning once I leave this comp is to get some bread mix into the machine and get the dough started. The loaf will then be ready to eat later today.

Sorting out my larder is coming along nicely, will hope (I say hope for my intentions never go to plan) to do a proper check of contents of fridge and freezer. Am sure I have a lot more in the freezer than I think is there - 'Boris' is stuffed full (although his fridge side is half empty), and 'Maurice' (the smaller freezer with four drawers) is also full, but more neatly as in there I pack all the containers holding home-made ready meals and - well everything that will go in containers. 'Boris' is mainly stuff in bags, most have been opened and partly used, so the danger is when the door is open one falls out and spills contents on the floor and YES I know I should tie up the bags each time used, but usually don't. Well, I'm not perfect.

The above admission has now made me try to 'do even better', so maybe will clear the kitchen table, get out all my stored (and empty) containers (with lids), and then decant bagged frozen veggies into them so they will store more neatly and take up less room. I write the contents on each box using a thick black marker pen so easily read, the writing easily washed off in hot water when empty and the box needed to hold something else. Saves paying for labels.

Well, England lost their footie match. In a way was a bit sorry about that as it would have been nice for them to win the cup seeing that it is Jubilee year. We can still keep our fingers crossed that Andy Murray might win Wimbledon. Think the last time a British person (actually English) won Wimbledon was Virginia Wade during one of the Queen's celebratory years (was it her Silver Jubilee?). A previous memorable event was Edmund Hillary climbing Everest and think that was at the Queen's Coronation, so we HAVE to have something special happen again for her this year.

One of my 'kitchen appliance' that is being used more regularly these days (normally only in the winter months) is my slow-cooker (aka crock-pot). For one thing it is far cheaper (fuel-wise) than using the oven, and we need to cut down on fuel when we can. Suppose a pressure cooker is also fuel-saving but - at the moment - don't have one.

Although I used to cook my chicken liver (and other) pates in a terrine (well loaf tin), standing in a bain marie of water in the oven, am now starting to make pates in the slow-cooker. These of course take longer to cook, but as I said, fuel-cheaper.
Here is a pate that can be enjoyed by all, vegetarians or meat-eaters because it is just as tasty as any made with meat, even though none is included. The red beans give the pate a richer flavour and the pate is darker in colour. If you wish it to taste (and look) lighter then use cannellini or haricot beans. Flageolot beans are also mild and being pale green would add another colourway to the pate.
This pate is worthy enough to serve as a starter when entertaining.
Mushroom and Red Bean Pate: serves 8
1 lb (450g) mushrooms, sliced
1 onion, finely chopped
1 - 2 cloves garlic, or to taste, crushed
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 tblsp vegetable stock
2 tblsp white wine
1 x 400g can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 egg, beaten
2 oz (50g) wholemeal breadcrumbs
2 tsp each chopped fresh thyme and rosemary
salt and pepper
Put the mushrooms, onions, garlic, bell pepper, stock and wine into the slow-cooker. Cover and cook on High for about 2 hours or until the veggies are almost tender. Remove from heat and set aside to cool for 15 minutes.
Tip the above vegetable mixture into a food processor and add the beans. Blitz until it makes a smooth puree (you'll probably need to stop the processor and scrape down the sides once or twice to make sure everything gets a whizz).
While the veggies are cooking in the crockpot, take the time to lightly grease and line a 2lb (9oog) loaf tin. Then when the veggies are blitzed, clean out the crock-pot and place an upturned saucer in the bottom of the pot and pour in a good inch (2.5cm) of hot water and switch the pot onto High.
Meanwhile, put the mushroom and bean mixture into a bowl, then add the egg, breadcrumbs, herbs and seasoning to taste, Mix together thoroughly, then spoon into the prepared tin and cover with clingfilm or foil. Place tin in the slow cooker, the add boiling water to the pot to come just half-way up the sides of the tin. Cover pot with its lid and cook on High for four hours or until the pate is lightly set.
Remove tin from crockpot and place on a wire rack. Leave until completely cooled down then place in the fridge. Leave for several hours (overnight is even better), then when ready to eat, turn the pate out of the tin, remove lining paper and serve in slices. Good eaten as a starter with slices of Melba (or other) toast for spreading, or with salad and tomatoes as a light lunch.

Here is another 'terrine' that makes a really special starter when entertaining. Anything like this that can be made in advance and kept chilled to serve later is a winner when it comes to planning a dinner party menu. Same goes for desserts, then all we have to worry about on the day are 'the mains'.
We have many 'white fish' on sale (cod, haddock, coley, ling, plaice, halibut, hake....) just use the least expensive. I find the 'value' white fish fillets from Tesco very useful for a dish such as this, as are the cheaper packs of smoked salmon (but don't use 'offcuts' as this dish needs the salmon to be in strips). Canny cooks will be able to save the egg whites when making something else. If you haven't lemon mayonnaise for serving, then serve mayo blended with tartare sauce or a little lemon zest and juice. If you wish you could add lemon zest when blitzing the spinach.
Fish Terrine: serves 6
1 lb (450) skinless white fish fillets
8 oz (225g) smoked salmon, thinly sliced
2 egg whites, chilled
good pinch each salt, pepper, and nutmeg
8-9 fl oz (250 ml) double cream
2 oz (50g) baby spinach leaves
Cut the fish into inch (2.5cm) chunks, removing bones (if any). Spread out onto a plate and cover with clingfilm. Chill in the freezer fir 15 minutes or until very cold.
Meanwhile, lightly oil a 2 pint (1.2 ltr) loaf tin or terrine. Line the base and sides with slices of smoked salmon, overlapping slightly so there are no gaps and allow surplus to hang over the sides of the tin.
Remove the chilled (part frozen) fish from the freezer and place in a food processor. Blend to make a smooth puree, scraping down the sides a few times to make sure all the fish is blitzed.
Add the egg whites, one at a time, giving a good whizz between additions, then add the salt, pepper and nutmeg. While the processor is still running, pour in the cream but stop as soon as it is incorporated - otherwise the cream will thicken and we don't want that to happen.
Place the mixture into a bowl, the place the spinach leaves into the processor (no need to wash this first), give a quick blitz then add one third of the fish mixture and process together until just combined, again scraping down the sides as necessary.
As with the above recipe, put a saucer in the crock pot, add an inch of hot water, then set to heat on High.
Spread half the plain fish mixture in the base of the tin, top with the spinach mix, then the final layer of remaining plain mix. Fold the overhanging pieces of smoked salmon over the top to cover.
Give the tin a sharp bang on the work surface to knock out any air pockets, then cover the tin with a double layer of oiled foil. Put the tin in the slow cooker and pour in enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides. Cook for three or three and a half hours or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Leave to cool in the tin, then chill in the fridge until firm. This can be kept covered to serve the following day if required. Turn out onto a plate or board, removing the lining paper. Cut into slices and serve on individual plates (or leave diners to help themselves) with a lemon mayonnaise (see above).

Must finish now as making the bread won't wait forever. Not going to bother watching Wimbledon, so can carry on with my 'stocktaking' this afternoon, and hopefully find something that can be used up to make for B's supper. Probably something with fish as seem to have quite an amount of this. A fish risotto is probably my best bet. Or a Paella. Both need about the same attention (hovering over the hob as they cook).

With the weather forecast looking good (at least until Thursday) hope that it is better for those who don't live on the west coast for here it is still overcast and gloomy, with a fairly strong breeze. But no rain. That's something to be grateful for. We should all enjoy our day(s), so I'll make a start with mine. Please join me tomorrow - so see you then.