Friday, June 29, 2012


This time yesterday I was busy in the kitchen, but more of that later. First must reply to comments.

Funny you should mention getting out your sewing machine Lisa, the same thought came to me this week - I haven't used mine for several years and a lot of my clothes need 'down-sizing' due to weight loss. Yesterday even sent an order off for new 'smalls' as really did need ones that fit well. It's not like me buy new clothing, but as it's about six years since I did, think I can allow myself one 'treat' (if you can call new knickers a treat).

How I wish our weather was more like that 'over the pond', although perhaps not at hot as it is in some areas (are we never satisfied with our weather in the UK?). Watching a repeat of a prog about our solar system late last night ended up being very grateful for whatever we get on this planet, as things could be a great deal worse. However much we dislike it, we do need the rain to survive.

There was me thinking that Canada was mainly English and French folk (although for 'English' perhaps 'Scottish' is nearer the truth). So was surprised when reading Margie's comment that there were a lot of Italian and Spanish living in Canada as well. Mind you, suppose most countries are a 'melting pot' of many cultures these days.
My Beloved is still watching football even though England is now out of the race, and am surprised how many countries really are getting themselves involved with this on-going footie matches.

Did see a mention of a bad thunderstorm on yesterday's TV news Jane, perhaps that was in your area (didn't hear where it was). We too had a thunderstorm, early afternoon, but we were more on the edge of it, and it soon went away. However, at that time, after a few sunny hours, the rain really pelted down, so was glad I'd decided to hang the washing on the airer rather than put it on the line in the garden to blow dry.

Not sure why your bread ends up 'doughy' Jane, maybe it needs cooking at a slightly higher temperature, or maybe allowing longer time to rise. Or perhaps slightly too much liquid. Ovens vary, as do 'rising temperatures', and the higher the bread rises in the tin, the lighter will be the crumb.

As expected, you had a very wet weekend in York Campfire, but other than that was pleased you enjoyed the company of friends. The home-made cakes sound delicious, and isn't it strange that nowadays these seem 'special', whereas in my youth these were taken for granted.

Thanks for that 'courgette (aka zuccini) butter/jam recipe Margie. Depending on the weather (and slugs) we often do get large crops of this veg, although some years not so. Not sure what is happening this year as have not grown any.

Now to my activities yesterday. Have to say that writing a list then working through it really is the best way (at least for me), although 'working through' is not exactly how it happened as instead of each on the list being done before the next was started, this time several things were being made at the same time. The term for this is 'multi-tasking' and it does seem (and proved) that it is women who can do this easily, men find it far more difficult.

Some years ago there was a prog on TV about multi-tasking, and we were shown how the same set tasks (think there were five) were all to be accomplished in just 15 (or was it 20?) minutes. Cannot remember all the tasks, but do know ironing had to be done, scrambled eggs cooked, the phone had to be answered, possibly washing up pots, and one other thing (changing a nappy?).
The woman of course managed to do the lot very easily without batting an eyelid, yet when a man had to accomplish them he immediately went to pieces. He seemed to need to complete each task before starting the next. When the phone rang whilst he was scrambling eggs - well of course he stopped scrambling and concentrated on the call while the eggs burnt (and possibly the iron was burning a hole on the ironing board at the same time). The woman held the phone in one hand to answer and stirred the eggs with the other as she talked, then when the call had finished still managed to stir the eggs whilst ironing the clothes with her other hand. Say no more!

It seemed to make sense to me to 'multi' when faced with my list:
Do laundry, hang out washing to dry
Sort out two drawers in the freezer
Remove frozen fish and poach
Make lemon curd
Bake a loaf of brown bread
Order new 'smalls'
Tidy conservatory
Write on-line grocery order for Tesco delivery

As I'd written the list before I sat down to 'chat' to you yesterday, the washing was already in the machine, so when I returned to the kitchen (8.15) the spinner was running, not sure for how long but I switched it off anyway. Immediately decided to start with making the bread dough in the machine, and whilst that was 'working' could do something else.

As the dough was being made, went and sorted out the freezer drawers and removed the white fish/smoked haddock/ salmon trimmings for B's Fish Risotto supper. All the fish had to be poached from frozen, so all I had to do was put the fillets/trimmings into a large saucepan, cover with water and then set over the heat to come to the simmer.
As I'd opened some larger packs of fish, then put the remaining frozen fish into smaller bags - these taking up less room when placed back in the freezer.

Decided then there was time to make the lemon curd, so after grating the zest and squeezing juice from the lemons, put this in a bowl with sugar and butter and into the microwave it went. When dissolved, beat up the eggs (saving a couple of egg whites), added this to the bowl and gave three bursts of 1 minute on High with a beating in between and 'hey presto' lovely thick lemon curd. Enough to fill two small jars (yes found time to sterilise these too).

A sudden shower of rain meant it would be best for me to hang the washing on an airer in the conservatory, so took the laundry out of the machine and draped it over the rails. By then the fish was poached, exactly the same time the bread-machine 'blipped' to say the dough was ready, and so I removed the pan of fish from the heat and brought the dough to the table and put this into an already greased and floured loaf tin then set this in a bowl of warm water to rise.

Removed the fish from the pan and peeled away the skin, broke each fillet into 'chunks/flakes' and put in a bowl, covered and into the fridge until supper time. Reserved the poaching water for later.
Decided to do the washing up at that point. Once that was done thought - as I'd got the saved egg whites - might as well make some ice-cream (although that was not on my list).

Put the egg whites into my big mixing machine to beat up until thick, meanwhile heating sugar and water to make a hot syrup, this then poured slowly into the beaten whites to make an Italian meringue. This needed to continue being whipped until cooled, so I decided to try something seen recently on TV. This was to make an almost instant 'ice-cream' by putting frozen strawberries into a food processor, pouring over double cream and then blitzing. It really worked! The frozen fruit chilled the cream so much it ended up like a softish ice-cream (a Mr Whippy texture), and although this could have been eaten as-is, folded it into the now-cooled meringue, then put it in a couple of boxes into the freezer.

The bread mix used (Tesco's crusty brown bread) seems to rise faster than other mixes, so as then it was around 10.15 it was ready to be baked, so into the pre-heated oven it went. While that was cooking washed up the pots that had been dirtied since the first 'wash-up'.

Decided then I should get the 'prep' ready for supper. Already had the fish done, so measured out the rice, butter, chicken stock, wine, frozen peas, and chopped up a small onion and a couple of Peppadews, and gathered a handful of fresh parsley (to later chop and add to the risotto).

At 10.45 everything was done and dusted as regards the food. All I had to do was wait for the bread to finish baking, so sat down and wrote out a cheque for the 'smalls', and began to tidy the conservatory. Then what happened. B wandered into the kitchen carrying a tray that held 6 assorted plates and dishes and several items of cutlery. These were the ones used the previous evening to hold his 'snacks'. So this meant more washing up to be done. Well he could have been left to do it himself, but by then I'd got the bit between my teeth and just wanted to keep going.

The bread was baked shortly after 11.00, and by 11.30 everything on the list (and more) had been done, so I went into the living room with a cup of coffee and sat down to do the crossword. After that went and wrote up my grocery order, and by noon the days' work was done, other than hoovering the carpets as I intended doing during the afternoon while B was at the gym (he absolutely HATES me doing 'obvious' housework while he is in the house, and so I have to use the vacuum cleaner while he is out). Only yesterday B, at the last minute, decided to stay at home and watch tennis instead. So it will be this afternoon that the carpets get hoovered.

Have to say the Fish Risotto was very good, and it really IS worth taking time when making a risotto as it can make a difference if certain flavours are left out (or kept in). The way I make mine is to first melt a good knob of butter in a frying pan, then gently fry a finely chopped onion before adding the rice. Give this a stir so it is coated with the butter and becomes slightly translucent, then I add half a wine-glass of white wine. When this has been almost absorbed, then add about the same amount of a well flavoured and slightly concentrated chicken stock (home-made of course). With continual simmering and stirring, this soon gets absorbed and more chicken stock is added, or - as yesterday - I then used the 'fish stock' (the water the fish was poached in), to give more of a 'fishy' flavour. After about 20 minutes, when the rice was nearly ready (al dente), then added the chopped Pepperdew (not essential but it does add a bit of interest to a rather bland flavoured dish), and some frozen peas. Then folded in the cooked fish (another time I might add chunks of raw fish to the risotto and let them cook in that).

Finally added a smidgin more of fish stock so that the dish ended up 'creamy' and not 'dry' (a risotto dish should always be creamy) and folded in the chopped parsley. Then served it to B. He said there was enough for two! Yet, whilst making it - and B was watching me do it - I asked B if there would be too much, and if so I would eat what was left. He said no, he could eat it all. So of course he did. At least I did have a taste or three as it was cooking (a cook should always taste to make sure a dish is as perfect as it can be) so I know it really was good.

For 'afters' B had some of the strawberry ice-cream, and he said that was lovely. As I went to work on the comp whilst the footie was on, noticed by his chair he had two huge bars of chocolate, and when I returned after the match was over, all that had been eaten as well.

Although it is wonderful that my Beloved is so healthy - he has just had his yearly check-up and everything is normal, no high blood pressure or cholesterol etc. - how can he remain like that when he can eat lbs of butter per week, pints of double cream, bowls of home-made beef dripping, portions of food that would feed five thousand let alone one, and countless bars of chocolate? And he always likes half a bottle of wine with most of his evening meals. B says he is fit because he doesn't smoke. Well neither do I. but still have problems with my weight.. Also B says it is because he doesn't take sugar in his drinks (he seems to forget all the sugar in the cakes, and sweets that he loves). Myself like to believe (possibly wrongly) that is it good home-cooking that is the secret. Avoid the addititives and preservatives and eat 'natural' foods and we can't go wrong.

Probably the exercise B takes (gym 2 or 3 times a week) does help keep his weight down, but when it comes to his blood pressure think that his lack of 'stress' throughout his life has helped a great deal. B doesn't do 'stress'. He can get very cross and 'shouty' when things aren't going his way, but that is more crosspatch and tantrums than real pressures. He avoids things that stress me out like worrying about money, responsibilities, things like that. 'Let other people worry about them' is his philosophy. He is very much a 'tomorrow' man (put off something as long as possible "and if you put it off long enough someone else will do it'), and when having nothing very much to do prefers to sit in his chair and nod off (and he does that a lot these days which I find a bit worrying - sometimes even nodding off during a footie match, can you believe that!).

So we - who can sometimes get stressed - should perhaps take a leaf from B's book - let things ride over us a bit more. Why worry, it may never happen. Makes sense.

Am taking it a bit easy this morning as other than doing a bit more sorting out of my larder (just in case I have missed something that needs re-stocking), and same with the fridge, have nothing much to do (other than shoving the hoover around). Am even enjoying watching Wimbledon, and how good it is to see the sun shining there, I expected it to be a washout. We seem to have several up and coming English players this year and although few will reach the second week, at least it is very good to know that we do have at least more players this year than just Andy Murray - who only just managed to win yesterday.

As I write the sun has suddenly begun shining, but the sky is mainly overcast, and it could well turn thundery again (thunderstorms have a habit of circling around for a couple or so days, usually rumbling at about the same time). Seems to be quite a high wind today - so what's new? Whether it is because we live on the coast or whether winds are more usual these days, but can never remember there being so much constant wind half a century (or less) ago.

Tomorrow will have the pleasure of my groceries being delivered (the kind of retail therapy I need at the moment, and always enjoy). Quite a lot of my order is for fresh fruits, vegetables and salads as really need to keep away from the carbos in my aim to reduce weight (again!). Not the cheapest of ingredients, but my order still stays within my budget and that's all that matters.

Considering that cream and butter and meats and cheese (all things B loves and expects) have all increased in price, am surprised that my food budget is still under control. Probably stocking up when the above are 'on offer' helps. Also now always making bread instead of buying toasting loaves, and making soups instead of using the canned and 'cuppas'. 'Extending' meat dishes (casseroles etc) by using less meat and more veggies (or adding TVP), certainly cuts costs. Growing our own veg (not that we do now) would of course make a great difference to our budget, but at least the soft fruits we have in the garden (plus apples and pears), go a long way to help. Not to mention the herbs and mixed salad leaves on the conservatory windowsill.

But I've said all this before, so it would be helpful (to me and others) if a 'sticky spot' could be highlighted by one or t'other of our readers. Where are the problems areas when it comes to YOUR frugal cooking? Is there more that can be done that hasn't yet been mentioned!
Time I think to get our heads together and review the situation, and then move further down the cost-cutting trail, but still find ways to serve fabulous food to our families.

With that thought will love you and leave you for today, and myself will try just that little bit harder to save a few more pennies (I've already deleted quite a few 'treats' for myself that I'd put in my virtual shopping trolley - well, other than extra and unnecessary expence, they would all add inches to my hips!). Might even have to give up Spam! Maybe next Lent.

With yet another weekend coming up, we could think about rolling up our sleeves and do some baking, not because it will naturally save money, but think how pleased everyone will be. Remember that home-cooked food is THE BEST, and very expensive indeed if we have to go out and buy something similar (but not even as good). Isn't it worth giving up an our of our weekend to gain this 'special something'? I like to think it is. You may think differently. But whatever you decide to do, make sure it is enjoyable.
If you can find time tomorrow, hope to 'see you then'. TTFN