Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Whatever Next?

All my fault of course! I should never have left a full 3 ltr bottle of sunflower oil under the kitchen table. Thought it was safely tucked away out of B's reach (as yet had found no shelf that would hold it), and what did I find yesterday evening when B had eaten his supper (during half-time of the England footie match), he had kicked over the bottle and the cap had come off and all but a quarter of the oil was left in the bottle.
Most kitchen have 'washable' floors, but not ours, it is carpeted throughout (as is the rest of our home) in cream carpeting. The only thing I could do was place lots of double sheets of newspaper over the (by now) very wide oil-stain and leave it overnight in the hope it would soak up a lot of the oil. This morning this seems to have happened, but think it will be days before most of the oil has been absorbed, then comes the next bit 'how do I get rid of the rest?'.

My suggestion to B was that we have the kitchen floor tiled (as he wished to do when we first moved in) but that meant paying money and this never sits well on B's shoulders. In any case he would never pay for someone to do it professionally, he would rather do it himself. He did mention having deep grey tiles (because these were on the floor of the RNLI shop), but I said this would make the kitchen even darker (it has no windows other than one narrow open end of our L shaped kitchen that leads into the conservatory). If we had dark tiles then I said we'd have to change the units to white! More cost!
Luckily B had the footie match to take his mind of it, and by then I'd got past caring. I was on an 'up' and going to stay that way.

Slight change of plan re the salmon. The Smokehouse phoned to say there was a hiccup with delivery and it wouldn't arrive until today, they will phone me when it has and give a time for collection.

Yesterday evening felt cold again (well it was a gloomy day) so took a thermometer into the living room and set it in the centre. After several minutes it settled at 66C. Then I moved it over close to where I sit (within the cold 'bubble that seems to surround me). The temperature dropped down four degrees! Checked again outside the 'bubble' and it rose back to 66C. So looks like there is something that is making my corner colder than the rest of the room. Sometimes it feels so cold round my face that I ought to see my breath (like happens on frosty days outdoors).

Having mentioned we had a good sunny day a couple of days ago, was amazed to hear on TV (and see the pics), about a whole month's rain that fell in one day - this being yesterday. At least we did not get any, but much of the country was awash. Today awoke to glorious sunshine and wall to wall blue skies, but it seems that further south they are still getting lots of rain. What a country this is for weather. They say another 'low' is arriving at the weekend and we will get more rain and very high winds. Still not worth buying summer bedding plants, and am wondering if it will be worth doing so anyway. Might make do with the hydrangeas, the 'always there' other non-flowering green shrubs, and - at the moment - several borders full of yellow and orange self-sown Welsh poppies.

Was not sure what to get for B's supper yesterday, so decided on a chicken casserole. Even then did not make it 'properly. Earlie had boiled some sliced carrots (that needed using up - they were growing 'hairs' along their length but perfectly OK once peeled). Removed the cooked chicken flesh from the drumsticks roasted the day before, and set this aside.
Got a frying pan and gently fried a diced onion, then added some very tiny button mushrooms that were in the 'Value' mushroom box (delivered on Saturday). Cooked a few small (halved) potatoes.
Made up half a packet of 'garlic cream sauce' (from my collection of 'casserole -and other - mixes) and poured this over the contents of the pan. When thickened, added the chicken, some of the carrots, and some of the potatoes, with a few frozen peas to give added colour. As the sauce was a bit thicker than intended, poured in a little double cream.
By the time I'd finished the 'casserole' was more like a chicken pie filling and I wished I hadn't added the spuds as then I could have put the contents into a pie dish under a pastry lid and finished it off in the oven (when serving a savoury pastry dish normally do not serve spuds as well as double up the carbos - to me - is a waste of money).
Quite honestly, the meal looked far too creamy and rich for me to wish to eat it, and was dubious about serving it to B, but he came back into the room after eating it (and unknowingly kicking over the oil), and said it was a really lovely meal. He does enjoy cream, so perhaps why. He had more cream over his apple and rhubarb and ginger crumble. And even more over a later 'snack' of raspberry jelly. Between those he ate the last of the pikelets (as I found out when I went to get one for myself, not yet having had one) "well you didn't say you wanted any", was his excuse. Try asking next time B before you eat everything up. Am considering having a 'Shirley shelf' in the fridge where things put on there are for me to eat (or kept for me to use when cooking).

Not that I really mind, for many would say it is my own fault for not saying that I would like a taste of what has been bought or made. And that is true. It's just that we women - so used to providing food for others - like to feel it works the other way round as well. You know, like being considered first now and again! Having first choice instead of having the left-overs (if lucky enough to get any).

Was watching a programme several days ago all about 'how we lived then', and certainly up to and even after World War II, we ladies were expected to do everything for our menfolk, fitting in all the domestic duties (cooking, washing, cleaning, rearing children. In those days many women stayed at home once the children were born, but later - when many did return to work - these chores were still expected to be done. In those days 'man's work' at home was DIY and gardening (and not always that). Since then things have changed, but it is us 'old birds' that still tend to keep living as in 'the old days', and of course our fault for allowing ourselves to do so. Trouble is, old habits die hard. B would not know what had hit him if I changed and expected him to be a 'new man'. Think I'll keep the status quo and just have the occasional moan.

Not sure whether I'd have the patience to tackle a Herman cake Jane, do let us know what it is like once made (maybe even give us the recipe?).
What a good idea for a school to publish their school dinners on a website. Are all schools expected to serve the same meals, or is this website purely for the school your son goes to? Certainly it helps knowing what lunch will be so that an evening meal can be different.

Am sure 'catering' bread mix will work in a bread machine, but suppose you could make only the dough in the machine then bake it in the oven in the normal way (this is my preference). As you say it is a matter of trial and error to get the mixture right.

Seems we have a conflict of opinion on venison. Campfire does not rate it highly, yet Margie does. Having bought a couple of packs of diced venison along with other meats (all from D.R) for B's birthday present, cooked these recently in the slow cooker, but have frozen it away to make up into other dishes later. Did sample one 'cube' and found it had a stronger flavour than beef, but this is something I know B will enjoy 'the meatier the better'.

Living in a country that has so many regional recipes can say with certainty that many from the north of England certainly are both filling and tasty. Am sure I've made 'singing hinnies' in the past, and enjoyed them. Some many months ago did give traditional recipes on this site, working around the nation, and practically every county had something worth 'offering'.

Have not tried bison (buffalo?) Margie. Nor kangaroo or ostrich for that matter, although all are now sold in this country). Have heard that bison meat is very lean and full of flavour. Almost certainly will be expensive. Butchers normally only supply it on order.
As to using foods that have nearly reached their 'best by' dates. This is only a guide and they should all last a lot longer, often up to and over a year past their date. There are a few 'dry goods' that are best used by their 'b.b' date. Dried beans/pulses being one. The older they are the drier they become and too old will never cook down to tender (even after lengthy soaking).
Wholewheat/wholemeal flour is also best used within its date (or shortly after) as the flavour changes after time, almost to rancid.

Chilled foods can often be kept beyond their date (although we are always warned not t0 use them after a 'use-by' date). Much depends upon the temperature of the fridge, the lower it is, the longer the foods will keep (ours is set at 3C).
Am afraid I belong to the 'sniff and taste' brigade when it comes to the 'use-by's', for one thing this is pretty accurate, and certainly stops me throwing food away that is still perfectly edible even though the date suggests differently, but we still need to be careful. All I can say is that neither B nor I have ever been made ill eating something that was 'a bit' (say no more) past its use-by date. It is up to each of us to be sensible, and discard anything we are dubious about.

Not sure whether it has yet been done, but a lot of foods are now having many dates removed purely because they are only cautionary and people take them at face value so chuck out when the date has arrived, causing this national mountain of still edible foods to continue. Can't remember now how much food is thrown away that needn't be, but it comes to millions of ££££s worth of our money, and because supermarkets also throw a lot away that has reached its 'display by date', their loss is made up by adding a penny or two more to the foods we buy.

Close to Glasson dock is a pub/restaurant called The Stork. This is run by a South African, and many of the dishes are traditional to this country. Have tried some and cannot say I find them all pleasing, their sausages and dried 'jerky' type meat I do not like (can't remember their S.A. names), but there is one dish I do like. This is Bobotie (pronounced bar-boor-tee if you wish to sound as though you know what you are talking about, although I still call it 'bow-bowtee').
So here is one of many versions of this recipe (not necessarily the one served at the above 'eaterie'). A cross between a curry and moussaka, it can also be made with minced beef instead of the lamb. If using semi-skimmed milk, enrich it with a little cream or creme fraiche.
Bobotie: serves 6
2 slices white bread
2 onions, chopped
1 oz (25g) butter
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 lbs (900g) minced lamb
1 tblsp madras (or milder) curry paste
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
3 cloves
2 tblsp mango chutney
3 tblsp sultanas
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper
half pint (300ml) milk, pref full fat
2 large eggs
Break the bread into large pieces and put into a bowl. Cover with cold water and set aside to soak.
Meanwhile, heat the butter in a frying pan and add the onion. Fry gently for about 10 minutes until softened then add the garlic. Fry for a further minute then stir in the beef, breaking it up if it clumps together as it browns. Add the curry paste, herbs, cloves, chutney, sultanas and the bay leaf, also plenty of seasoning, then cover and leave to simmer for 10 minutes.
Squeeze the water out of the bread, then work the bread into the meat mixture. When all combined, tip into an ovenproof dish (pref. shallow) and press the mixture down well to give a flat surface.
Beat the eggs with the milk, adding more seasoning, then pour this over the meat. Place in a pre-heated oven 18oC, 350F, gas 4 and bake or 35 - 40 minutes or until the custard topping is set and golden. Serve with a crisp green salad.

Those of us old enough will remember when having a roast chicken was 'special'. In the old days all food seemed (relatively) cheap, and all produce (meat and veggies etc) were 'free-range' and 'organic', although chickens were reared mainly for their eggs, and only old birds sold as 'boiling fowls'. Cod and haddock were the cheapest of fish, mackerel often sold only as 'bait'. 'Game' foods were expensive as these were all 'wild', and so in short supply. Otherwise the food we could buy were always good quality, the same today is normally beyond our financial reach.

Times change and many foods are much cheaper because they are 'farmed' but not always in a good way. Even so this doesn't mean the prices remain low because of this. Cheaper than 'the best' maybe, but still not cheap. If things carry on as they are doing we could end up being a nation of vegetarians with just meat/fish eaten only on special occasions.
Some may say this is a good thing, and who am I to say different. But certainly we can make our food budget go further if we ate less meat/fish and more of the 'veggies'.

Here is an unusual 'salad' that fills the above criteria. It can be eaten warm or cold and any left-overs would make a packed lunch for the following day (all left-overs should be planned as this saves waste). A different cheese could be used, either the Indian 'paneer', or another 'crumbly' such as Wensleydale or Lancashire. Other dried berries could be used in place of the cranberries, in fact all sorts of 'fruits' can be used for this dish: blueberries, pomegranate seeds etc.
Rice and Feta Salad: serves 4
8 oz (225g) long-grain rice, pref basmati
1 x 400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
4 oz (100g) dried cranberries
1 small red onion, finely sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
3 tblsp olive oil
2 tblsp fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper
1 x 200g pack feta cheese (see above)
handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Cook the rice in boiling water as per packet instructions, adding the chickpeas 5 minutes before the end of the cooking time. Drain and leave for a few minutes to cool slightly then mix in the cranberries and onion.
Put the garlic, oil, lemon juice and some seasoning into a bowl and whisk together. Pour this dressing over the rice mixture and toss together. Tip onto a large serving plate (or shallow wide bowl) and crumble the cheese over the top. Finish with a garnish of parsley. Serve warm or cold.

Have to say that tofu is not my most favourite food, but used in this dish certainly gains the much needed flavour, and replaces meat, so as long as tofu also doesn't rise in price, a worthy substitute for meat.
Asian Noodles with Tofu: serves 4
2 tblsp soy sauce
small piece fresh root ginger, peeled and grated
1 lime
1 x 250g pack tofu, drained
1 pack (2 'sheets') medium egg noodles
1 tsp sunflower oil
1 red chilli (or Peppadew), seeded and finely sliced
half cucumber, peeled in to ribbons
1 tblsp toasted peanuts or cashew nuts, chopped
Cut the lime in half and cut one half into wedges. Squeeze the juice from the second half and put this in a bowl with the soy sauce and ginger. Add the tofu in the solid piece and leave to marinade for 10 minutes, turning once.
Meanwhile boil the noodles as per packet instructions (usually takes about 4 - 5 minutes), then drain and leave to cool.
Remove tofu from the marinade (reserve this) and pat dry with kitchen paper. Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the tofu for 3 minutes on each side until golden, then cut into cubes.
To assemble the dish, put the noodles, chilli, cucumber, tofu in a dish and pour over the reserved marinade, then toss together. Serve with the nuts scattered over and wedges of lime.

That's it for today. The sky is clouding up a bit, but there is still plenty of sunshine and do hope the rest of the country is having better weather than yesterday. Am still waiting to hear from Glasson, if they don't call soon must phone them to see if there is to be a delivery or not as need to plan my day to make the most of it. With all this football, have now more time to 'make 'n bake' and am finding this 'free time' most useful, also having to plan B's meals to fit in around the 'footies' and thankful that there is 'half-time' so he can eat supper sitting at the table rather than on his lap in his chair.

Norma the Hair will be coming tomorrow, so my posting will probably be started once she has left, but should be completed before noon. Just in case you are wondering where I've got to. Will be interested to hear of any thoughts you might have re 'meat v vegetarian meals' also like to hear about any meals you have made using the less used offal on sale (pig's ears, tripe, sweetbreads, etc). We could be missing something good purely because we haven't fancied trying a particular 'cut'.
As ever, hoping to hear from as many of you as possible, and already looking forward to our 'get together' tomorrow. See you then.