Friday, July 27, 2012

Fed up!

Today began sunny and I was really looking forward to going and sitting out in the sun after I'd published today's blog, but clouds have now appeared, and although high (this probably means no rain), too thick to allow the sun to shine through, only small bits of blue sky at the moment.

Am still feeling chilly, at least in here although the temperature in the kitchen shows 70F (20C), so it's not cold. There will be change to cooler weather over the next few days anyway, and that will be a relief to those down south as they have been having really hot weather (mid 80'sF). Hot for the UK that is.

Don't feel too good this morning, think it probably the humidity - it really doesn't suit me, and as there was non-stop Olympic football on TV from 2.30pm until 10.00pm yesterday, there was nothing for me to do but work through my list, then sit down late evening to catch up with some repeats on other channels once B had gone to bed. Had a late meal (as hadn't felt hungry during the day) and this caused me to have nightmares. I keep getting the same dream (the 'plot' is the same but the regions and people are different). Each time dream about being on holiday then when time to return home find - as about to leave for the airport - that I have lost my passport, money, and mobile phone. Yesterday I'd even lost some of my clothes, although I did remember that my mobile phone was in my apron pocket where I had left it (draped over the end of the bath - in real life as also in the dream). By the time I'd got it back, I'd missed the bus to get me to the airport.
Suppose that must mean I'm worried about something, but in real life, don't know what that could be.

Hadn't heard about that community cafe to open in Morecambe Kathryn. Thanks for telling me about it. We don't always watch the local news on TV, and we don't get any local papers except a couple of free ones that don't always get delivered, and these mostly contain local adverts. Am hoping it might be something I could get involved with. Will see if I can find out more about it.

Don't know how it ever got to be such a 'spend, spend, spend' way of life we Brits seemed to have got into. Half a century ago we seemed to only get presents at birthdays and Christmas, and because of this they were much more enjoyed, something to look forward to. Nowadays (as shown in the Superscrimpers), parents seem to feel they need to buy their offspring gifts almost every time they leave the house. A memento of a holiday, or day out for a special treat is acceptable (because it may just be a pen with the name of the place on it), and Mum may even buy herself a tea-cloth with details of the place printed onto the cloth. But why buy more?

As you say Sarina, children can find more enjoyment when they can create things themselves, it's a joy to watch them, and they can be engrossed for hours, rather than just playing with a new toy for a few minutes then getting bored and wanting another new one.

Am trying to remember what my children liked to play with. Myself had a toy farm (this kept me happy until my early teens) and used to ask for more animals/people/farm carts/gates/hedges/trees etc for presents. My dad used to melt down the broken animals and make new ones using home-made plaster of Paris moulds, then he would paint them for me. I remember cutting up squares of corrugated paper to lay flat with hedges round to look like ploughed fields.

Lego was one of our offspring's favourite toys, and think most children love these. Our son began a collection of Meccano when slightly older, and he then built quite a lot of impressive things that really worked. A doll's house was a favourite toy of the girls, and they also had a small collection of modern-type dolls, I remember the Tressy doll with short hair that - with the turn of a key - would lengthen into longer and longer hair.

Plasticine was also something that was played with for hours, and there was something called (I think) a Spirograph - this had lots of clear plastic circles of different sizes with holes pierced through them. The idea was to stick a pen through one hole then run the circle round another (like a cog wheel) and it would make different patterns. This was so popular we bought more than one.

Popular games were dominoes, draughts, and always jigsaws (we still love to do those, B can sit for hours trying to fit all the pieces together), but think reading was almost top favourite. We had all the Ladybird books and Observer books as well as the Blue Peter, Beano, Dandy and one other (can't now remember which) bought for them at Christmas time.

This brings back memories of my Christmas Annuals. There was a Japhet and Happy Annual, a and I think there was a Pip, Squeak and Wilfred one year. Anyone remember those? Always had a Rupert Bear Annual. We are all familiar with Rupert.
Dolls in my day usually had pot heads with fabric bodies. I had two, one I called Olive, the other Pinkie (due to their complexions). Also used to have a teddy bear 'Teddy Alice', this was passed down to a relative who gave it to her daughter and I hope she still has it.

I too am fond of cottage cheese with pineapple Lisa, and have always bought this. For some reason never thought of putting the two together myself. Cottage cheese also comes in other flavours, '...with chives' is one. If a tub of cottage cheese is frozen, this changes the texture, it tends to end up slightly 'dryer' and when mashed with a fork breaks down easily into curd cheese, so useful to keep a tub in the freezer to use when a recipe calls for curd cheese as this is rarely sold over the counter. After thawing this can also take the place of 'ricotta cheese' in a recipe as this is much more expensive to buy.

The sky now is just about completely overcast with much lower and darker clouds, so maybe we will have rain. Certainly doubtful we will get much sun, although it does have a tendency to return late afternoon, but too close to supper time to be able to have time to enjoy it, in any case the garden is mainly in shadow by then, so no 'basking in the sun'. Am really fed up that we are missing out on the good weather the rest of the country has been having, but on the other hand we didn't get as much rain when the others did and many places were flooded, so they have earned the treat of a lot more sun. Ooh, if I crane my neck and peep through the window I can see a streak of blue far over towards the north, let's hope that's a good sign. Can only hope.

It was too humid (this weather we Brits call 'muggy') yesterday for me to want to eat much, but did make myself a strawberry milk shake in a Cola glass, even gave myself two straws to drink it. Very retro, but very refreshing at the time.
Put the chips in the oven for B, and then fifteen minutes later he went and fried his eggs and put the ham on his plate, so assumed he managed to make his own supper. This was done between footie matches (or maybe during half-time). When footie is one, meals have to fit in so B doesn't miss anything. He prefers to eat his main meal at the table (either in the kitchen or conservatory), but is happy to eat several snacks later in the evening on his lap so he doesn't miss any TV.

You mentioned the 'Diners, Drive In, and Dives" TV programme Lisa, this was mentioned before (was it by Margie?). Have not seen this listed on any of our channels, certainly not on Freeview, the only one similar is 'Dave v Food'. Much the same perhaps, everyone being served the food of the region, in what - to us - seems huge portions, Dave eating massive amounts as his personal 'challenge'. As this always advertises the diners food, suppose he gets all he eats for free. He probably never has to eat anything at all for the rest of the day, the next day and maybe even the next, so he can burn off all those calories, so he would hardly need to have a personal 'food budget' for domestic use. I wouldn't mind a job like that. B certainly would enjoy it, although he - like myself - finds the food served not really to our taste. The meat looks wonderful, but it is the amount of bread, chips and all the other 'trimmings' that would upset our stomachs.

If we choose to eat a hot meal during the summer, our choice is probably chicken or fish as these are both quick to cook, and as spicy food has the 'feel good' factor and is also 'right' to serve during hot weather (it can make us perspire which then helps to cool us down), today am giving a few recipes that am hoping you might like to try.

First dish is spicy meatballs served the Oriental way, with noodles an in a bowl of broth. Not quite a soup, but almost.
Coriander grows well in pots in our conservatory, but unfortunately neither B nor I like the taste, so I usually give it away. If you grow your own, use ALL the plant as the roots are the tastiest part, this way you only need to use only a small amount as the roots and stems are chopped up to add to the dish, and the leaves for garnish.
No reason to make all the dish as given, you could make the meatballs, fry them and serve with a spicy tomato salsa and a salad.
Spiced Meatballs 'n Broth: serves 6
1 large onion, cut into wedges
1" (2.5cm) piece root ginger, peeled
1 - 2 red chillies, (remove seeds if you wish)
1 clove garlic, crushed
6 peppercorns, crushed
1 oz (25g) coriander (pref with roots)
2 fl oz (50ml) milk
4 oz (100g) fresh white breadcrumbs
2 lb (1kg) chicken mince
salt and pepper
3 tblsp veg oil
ingredients for broth:
2.75 pts (1.5ltrs) chicken stock
3 star anise
1 tblsp grated root ginger
1 sachet miso powder (opt)
few black peppercorns
6 spring onions, thinly sliced
1 x 10oz (300g) pack egg noodles, cooked
1 - 2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 red chilli, seeded and sliced (opt)
Make the meatballs by putting the onion, ginger, chillies, garlic, pepper and half the coriander stalks, half the roots (if using) and half the leaves in a food processor and whizz until finely chopped.
Put the milk and breadcrumbs in a large bowl and mix together, then add the onion mix (above) and the chicken with seasoning to taste. Mix with clean hands until worked into a paste (with no lumps). Alternatively add the milk and crumbs to the onion mix in the processor, then add the mince and whizz that all together to make the paste.
Shape this mixture into small balls about the size of a 50p piece, then put 1 tblsp of the oil in a frying pan over medium heat, and fry the balls in batches until coloured all over - this should take about 10 minutes per batch, and add a little more oil each time. When all are cooked, set aside.
To make the broth, put the stock into a large pan, bring to the boil then simmer for five minutes. Add the star anise, the ginger, the miso powder, the remaining coriander roots, stalks, peppercorns, chilli (if using) and sesame oil. Place on lid and simmer for 20 minutes, the add the noodles and spring onions.
Take six large bowls and using a pair of tongs, lift out the noodles and share them between the bowls. Add the meatballs, then cover with ladles of the stock. Garnish with the remaining coriander leaves. Serve and eat immediately.

Next recipe is not served as 'a curry', but certainly has the flavour. Because the chicken portions are not in a thick 'curry type' sauce, they can be served with salad, with or without warmed naan bread.
Spiced Chicken: serves 4
2 tblsp sunflower oil
4 skinless chicken thighs, bone left in
1 onion, chopped
3 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick (or tsp dried cinnamon)
4 cardamom pods, crushed
5 oz (150ml) Greek yogurt
handful fresh coriander, leaves and stems chopped
2 - 3 tblsp Korma curry paste
2 oz (50g) sultanas
Heat half the oil in a lidded heat-proof casserole dish (do this on the hob). Add the chicken and fry for 8 - 10 minutes until golden all over (turning at least once), then remove and set aside.
Add the remaining oil to the casserole dish with the onions, bay leaves and spices and fry for about 5 minutes, until softened and the onions are turning golden, then return the chicken to the pan.
Mix together the yogurt, coriander, curry paste and sultanas in a bowl. Using a slotted spoon, remove pan contents and set aside, then pour the yogurt mixture over the chicken. cover and cook in the oven for 30 minutes at 180C, 350F, gas 4 or until the meat falls from the bone. If you wish for a 'drier finish' remove lid for the final 10 minutes.

Final recipe is an Oriental dish. Just love these stir-fries as we can use a variety of veggies if we wish although the original recipe uses only carrots I've included bell pepper and onion to add colour and flavour. Feel free to add celery, mange-tout peas, sweetcorn, mushrooms, if you wish. The more veggies there are the more portions it will make, so a good way to make a small amount of chicken go much, much further.
Using those Tesco 11p packs of chicken flavoured noodles make this dish extremely economical to make.
Sticky Chicken Stir-fry: serves 4
2 - 3 packs dried egg noodles (see above)
2 tsp sunflower oil
2 chicken breasts, cut into strips
4 large carrots, cut into matchsticks
1 red or green bell pepper, trimmed and cut into strips
1 small onion, sliced
3 tblsp runny honey
juice of 2 lemons
3 tblsp toasted sesame seeds
small bunch coriander, finely chopped
Cook the noodles as per pack instructions then drain.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a wok or deep frying pan and stir-fry the chicken oven high heat for a few minutes, then add the carrots, pepper, and onion. Continue with the stir-frying for five minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and turning golden.
Add the honey and lemon juice and leave to bubble away for half a minute before add the sesame seeds and noodles. Using tongs, toss the mixture together until the noodles have warmed through, then add the coriander and serve immediately.

The following are a couple of alternative suggestions for flavouring roast chicken (whole bird or portions).
Mix together 1 tsp each paprika and dried marjoram/oregano, juice of half a lemon and 1 tblsp olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Rub this into the chicken skin before roasting.

oriental: mix together 2 tblsp soy sauce, 1 tsp five-spice powder, 2 tblsp white wine vinegar,
1 tsp grated ginger, 1 crushed garlic clove, and juice of 1 lime (or lemon).
Put chicken into a plastic bag with the above marinade, seal and leave in the fridge for 24 hours, turning the bag occasionally so every bit of the chicken gets coated. Then roast.

Have to say the above has now made my mouth water, so instead of being fed up with the weather, might feed myself up with one of the above today. Have to see which one B fancies. Or could make two different ones. Am used to cooking separate meals for B and myself.

Other than making supper, don't feel much like doing any other cooking today. The clouds are beginning to lift, but still no sign of sun, but as soon as it appears will be outside like a shot enjoying the warmth.

Tonight sees the start of the Olympics (although it has actually 'started' as we've already had several football matches these last couple of days, both mens and womens), but will look forward to seeing the opening ceremony this evening. Apparently there are quite a number of unsold seats - hardly surprising as the price is so high (over £1,000 in some instances), and few can afford to pay this, or even half, or a quarter. They say they are going to give the unused seats free of charge to schoolchildren and servicemen. Well, I mean it wouldn't look good to the rest of the world if the seats are only half-filled.
Why is this obsession to charge such high prices for everything (even food, fish and chips there at £8.50, and I bet the portions are small)? Far better to charge less for seats at least, and then sell a lot more. The profits should work out the same anyway, perhaps even better.

Yesterday signed off with the thought you would all now be having your weekend. Silly me got the day wrong, thought it was Friday when it was actually Thursday. Problem with me is that all the days of the week are much the same where I am concerned, and the way the weather ha s been this year all the months/seasons seem the same as well, so don't be surprised if you find me giving Easter recipes next week.

I'll say it again anyway - enjoy your nearly here weekend, and make the most of any good weather that we have left. It should be cooler, which will make it more pleasant at least in the south (think I've already said that). Hope you find time to drop me a line, and log on again tomorrow. See you then.