Sunday, July 22, 2012

It Can Be Done!

Spent a half hour sitting in the sun yesterday, albeit a hazy sun due to very high thin cloud. Was looking up towards the sun (being hazy was able to look almost directly at it) and noticed something very unusual (at least haven't seen it before), there was a huge white ring some distance away from the sun, inside the ring the sky looked a darkish grey, outside the ring was paler cloud. Not only that, there was a long, perfectly straight black line diagonally across the ring (if looking at a clock it would be 20 to to 20 past) directly through the middle of the sun and starting and finishing some distance outside the cloud.

I dashed indoors to fetch B and he knew what the circle was, something to do with cloud temperature (forgotten what he said anyway), and by then the black line had disappeared although the line was still there but this time white and lower down. B said that was the vapour trail of a plane, and I did hear a plane at the time so possibly so, but strange that I saw it (in black) exactly as it crossed the centre of the sun. Found all this very interesting. Others may find it boring. Little things please little minds they say.

Did a bit more potting up of plants, all the geraniums that I'd had indoors are now safely potted up outside and together with the ones bought, the garden is now looking quite pretty. Have loads of strawberry plants looking very healthy but not one flower on them.

As it began to get a bit more overcast later in the day spent the afternoon tidy up the huge mess in the conservatory that B had left (well, I did offer to clear it up myself for then I would know what to get rid of and what to put where if to be kept). It is now looking very much like a dining room and am very pleased with it.

B fancied scrambled eggs on toast for his supper, so managed to get that by himself. I ate some rice cakes, tomatoes and a pack of crisps that B had brought in for me, also some Werther's Originals. Naughty but nice.

Today B is out as the sailing club has a 'taster' weekend. Not tasting food, but getting a feel of what it's like to sail a dinghy. The weather is set fair, said to be hotter today than yesterday (over 20C if we are that lucky), but there is now a stronger wind so not sure if there will be any sailing. It was ever thus. Live by Morecambe Bay and it's either too windy for novices (and others) to sail, or the tide is wrong. Maybe four or five times a year everything is just right, and then no-one turns up as England is playing an important football or cricket match, or everyone has gone away on holiday. B is wishing now we had stayed in Leeds for he really used to enjoy every weekend sailing on Yeadon Tarn (tarn is Yorkshire name for small lake), as it didn't matter what the weather was like, high winds and you could capsize but as the water was only waste deep, you just got back in the dingy again, and there are no tides with a lake.

At least B is involved with the sailing club but has sold his sailing boat and now can only drive the 'safety boat' - this being a rubber motor controlled dinghy, but am sure he gets some enjoyment from that. Let us hope so.
Am not sure that retirement in a new area is all its cracked up to be, especially when both partners have had to give up the main pleasures of their life. Yes, new ones can be started, but it is not the same. Friends also have to be 'given up'. The youngsters don't realise that although they can dash around the country visiting everyone they wish, even go abroad, older folk do not care or even wish to travel far from home. With 'old friends' being much the same age, the same applies to them.
Gill, who used to visit us at least 5 times a year when we lived in Leeds, now we hardly ever see, perhaps once a year if lucky, as she does not like to drive the extra distance. She does phone me each Sunday (but today is off to London on a coach trip to visit Petticoat Lane) so suppose that is the next best thing, but it is not the same as sitting here with her and playing Rummicubs and cards as we always used to do. Between the lengthy chats of course.

Am expecting to have a very busy day - making jams for the 'social', more tidying up of the kitchen. Yesterday also had a change round in there as wanting to move the bread maker to a more convenient spot (at the moment it is on the unit top but under a low cupboard so the machine lid cannot be raised fully and it is difficult to fit the bowl inside (and yes, I could pull the machine forward each time of use but that means moving the things in front of it that B wants put there (bread, breadboard, bread knife, butter etc... the toaster being next to the bread machine).
Have moved baskets containing plastic tubs/lids (saved for freezing things, ice-cream etc), into the conservatory where they fit perfectly under the lower shelf that B has just fitted. They also look very good (baskets always do). The bamboo set of shelves (between the kitchen table and the small freezer) now are holding my baking tins, the bread machine will stand on the top. An electric plug behind it, so perfectly placed.
Soon I'll be able to sit at the table and reach for just about everything with barely having to get out of my chair. Useful on the days when my back is playing up.

Today also want to make another batch of popcorn. That only takes a couple of minutes, longer if adding flavourings or crunchy toffee coating. Really MUST make a pork pie (as have some home-made 'pork pie filling' in the freezer, and can add more bacon, sausage meat and apple to this to make a larger pie).
Also want to make 'something with pastry' (as have some shortcrust in the fridge to use - but still more pastry in the freezer). Probably will make a quiche, a Bakewell tart, some cheese straws, maybe even a treacle tart or Lemon Meringue Pie. As ever, my good intentions often never get further than the thought, but today will really try hard to stick to them. Making a list of 'things to do' normally helps. So that is the first thing to do, then work my way through as many as I can.

Today's recipes are another batch of vegetarian dishes. Not just because these are normally much cheaper to make than those using meat products, but also they 'eat well' during the warm summer days, and as we expect to have several of these over the next few days, what better time to give them.

First recipe is another that uses courgettes, and is really delicious, especially when served with a Raita (recipe also given for this). The chickpeas could either be home-cooked, or use the nearest weight of canned chickpeas that have been drained and rinsed.
Instead of chickpeas, another 'pulse' such as haricot, butter, pinto, or red beans could be used. If you haven't a spicy hot chilli, then add half teaspoon of chilli powder or harissa paste (more or less according to personal taste).
A tomato 'salsa' could be served with this dish, but am giving a recipe for tomato chutney that can be made well in advance (it will keep for 9 months if left unopened) or by reducing the quantities by a quarter could be made just for this recipe (any surplus can be put into small bottles and stored) as this also eats well with the spicy koftas, so leave it to use to choose which you wish to use.
Spicy Kofta with Raita: serves 4
2 courgettes, coarsely grated
2 onion, coarsely grated
1 lb (450g) cooked chickpeas (see above)
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil (for brushing)
tomato chutney (recipe below)
raita (recipe below)
Squeeze the grated courgettes in your hands (or wring out in a clean tea towel) to remove excess water, then put into a food processor with the rest of the ingredients (but no oil). Pulse to turn into a thick, coarse 'paste'. Shape this into 12 equal-sized balls, flattening each slightly, and chill in the fridge for at least half an hour to firm up.
Line a grill pan with foil, shiny side up (this reflects the heat back up). Brush the koftas with the oil and place under a hot grill and cook for 6 - 8 minutes on each side until golden, then serve with a dollop of chutney and a bowl of raita (plus a green salad if you wish).

tomato and ginger chutney:
1 red pepper
1 orange pepper
1 yellow pepper
3 lb (1.35kg) ripe tomatoes, skinned
2 onions, roughly chopped
2" (5cm) piece fresh root ginger, grated
2 onions, roughly chopped
1 lb (450g) gran. sugar
1 pint (600ml) white wine vinegar
Put the peppers into a roasting tin and cook at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 25 minutes until the skins begin to char. Remove and put into a plastic bag and leave to cool. Remove stalks and skin, then deseed and roughly chop the flesh.
Put the skinned tomatoes, ginger, onions and peppers into a food processor and pulse only briefly - just long enough to chop, not make mushy.
Put the mixture into a preserving pan with the sugar and the vinegar, then cook over low heat, stirring continuously, until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 1 - 1.5 hours, giving an occasional stir, until the mixture has begun to thicken and a bit like jam.
Spoon into hot, sterilised jars that have vinegar-proof lids, tapping the jars on the table top to make sure there is no trapped air, also covering the surface of the chutney with a waxed paper disc, then seal and label.
Store in a cool dark place, and preferably leave for a month for the flavours to mature. Keep for up to 9 months. Once opened, store in the fridge.

apple and mint raita:
1 red eating apple, coarsely grated
1 heaped tablespoon chopped mint leaves
2 tsp lemon juice
4 oz (100ml) natural or Greek yogurt
Mix everything together, put into a small serving bowl and serve with the koftas (above).

Final recipe today is a dessert version of what we normally serve as a 'savoury' vegetable. Either use the corn cobs halved, or these 'halves' can be bought frozen. I wouldn't suggest using just the corn kernels as the whole idea behind this dish is to have something that can be picked up in the hands and eaten straight from the cob and not by the spoonful.
Use either those special corn 'picks' to stick into the ends of each cob, or use cocktail (or small) forks, or even cocktail sticks as a 'holder'.

Sugar and Spicy corn 'dippers': serves 4
4 sweetcorn cobs, halved
3 oz (75g) dessicated coconut
2 oz (50g) caster sugar
half to 1 tsp ground cinnamon (to taste)
2 oz (50g) butter, melted
Boil the sweetcorn for 10 minutes until tender (they can also be cooked on a barbecue).
Meanwhile, toast the coconut in a dry, hot pan, until just turning golden (keep an eye on it and keep stirring or it will burn), then mix this with the sugar and cinnamon. Spread this over a baking tray and place on the table with a bowl of melted butter so everyone can spear their (hot and drained) corn, toss it in the butter, then roll it in the coconut mixture before eating.

Any hazy sky that started off this morning has burned away, and wall to wall blue sky. Quite a strong breeze, but think it will be warm enough for me to spend at least one hour outside eating my 'brunch', reading the Sunday paper (and supplement), doing the crossword, then moving indoors to cook. Well that's the idea anyway.

Join me tomorrow to see if it did all go to plan. I look forward to receiving more comments, but before I go, thanks to Jane for hers. What a wonderful lot of purchases she made from that jumble sale. A jumble sale is the very best place to go for bargains, and if you wait until the end quite often everything is sold of for very few pennies. Mind you, by then the best might have already gone, but even those would be very cheap.
This buying 'second-hand' reminded me of something a mag. once wished me to do, but more about that tomorrow.

Also liked hearing about the cannelloni meal you made Jane. If anyone wishes to make something similar but has no cannelloni tubes, then cook lasagne sheets in boiling water until tender, then cool in cold water, pat dry and wrap round a 'sausage' of filling (usually a pre-made, then left to cool, bolognaise type meat sauce). Cover with passata and plenty of grated cheese and bake in a hot oven for about 25 minutes or until heated through and the cheese is bubbling.

Am now off to make brunch (Spam sarnies?), and out to bask in the sun. TTFN.