Saturday, July 21, 2012

Keeping Going...

Today woke to a morning full of sunshine and doesn't it make a difference! Am sure a lot of our personal moans and groans (mine certainly) are caused by the bad weather we've been having recently. We all feel so much happier on a lovely warm (and English) summer's day.

As I look out of the window in front of me see several birds continually flying back and forth to the seed holders we have hung from the branches of our apple tree. Think they are only sparrows but that's good as there now seem to be shortage of these birds as well as with many others of our native species.
As the sun shines on our apple tree it shows up the pale green apples that are now growing on the tree. A week or so ago thought there were few apples this year, but there seem quite a lot. Let us hope we don't lose too many in any future high winds we may have. When the apples have reached maturity they do keep quite well. Too sharp for eating they are very good for cooking.

Was interested to hear that you got a 'new' washing machine through your community recycling scheme Jackie. At least today, now that we have now got into the way of recycling instead of just throwing out what we don't want, this gives us a chance to get much of what we want/need without having to pay full whack for it.

Your mention of your dad getting his tie caught in a mangle made me smile Sairy, although it could have ended much worse than it did. Thank goodness you were there to switch the machine off.
When my parents moved to Leicester, it was to an old house where some of the lighting was still by gas, although there was electricity. In the scullery was an old wash boiler, the sort that was made of brick and the water put in at the top and a fire lit underneath to heat it (same sort as shown in the outhouse at the Victorian/Edwardian Farm TV series. My mother never used it other than having the top covered with stainless steel (or similar) and using it as a big shelf.

We also used to have a big, old-fashioned range in what my mother grandly called 'the breakfast room', this was probably the original kitchen as either side of the range had been fitted with big floor to ceiling cupboards, the top part had glass doors with shelving behind, the bottom part deep cupboards.
The range was lit every day as this had a back-boiler that heated the water, although my mother never used the range for cooking. I used to wish she did, but think she never got the hang of managing to control the heat of the two ovens. Instead she used a gas stove that was in the scullery.
The sink there used to be what is now called a 'Belfast sink', very deep and ceramic. It had a big wooden draining board at the side which needed to be scrubbed frequently as it got a bit yucky as in those days we didn't have Fairy Liquid and the like, we used to put scraps of soap into a wire basket and swish that around the water to make suds. I still have a plastic version of the same holder which I used to put my ends-of-soap into and swish this into water when wanting to wash woollens.

As you say Jane, it really is amazing how so many good dishes can be made using really inexpensive ingredients. You mentioned using dried shrimps. I'd love to get some of those as I absolutely love eating shrimps. Are these sold in the supermarkets?

Yesterday's Singapore Noodles turned out really well, both B and I thoroughly enjoyed the meal although I felt that next time I needed to add a bit more curry powder. As the teryaki sauce had a shelf life (in the fridge) of only 5 days after opening (suppose it would have lasted longer), decanted the rest from the jar and put it into three small containers to freeze.

Although following the recipe almost exactly, did deviate a bit. I part-cooked some of the veggies to tenderise them before stir-frying as B doesn't like his veggies to be 'al dente'. Chose to use what veggies that needed using or I had plenty of: celery, red pepper, carrot, onion, cauliflower, broccoli, mushrooms. Also chopped up a few of the outer leaves wrapped round the cauliflower and added these too. Plus a few cashew nuts.
Rinsed the teryaki jar out with a water and used some of this - with the sachet of chicken flavouring - to cook the noodles. This gave them an even stronger and nicer taste and once the veggies had been stir fried, added the rest of the teryaki water, covered the pan and left the veggies to steam for a few minutes so they would be soft enough for B. Then added the diced meats (pork/chicken) and the prawns, plus some cashew nuts, finally folding in the noodles.

Also yesterday baked two loaves of bread, a 2 lb and a 1 lb. Despite this being too much dough for the bread machine to bake from start to finish, it can manage to turn the flour/water etc into dough. This is then placed into loaf tins (or some made into rolls), left to rise again then baked in the oven.
The large loaf is for B to use for toast or sarnies, the smaller one is for my sarnies (or toast). Today will slice both on my 'leccy' machine as the bread is a mite too soft to slice evenly by hand when so fresh. Some of the slices can then be frozen.

My Beloved suddenly decided to put up new shelving in the conservatory, and he managed to get it done before he went out to his 'sailing social'. We now have a wide shelf right across one end of our conservatory (the kitchen end), level with the windowledge, with a matching shelf underneath. Space underneath the bottom shelf to also store things. This will be very useful indeed as there is such a lot in the conservatory - now that we use that as our 'everyday' dining room' - that needs storing tidily away but in reach.
This means quite some time today will be spent (by me) 'tidying up', and moving things around to make the place look as presentable as possible. Am looking forward to that, but also want to find time to go and sit in the garden to soak up some sun while we have it. The forecast is for a good weekend but possibly not lasting much longer than that. If we are lucky, the temperature in the southern half of the country will reach into the low 80's. Here in Morecambe we may not be quite so lucky, but as long as the sun shines and we don't have too much of a cool breeze, then I'll be happy.

Am still keeping going with my challenge although will shortly be needing more fresh milk and eggs. Allowing £10 a week for 'top ups' is hardly likely to break the bank, and as long as I can keep going with as little expense as possible, then this gives me also a good feeling, so I want to keep going as long as possible.
If any ingredients need to be bought to make the cakes/biscuits/scones/jam, marmalade etc for the social club (every other week from now until Christmas they will now be needing quite a lot) will possibly have to be bought, but as the ingredients are paid for by the club, then this need not affect 'the challenge' as the money goes back into my purse. Any of 'their' remaining ingredients (flour, sugar etc) will be kept on a separate shelf for the 'club food' only.

One of the best (and perhaps healthiest) ways to save money is to serve less meat (maybe only a couple of days a week) and serve 'vegetarian' the rest of the time. By this I don't mean too strictly, some 'veggies' eat fish, others certainly eat eggs and cheese, so - at a pinch - we could cut out the 'real' meat (beef, lamb, pork...) almost completely (keeping them for 'treats'), with possibly a bit of chicken or turkey (aka poultry) now and again.
So with this in mind today am offering vegetarian recipes. If we wish to add just a little meat to some of the dishes, then at least 'a little' is not nearly as expensive as when we might use the 'average' serving per person (this being 4oz/100g).

First recipe is perfect for those who 'grow their own' although store-bought fresh (or frozen) veggies can be used. Feel free to change the suggested vegetables to others you may already have.
Garden Vegetables with Pasta: serves 4
12 oz (350g) pasta penne (or other pasta shapes)
5 oz (150g) broccoli, broken into small florets
4 oz (100g) sugar snap peas/mange tout, halved
2 courgettes, sliced
1 tblsp olive oil
4 oz (100g) cream cheese (Philly type)
2 oz (50g) grated Parmesan cheese
zest and juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper
1 tblsp chopped fresh herbs (basil, mint, parsley etc)
shavings of Parmesan (opt)
Cook the pasta as per packet instructions, adding the broccoli and peas to the pan for the final 4 minutes cooking time. When ready removed a ladle (6 tblsp) of the cooking water and set aside.
Meanwhile, put the courgettes and oil into a pan and fry gently for six or so minutes until softened and turning golden, then add the reserved pasta water, the cream cheese, Parmesan, lemon zest and the juice, with seasoning to taste. Stir to make a smooth, creamy sauce.
Drain the pasta and veggies and add to the sauce along with the chopped herbs. Check seasoning and add more if needed. Serve immediately in warmed bowls, adding a few shavings of Parmesan if you wish.

Next recipe is a salad. Can be eaten as-is, or accompanied with some sliced cold meats (if you must). Similar to a Greek salad, this has the addition of chickpeas.
Not-quite-a-Greek Salad: serves 4
2 x 400g cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 red onion, thinly sliced
half a cucumber, cut in half lengthways then sliced
handful each flat-leaved parsley and basil
4 oz (100g) feta cheese
handful basil leaves, shredded
3 tblsp red wine vinegar
5 tblsp olive oil (pref extra virgin)
salt and pepper
Put the chickpeas, onion, cucumber into a bowl. Chop/shred the herbs and crumble the cheese and add this to the bowl. Mix the vinegar and oil together with plenty of seasoning and pour this over the salad. Toss well then serve.

A vegetarian curry is always acceptable, even by those who love to eat meat. This recipe does have more ingredients that I would normally wish to use, but the majority is the 'flavourings' that most of us have (if not use a mild curry paste or ready-made curry sauce in place of the spices). Considering this is a vegetable dish, it is surprisingly satisfying.
Chickpea and Cashew nut Korma: serves 4
2 tblsp sunflower oil
1 red (or white) onion, finely chopped
1 tsp each turmeric, paprika and grated root ginger
half tsp chilli powder
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into cubes
1 small cauliflower, broken into florets
1 red pepper, deseeded and cut into chunks
1 yellow pepper, ditto
1 x 410g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
4 oz (100g) cashew nuts
1.75 pts (1 litre) vegetarian stock
4 fl oz (100ml) coconut milk
4 oz (100g) frozen peas
handful fresh coriander, chopped
1 tsp cornflour (opt)
salt and pepper
7 fl oz (200ml) natural or Greek yogurt
Put the oil in a large pan and fry the onion for 5 minutes, then add the spices and chilli and cook for a couple more minutes before adding the sweet potato, cauliflower, peppers, chickpeas, nuts, stock and coconut milk.
Bring to the boil then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. If you wish for a thicker sauce, mix the cornflour with a little water to make a paste, then gently stir this into the pan and cook for 5 minutes.
Add the peas and most of the coriander, add seasoning to taste, then cook for five minutes more before serving. Spoon into a large, warm serving bowl, topping with a dollop of yogurt, and a sprinkle of coriander to garnish. Serve with rice.

Not sure what the situation is regarding courgettes this year. Do we have a glut or has the rain spoilt the crop? However, if you do grow courgettes then the more - and different - ways to use them the better.
This recipe would make a light lunch or supper dish, and served with the tzatziki (details on how to make also given, and you could make this with a different herb of your choice) is very enjoyable, especially when eaten 'al fresco' - it also makes a good addition to a 'buffet barbecue' table.
Courgette Fritters with Tzatziki: serves 4
8 oz (225g) courgettes, coarsely grated
1 tsp salt
4 oz (100g) ricotta (or cottage) cheese
1 large egg
2 tblsp plain flour
2 - 3 garlic cloves, crushed
small handful each basil and parsley, chopped
salt and pepper
sunflower oil for frying
2 tblsp finely chopped dill
7 oz (200g) Greek yogurt
juice of half a small lemon
Sprinkle the grated courgettes with the salt, place in a sieve and leave to stand for an hour, then rinse well under cold running water, drain and place in a clean tea towel, then twist up and squeeze as dry as possible.
Put the cheese, egg and flour in a bowl and whisk together, add half the crushed garlic, the basil and parsley, and seasoning to taste. Fold in the courgettes.
Fill a frying pan to a depth of 1cm with the oil, then when hot (over medium heat) spoon tablespoons of the courgette batter into the oil and fry for 2 - 3 minutes on each side until a rich golden brown colour. Drain on kitchen paper. Keep warm until all the fritters are fried, then serve hot with the tzatziki.
Make the tzatziki by mixing the remaining garlic with the dill, a pinch of salt and pepper, the lemon juice and the yogurt. Serve immediately to spoon on top of the hot fritters.

Final recipe today is for another courgette dish. Although B is not fond of eating courgettes, this is one that I know he would like. Some lasagne sheets are 'no-need-to-first-cook', but this dish suggests the lasagne is first cooked. Myself have found if assembling a dish such as this, then leaving it to stand for a few hours before cooking, the pasta has softend as it soaks up some of the sauce.
The weight of courgettes does not have to be exact, six courgettes should be about right.
Courgette Lasagne: serves 4
9 dried lasagne sheets (see above)
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 lb 9 oz (700g) courgettes, coarsely grated
1 - 2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 x 250g tub ricotta cheese
2 oz (50g) Cheddar cheese
salt and pepper
1 x 350g jar tomato pasta sauce
Cook the pasta sheets in a pan of boiling water for about 5 minutes until softened, but not cooked through, then rinse in cold water and drizzle with a little oil to prevent them sticking together.
Meanwhile heat the tblsp oil in a large frying pan and fry the onion. After 3 minutes add courgettes and fry until softened, stirring in the garlic a minute before they are ready. Add two-thirds of the ricotta and half the Cheddar cheese with seasoning to taste.
Heat the tomato sauce (in the microwave or on the hob) until hot.
Take a large baking dish, and start building up layers, first using half the courgettes, then half the pasta, then some of the sauce. Repeat, then finish by spooning blobs of the remaining ricotta on top and sprinkling over the rest of the Cheddar.
Bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for about 15 minutes or until the pasta is tender and the topping of cheese has melted and turned golden. Serve with a crisp green salad.

How annoying, the sky is now clouding over slightly, but the sun can still filter through and this could be short-term, so am hoping we will be getting more and stronger sun during the day.
As it is the weekend - and also the start of the long school holidays - am hoping you will all be able to get out and about and enjoy this good weather. Remember, that if (when) it rains what better time could there be to get the children into the kitchen and start teaching them how to cook.

Hope you manage to find a few minutes to join me again tomorrow. TTFN.