Monday, July 16, 2012

One Step Forward or Two Steps Back?

After a few days of glorious sunshine with no rain, today have woken to dark and gloomy skies again, should expect this as I spent some time yesterday evening watering the many containers in our garden that were recently filled with bedding plants. Same thing happens when we wash our windows - it then immediately begins to rain.

Took readers advice and had a couple of iron pills yesterday and have to say did find they had some effect. I had tucked myself up under my layer of quilts again, thinking about filling my hot water bottle as well to cuddle, then decided to consider how I really felt. It was as if - for the first time in ages - I could feel warm blood coursing through my veins, and this gave me a feeling of extra 'heat'. So much so I really didn't need a 'hottie' at all and had not the slightest hint of a shiver either.
Whether this was the cause of the iron pills I'm not yet sure, they could have had a placebo effect and because I was expecting to feel warmer, then I did feel so. In the past I remember regularly taking 'slimming pills' (doctor's prescription) as I'd gain so much weight after having three children in under three years, and as these were amphetamines (later banned) they really did shock my system. I would drag myself downstairs in the morning, make a cup of tea and take a pill. Wait for 10 minutes then it hit, the rest of the day would be flying around using endless energy, then take the second pill in the evening and the same thing would happen. The amount of calories I burned up each day must have run into many thousands. The weight just dropped off.
Anyway, one morning I did my usual, got the pill from the bottle, got a cup of tea, waited for ten minutes and then 'boom' started to rush around. It wasn't until around noon that noticed the pill was still sitting on top of the pill-bottle lid (where I placed it) and I had forgotten to take it. But still got the same effect. Mind over matter I suppose. If we believe something strongly enough that what we do will work, then maybe it will - and not necessarily medication.

Hope you get on well with making Rocky Road Jane, almost anything can go into that 'refrigerator cake', roughly crushed biscuits, broken bits of cake, dried fruits, preserved or crystallised ginger, chopped nuts, marshmallows, crushed meringues, rice crispies, popcorn, glace fruits, also broken bits of white chocolate....all bound together with melted (pref dark) chocolate. A really good way to use up all those odds and ends.

Not quite sure Campfire, but understand that at the Olympic venues we are not allowed to take in any of our own food or drink, and when we need nourishment we are then supposed to buy it from those large firms who are sponsoring the games and have their food outlets there. With such security envisaged, probably any bags taken in are searched and if any food is found it will be confiscated. I could be wrong, but have a feeling I'm not.

My Beloved used to get very annoyed when he travelled abroad on his sailing trips. He would fly to the Canaries and several times he had things removed from his hand luggage and confiscated (thrown into a bin) just because something (in the male cosmetic line) contained glycerine. This even happened when he went to Ireland to visit our daughter. Just as well they didn't know the icing on a wedding cake taken to Ireland also contained glycerine (a few drops of this added when making royal icing makes it easier to cut with a knife, otherwise it can go rock hard), or this would also have ended up in the bin (more likely eaten by the staff. I wonder if they help themselves to what else they have 'stolen' from us).

Do have cashmere shawls which help keep me warm. Will look out for anything made with Merino wool. If I can keep my neck warm this does seem to help. Normally I don't like wearing anything right up to my chin, my fairly (now) loose jerseys have a scoop neck, but am now wrapping scarves that my daughter knits (for charity), these are wonderful, very fashionable, in all different colours/shades, and sort of 'lacy' that twist round in a sort of spiral, so it's like wearing a fluffy scarf and as well as being very warming, they also look very attractive. She has sold loads of them. I have several, each matching different indoor/outdoor clothing, so feel quite 'with it' when I venture out.

Not sure if I've ever eaten tea at Harrod's Margie, but have at Fortnum and Mason's and this is another traditional English venue for taking tea. The Food Halls at Harrod's are well worth a wander round being particularly spectacular (not just food, the whole decor).

My friend Gill is going on a day bus trip to Petticoat Lane (London) next Sunday, so won't be phoning me which is just as well as I'll probably be baking for the social club that morning. This is a very traditional London street market that sells all sorts of things, bric a brac certainly. I've never been but am sure there will be food on sale as well to eat at the wander, and probably some 'greasy spoon' cafe's as well.

There is nothing more English that eating fish and chips, or (a bit more upmarket) sitting and enjoying Devonshire scones with jam and cream - with a pot of tea. Don't forget the tea!
Also - to start the day well, have a 'full English' for breakfast, this usually lasts me through the day until supper. The 'full English' being a plate of fried sausage, egg, bacon, tomato, mushrooms, fried bread, baked beans and often a slice of black pudding as well. Finished off with slices of toast, butter with marmalade, honey or jam. Usually a B & B makes a better and often bigger breakfast than a hotel, although the latter usually offers more variety, a choice of porridge, kippers, grapefruit, eggs in any form (boiled with 'soldiers', or fried, poached, scrambled...on toast), and the usual choice of cereals, yogurts, fruit juices, often fresh summer fruits...and of course the 'full English'.

'River Cafe' is a very well known vegetarian restaurant in London. This is where Jamie Oliver once worked, was seen by a TV producer when he went there for lunch, and this then led to the start of a career that has no signs of stopping. Not been myself, but it has a good name and I don't think is expensive.

One 'eaterie' we love to visit when in London is 'Dicken's Inn'. Not the one that Charles Dickens frequented (there is one such the other side of the river), the one we go to is an old warehouse in St. Katherine's Dock (close to Tower Bridge), and this is very much 'Victorian' in style. If anyone has seen the film (musical) of 'Oliver', this Dicken's Inn is very similar in appearance to the place where Nancy worked as bar-maid. Old wooden floors, trestle tables, and (at the time we visited) the place smelled of wood smoke. Wonderful! Traditional English fare too if I remember, although my usual choice of what's on the menu wherever we go for lunch is 'soup of the day' served with freshly baked crusty bread.

'Pub Grub' usually serves 'traditional English' meals, although with some of the larger pubs (owned by a brewery) this food is often exactly the same in each, and 'brought in' to re-heat or cook as per instructions. One that has a 'carvery' usually gives the very best value for money, as we normally are given a choice of three roast meats (beef, turkey, ham), and usually two slices in total, but each can be a different meat. These served with an individual Yorkshire Pudding and 'seasoning' (this being a ball of stuffing). Then we take the plate and help ourselves to some or all of the many different hot vegetables on offer (peas, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower in cheese sauce, roast potatoes, new potatoes, cabbage, maybe onion, have forgotten but there are always plenty and we can take as much as we can fill our plates with (and in most places go back for more veggies). Then we have a choice of gravy, mustard, cranberry sauce, bread sauce, and can help ourselves to those too. Definitely value for money (in Lancashire we can get a massive plateful for around £5, probably London prices would be higher).

If travelling around by car, when passing through small towns and villages en route to a town of 'history', these are the best places to stop and eat (esp pubs) as these will offer a cheaper menu than those historical towns (or tea-rooms at places of interest) where they have more of a captive audience. Although if visiting Harrogate (or York) then always worth visiting 'Betty's, as this cafe serves (and sells) the most wonderful cakes, all made by their chefs. Not the cheapest place but again value for money considering the 'ambiance'. At certain times and on certain times 'Betty's' in Harrogate has a pianist playing on a white piano to the customers who are eating there.

Small local tea-shops in Britain pride themselves on serving freshly baked bread, cakes and biscuits, as do some hotels. This 'traditional fare' will always be mentioned on the outside advertising (usually a notice board close to the entrance), so worth looking for (or asking a passerby if they can recommend a particular tea-room/restaurant/pub). We are blessed here in Morecambe as there are many different 'eateries', and although several are of the 'burger bar' variety, aiming for the weekend trippers, there are plenty of 'regulars' that do serve great food, made on the premises, and as each tries to outdo the others, all good places to eat. All we have to do is work our way through them all to find out which we feel provides either the best food, or gives us the best value for money (we have been lucky enough to find several that do both).

Didn't do much cooking yesterday as B wanted to work his way through the remaining 'freshly' baked rolls while they were still 'fresh'. So I cooked him some sausages to tuck inside the finger rolls, and opened a can of corned beef for him to fill the round rolls, and he ate those then finished off the last of the tub of home-made strawberry ice-cream. That means I should start thinking about making more ice-cream today I suppose. Or maybe - as the weather has now changed - could make that apple and blackberry crumble I'd been planning to make recently but never did.

Tonight will be cooking the 'mini -lamb shoulder' (bought from Tesco as they now don't seem to sell lamb shanks any more). As both cuts of lamb were originally cooked, then frozen in gravy, all they need is re-heating in the oven, the lamb shank taking one hour ten minutes, but I see the lamb shoulder takes half that time. What is different between a shank and a shoulder? To me they both sound like the thickest part of the top of a leg anyway. The shanks were £5 for two, and the mini-shoulder the same price (for two), so will wait on B's report tonight to see if the mini-shoulder passes his 'taste-testing' and give his final comment on whether worth buying again.

Spent most of yesterday afternoon watching the repeats of some of Jamie Oliver's 30 minute cooking, and - as always - he inspires me to want to rush out into the kitchen and make what he has just demonstrated. B watched some and he too was inspired, not to make himself, but he wanted me to make for him. Perhaps today I'll have a go at making the 'potato dauphin's' that was shown yesterday (although Jamie would persist in calling it '...dolphinoise;). This should eat well with lamb and peas.

It's now raining, and thankfully the laundry washed yesterday is dry as this was put on the airer in the very sunny and warm conservatory with the sun shining on it. Our house deeds prohibit the hanging outdoors of washing on a Sunday, if we did we would lose our home. Not sure if any neighbour even knows of this, so no-one would be likely to tell on us, but still - if we can't, then we shouldn't. I'd rather not take the risk.

At one time washing was never supposed to be hung out in any garden on any Sunday, and NEVER on Easter Sunday, obviously for religious reasons. It doesn't seem THAT long ago that no sports were supposed to be played on a Sunday and B once got hauled before a juvenile court for kicking a football on the park on a Sunday when he was a young lad. Nothing more than a reprimand of course, but 'if you do it again!!!..... He could have ended up in Borstal!

Shops also were banned from opening on a Sunday, now it seems that all sports are played and all shops can stay open on a Sunday. Is that a good thing or bad? Do children still go to Sunday School? Because we live in a seaside resort, all shops - even small ones - seem to be open on a Sunday during the 'holiday season'. Then most are shut on Monday to give them a day off. During the winter months, many small shops on the seafront are closed until Easter, then stay open most days (and always weekends) until October, then closed until Easter. The place seems quite desolate during the winter months although many of the hotels do a good trade with coach trips that use Morecambe as a base then visit the Lake District, Harrogate, York etc. all places that have much to see that don't necessarily need good or even warm weather.

It seems the more we advance, the worse things get. Myself prefer the one step forward - to dip my toes in the water and give it a try - approach, but sadly and usually ending up taking two steps back because I felt life was better as it used to be, and certainly safer as we knew exactly where we stood when it comes to rules and regs.

Nowadays there are continuous new rules we have to conform to, words we are now not allowed to use (or we could be fined), symbols we are not allowed to use/show (or we will get fined), and our hands are being tied more firmly behind our backs each and every day.
We used to talk about how bad life would be if it was like in Orwell's novel with 'Big Brother' calling the shots, but now we've just about got a life the same and in some cases, even worse. No longer it seems we have 'freedom of speech', one thing we Brits once had and cherished, as I said we now have to think before we dare speak. It was like that in Communist Russia, China and also Germany at one time. Always someone lurking in the background listening to what was said and what was being done. Then reporting back. Same seems to be happening here.

In some ways this can be 'helpful'. Those CCTV cameras all over the place, we can hardly put a foot outside our door without being watched, but as B says, if we don't do anything wrong then we have nothing to worry about. Which is true, and thankfully I don't feel that I am always being 'watched' (even if I am), and that if someone was out to mug me at least they are now less likely to try. On the other hand if I happend to hit my 'mugger' with my walking stick, this would then be on record so the 'mugger' could then sue me for hurting him, as he has positive proof and it wouldn't be my word against his. Memo - don't hurt anyone, just let them get away with it.

Oh heck, must turn my thoughts to food or I'll get all 'moany' again. Will finish with an idea for a topping for stewed fruit that isn't a 'crumble'. Think I'll make this tonight instead of my first suggestion. The fruit part can just be the usual (or any mixture of summer berries), and use more of less of apple/fruit according to what you have (or wish to use), the soft cheese part can be omitted, it's the 'cobbler' that makes this pud different
Blackberry and Apple Cobbler: serves 6
1 Bramley cooking apple
9 oz (250g) blackberries
2 oz (50g) light brown sugar (or white caster)
1 x 250g marscapone, or soft cream cheese
3 oz (75g) butter, diced
8 oz (225g) self-raising flour
2 oz (50g) light brown sugar
zest of 1 lemon
1 x 150g carton natural yogurt
Peel, core and slice the apple and put into a 1.5 ltr (.2.75pt) oven proof dish. Scatter the blackberries on top, and sprinkle over the sugar. Gently fold together. Spoon the creamy cheese on top.
Make the topping by rubbing the butter into the flour until like fine breadcrumbs (can be whizzed together in a food processor), then stir in the sugar an lemon zest. Make a well in the centre and fill with the yogurt, then stir together with a knife until evenly combined, but do not over mix.
Spoon the cobbler mixture in lumps, placing slightly apart, onto the top of the fruit and cheese, then place in the oven and bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 20 minutes until the topping is risen and golden and the fruit is bubbling. Best eaten whilst still warm, but can be eaten cold. No need to add custard or cream because creamy cheese has been used.

Now time for me to toddle off into the kitchen, what a wet and dreary day it is turning out to be, at least this means I find it more fun working in a warm kitchen (when the oven is on), than doing anything else.
Hope to meet up with you all again tomorrow. TTFN.