Thursday, July 19, 2012

Suggestions for Summer Eating

Both Margie and Lisa are having really hot weather at the moment. Here in the UK it is still on the cool side AND wet, although this is supposed to improve over the next few days, but only for a short time as another low pressure is heading our way.
Not that we here could managed to handle the very hot temperatures that the larger continents seem to have, only the wealthy can afford to have air-conditioning fitted into their houses, not that we really need it. A portable fan is enough to cool the air down on the very few hot days we have, and none of these reach more than the 80'sF.

Here in the UK we will be having fewer crops of certain veggies due to the severe rain fall, and in America we here the drought has caused a low crop of both corn and wheat, so this means the price of both will go up no doubt. As the best wheat for making bread comes from America/Canada this might also put up the price of a loaf. Always, when prices go up, they hardly ever seem to go down again.

As food is partly for our body 'fuel', at least - when the weather is hot - we don't need to eat so much at that time. Cold food, cooling drinks is about all we need, although eating a hot curry or dish with chillies may seem strange on a hot day, the spices etc make us perspire and this in its own way will help to cool us down - one reason why spicy hot dishes are traditionally eaten in countries that have a lot of hot weather.

We used to have a sandwich maker Lisa, but as it was one of those 'fashionable' appliances - everyone having one, then getting bored so it ended up sat on the back of the shelf - I eventually gave ours away. Wish I hadn't now as it had other 'plates' that could be fitted to make waffles and wafers. It would also be nice to have a toasted sandwich again, but can make something similar in a couple of little black 'plastic' bags that fit inside a toaster, each holding a sandwich. The contents then are kept in place and don't drip down into the toaster itself. These bags work well.

With the possibility of us having some much warmer weather in the near future (not quite how near but surely we MUST have at least a few days....) am giving some 'warmer weather' recipes that can be enjoyed - at least here in our more moderate climate - 'al fresco'. It is also worth buying a set of 'lolly' makers, fill with fruit juice (use that in cartons), and freeze to suck on when the heat is almost too much. Much healthier for children than some of the lollies on sale.

First recipes are for a quick and easy soups. The first is Spanish where the traditional way is to blend chunks of bread in with the other ingredients, this makes it thicker. This recipe doesn't include bread, so will leave the final choice of making up to you. Remove the skins from the peppers using either a vegetable peeler or scorching over a flame then peeling away the skin, otherwise the soup ends up 'bitty'.
Speedy Gazpacho: serves 3 - 4
3 red bell peppers (see above), deseeded and chopped
2 red chillis, deseeded and chopped
16 fl oz (500ml) passata
1 - 2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp sherry vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
juice of half a lime
salt and pepper to taste
Using either a food processor, or hand blender, whizz all the ingredients together until smooth. Check seasoning, adding more if necessary, then chill in the fridge. Traditionally served in small glass tumblers poured over one or two ice cubes.

Next soup is particularly refreshing, perfect for lunch on a hot day. Omit the garlic (or some of it) if serving to children as they may prefer it without. If you prefer the soup a bit chunky, then eat as recipe suggests, alternatively if you prefer a smooth soup, puree it in a blender before serving.
Cucumber and Yogurt Soup: serves 6
1 cucumber
3 - 4 cloves garlic, crushed (opt)
3 oz (75g) walnut pieces
1 slice day-old bread, torn into pieces
2 tblsp sunflower oil
14 fl oz (400ml) plain yogurt, pref Greek
4 fl oz (120ml) cold water
1 - 2 tsp lemon juice
garnish with walnuts and olive oil
Peel the cucumber and dice the flesh then set this aside.
Put the garlic into a mortar with the walnuts and bread, and crush together with a pestle until smooth, then slowly add the oil until mixed well together. Spoon into a large bowl, beat in the yogurt, then fold in the diced cucumber, water and lemon juice to taste.
Pour into chilled soup bowls and garnish with a few chopped walnuts (opt) and a drizzle of oilve oil. Serve immediately.

Next dish is a classic tortilla (aka 'omelette') and can be served warm or cold. Serve as a summer lunch with a cool salad, or cut into small squares and thread onto cocktail sticks to serve as an appetizer, or a buffet 'nibble'. Although the recipe uses fresh ingredients, we can shorten the cooking time by using canned new potatoes, and frozen or canned broad beans. As always, if using the mid-season broad beans with the white casing to the bean itself, peel this skin off after cooking then they are more tender to eat (and look nicer).
Potato, Onion and Broad Bean Tortilla: serves 6
3 tblsp olive oil
2 Spanish onions, thinly sliced
11 oz (300g) waxy potatoes, diced
salt and pepper
9 oz (250g) broad beans
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
6 large eggs
3 tblsp mixed chopped chives and flat leaf parsley
Heat 2 tblsp of the oil in a deep 9" (23cm) frying pan, then add the onion and potatoes and seasoning to taste. Stir to mix, then cover and simmer gently for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the beans in salted, boiling water for 5 minutes, drain well and set aside to cool (when cool enough to handle, removed the white outer skins). Add the peeled beans to the frying pan, together with the thyme. Stir together and cook for a further 5 minutes.
Beat the eggs with a little salt and pepper, adding the mixed chopped herbs. Pour this over the contents of the pan and raise the heat to medium. Give the pan a shake so the egg settles evenly between the food, then cook gently - pulling the sides to the middle slightly, tipping the pan so the uncooked egg can flow down to underneath. When the base egg is brown and set, invert the tortilla onto a plate. Add the reserved tblsp oil to the pan and slide the tortilla back into the pan - the uncooked side will then be facing down. Cook for a further 3 - 5 minutes, then slide out onto the serving plate. Cut into wedges, squares, or whatever shape you like and serve warm with salad, or cold as picnic fare or party 'nibbles'.

Final recipe today is not a cold dish, but would eat well in a 'burger bun' when sitting outside eating our lunch on an English summer's day. Pork mince is less expensive than beef, and so is turkey (or chicken) mince, and could be used instead of pork (as could a vegetarian meat substitute). Instead of fresh apricots, you could used well-drained canned (you would need about 6 oz (175g), or a handful of no-soak-ready-to-eat dried apricots (these best soaked for a while in water, apple juice or cider).
Myself would put all the ingredients (other than the buns/lettuce) into a food processor and give a quick blitz to mix them together and this also helps to break down the meat fibres and make them more tender to eat.
Pork and Apricot Burgers: serves 4
1 lb (500g) pork mince
4 spring onions, or 1 shallot, finely chopped
4 tblsp chopped fresh mint
2 firm, fresh apricots, roughly chopped (see above)
salt and pepper
1 egg, beaten
1 x 200ml carton Greek yogurt
4 burger buns
lettuce leaves
Mix together the pork mince, onions, 2 tblsp of the mint, and the apricots. Season well and bind together with the egg. Divide mixture into four and shape each into a 4" (10cm) burger.
Grill burgers under moderate heat (or can also be barbecued) for 8 - 10 minutes on each side. As the burger cook, mix the reserved mint into the yogurt, adding seasoning to taste.
Serve each burger in a bun, with some lettuce, then spoon over the minty yogurt sauce before clapping the bun lid on top. Serve the rest of the sauce separately (or save and chill
this to use as a salad dressing later).

The weather looks a bit promising today, sun is shining through thin cloud and the wind has dropped to a light breeze. Have a lot of tidying up to do in the kitchen today, as it could be I'll soon be having quite a bit of cooking to do for the sailing club, especially on the day they are expecting to provide refreshments for 500! Need to make sure I have all the tins I need (and ingredients, not to mention choosing which cakes, jams and marmalade to make). This is almost as good as opening my own tea-rooms, without the hassle of a daily bake. So am a very happy bunny.

Yesterday served B one of his favourite meals: liver, bacon, cabbage and potatoes. Myself made a salad with shredded iceberg, a chopped wee orange pepper, a tomato, and some chopped mnt and parsley. The herbs really do lift the flavour of a 'green salad'. Added a couple or so rashers of bacon, three small 'gougons' of liver and a few cooked spuds as well. Quite a bowlful by the time I'd finished, but nevertheless a 'healthy' meal.
Don't know whether it is me or whether the ingredients have been altered in my favourite brand of mayonnaise. It now tastes more 'oily', and I really find this a bit unpleasant, and it also seems thicker and 'gloopy', so from now on will dilute it down with some balsamic vinegar to lightly 'dress' the salad. This will make the jar of mayo last longer anyway.
I really ought to make a simple dressing using just lemon juice and vinegar, so why don't I?

Discovered in the larder a jar of xanthgum (that Gill had given me). Have not yet opened the jar, but heard on a cookery programme this is used as a 'stabiliser' in some dishes, so wonder if a little added to lemon and oil would stop it separating. If any reader uses this xanth whatever, please let me know the best uses I can put it to.

Time now for me to get on with my day's 'work'. Might even grab and hour and sit outside in the sun and have a 'bit of a bask'. Still have a few more geraniums that need putting into their final containers, so could do that as well.
Could be much of the country is having fair weather today, so hope most of you managed to get out to enjoy it. Believe that the schools break up for their summer hols this weekend, so that means we should be seeing more holidaymakers arriving in Morecambe - this will make it seem much more like a holiday resort, which then make me feel I'm also staying here on holiday instead of actually living here. Must get Norris dusted off and my summer clothes laid out and then come a very good warm (and sunny) day will scoot down towards the Midland Hotel and join in with the madding crowds. Might even have an ice-cream cornet (or should I stop off at the open-air cafe and have fish and chips? Why not do both?

Hope you will join me again tomorrow. See you then.