Saturday, July 14, 2012

Taking it Easy

Am planning a leisurely weekend, ready to next week when I'll need to start baking cakes again. B came in late last night and said the sailing club are planning three more events over the next few weeks and 'could I make the cakes?'. He said one event where the club would be used for refreshments is a council-run swimming marathon in the Bay and they expect about 500 people!!! So need to start making 'keeping cakes' (gingerbread etc) and also any other that can be made in advance and kept in the freezer. No doubt for one of the events they will again ask for scones - these need to be made freshly early in the morning of the event, so I could be kept fairly busy for the next few weeks. Not that I mind of course, it's lovely to be 'useful' again.

Didn't really do anything much yesterday despite my good intentions. I'm always like that, want to make 'n bake and then get distracted. B decided he'd like sausage, egg, chips and baked beans for supper, but after I'd put the sausages in the oven, then the oven chips, and popped my head in here (where he was playing games on the comp), said all he had to do was fry his egg/s, open a can of beans, take out what he wanted, put the rest of the beans in a dish and into the fridge, and he decided he didn't then want beans (took much to remember I suppose) and would have an extra egg instead.

Doubt I would have bothered to do much anyway as I had another attack of 'feeling chilly'. I put on a jersey on top of my T.shirt, got myself a hot water bottle, put a thick woolly shawl round my shoulders, a thick quilt over most of my body and sat huddled in my chair in the living room. B is getting a bit concerned and said I should eat more sugar to keep me warm. I said I shouldn't because of my diabetes, and if I eat more carbohydrates (which does help) I then rapidly gain back weight I have lost. He doesn't seem to think gaining weight is that important and better I should feel warm, but it's been a hard slog to lose so much weight and I really don't want to pile it back on again, esp. as I've got several pounds to lose (again) before my weight is back down to what it was this March.

The temperature in the UK is much lower than it should be at this time of the year, true we have had a few hot days, but very few - and even if the sun is out we often have a chill wind. At the moment we are told we are lucky if the weather reaches 20C during the day, and expect the temp. to be in single figures during the night. If it stays like this the rest of the summer, we could be in for a very cold winter. But then as the climate now seems to be topsy-turvy, we could get a heatwave at Christmas!
I''d just LOVE to put the central heating on for a couple of hours twice a day to keep the house warmed up, but dare not for the fuel bills are already excessive and will probably rise even more.

Only one comment today so thanks to Rachel Webber for this. Will take a look at the Lakeland site Rachel, as probably the full range of products is not always shown in their seasonal brochures. I contacted them yesterday and they emailed me back to say there is a possibility they will stock a conical sieve and violet essence in the future 'it depends on the team who choose the new products'. The more people that request something the more likely they are to stock them (so please, if any reader is ordering from Lakeland, could they ask if they will be stocking conical and small sieves and violet food flavouring - without mentioning me of course - then we will see if that works - I'll do the same if someone wants something they don't already stock).

A few more recipes today, the usual 'cost-cutting' and again slightly different from the usual run of the mill.
The first is Moroccan Chicken - a type of Tagine (although this is more usually made with lamb), but the flavour is there. It also uses seasonal courgettes that some readers may be growing and who knows - because of the rain - they could have a glut (or maybe because of lack of sun they have only a few - but even these need an interesting way to cook them).
Couscous is the grain traditionally served with Moroccan dishes and one of my favourite 'grains' as it 'cooks' almost instantly. Bulgar wheat could be used in the same way, or you could serve this 'tagine' with rice.

Chicken drumsticks could be used instead of chicken thighs, either way we need only one joint per person. Remove the skin but leave in the bones as these add a lot more flavour to the flesh. However, if you prefer to cook the joints first (intact, including skin) in a little water to make a light chicken stock, then remove the skin and bones after cooking (the bones will slide out easily once the flesh is cooked) and just used the cooked flesh for this dish, then reduce the amount of cooking time to the amount needed to cook the rest of the ingredients.
If you have harissa paste or powder, use this (amount 'to taste') instead of the four spices given.
Moroccan Chicken: serves 4
4 good-sized chicken thighs (see above)
5 fl oz (150ml) chicken or vegetable stock
2 onions, finely chopped
3 tblsp olive oil
1 tblsp runny honey
1 tsp each ground cumin and coriander
half tsp each chilli powder and ground cinnamon
salt and pepper
8 oz (225g) courgettes, cut into sticks
1 x 400g chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
juice of 1 lemon
Put the chicken, stock, onions, oil, honey, herbs and spices into a pan. Add seasoning to taste, then bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 25 or so minutes until the chicken is tender. Add the courgettes and chickpeas and cook for a further 10 minutes, then stir in the parsley and lemon juice. Add more salt and pepper if needed. Serve hot on a bed of couscous or rice.

This next recipe is perfect for those 'use it up' days. Even though the dish feeds four, it only requires one chicken breast, and a mixture of frozen veg (carrots, broccoli, cauliflower etc) or we could use cooked/leftover vegetables, plus a few other ingredients we (should) have in our larder.
Sour cream is the suggested 'garnish', but creme fraiche or Greek yogurt would make a good alternative.
Spicy Chicken and Chickpeas: serves 4
1 tblsp olive oil
1 large onion, roughly chopped
1 boneless chicken breast, skin removed
1 - 2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tblsp chilli powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 x 400g chopped tomatoes
16 fl oz (450ml) vegetable stock
1 tsp sugar
1 x 400g chickpeas, drained and rinsed
10 oz (300g) mixed frozen veg
salt and pepper
142 ml tub sour cream (see above)
2 oz (50g) grated Cheddar cheese
Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the onion for a few minutes until softened and turning gold. Slice the chicken breast into strips, add to the pan and fry these until golden, then stir in the garlic and spices and cook for a further minutes.
Add the tomatoes, stock and sugar to the pan, bring to the boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, then add the chickpeas and frozen (or left-over cooked) vegetables, bring back to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes (five if using pre-cooked veg).
Add seasoning to taste, the serve in individual dishes with a dollop of sour cream on top, sprinkling the cheese on top of that. Eat with crispy tortilla chips or crusty bread/toast.

Final recipe today again 'makes the most of', and although the suggestion is 2 sausages per portion, myself would use 8 smaller ones (four chipolata size twisted in half to make eight), alternatively serve just one each of the the 'butcher's best' pork sausages which are normally good-sized. Of course the sausages needn't be herby pork, they could be made with another meat or why not use a vegetarian 'banger',. and add a pinch of dried herbs if the chosen sausages are not 'herb flavoured'.
If you wish to use just four small sausages, you could 'plump up' the meal by cooking four chicken wings along with the bangers.
If you haven't whole grain mustard, then use Dijon as English mustard is a bit 'fierce', otherwise if it is only English you have then use half the recommended amount - unless of course you like the flavour of mustard (I do!). If you have mustard powder, this made up with milk is milder than when made with water.
Mustardy Pork Sausages with Apple: serves 4
1 tblsp sunflower oil
8 herby pork sausages (see above)
1 onion, cut into wedges
2 eating apples (skin left on), each cut into 8 wedges
1 heaped tblsp redcurrant jelly
5 fl oz (150ml) chicken stock
2 tblsp whole grain mustard (see above)
few sprigs rosemary
Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat and add the sausages. Fry for 5 minutes, turning often (shaking the pan almost continuously helps to brown them evenly). Tuck the onion wedges between the sausage, and continue to fry until everything is turning golden, and keep giving a stir now and then to prevent burning.
Raise the heat and add the apples, moving them gently around and over (you don't want them to break up as they soften) until they too have a tinge of gold.
As the contents of the pan cook, put the stock into a small saucepan with the redcurrant jelly and heat until the jelly has dissolved, then stir in the mustard. When it comes to the simmer, pour this into the frying pan and let it fast-boil/bubble away to reduce down to a syrupy gravy.
Reduce heat, add the rosemary, and simmer for 10 more minutes until the sausages are cooked through (if using small sausages they will probably need less time).

Despite my intention to spend most of the time away from the kitchen today (B rarely eats a full size main meal on a Saturday, preferring to make his own (and several) snacks, possibly sardine sarnies, then munch through the packets of crisps and bars of chocolate he has treated himself to. Do need to bake another loaf though as we haven't much left of the last one. Will make an 'extended' loaf so that I can make more baps (the last being mega-good). Do have some 'mini beefburgers in the freezer - free gift with an order from DR, so might thaw these and reshape to make larger burgers that will fit in the baps, and B could have these with some fried onion/salad as one of his 'snacks'. Might even have some myself as my mouth is watering at the very thought).
Also want to hard-boil some eggs so I can make myself a egg mayo sarnie (and there was me intending to avoid all carbos. I am so weak at times when it comes to food). But as most of the time the bread dough looks after itself and it only takes 8 minutes to boil the eggs, hardly hard labour. You never know, once in the kitchen I might feel more inclined to carry on cooking.

We are expecting rain over parts of the country today (here it seems fine enough but cool), and tomorrow we may even get a warm sunny day (as we catch the end of high pressure), then back to low pressure and rain again. No wonder the main topic of British conversation is always about the weather. And why everyone carries a small umbrella (or 'pak a mac') with them when they go out for the day. Occasionally (but very rarely) we DO get several days of fine weather when (due to our island sitting right bang under a high pressure area that is reluctant to move away), and that is the only time we can plan our picnics and barbies for a day (or two) ahead, knowing we won't have rain. But almost never can plan more than a week ahead of 'outdoor activity' at a time, and more usually only a day ahead, and often not even that, as it could be glorious in the morning then change to rain in the afternoon. In Morecambe this is usually vice versa, which is much the better way (at least for me), as this then leaves the afternoon and evening free to enjoy (like once the morning chores are over).

But - as I always say - whatever the weather, we should enjoy our weekends, either relaxing or spending time gardening or baking. With a couple of weeks before the start of the Olympics we have time to catch up with what needs to be done before we put our feet up and watch the athletes etc on TV doing their thing. On the other hand, those that don't like watching any sport will then have even more time on their hands, so maybe that could include me for the Olympic 'sports' I would like to watch are the rifle shooting, archery, and show jumping, and if I remember, these are rarely (if ever) shown. Gymnastics are OK, and high-diving, probably also tennis, but the rest bore me. Sorry about that.

Hope you find time to join me again tomorrow, until then TTFN.