Friday, July 20, 2012

What Next?

Quite honestly I feel like giving up! Our nation is just about on its financial knees, needing every bit of money coming in, hopefully from visitors to the Olympics, and what do some selfish bods do? Decide to go on strike a day or so before the Games, and at other times during. What has gone wrong with us? We all pulled together in war-time (and after) to get the country back on its feet, yet now there is always someone whimpering they they want more pay, regardless of everyone else who is trying to manage on what they have, even if they have a job at all. If there is any light at the end of this particular tunnel it is that only 11% of the union members have voted to go on strike.

Trouble is - when one union goes on strike, others go out in 'sympathy'. Well I for one have no sympathy this time because they can't see they are cutting their own throats as well as everyone else's. The government no doubt will have contingency plans, bring in servicemen to take over, and then this will cost us and we all end up having to pay more taxes. We will end up with less money in our purses and probably higher prices.

Another thing that caught my eye in the newspapers yesterday was a full page on frankfurters. Considering what they are made with and how they are made (esp in the US), I wouldn't want to touch one with a bargepole. Yet there is a tiny bit of my mind that says 'hey, if the products used to make these (waste bits of pork, chicken etc, all ground down to a much), then if this is edible and does contain protein, why should we be so picky?"
Am sure if we had a national disaster (and the way things are going this could be sooner rather than later), we might be glad of 'pre-formed' meat products, or for that matter any food at all.

Watching the sad news yesterday about the plight of people who are starving in the Middle East made me feel extremely guilty about having any food at all on my larder shelves. We don't seem to realise just how lucky we are, and this brings me back to the strikes. Make the best of what we have, don't keep wanting more, more, more! Certainly not at this moment in time.

Some of the Olympic athletes have arrived but the left this country because of our cold and wet weather. They prefer to train where it is warmer and the sun shines. Let us hope they can return in time to participate, who knows how much delay the strikes will cause.

We hear also that the north east of America has had terrible thunderstorms. Perhaps expected after the drought, but it does seem that the global climate is going a bit OTT at the moment. We were forecast better weather over the next few days, and yesterday wasn't that bad, but I woke during the night to hear the rain absolutely POURING down. It lessened for a while, but then it got heavier, and heavier. It is still raining, but the normal sort where we can't hear it fall. More of a heavy drizzle.
Lay in bed hoping the poor little seagull (the one that fell out of its nest onto the roof about 3 weeks ago), managed to survive the deluge. This morning it is still alive, almost got all its flight feathers, so am hoping that very soon it will be able to fly and then begin to take care of itself. How it managed to survive all this time I don't know. At least the parent bird has been bringing it food. It will probably end up stronger because of having to survive, its sibling (still seen between the chimneys on the roof above) hasn't really had much room to move around, and they both seem the same size.
The 'fallen bird' is now busy stretching its legs, testing its 'wing-flaps' and preening itself, all instinctive no doubt. Isn't nature wonderful?
B and I will be very sad when our 'baby' flies the nest, or should I say 'flies the roof'.

Isn't this always the case.... Have been looking for a recipe that I once fancied trying (and so had planned to make it for tonight's supper), and not sure whether it was in a cookery mag or cookbook, but decided to work through them and eventually it would be found. Book after book, magazine after magazine, and nothing. Until the very last one. I nearly didn't both to look in that thinking I must have missed it, but it was there. Hours of looking just because I didn't take a note of where the recipe was first time seen.
When we lose something it always seem to be found in the last place we look. Yet, this can have its advantages for I've noticed more recipes that I would now like to try (unfortunately didn't make a note of where at the time). From now on will stick a label on the front of each mag, and a sheet of paper inside each book, listing the recipes I like and the page numbers.

It must have been lovely in the 'olden days' when practically all recipes could be remembered. Very few home-cooks bothered to possess a cook book until after the last war, the recipes nearly always handed down by word of mouth to mother and daughter. Remember the only one my mother had was the 'Be-Ro' cook book, and this (of course) had mainly recipes using this flour: cakes, scones, biscuits, pastry etc. Mind you, the meals then were pretty basic, not a lot to remember. It was only after the last war that we began to get a taste of foods from other parts of the world, and with different foods now imported, there are far too many recipes for dishes - many of them quite complicated - that can be remembered. We spend far too much time hunting through books and mags to find a recipe we would like to try, and then spend a lot more time in the preparation. No wonder many people prefer to buy the convenient 'ready-meals'. However, once my new site is up and running, you will be able to enjoy recipes that CAN be remembered, and also cut down preparation time. That's the idea anyway.

Yesterday discovered a pave steak in the freezer, so thawed that out and cooked it for B's supper with some sliced chestnut mushrooms (fried in the juices from the meat plus a little butter), peas and some oven chips. Have run out of salads, so these will need replacing, but not a lot else at the moment.
Also made an apple and black cherry pie for 'afters'. The cherries being from (half) a can of fruit pie filling (the rest being put into a small container and frozen). Layered with sliced fresh apples then baked over and under pastry it made a good dessert, enough for three helpings. I tried a very small slice (just to see if it tasted good), and B will eat the remainder today.

Must today make another loaf, this time a brown one, although might 'extend' the brown flour with some strong white. Supper will be Singapore Noodles (the recipe I was seeking), as this can use up the one boneless pork chop, and the few prawns (both from the freezer), also making use of 'oddments' of veggies to make up into a stir-fry. Still have several packs of those 10p (now 11p I think) noodles that Tesco sell, so these won't add much to the final cost of the meal. Maybe I'll use chicken instead of pork. Or maybe both. This dish - when brought in by B from the Chinese take-away (one of my favourite meals) contains pork, beef, chicken AND prawns, so a good way to (again) use up small amounts of each, and as all the 'take-away' meat is cut into tiny chunks will probably do this too (the prawns are the small ones so left as-is). Will also add a few cashew nuts, for this dish is more about the spicy curry flavour to the sauce rather than the main ingredients, these being - like many Oriental dishes - a chance to use what we have rather than stick to a recipe.

This time this supper dish won't be made just for B, I'll be having some too as am very fond of Singapore noodles as this is mixture of flavours. Well, why don't I give the recipe so you will see what I mean...
Singapore Noodles: serves 4
3 tblsp teriyaki sauce
half teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
2 tsp medium Madras curry powder
11 oz (300g) pork tenderloin, trimmed of fat
5 oz (150g) medium egg noodles
1 tblsp sunflower oil
2 x 300 packs of fresh mixed stir-fry vegetables
4 oz (100g) cooked prawns, thawed if frozen
Mix together the teriyaki sauce, and the two powders. Add half to the pork (or other meat) turning to coat, then leave for 15 minutes to marinate.
Put the pork in a small baking tin lined with foil, and roast at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the noodles as per packet instructions, but reduce the time by 1 minute. Drain well, refresh in cold water and drain well again.
Transfer the pork to a chopping board and leave to rest for 5 or so minutes, then cut in half lengthways, and then into thin slices.
Set a large wok or deep frying pan over medium high heat and add the oil. When hot, stir-fry the veggies for 3 - 4 minutes, then add the prepared pork, prawns, noodles and any left-over marinade. Toss together for 2 - 3 minutes until hot. Serve immediately.

Thanks to Campfire for her comment. This arrived too late for me to give it a mention yesterday. Remember my mother having a washing machine that was electric and had an electric mangle fitted to it. Quite something in those days.
When B and I first set up home we couldn't afford a washing machine and I made do with a big metal 'tub' that sat on top of the hob, in which I boiled all the nappies, and also towels, pillowcases etc. This was hard work as the only way was to lift the laundry from the tub with a pair of laundry tongs (anyone remember these?) and dump the wet washing into the sink, then rinse well with cold water. Everything had to be wrung out by hand.

As our cooker then was electric, when the water boiled over it 'blew' the ring, and so very soon we changed to a gas cooker. Later we bought a 'Baby Burco', a sort of 'tub' that would heat water and we could boil the laundry in it. Still had a problem with the rinsing and wringing, and later still we bought a separate spin dryer.
The 'Burco' also used to boil over, and remember often going into the kitchen and finding water all over the floor, much of it running down under units and the floor had a slight slope. When this happened the kitchen too was full of steam, could barely see when the door was opened (especially as my specs used to steam up too).
The spin dryer also needed constant attention when it was switched on. It worked beautifully, but used to 'walk' across the floor as it was spinning.

When we moved to Leeds 12 years later we bought a twin-tub. This was top-loading with the washing part on one side, the 'spinner' on the other. This made life much easier, although had to trundle the machine right across the kitchen to stand by the sink so the pipes could reach from the tops to fill it with water, and also empty it again into the sink. Then trundle it back again.

It wasn't until my sister-in-law died (more than twenty years ago now) that we had our first front-loader washing machine. She had bought it some few months before she died and no-one else in the family wanted it as they all had one. So we gladly took it, and believe me I've never been so grateful in my life. Despite its age, and the fact it has now begun to 'stick' at the start of the cycle (but can be manually moved on a notch and then it carries on by itself), it still works well. Long may it continue to do so.
If I had to make a choice of what domestic appliance I would choose if I could have only one, it would be my washing machine. Almost everything else I could cope with by myself. A stiff brush would clean carpets, food can be chopped, beaten, mixed by hand, sewing could also be done by hand. If I had to would probably cook food over an open fire. None of these would take the time it used to take doing all the washing, rinsing, wringing and hanging out to dry, by hand.

Youngsters today don't know what hard work means when it comes to 'keeping house'. In fact another article in the paper drew attention to the way many youngsters and some adults are now becoming almost zombies in the way they are continually glued to their mobiles and computers. Hours are spent 'tweeting', or tapping texts to each other. There was one home - the families being well educated - who communicated with each other by texting to save them having to move from room to room and keep calling out.

Another lady was being interviewed because of a family problem, her child could possibly be removed and taken into care as she spent no time with it. When being interviewed she was continually checking her phone, and when asked if she expected an urgent call/text, she said 'no, it was a habit I've got into'.

Beloved was driving the other day and he came home quite shaken. He said a young girl had stepped right off the pavement to walk across the road, oblivious to the fact there was B's car heading towards her. He said she was listening to something via ear-plugs, and was also busily texting something on her mobile as she crossed the road. She didn't even lift her head to look to see if the road was clear as she stepped from the path. When B blasted his horn at her he said she looked up in alarm and she really didn't know he was there.

Of course advancement in technology can be good, but it can also be very bad, and if we end up a race of morons who are unable to communicate with each other unless by mobile or computer, then would that sort of life be really worth living? Apparently some youngsters today think it would be. Perhaps we should try and persuade them to think differently.

Why is it that I now seem to keep finding more and more things to moan about. Shouldn't I be thinking more positive thoughts? Could do this of course, but it only seems to work with my immediate surroundings and possibly the few folk I do manage to communicate with. The older I get the more my thoughts turn to how things could be, should be, if only....

If only we had Winston Churchill, or for that matter Margaret Thatcher. Until we get a really strong leader, then there is little hope for our nation to improve in the short term, or even long term. At my age don't think there is much need to care, but everyone with a family will wish for a bright future for their descendants.

'Nuf said, I could moan on and on (as I often do), but what's the point? We just have to make the best of things, and as 'an Englishman's home is his castle', draw up our individual drawbridges, and at least keep our home and family as secure as possible. We really don't need more money to have a good life, just enjoy what we have to the full.

Thanks Eileen for letting me know about the Wallins' Farm ice-cream sold on the prom. These really is the very best ice-cream, we sometimes go the scenic route when driving so we can pass the farm and stop for a cornet (or two).
Amaretti biscuits are lovely, am sure I had a recipe to make these, will have to search for it (and what's the betting it will be in the last book I take a look at. Of course could always look on the Internet how to make them, but never find that is as enjoyable as looking through a book).

Also thanks to Sooze, for letting me know about the xanthan gum. Other than using with gluten free flour, think it could have another use as a 'stabliser' when mixing things that tend to 'split' when standing (oil/vinegar etc).

This reminds me of my mention of not liking the mayonnaise I tried recently. Discovered yesterday I hadn't read the label properly (and there was me giving advice that we should ALWAYS read the small print). Actually the print was large and the Hellman's mayo was 'light than light' with 85% less fat than even their 'light' mayonnaise. Ten calories per tablespoonful, so one worth thinking about using if on a low-cal, low-fat diet.
In all honesty, having tried it again yesterday (binding chopped hard-boiled eggs to make an egg mayonnaise sarnie), it tasted quite good. Think it was because I'd mixed it with some strong cheese previously that the two flavours didn't quite go together.

One final word. Watching the end of a golfing programme yesterday, there was a mention (and showing) of a young lad who - with others - had earned money by washing cars, and then with this money bought various things and then set up a stall close to the golfing venue to sell their wares and made more profit. That shows there are youngsters who have some real sense, and prepared to work to achieve even more. Am sure they will go onto become another Alan Sugar.

Think the rain has ceased. As I'll be fairly busy today in the kitchen, must now wend my way. B is delighted that he will be having Singapore Noodles for supper, so can't back out now. Must go and defrost the chosen meats, prepare veggies for the stir-fry, and also make the bread....

Haven't yet read today's paper so who knows, there may be even more bad news to come. Bet the press are pleased, they love to write about misery. Good news is always written about as briefly as possible and usually shoved to the back of the paper. Wouldn't it be nice if there was a newspaper that only wrote about nice things?

Great prog. on last night about 'the Bank of Dave', and great to know there is at least one 'banker' dedicated to lending money at low interest and also give the profits to charity. One silver lining to the many clouds that hover over us today.
There I go, feeling all gloom and doom again, must buck out of this and start enjoying at least the cooking planned for today. Hope you will join me again tomorrow. See you then.