Thursday, July 26, 2012

Whatever the Weather...

Cannot believe the weather we are having at the moment. Very dull and damp yesterday, with a short respite late afternoon when the sun came out. It was then very warm and extremely humid.
Last night seemed a bit cooler, although needed only a sheet over me (the duvet being too hot), and this morning it is very dull and I have just started a 'thunder headache', so possibly we will have a storm. No signs of any of the hot weather most of the country is having, and even that is due to change today with more cloud and some rain. Doubt that Morecambe will get its share of the sun this year.

You wouldn't believe it, but I'm just about shivering as I sit at the comp. Possibly this is more to do with the damp atmosphere than the temperature. If it was dry and cool then it would feel more pleasant. Yesterday the humidity seemed so high that I found it almost hard to breathe. Felt as though I needed to stand in a blast of cold, crisp air and fill my lungs. Perhaps I should have opened the freezer door and stood in front of it for a time.

In the paper they said the temperature was 86F in St. Jame's Park, London (don't know what that is in C), but still well below that across the pond. We rarely have such high temperatures, and doubt they have ever reached up to 100F more than once in my lifetime and never where I was at the time (usually London is a degree or two higher than anywhere else due it being a built up area with its own 'micro climate'.

The baby seagull now seems to have joined its sibling on the flat roof of a house close to where it used to 'live'. So thankfully, not got captured by a cat. Think it needed a good 'runway' to get it airborne, and probably had to go onto our drive to get it (maybe why it tried to walk down there twice the day before, and there was me shooing it back to the safety of our back garden).
Anyway, the young birds are not on the flat roof this morning so no doubt they have now really 'flown the nest'. It was interesting to see them daily grow from tiny babies to young adulthood.

Again managed to work right through my list yesterday, although not quite as many items on it as the previous day. So Jane, always worth writing down what you intend (or hope) to do each day, as it certainly helps to keep my mind focused when I have a list to work through. Now have loads of preserves (jams, marmalade) for both B, family, and the 'social'. Anyone making these for just home use would be able to make more than enough preserves to last a whole year in just a couple of hours max. This allowing for washing the preserving pan more than once etc. The MaMade (canned prepared fruit for marmalade) takes only 15 minutes boiling to setting point, the mixed fruit jam (made using thawed frozen fruit) took even less time than that yesterday.

Never heard of Flookburgh Campfire, it must be somewhere near Grange over Sands? You mentioned 'O Douglas' books, that is one author I've never heard of, although might recognise some of the book titles. Charity shops are a good source of books, but pure luck if you get the author/title you are looking for. A sure way to read any book of choice is to get it from the local library, if they don't already have it, they will get it for you.

Pleased you had such wonderful weather for your holiday in Bulgaria Sarina. As you are finding, it is now also hot here - at least in your neck of the woods. We have yet to experience this, and am now wondering if we ever will - at least this year.

As it was very sultry yesterday, and quite warm (this type of heat does not feel the same when the sky is overcast and humidity is high), made a big Prawn Cocktail for B's main meal, and also made a big bowl of fresh fruit salad (using the 'longer shelf life' fruit I still have: apples, orange, kiwi, grapes, and added a can of pineapple pieces as well). Myself had another of my 'pork pies' and a wedge of quiche, plus some salad. That was more than enough for me although B managed to force down another couple of snacks during the evening (ham sarnie, and something else I can't now remember).
Low on bread again, so that's one thing more to add to today's list of 'things to do'. I had intended to go out for a scoot on Norris during the sunshine (that was originally forecast for today) but may not now that overcast skies and the occasional shower is now what we are to expect.

Yesterday evening watched the first of a new series of 'Superscrimpers', and for once found it quite inspiring. Was shocked when I saw the bit about the parents who spent thousands a year on their offspring. 'A treat a DAY! How can people be so careless with their money, but very good for them to prove to themselves that several outings, 'treats', and a birthday party can be had for a total of under £50 (even that I thought was expensive, but compared to what it would have cost them formally.....!). Also think a lot more enjoyment was gained through making a lot of the things for the party themselves. The children really seemed to have a good time.

Loved hearing about the shop (there may be many over the country) that stocks remnants of fabric, odd bits of paper, all things that can be bought for very few pence, and much could be made with them. Think details of this will be on the Channel 4 'Superscrimpers' website.

Now that it is school holidays, children perhaps could be encouraged to being learning about the value of money. Maybe showing them how to buy something really cheaply, then turn it into something else that is worth more. Perhaps even be able to sell it to someone, or use it as a gift that they would have paid more money for than that originally spent. We should also start planning Christmas gifts long before the date, as often we can pick up for a pittance something that is 'just perfect', but would not be on sale closer to the time.
Also when making gifts, we do need to allow plenty of time to save rushing things at the last moment.

Even now we could be making our Christmas Puddings, mincemeat and even a rich fruit Christmas cake (to be laced with booze over the coming months). But for the moment will offer easier recipes, for none of us feel like doing much this weather.

First recipe is almost a throw-back to the 60's as can remember making this often around that time. It is not listed as able to be frozen, so made when intending to eat as a dessert (although any leftovers can be eaten cold.
This uses the Victoria sandwich cake batter (same weight of eggs, butter, sugar, flour...) the classic version of this cake/dessert uses pineapple rings, but other drained canned fruit could be used. Alternatively, use fresh fruit (apples, nectarines, pears....that have been cooked in a pan with a little butter and syrup, then cooled before putting into the tin with the cake mix on top.
Pineapple Upside-Down Cake: serves 6
2 oz (50g) butter, softened
2 oz (50g) light soft brown sugar
7 pineapple rings in syrup (from a can)
7 glace cherries
cake mix:
4 oz (100g) butter, softened
4 oz (100g) caster sugar
4 oz (100g) self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
First make the 'topping' by draining the pineapple and reserving the syrup. Beating the 2 oz (50g) butter and light brown sugar together until creamy. Spread this over the base and a quarter up the sides of an 8" (20cm) round cake tin. Place the pineapple rings on top, popping a glace cherry in the centre of each (round side down).
Put the cake ingredients into a bow with 2 tblsp of the pineapple syrup and beat to a soft consistency. Spoon this over the top of the pineapple and level the surface.
Bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 35 minutes, then leave to stand for 5 minutes before turning out onto a plate. Serve warm with either cream, creme fraiche, or a dollop of ice-cream.

Whether for picnics, packed lunches or to add to a salad supper, Scotch Eggs are always popular, but as many of us have given up deep-frying anything (due to cutting down on fats), we tend to do without or buy them ready-made.
Here is a super recipe for Scotch Eggs that can be baked in the oven instead of frying. Follow a cheffy tip and after shaping the sausage meat coating round the egg, then rolling in the crumbs, wrap each tightly in clingfilm to mould the coating even closer and more evenly, then chill for at least 10 minutes before baking.
Baked Scotch Eggs: serves 4
4 hard-boiled eggs, shelled
11 oz (300g) pork sausagemeat
1 tblsp finely chopped parsley
2 tsp dried mixed herbs
salt and pepper
1 egg white, lightly beaten
2 oz (50g) dried breadcrumbs
Put the sausagemeat, herbs and egg white into a bowl and mix well together well. Add seasoning to taste, then divide into four equal amounts. Form each portion into a flat circle then place an egg on the top of each, folding the sausage mixture up and around to cover each egg completely, then roll in the breadcrumbs and chill for 15 minutes (see above tip).
Place the eggs on a baking sheet and bake for 20 - 25 minutes until golden brown. Leave to cool completely before serving.

Not sure if I've given this recipe before, but it is worth repeating. Use the strongest flavoured Cheddar you can find when using for cooking, as many of the 'own brand mild Cheddar' has virtually no taste at all (at least I don't think it has), so pointless in using it. It doesn't HAVE to be Cheddar, myself find Red Leicester has a great flavour, as does Double Gloucester. Blue cheese is probably a bit too strong for this recipe, but please try to use cheeses that have flavour as you need this to balance out the Marmite.
If you don't care for Marmite, you could add crumbled crispy fried bacon instead, or even crispy fried onions.
Cheese and Marmite Scones: makes 8
5 oz (150g) self-raising flour
5 oz (150g) wholemeal flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 oz (50g) butter, chilled and diced
3 oz (75g) mature Cheddar (see above) grated
1 egg
2 tsp Marmite
2 tblsp Greek yogurt
3 tbls milk
Sift together the flours with the baking powder, then rub in the butter with fingertips until like fine breadcrumbs (this can be done using a food processor). Add half the cheese, then make a well in the centre.
Whisk together the egg, Marmite, yogurt, and milk and pour this into the well. Using a knife, mix together to make a soft - but not sticky - dough. If too wet add a little more s.r.flour, if too dry add a little more milk.
Turn the dough onto flour surface then roll out to 2cm thick (just under 1"). Stamp out 4 scones, then gather and re roll trimming and repeat until all dough has been used.
Place scones on a baking sheet, brush with milk and scatter the remaining cheese on top. Bake for 10 - 12 minutes at 200C, 400F, gas 4 until golden. Cool on a wire rack. Best eaten whilst still slightly warm, split and spread with a little butter.

Final recipe is a way to use up puff pastry, the last bit of wafer thin ham, and oddments of Cheddar. Tomato puree/ketchup could be used instead of the pasta sauce.
If wishing to use the pastry 'trimmings' rather than as bought in a pack, then make sure you place these on top of each other so that the pastry still remains in 'layers', as if gathered together any old how, it will puff up into strange shapes when cooked. Not that that really matter in this instance as the end result will taste just as good, but if the pastry is kept 'layered', the 'pinwheels' will look more attractive.
Pizza Pinwheels: makes 6
6 oz (175g) puff pastry
3 tblsp tomato pasta-type sauce
2 oz (50g) wafer-thin ham
2 oz (50g) mature Cheddar cheese, grated
milk or beaten egg for brushing
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
Roll pastry out to 8" x 12" (20 x 30cm). Spread a layer of the sauce over, leaving a narrow border all round. Place ham on top, then scatter over the cheese.
Starting at the narrow end, roll pastry up as tightly as possible the chill for 15 minutes (it helps to wrap the roll in clingfilm to hold together whilst in the fridge).
Using a very sharp knife, cut the roll into six sliced (if wrapped in the film, this can stay there whilst cutting, but remove from each when ready to go into the oven..
Lay the slices on a non-stick baking tray, as each is cut, then brush each lightly with milk or beaten egg and sprinkle with the herbs.
Bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 12 - 15 minutes until puffed up and golden brown. Leave to cool for 5 or so minutes before serving. Best eaten warm.

Was planning to make another Singapore Noodles for tonight's supper as I really fancy this myself, but B has wandered in requesting 'ham, egg and chips', so either I'll make the noodle dish for myself, or have something else and wait until B fancies it At least all I have to do is put the oven chips in the oven, then B can fry the egg/s himself, the ham already sliced in the fridge. If I have a salad and the last of the quiche, plus another mini-pork pie then that should make it easier for me.

Have to say this weather I don't feel much like cooking anything, although do have a few things on my 'today's list' I intended doing, and probably (hopefully) will. Certainly must make another loaf of bread as we have just about run out.
Was inspired (watching Superscrimpers) to use up the last of the watercress, and maybe also use some other herbs, to make home-made pesto. Didn't realise this would keep for up to a month in the fridge, and as it can be frozen, could fill ice-cube trays with some of it, so that there will always be a supply during the colder months.

Ice-cube trays are really useful. Rarely do I use them to make ice-cubes, although perhaps during this warmer weather (if we get it), some ice would be good to add to our cold drinks.
My trays are normally used for freezing tomato puree, concentrated stock, lemon juice (with or without zest), egg whites, red or white wine, port, chopped fresh herbs (held together with a little water), almost anything in small quantities that has a use - but needed later. Once frozen the contents are removed from the trays and bagged up. Always label as so many things when frozen look exactly the same (lemon juice, egg whites, chicken stock, white wine) as I have found to my cost. Nothing like thawing out lemon juice to make lemon curd and finding it is chicken stock. Mind you, adding lemon juice when it should be stock has sometimes improved the flavour of a savoury dish. .

The skies look a bit lighter, but still no sign of any blue, so have to wait and see what happens later today. If it clears around lunch-time might go out and have a scoot. Certainly over the next few weeks - weather permitting - there won't be much on TV other than Olympics to make we want to sit indoors, and as I don't wish to spend all day in the kitchen (or even at the comp), will take the opportunity of 'flying my own nest', even if only for a short distance now and again.

With another weekend about to land on us, let us hope the weather hold out enough for us all to enjoy our free time. If you have a moment or two spare, then please drop me a line as I love hearing from all of you.
As ever, I'll be back again tomorrow, so hope to meet up with you then. TTFN.