Thursday, August 02, 2012

Is It Worth It?

We gained our first Olympic Gold's yesterday, so can now hold our heads up high. Still very low down the list, but plenty of time left to gain more.
With the individual cycle time trial yesterday (won by GB!!!), another chance to see the wonderful English countryside around London. A good view of Hampton Court (where Henry VIII lived), and with 'proper' English summer weather (blue skies with little fluffy clouds here and there) it couldn't have given a better impression of what it is like in England when the weather doesn't play silly beggars.

We had better weather yesterday, early showers, but then the sun came out. Yorkshire had it worse according to Jane (and what's ironing? - haven't done any since we moved here over 3 years ago).

Interesting that knitting is a craft still carried on in the US Lisa. Over here in the UK, although some people still knit, these are usually the older folk who learned how to when a child (although my daughter knits, but then she is in her mid-50's so to some could be called 'an older person').
Doubt that many people now knit socks, or anything that is 'utilitarian', mostly knitting is done as a 'hobby' ( blankets made from knitted squares etc), but more and more are knitting hats, scarves, and also jumpers and cardigans.

As to a rain gauge. Is there any need to have one? At least not in the UK at the moment, for an empty bucket or any container, small or large, placed outdoors would catch the rainfall and this could then be measured, we don't really have the heat to evaporate it before we check. Not that we need to do this, ALL our many buckets and water butts are full to overflowing, so we know we have had plenty of rain (anyway the weather forecasters tell us if we have had more than normal like "a month's rainfall in 24 hours" etc.

Because we have an excellent TV supplement each Saturday with our Daily Mail, Susan G, don't really want to pay for another. The TV guide gives most satellite channels, but misses several of the latest Freeview. However, was able to get a week's listing of the Food Network on the computer, and found many were repeats and not that many I was interested it anyway.

Yesterday did switch over to see if there was anything worth watching on this Food channel, and picked up that 'Dinner, Diners and Dives' (or whatever it is called). Very similar to Dave v Food, without the marathon eating challenge. Can't say any of the regional 'specialities' were to my taste. There was a Polish restaurant where the cook demonstrated how to make 'dill pickle soup'. Also some rather strange pancakes (made from 'ground potato' - think this meant 'mashed' by the look of it, mixed with flour and eggs and then fried. Not that different to our 'potato cakes' I suppose. On top of this was served a good dollop of Goulash that she made with pork, the cut used she called 'pork butt' (is that what we call 'rump'?). Goulash normally is made with beef, and considering she was supposed to be serving traditional Polish cuisine, that seemed odd, but - as she said - it was her version.

There was one 'eaterie' that was similar to these in England - this was 'meals made from scratch' (making out this way of cooking was almost unique in the US). The chef/owner had his own 'greengrocery' shop, and made his meals to order, using fresh produce and in the demonstration shown, cooked a 'sea bass' caught that day (which the presenter said he called 'rock fish'). The food there - plenty of fresh salads etc - really did look appetising, which is more than you can say for the food in the other 'eateries'. It's just that we Brits tend to eat more 'fresh' I suppose than those in the US, where they also seem to love pouring different gravies or sauces over everything savoury, and a lot of it.
Have to say though, I'd love to be able to visit America and eat my way through all the States sampling their regional specialities. I'd end up the size of a double-decker bus, but it would be worth it!

Pleased you enjoyed the Lemon and Lime marmalade Susan G. Another favourite of ours is Orange and Ginger Marmalade, this I make the usual way (using a can of MaMade, and then add finely chopped crystallised ginger (or stem ginger) to the pan halfway through the boiling. Either make a whole batch with the ginger, or pot up half without ginger, then add the ginger to the rest left in the pan, give it a few minutes more boil, then pot up in the usual way.

Good that you are enjoying the Olympics Margie. Think Canada has won quite a few medals already (but not sure how many gold), they are well up the leader board, think it is the USA and China above them. We are still way down, but - as I said - have time to catch up.

Although not interested at all in football, am still pleased we won yesterday, and who knows - we might even get to and win the final.
If football is part of the Games, why don't they also include Rugby? Hockey is played but not lacrosse. And if the sports have to reflect people's personal skills, why haven't darts been included? Or even fly-fishing? Maybe one day.
Cannot see the point of 'beach volley-ball', with the swimming trunks and bikinis, far too much like 'Baywatch, so is this more for the pleasure of spectators than showing any real skill?

Despite the centre of London (shopping area etc) being virtually empty (and a lot of this is due to the request that workers stayed at home and 'did their business' on home computers), we have sort of cut our own throats re this. Lots of 'food trade' lost because no workers there to go out and eat lunch.
It was good to see the thousands of people the whole length of the cycle race yesterday, as this went through plenty of small villages and towns, then am sure the local 'eateries' there would do a very good trade.

With the 'beach volley ball' being held in Horse-Guards Parade, also within easy walking distance of Buckingham Place, Trafalgar Square, and the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey, so plenty of places to visit before and after the games. Not everyone comes to Britain to spend their time shopping.

A very interesting day yesterday regarding cooking. The belly pork rind/skin was slashed with a sharp knife and plenty of coarse sea-salt rubbed in. Then it was placed onto a bed of onions (each cut across into three) in a roasting tin, half a pint of water poured round, then tightly covered with foil. Put into the oven at 130C (250F, gas 1/2) for four hours. This before Norma arrived so could safely leave it in the oven to 'slow-roast'.
As I was a bit busy doing other things, turned the oven down to 100C, and left the pork in for a further hour before removing it. By then all the water had dried up, but the meat was perfectly cooked. Removed it from the tin and put it on a plate to cool. Later I cut it across into three (one 'portion' being a 'B' size, but anyone else would have been happy with less, so could have cut it into four), then carefully removed the rind and underlying fat and broke this up into smaller strips and laid these on some crushed foil (that used for covering the pork) in another tin, to crisp up later in the oven at 200C.

Then made a gingerbread and put that in the oven to bake, then set about putting together the rest of B's supper. He had requested new potatoes and green 'string' beans, so put the spuds on to cook (later adding the beans on top to steam), and then made a barbecue sauce. Not as the original recipe because I hadn't everything to hand (by this I mean I couldn't be bothered to get up and go into the larder to fetch what I'd forgotten). As making only a small amount, the amounts were 'guestimated'. So into a dish went a good dollop of tomato ketchup, a small amount of balsamic salad dressing (because it was on the table, the red wine vinegar was too far away for me to reach), a dash of Worcestershire sauce, and - instead of the dark muscovado sugar, brought from the larder but then discovered I'd picked up a pack of sultanas by mistake), decided to add a tablespoon of black treacle instead (also on the table).
The recipe said 'boil for 5 minutes until thick', but as 'my' sauce was very thick anyway, didn't bother with that, and spread some of it on top of the piece of pork. This then should have been barbecued (sauce side down) or grilled, but me - well, I put it sauce side down in a dry and very hot frying pan where it 'charred' perfectly. Spooned more sauce on the 'up-side'. then turned that over, to 'char' as well. Spooned the remaining sauce (not a lot left) around the sides of the meat in the pan, placed this over the lowest heat with a cover on top and left it to heat through (it was a thick piece of meat).
B served himself, and from the look of his plate he had used all the sauce (wonder he didn't bother to lick it), and he said the meat was wonderful, it was so tender. The photo in the recipe showed the meat 'shredded' with forks, and have to say it almost fell apart when I sliced it into three. Ate the end inch myself (without sauce) and it truly was wonderful.
So don't believe that belly pork is a joint not worth cooking. Slow-roasted it is out of this world.

The skin took only 15 minutes to become crisp and 'crackling', and this too worked well. Even I managed to crunch through several strips without any danger to me teeth.

After supper, set about making another gingerbread, this time ran out of golden syrup (did have more but didn't wish to open a new can), so made up the shortfall by adding black treacle. Also used butter instead of the margarine in the first cake. Once cooked, and cooled, trimmed the edges from both cakes before wrapping tightly in parchment and foil (gingerbread improves with keeping a few days before being eaten), and then tasted some of each cake. Despite the difference in ingredients, there was very little noticeable difference between the two. So why use butter, when Stork gives as good a result. The treacle too didn't seem to make any difference to the flavour, although after a few days that gingerbread may end up moister or 'stickier'. Have to wait and see. As with many recipes, is it worth using more expensive ingredients when cheaper ones work just as well (without any noticeable difference to the end result)?

Still haven't had any notification as to what will be needed for Sunday, so have sent another email to remind 'her in charge' that I'd like to know a.s.a.p. If I had industrial sized cookers, I could make several cakes in one go, but our oven is not that large and so can cook only one at a time (or two if traybakes and remember to change them round half way).

As B had beef on Monday (chilli con carne), chicken (gougons) Tuesday, and pork yesterday, think it will have to be fish today. Probably a fish risotto unless I do something clever with a fillet of salmon, perhaps cooked in a foil 'parcel'.
First thought must today make a carrot cake (traybake) as this could do for Sunday (or frozen if not then needed). Always enjoy making cakes, (B loves them) but unfortunately I get tempted and end up eating them as well as B. But at least - if made for the 'social' - they have to be kept intact, so that means I have to be a good girl and leave them untouched (other than trimmed if necessary).

Here is the recipe for carrot cake. Normally I would not include desiccated coconut, but as I have plenty in the larder this will help to make use of it (as rarely use it).
Although sticking to the ingredients as far as possible, may use half caster and half the light muscovado sugar as this will work out cheaper than using all the light brown sugar. Will almost certainly use half Stork and half butter instead of all butter for the same reason.
Coconut Carrot Traybake: makes 15 squares
9 oz (250g) butter
12 oz (300g) light muscovado sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs, beaten
4 oz (100g) self-raising flour
2 tsp mixed spice
2 oz (50g) desiccated coconut
good pinch salt
7 oz (200g) grated carrots
3 oz (75g) desiccated coconut
1 oz (25g) light muscovado sugar
1 oz (25g) butter, melted
Melt the butter in a large saucepan, cool for 5 minutes, then add the sugar, vanilla, and eggs. Using a wooden spoon, beat together until smooth. Sift the flour and spice together, then stir this into the mixture in the pan, along with the coconut, then fold in the carrots.
Spoon this into a 8" x 12" (20 x 30cm) traybake tin that has been greased and lined, level the surface and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 30 mins.
Meanwhile mix the topping ingredients together, then spread this evenly over the top of the cake, returning to the oven to bake for 10 minutes more until the top is golden, and and a skewer inserted comes out clean. Cool in the tin, then cut into squares.
Once cold, this cake can be wrapped and frozen.

Sun is shining at the moment, but there are a lot of grey clouds intermingled with some white fluffy ones, blue sky peeping between, so will have to wait and see how the day turns out. Was hoping to go and have a scoot down the charity shop to see what novels they have that I might enjoy reading. That will probably be after I've made the carrot cake, could be before or after lunch, and again depends upon what Olympic games I wish to see during the day. Books can wait.

We are getting low on fresh fruit, so when I do go out might pick up some from the butcher (he sells a small variety of fruit and veg displayed on a trestle under the window outside his shop). There is no old-style greengrocer within miles of where we live, the only places that seem to provide a full range of 'the fresh' are now the supermarkets. If we lose our butcher and bakery, then we will have to buy everything from the supermarkets I suppose. There are farm shops, but all far too expensive for me to shop there regularly.

Now that my stores are depleting, this 'challenge' is becoming more fun to do, but still not too difficult as it is more that I'm now having only one or two of the same items on the shelves, not half a dozen of each. Good to see empty gaps on some shelves, and empty spaces on the fridge shelves, and in both freezers too (although better to keep freezers packed full as this uses less electricity).

The sun has gone in, so oh no it hasn't, as I write it suddenly came out again, now it's gone back in..... Think making the cake is the next thing for me to day, then will work out the rest of the day after that. So now time for me to take my leave, and will return again tomorrow. Hope to see you then.