Thursday, August 23, 2012

Live and Let Live

Now am finding the Food Network channel almost addictive, and generally enjoy most of the programmes, but there are some presenters that set my teeth on edge. One such is a lady who tends to cook Italian food (she mentions relatives in Sicily a lot), and her pronunciation of 'liqueur' and 'Worcestershire Sauce' makes me want to scream. Maybe the US pronunciation of 'liqueur' IS 'lickooor', but in the UK we say 'lickewer'.... and we don't pronounce the 'r' in the Worcestershire (we say it as 'Woostersheer') and I have tried to pronounce the sauce as the presenter does: 'Woorrshhchestershire'.... is the nearest I can get to it when spelled, and am surprised she doesn't spray spittle around every time she says it. Other US cookery show presenters do seem to manage to pronounce this sauce correctly, but always the full name, over here we always shorten it to 'Worcester Sauce' ('wooster sauce). Good to know that this great English sauce is regularly used in the US. Also English mustard.

Watching 'Diners, Drive-ins and Dives' am surprised how 'Mac 'n Cheese' seems a very popular dish in the States. When made the US way macaroni cheese does look/sound very much better than our UK traditional dish, where today this is today considered very 'retro', and almost not worth eating due to it not consisting of more than white sauce with macaroni and a bit of grated cheese. Almost pauper's food. Jamie Oliver has brought it back to our attention with the addition of cauliflower - his version being a cross between cauliflower cheese and macaroni cheese, but even then not to everyone's taste.
Mind you, it is still a good dish to make, and with the addition of (maybe) some fried onions, and certainly bacon, may still remain an economical meal but tasty with it. A variation of this recipe is given below.

At one of the diners there was a 'special gravy' made by the chef, and this was 'chicken juice' with what sounded like 'coffee' added. I thought I had misheard this, but B was also watching and he thought the chef had said 'coffee', whatever it was looked like black coffee add to the 'juice'.
Luckily we were shown how to make the 'chicken juice', and this was chicken pieces with a mixture of onions, carrots, celery, bay leaves, and another herb, simmered for several hours, then the liquid poured off to make the 'juice'. No problem with that once we realise the 'juice' is what we call 'chicken stock'.
Perhaps I should defrost one of my small pots of chicken stock and try adding some instant coffee granules to it, then heat it up and see what it tastes like. In South America they add chocolate to chicken stock to make a gravy called 'mole', so maybe we should experiment a bit more. Don't think I've yet heard of tea being used to flavour a gravy, or Ovaltine, but I've now become quite interested in adding 'new flavours' when it comes to savoury sauces/gravy. Any suggestions?
By the way, one ingredient that is very often used in the US is 'onion powder'. Really wish I could buy some of that. Do they sell this in supermarkets in the UK.

Am tiring of the Barefoot Contessa, not sure why, perhaps she seems to be too much the same, say the same things in the same way too often. My favourite US cook at the moment is Sunny Anderson as she always tells us why she uses certain ingredients, and/or why they work well together, she also seems to enjoy herself when cooking and her enthusiasm is catching.

When reading about cookery or even watching cookery programmes, I find anything too factual can be very, very boring . People are more likely to be inspired when they get the feeling there is passion in what has been written about, or with what they are hearing/seeing, and this then becomes more easily remembered.

We can all recall teachers at school, the ones that knew how to hold the students attention (and so we looked forward to these classes), and those who just gave the facts and then wondered why the youngsters seemed disinterested. We do need to feel the enthusiasm for any subject talked about. Jamie Oliver has this in spades. Brian Cox (astronomy) comes a close second.
Bet most people who watch Jamie's programmes feel that they immediately want to go out and cook what he has just demonstrated. Certainly I do, not always his demonstrated dish, but he has given me enough inspiration to always makes me want to go and cook something.

Keep seeing Nigella on the Food Network and compared to the US cooks, she really doesn't seem to fit in to the US style. I'd love to hear from readers from the US/Canada what they think about Nigella's style (I'm honestly beginning to cringe when I now watch her, yet one time I used to enjoy these progs), and also what they like (or dislike) about other UK cooks they managed to see on their TV.

Not sure why, but feel in a very critical mood today, and this is not fair. We all view things differently, especially when it comes to food (and people, and pronunciations...), so live and let live. Bet I say a lot of things that drive people up the wall. Sorreeee!

Cooked a lamb shank with the usual trimmings for B's supper yesterday, but he complained there was too much fat on it. He had left the bones and 'fat' in the dish it was cooked in, and this morning went to throw these away and found there was only a little fat and quite of lot of lamb flesh he had also discarded because it was stuck between the fat and the bone. His loss.
Myself ate the lamb shoulder that I'd saved from the 'twin-pack' in the freezer (B having the first - again moaning about this having too much fat). Have to say this time he was right, there WAS a lot of fat on the shoulder, almost as much as the flesh, the bone also large, so not nearly as good value as the shank.

B enjoys 'fat' on meat but only when it has been crisped up by open roasting or frying. Then he will eat all the fat. 'Soggy' fat on the meat he won't touch. Can't say I blame him.

Managed to clear my corner cupboard under the units. Spent a few happy moments sitting by the sink with a bowl of hot water and a Brillo pad scrubbing the printing off many of the tubs. Have so many plastic containers of several sizes that I'm going to have to get rid of many (as will never find a use for them). What did we do in the old days when there was no plastic? Stored foods in airtight tins, glass bottles and stone jars I suppose.

Asked B yesterday if he could put up a rack under a couple of the wide cupboards above the kitchen units, so that I could hang some of my utensils from them. He said there wasn't any way he could fit them and I'd have to keep them stored in my stone jars as they are at the moment. Already have three large jars stuffed full, and so need to add another jar (or get rid of some of what is already in them).

What do I keep in my 3 jars (as if you care)? Wooden spoons (several), two perforated spoons for draining, 2 large serving spoons, 2 fish slices, 1 potato masher, 2 large sieves, 1 small sieve, 3 micrograters (each different), 2 balloon whisks, 1 large flat whisk, 3 small flat whisks, 4 spatulas, 2 pairs of tongs, 2 thermometers, 1 pastry brush, salad server, kitchen scissors, meat cleaver, a wooden meat 'basher/mallet', 1 potato ricer... and several other things I can't now remember.

My kitchen knives are kept in a wooden knife block (and could do with another as have too many knives) and keep this on the kitchen table as it is there I do most of my preparation. Have three Y-shaped vegetable peelers, these are hung over the handle of one of the knives in the rack. Another wooden stand holds three different sized of scissors. That kept on the unit top.

Am a bit fanatical about having all my utensils to hand when needed. I absolutely hate having to wander round trying to find where they were last put (usually in the wrong place by B), so when the washing up has been done (by B), he always leaves them in a pile on the unit so I can put them back in their rightful place.
As I have one apron that has a big pocket in the front, do find that most useful as then I keep a marker pen, a small notepad, a small pair of scissors, an ordinary ballpoint pen in the 'pouch' so always have them to hand to write things on jars or freezer containers, or make notes when running out of an ingredient, and the scissors handy to open packs etc.
Have found several more (home-made) butcher's style aprons that I made to wear on TV, and these have no pockets, so now will find some matching material (still have some somewhere) and stitch big pockets on these too.

Have managed to find a 21st century version of 'mac 'n cheese', and although not mentioned, myself would also include some snippets of lightly crisped bacon to give even more flavour. Or serve it with freshly cooked crispy rashers of smoked bacon with each serving.
More than Macaroni Cheese: serves 4
2 leeks, thinly sliced
1 - 2 cloves garlic, crushed
12 oz (300g) cherry tomatoes, halved
7 oz (200g) frozen peas
2 tblsp finely chopped fresh chives
4 fl oz (100ml) water
14 oz (400g) macaroni
500g tub natural yogurt
1 tsp Dijon mustard
6 oz (175g) grated Cheddar cheese
2 eggs, beaten
4 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper to taste
Put a large frying pan over high heat and add the leeks, garlic, tomatoes, peas, chives and water, stirring together, the cooking for about 5 minutes or so or until the water has been absorbed. Fold in the pasta then transfer to a shallow, ovenproof dish.
Mix the remaining ingredients together and pour this over the pasta mixture, the bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 20 or so minutes, or until golden and bubbling. Remove from oven and leave to stand for 5 minutes before serving with a crisp green salad.

When teaching myself how to cook meals from scratch, and ever mindful of the cost of food (hadn't money to spare which is why I needed to learn how to make use of what I already had), discovered that serving three courses instead of two made the family feel they were eating better meals than ever before. They didn't realise that serving three courses saved money because the first (usually a soup) already filled them up, and then the main course could be much smaller (sometimes vegetarian), and with something like a steamed pud to end the meal, also filling (and contained eggs = protein), all left the table feeling very satisfied.

Although still hopefully with a few warm days still to come, perhaps too early to start serving steamed puddings, but worth keeping this next recipe as the flavours can be varied. Omit the marmalade and just use syrup, jam or lemon curd in the base. Flavour the sponge with ground ginger, or add some cocoa to the flour. Or turn it into a fruit pud by adding dried fruits. Served with custard (or the more expensive cream) all these variations make lovely puds to serve on cold days.
Steamed Marmalade Pudding: serves 4 - 6
5 oz (150g) butter, softened
3 tblsp orange marmalade
2 tblsp golden syrup
5 oz (150g) caster sugar
3 large eggs, beaten
3 oz (75g) self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tblsp milk
Lightly grease a 1.2ltr pudding basin. Mix half the marmalade with the syrup and spoon this into the bottom of the basin.
Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then beat in the eggs a little at a time, sift over the flour and baking powder and fold in alternately with the milk and remaining marmalade to give a smooth mixture. Spoon into the pudding basin, then lay a pleated and buttered sheet of greaseproof paper on top, buttered side down. Cover with a pleated sheet of foil, then secure tightly with string under the rim of the basin.
Stand the basin on an upturned saucer or trivet in a large saucepan, then pour in boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the basin. Bring to the simmer then cover with a tight fitting lid. Steam for two hours. Check every 30 minutes to make sure the water level remains halfway up the dish, and add more boiling water if necessary.
To serve, remove foil and paper and upturn the hot pudding onto a warmed serving dish, deep enough to catch any syrup etc. Cut into wedges and serve with cream or custard.

Another favourite dish across the pond seems to be 'meatloaf'. Not sure whether this has ever taken off over in the UK, not sure why but we rarely see a recipe for making this. However, one has come to my attention, though hardly a 'loaf' as it is cooked in a flattish baking tin, but this is useful as it takes far less time to bake than if cooked in a loaf tin.
As this recipes suggests using turkey mince, then chicken mince could also be used. Any other minced meat would need a longer cooking time. Said not to be suitable for freezing.
Turkey Meatloaf: serves 4
1 tblsp sunflower oil
4 leeks, sliced
1 lb (500g) pack turkey mince
2 sprigs thyme, leaves only
4 oz (100g) fresh breadcrumbs
1 egg, beaten
salt and pepper
2 rashers back bacon, chopped
Heat the oil in a frying pan, then fry the leeks for 5 minutes or until softened. Line the base of a 28 x 18 cm (don't know what that is in inches) with greaseproof paper or baking parchment. Mix together the turkey mince, thyme, two-thirds of the breadcrumbs, the leeks and the egg together, adding seasoning to taste. Press mixture firmly into the tin, then drag a fork over the surface to 'ruffle it up'.
Mix the remaining breadcrumbs with the bacon and scatter this over the top. Bake in the oven at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 20 minutes, then place under a pre-heated grill to cook further until the top is golden and crisp. Serve with cooked potatoes and carrots, or a crisp green salad.

Did not manage yesterday to complete everything listed as 'to be done today', and have to blame B for this. When just finished publishing my blog, the phone went and it was the club secretary wanting to speak to B. He was at the shop, then from there going straight to the gym, and I'd no way to contact him. Apparently B had a key to the club house, and was need to open it for a man who was to fit a new burglar alarm. Other people also had a key, but I would be phoned again if they couldn't be reached as B may have left the key here at home, not taken it with him.
As our phone cuts off after five rings, when in the kitchen or living room cannot reach it in time, so always take the cordless phone around the house with me when expecting a call. So as I needed to 'get on', went to take the cordless off the stand (kept at the side of B's bed as this is where the phone socket comes into the house). No phone on the stand.
I looked in the living room, no phone there, I looked in the kitchen, no phone. Well, when B takes it from the bedroom he is inclined to place it anywhere, so decided the best thing to do was make a phone call from my mobile to our land line so I could hear the cordless ring. Did hear two rings, the main phone on this desk, and another in our bedroom, but this was just the base ringing, there was no noise to tell me where the cordless was. I hunted and hunted and hunted for it. In the end gave up.

When B returned from the gym, I told him about the missing phone, asked him if he had seen it, and he said he'd taken it to the shop thinking it was his mobile (it's much larger than his mobile), and he when he found out he couldn't use it to phone me as it said 'out of range' on it. Considering the shop is about three miles from where we live, it would be out of range wouldn't it? It says that within our garden boundary, and we have a small garden.

The hours I must have spent during my married life looking for things that B has mistakenly taken or moved from where they should be and forgotten where he put them. Can remember not so long ago when he was a few hours short of leaving for a sailing holiday abroad and he then couldn't find where he had put his passport. Panic stations. It was eventually found (by me) still in an old suitcase he had used 12 months previously for his holiday and had never fully unpacked.

That's enough of me moaning and criticising today, think a few hours sorting my plastic tubs, the doing some more cooking in the kitchen should cheer me up a bit. The weather has also improved slightly but a bit too breezy for me to wish to venture outdoors.

Before I finish, worth mentioning that we should tighten our financial belts a bit further in the run up to winter as heard yesterday on the news that fuel prices will rise yet again this winter, and although fuel prices do go up, they also go down during the year, but we - the consumers - never get the benefit of lower prices. We are always told fuel we are now using was bought when it was expensive so we have to pay that price, and it does seem we never do get to use any of the cheap fuel the companies bought at the lower price. Why not? Because this way they make more profit and these then end up in the owners or shareholders pockets no doubt.

Watched Superscrimpers yesterday, can't say there was much to interest me this time although the advice about getting free hair cuts etc was worth knowing. Nearly all good hairdressers require models for their apprentices to practice on.
The 'free wood' from the dismantled pallets also a useful tip, but can't remember seeing how that garden they were working on ended up. Surely too small a space to have a 'summer house' (looked more like it would end up a shed anyway).

The tip about going to a college to let student's do manicures and paint nails seemed a bit unnecessary as myself have always managed to manicure and paint my own nails (although now don't paint my nails and keep them short as long nails and cooking don't really go together). But then of course I'm not young any more and fashions change. Seems now we are expected to spend a fortune on having our hair done and on cosmetics (not to mentionl Botox and face-lifts and other 'ornamental surgery'). Well - as I said - live and let live. I'd rather spend my money on things that are more important or necessary. But that's just me. A married life of thrift and frugality has become a habit that is now impossible to break.

Having some pastry left over after making those quiches think today I will make B a Treacle Tart as only then need breadcrumbs, syrup and lemon juice (have half a lemon that also needs using up. Probably one of the cheapest puddings that can be made today, and still stands the test of time.

Sun is now shining fully, so hope you all manage to take advantage of any you may have too. Do hope you find time to drop me a line. Just two comment to reply to before I sign off for today.

Lucky you to be able to share chores with your husband Catriona, but this is fair as you both worked. Myself, coming from the age where women tended to stay at home to rear their children, did not go 'out' to work (although in later years did have a 'media' career that took me away from home quite regularly). It was then normal for woman to do all the domestic chores while the men earned the money to pay the bills. Other than gardening and perhaps some DIY, men rarely did very much around the house in those days.

Like Margie (and many others I'm sure), having a well stocked larder does give a feeling of security. But as she says, keeping plenty of food always to hand also saves time AND money. So what better reason than that?
Many people nowadays seem to keep very few things in cupboards, yet few shop for fresh foods on a daily basis to make the main meal of the day, most prefer to bring in a ready-meal to reheat or order a take-away to be collected or delivered. With my 'live and let live' thought for the day could say 'nothing wrong with that if you can afford it', but memories of friends who prefer to live like that keep flooding back into my mind. The times they suddenly become ill and cannot go out to shop for food, then have to resort to calling on friends to bring some food round to them.
Even worse, should there be a sudden snow-fall at the time of illness (and this can happen), often it is impossible to get to the shops to buy the necessary, or drive/walk to take food to Mother Hubbard's house even if she is screaming out she is starving due to her thoughtlessness.

We all should try to be fairly independent of the food stores by keeping enough in store to last at least several weeks if the occasion arises, otherwise we not only cause ourselves difficultyif we are suddenly stuck indoors for even a few days, but could also be a nuisance to others. Having said that I'd really be pleased to be able to help in the above difficult situations, and it would never be a nuisance.....although B says. "I'll help anyone once, and quite happy to help if they asked again, but when they've asked me three times then I stop. I'll not be 'used'." Wth me, maybe, maybe not - it all depends on circumstances.

Think it was about an hour ago I was about to publish, just shows how I like the sound of my own 'voice'. Aplogies again for boring everyone. Still hope you will return tomorrow. TTFN.