Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Where Will it End?.

Big headlines on the front page of our newspaper yesterday. Cost of many foods going up due to the severe drought in America causing shortages of wheat, corn, soya etc. Over in the UK we have the opposite - shortages due to the excessive rain we have been having. Add to that the rise in fuel prices, looks like we will have to tighten our belts even further.

But will it be THAT more difficult to keep within our budgets? Considering the vast amount of food on the supermarket shelves, many of them not affected by rise in wholesale prices, then we should be able to alter our meals to suit our purse.

By just cutting out what many of us eat as 'comfort food', the wheat-based biscuits and cakes, sweet and savoury pastry etc, we then not only save money but cut out the unnecessary calories. Doing ourselves a healthy favour in fact. So this particular cloud does have a silver lining. We just have to break some familiar habits and realise that meat pies don't need a crust to make them edible, 'pie' contents are what others would serve as a meat casserole, so taste quite as good (some say even better) served on their own, without pastry. Anyway if we also serve potatoes, why double up on the carbos?

When we bake our own bread we then have and advantage as we can slice it to the thickness we wish rather than having bought slices that are now usually too thick to make a decent sarnie. As today most bought (medium sliced) bread is sold in thicker slices than it used to be we use it up faster and therefore have to buy it more often. How the commercial bakers must be rubbing their hands with glee at their clever ploy.

As my Beloved said, if someone 'royal' had had an accident, that would have taken front page and rising food prices pushed into a corner on an inner page of a newspaper. So we should not become too concerned when newsprint wants to add more doom and gloom to our 'foodie' lives. They just haven't anything more interesting to write about.

Personally I think it would be an excellent idea if - for one week a year - everyone had to live on wartime rations, then perhaps we'd be very much more likely to be grateful for what we can buy now, even the cheapest products (but not junk food) rather than complain because we can't always afford to eat only what we like best. The memories I have of food rationing (and I am old enough to remember) is that we hardly ever ate any meals during that time that we enjoyed, we just ate what was able to be made to keep us alive and - strangely - this was just enough to keep us healthy, so who needs more?. Also it was not only during the war that food was rationed, we had to put up with it until the early 50's, over 12 years of shortages. Let's hope the 'Wartime Farm' programme gives the younger generation (by that I mean anyone under the age of 60!) an idea of how we used to live.

So we should never let ourselves feel we are in for a winter of discontent when it comes to eating. We still have plenty of cheaper foods that will make excellent meals, even if we have to cut down on the meat (because this will rise in price due to animal fodder also becoming more expensive). There are plenty of vegetarian dishes that are absolutely gorgeous, so again I could say 'who needs meat'. (As I write this, B has just brought me a cup of coffee and requested a meal with meat for his supper, preferably beef! It might be a good idea to stock up my freezer with more meat before the price goes up even more, at least enough to last B through the winter).

Last night was hoping to make a fish chowder for B's supper, but he said he'd rather have fish risotto. Well, it is a good dish when made correctly, and although I have to spend a good 20 minutes or so continually stirring the contents in the pan, as I sit down on a chair by the hob, it is not really a chore. As I was adding some white wine to the rice (from a bottle B had opened for himself) I also poured myself a glass to sip whilst the risotto cooked. Cook's perks don't they call it?

As 'Downton Abbey' is having a repeat on ITV3 each weekday, really am enjoying watching it again. It is fascinating to see how much 'hierarchy' there is below stairs, as there is 'upstairs'. Often more so. Everyone employed has their own place in the household 'scheme of things', and woe betide if they try to step up the ladder before they are entitled to.
This means I'm missing Celebrity Masterchef, but suppose I could catch this up on iPlayer, but then don't find 'celebrity' cooks as interesting as those from the general public who enter this competition.

The only bit of Food Network watched yesterday was late at night when 'Hook, Line and Dinner' was being shown. Not normally of interest to me, but happened to join it when a man was showing his version of 'slaw' (coleslaw to you and me). Actually it sounded quite tasty, but pretty unhealthy. Starts of with half a jar of mayo, then a small amount of vinegar to thin it down (so far so good), THEN about half a pint of sugar to sweeten, plus about a quarter of a pint of salt!!! When mixed together, finely shredded white cabbage, carrots and onions were stirred in, not enough veggies in my opinion as there still seemed a lot more mayo-mix than there should be, but as the presenter said "this tastes wonderful". Oh yes, this 'slaw' (and plenty of it) was served with a piece of fried rock-fish (the presenter said he called this 'bass'), and some sort of hot chunky tomato sauce.

Two comments today, not sure if one was from a regular reader who forgot to give her known-to-us name, or a new reader (if so welcome) but it came from cyclingininthesixthdecade who lives in the north east and fortunately (yesterday) the weather good enough for having a cycle with her OH and son. She mentions her son 'comfort eating', and how easy it is to fall into this habit when out of work and life seems at a low ebb. Have discovered that (home-popped) popcorn makes a very good low-cal munch, and even if drizzled with a little butter and sugar is far lower in calories than a bar of chocolate or bag of crisps. Myself like to toss popcorn in a little melted butter to which has been added some Thai Sweet Chilli Sauce. Think I'll make a big panful today so that I can snack on it without feeling guilty.

Thank you Les for your quote. One thing that I forgot to mention to Lisa yesterday is that in this country we are not allowed to discriminate in anyway when it comes to personal beliefs (religion, politics etc), ethnic origins, or even our appearances (height, weight, colour of skin, and also what sex we are), we are not even allowed to call someone from another country by a name that is different to their proper one (like we used to call American's 'Yanks' presumable a short form of 'Yankee' whatever that means, and we are now not allowed to call a person from Pakistan by the shortened version, even if this is more 'friendly'.

Do our Liverpudlians object to being called 'Scousers', and those from Birmingham 'Brummies'? Am sure they don't. There is far more 'togetherness' when a population begins to use 'nick-names' for each other whether cultural or regional. The Aussies (oops perhaps I shouldn't shorten their name either) still call us 'Poms' and we don't mind at all. Far too much 'political correctness' has entered our lives, and hardly any of it for the better.

Probably am stepping on dangerous ground when it comes to talking about politics and religion. We all have our own beliefs, so just accept whatever I say to be just my thoughts and - as usual - probably very old-fashioned, out of date and maybe I should just keep my mouth shut.

Perhaps safer if I confined my thoughts to food and only food. At least most of my day is spent thinking about 'the edibles', if not always 'doing the action'.
Yesterday was prepared to have a go at making some mozzarella but as it takes a little longer than other soft cheeses to make, decided to leave this for another day, instead made some 'fresh white', that is much simpler, ending up a bit like a fairly solid 'creme fraiche'.

Lisa recently mentioned using cottage cheese, so here is a recipe how to make our own. As with any home-made soft cheeses, always best kept chilled and eaten within a few days, and always use really clean containers and utensils to prevent unpleasant bacteria getting a foot through this particular door ('good bacteria' is formed when we make these cheeses and help to prevent the formation of 'the bad', but only for a short time, hence the need to give it a short shelf life).
Cottage Cheese:
1 litre whole milk
120g live natural yogurt
3 drops rennet mixed with 1 tsp boiled water
2 tsp cream or yogurt (opt)
Put the milk in very clean pan over medium heat and when it reaches 25C turn out the heat.
Stir in the yogurt and rennet, mixing well, then cover and leave in a warm place until a curd has formed, then leave at room temperature overnight.
Next day replace the pan over medium heat, cutting the curds through into 1 - 2cm cubes.
When the temperature reaches 45C, lower the heat to the minimum, then gently stir the curds for 20 or so minutes without breaking them. As the curd become warmer it firms up and begins to sink to the bottom of the pan.
When the curds have the consistency you like, pour into a colander lined with scalded muslin, again taking care not to break up the curds. When drained mix in the cream or yogurt (if using) and store in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Halloumi is a cheese that is made without the need of rennet, so could be a good one for those who wish to 'have a go' at cheese-making. Have not yet made this myself, but if following the recipe it should work. Milk that has not been homogenised is the right one to use, if we have to settle for the other, then adding a little cream to the milk then helps the curds to form.

Halloumi can be made with either full fat, semi- or skimmed milk. It's high melting point and firm texture make it ideal for frying and grilling, so a suitable cheese to cook/serve with salads and other veggies.
Halloumi cheese:
1 litre milk (see above)
30ml cider or white wine vinegar
pinch salt
Put the milk in a clean (pref stainless steel) pan over medium-high heat and warm up until it reaches 95C. Add the vinegar then turn off the heat. After a few minutes curd will start to form on the surface. This should not be disturbed as the whey will eventually clear as the curd continues to form.
Skim off the solids and place in a colander lined with scalded muslin (placed over a bowl to catch the drips). Sprinkle over a little salt, then remove and place in a cheese mould (a sterilised yogurt carton pierced with holes around the sides and base) and press down gently. Stand the mould on two slats of wood (also sterilised) that have been placed on a clean tray, then leave to drain.
When ready, transfer the cheese to an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to 3 days.
To cook Halloumi: heat a not-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Cut the cheese into slices and oil both sides, add seasoning if you wish. Place slices on the hot pan and let them brown quickly on both sides, then serve.

Weather was fairly sunny over most of the country yesterday, but this morning woke to persistent rain and quite a strong breeze, fortunately the skies have cleared a bit and the sun is now shining. Good for B who is working at the RNLI shop this morning, and it is only when the weather is fine that they get the customers they need.

Must now take my leave and start thinking about B's supper. Will probably make it easy on myself and make a beef casserole, hopefully using meat from the freezer that has already been cooked as that will save me some time. Enjoy your day and TTFN.