Thursday, September 27, 2012


So much seems to annoy me these days, and whether it is the 'way the world is going' or just old age I don't know, but am getting more and more irritated each day.  Usually by what I see on TV because I rarely leave the house these days.

Last night was no exception, there was I watching 'Food Hospital' - an interesting programme giving food for thought - and nearly ended up throwing ping-pong balls at the screen as there were far too many 'nods and winks' (as TV directors call them). 
When I first did my TV prog, there was only one camera, so working with Zena Skinner (a well known cook at that time), they would first film me, then I'd have to do it all again with Zena, then they would film Zena alone without any input from me, she had not to say anything but looking interested, or nodding etc.  These would then be edited in to make it appear she was listening to what I was saying at the time.
Yesterday there was a lot of that, especially at the 'hospital', and although both presenters (male and female) did a lot of 'nods and winks', the female - nutritionist I think she was - looked quite false.  Spoilt the prog I felt, , B also remarked there seemed to be a lot of 'padding' to the series - this after he had twice seen the same shot of a tractor driving up a field.
So you see how easy it is for me to get irritated.

My major - and continuing - irritation at the moment is the constant repeat of the trailer for the British Cup Cake war.  If I hear that English (but now living in American for many years)  woman scream 'making cup cakes for the QUEEN!" and burning her fruit compote and screaming "I'll have to do it AGAIN!!!!!"  say it just once more, then I'll start screaming.  It is all so FALSE.

Thankfully Gordon Ramsays programme brings me back to earth, as does The Great British Bake-off. The latter too has its share of panic, such as dropped trays of cake, not to mention the man nearly cutting his finger off when he stuck it into a working Magimix!  But all done with the best possible taste and lack of noise.   Maybe a tear is wept when something has gone really wrong, but again a gentle sob with plenty of comfort from the other participants.  All very gentle, and maybe that is why we (as a nation) are known as 'a soft touch'.  I bet no other nation would take in asylum seekers etc then give those with a large family a large house to live in and then money (as benefits) to pay for everything they want.  It often seems that 'true Brits' (like those who are elderly and especially those who have fought for the country) are pushed to the end of the queue when it comes to entitlements.  

Obviously my day for moaning.  If the sun was shining maybe I'd feel better, but have woken to another wet day, and this doesn't bode well for the northern part of the country as the floods are getting worse.  Seeing (on TV) the York streets under deep water, and a few towns unable to reach from one side to the other as their bridges are also under water, and a high-rise block of flats expected to collapse due to the foundations being (presumably) loosened by the flood water, it all makes me wonder what will happen next. 

It is unlikely now that we will get any long dry spells between now and winter, and even if we did the sun wouldn't give enough heat to give drought conditions so the soil could then absorb winter rain/snow, so - if we continue to get rain - the probability is that field crops would be ruined, and although we do import many vegetables, obviously shortages would mean rising prices (again).

Since I've change to buying really fresh veg, this has really changed the way I cook. Previously, although I always bought plenty of 'fresh' fruit and veg, most of these have all had a longish 'shelf-life'.  Even salads such as tomatoes, iceberg lettuce, spring onions...can be kept for a week or so, as can oranges, lemons, apples.   Root vegetables, potatoes and onions also keep well for weeks, and my fresh 'greens' were either white cabbage or cauliflower - both keep well for several weeks in the fridge, the others (peas, string bean, Brussels sprouts, broccoli...) were frozen.   So have never had the 'urgency' to use up 'the fresh' as I now have to do with my now 'very fresh' as it has become obvious (by taste) that the soonest used the better. 

Each day I check what needs to be used up (and thankfully most of the short-term veg have been) so depending on what seasonal veg is offered next week may well be ordering a small box.  Or might wait a further week and order a larger one again (as it works out cheaper by amount/weight).

However, today am not giving recipes for main meals, instead am offering a couple of 'bakes' as have discovered I've a big bag of dessicated coconut in the larder, and think it's time I used some of it. The first does have carrots as an ingredient so there is a bit of a veggie theme with this one, cooked as a tray bake rather than - as normal - in a loaf tin.
Coconut Carrot Cake: makes about 15 slices
9 oz (250g) butter
10 oz (300g) light muscovado sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs
8 oz (225g) self-raising flour
2 oz (50g) dessicated coconut
8 oz (225g) carrots, grated
2 tsp mixed spice
3 oz (75g) dessicated coconut
1 oz (25g) light muscovado sugar
1 oz (25g) melted butter
Make the tray-bake by melting the butter in a pan, then leave to cool for a few minutes before adding the sugar, vanilla and the eggs, beating together with a wooden spoon until smooth.
Stir in the flour, coconut, carrots and spice and when well blended, tip into a greased and lined tray-bake tin approx 8" x 12" (20 x 30cm), level the surface and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for half an hour.
Meanwhile make the topping by mixing the coconut and sugar together then binding with the melted butter.  Remove the cake from the oven after the 30 minutes baking, then spread the topping over the surface and return to the oven to bake for 10 minutes until golden and the tray-bake cooked through. Cool in the tin then cut into slices.

Next recipe is a traditional Australian favourite and this cake, once cut into squares,  are then split and sandwiched together with vanilla cream before being iced.   Not the cheapest of cakes to make, but certainly one for special occasions.
Lamingtons: makes 16
6 large eggs
5 oz (150g) caster sugar
8 oz (225g) self raising flour
1 oz (25g) butter, melted
5 tblsp hot water
vanilla cream:
9 oz (250g) icing sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 oz (50g) butter, melted
2 tsp milk
10 oz (300g) icing sugar
4 tblsp cocoa powder
1 oz (25g) butter
4 fl oz (125ml) milk
5 oz (150g) dessicated coconut 
Make the cake batter by beating the eggs and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Fold in the flour, butter, and the hot water. Pour into a greased and lined 9" (23cm) square cake tin and bake for 25 minutes at 180C, 350F, gas 4 until firm.  Turn out onto a cake airer to cool.
Meanwhile, make the vanilla cream by putting all the ingredients into a bowl and beating together until thick and creamy.  Cut the cake into 16 squares, then slice each square horizontally and sandwich together with the vanilla cream.
Make the icing by sifting together the icing sugar and cocoa, then heat the milk and butter over low heat until the butter has melted (alternatively microwave on High for 1 minute), then stir this into the sugar mixture and spoon over each square to cover top and sides (if you stick a fork into each piece it can then be turned as you spoon over the icing). Sprinkle with the coconut and leave to set.

Final recipe today does not use coconut, but is another 'special' that - because made in one pan - is so easy to make yet luscious enough to serve to guests when they drop in for coffee.
Mocha Slices: makes 12
4 oz (100g) butter
8 oz (225g) dark brown soft sugar
1 tblsp instant coffee
3 tblsp boiling water
2 large eggs, beaten
2 tsp baking powder
5 oz (150g) plain flour
1 x 285ml pot creme fraiche or sour cream
10 oz (300g) white chocolate, roughly chopped
4 tsp caster sugar
cocoa powder for dusting
Make the cake by melting the butter in a large pan, then stir in the sugar and mix well. Remove from heat.  Dissolve the coffee in the boiling water, cool slightly then add this and the eggs to the butter/sugar in the pan.  Sift together the baking powder and flour and fold this into the mix.  When fully blended, pour into a greased and lined 12" x 9" (30 x 23cm) baking tin, then bake for 20 minutes at 180C, 350F, gas 4.  Leave to cool before turning out onto a board.
Meanwhile, make the topping by putting the creme fraiche/sour cream, the chocolate and sugar into a bowl and place over a pan of simmering water.  Leave for a few minutes for the chocolate to melt, then stir everything together.  Leave for 15 minutes before spreading it over the top of the cake.  Dust with cocoa powder, then leave to set.   Cut into 12 squares. 

Do you remember the other day I mentioned boiling some double cream (with a little sugar) as it had reached (and passed) its 'use-by' date?  This certainly was well worth doing as it prolonged its life by several days, and not only that, once boiled and poured into a jug - left uncovered in the fridge, it nearly 'set' on top, so was able to be served like 'clotted 'cream.  In any case it ended up much thicker in consistency throughout than it was before being boiled.  A good way to deal with cream that we know needs using up but we don't want to eat it today, tomorrow or the next day.

Really should do some baking today, and also have to think up something for supper. Yesterday B had a good chunk of pan-fried salmon with salad, and his 'pud' was also on the cool side being fresh fruit salad using what I had to hand (clementine, kiwi fruit, apple, grapes, strawberries...).

Thanks for letting us know about the veggies 'offers in Aldi, Eileen.  Pleased that you enjoyed that chocolate/banana B & B pudding.

Your mention of Vancouver Margie, reminded me that one of our daughters once took a job working as 'mother's help' on Vancouver Island. This then led to her taking similar work in the US and later led to her living there permanently.  Unfortunately she rarely keeps in touch (she has always liked to keep her personal life private), but when we do hear, she seems to be (now) settled.

Can't recall any Enid Blyton books with a Jack and Lucy in them, maybe ones that I missed.  Some of my favourites were 'Five on a Treasure Island', 'Willow Farm', 'Naughtiest Girl in the School', and  and 'Mallory Towers' (and other schools) series.
I remember Enid B writing a story on the lines of 'Pilgrims' Progress' and there was something sad in it (think it was about a dog dying) that caused me to end up in floods of tears, my mother was quite alarmed and nearly took the book away from me.   Music can often make me sad (and also happy), and always, ALWAYS when I hear Oldfield' 'Tubular Bells' (the original one), when it comes to one part, I start to cry, in fact when out with others and I hear the tune begin I warn them it will make me cry, and for some reason I can't stop myself.
This particular tune I see/feel as a story, starting off with birth, then through the toddler stage, teenage and then - the crescendo that makes me cry - a full burst of first love and joy that comes with it.
Other music that puts pictures into my mind is Holsts 'Planets' Suite.  And although not sure of the composer, hearing a selection of 'English Country Dances' feel that I'm actually there, in times past, dancing away and almost smelling the sweet country air, surrounded by fields of wild flowers, hay meadows etc. 

Am not fond of 'modern music', for one thing it's almost impossible to make out the words, and now all music seems far too loud, and any songs I like I prefer to be sung solo (although did like the Spice Girls when they first came on the scene).  I prefer a male singer who belts out the songs, my earliest favourite being Frankie Laine (and still like to listen to him).  Then Howard Keel, and - more recently - Tom Jones who I never liked as a 'person' when younger (although liked his voice) but he has so improved now he is older and allowed himself to go grey, so I'm his number one fan at the moment. 

One singer that I do like is Paul Simon, especially when he sings with his African accompaniment, not sure of the name but think they came from Soweto? Was the track called 'Graceland'? Did have a cassette of that but lent it to someone who - of course - never returned it.

Good for me as have managed to finish today's blog right on time (10.30am), this now gives me time to go into the kitchen to do some baking.  Hope you can join me tomorrow.  See you then.