Saturday, September 22, 2012

Busy Time of Year

With the D.R. delivery arriving yesterday, now have a fully stocked freezer (not that I ordered a lot but what I did filled the gaps), so that together with the chicken and salmon bought in bulk earlier this year means I've enough 'protein' to keep B happy for months (and months...).  Together with the regular (but not every week) fresh vegetable delivery means I now seem to have slipped back into the 'old ways' of cooking - such as 'meat and two veg', although in B's case yesterday it was 'meat and nine veg'.  In the end didn't start the butternut squash as the flesh of the sweet potato was the same colour and this roasted with celery, parsnip, courgettes, kohl rabi, red bell pepper, white onion, red onion, made a good colourful dish.  The ninth veg was small salad potatoes that I'd put into the tin with the lamb shank (this itself sitting in a little red wine) to cook (under a foil cover) for an hour.  The lamb was the last of Tesco's frozen already-cooked but it still needed 1hr plus when cooked from frozen.  It comes with its own gravy but the wine adds a bit more luxury.

Have to say the kohl rabi tasted really, REALLY crisp and sweet when eaten raw, and nearly as good when 'roasted', but will certainly grate up some of what is left with carrot and onion to make myself a coleslaw today.  Don't know why this is not as popular a veg as it should be for certainly 'fresh' it has the best flavour ever for nibbling raw.

Am really enjoying having to think a little bit more about the meals I cook each day, and although it may seem that not much has changed, there is a difference.  Previously buying veggies as 'needed'  (and/or that keep well: carrots, cauliflower, onions, celery, white cabbage, plus salads) had then got used to using them.  Now - as I don't know from week to week (other than the 'trinity' of carrots, onions and spuds) what will be the 'weeks seasonal veg' in the box delivered, have to find recipes to suit the veggies, not the other way round, and am finding it leading back to more 'meals from the past' (in other words like my mother used to make), than the more 'recently' introduced 'ethnics'.  The good thing is that cooking 'old style' can be a lot simpler.  And have to say using the freshest of fresh veggies, very tasty indeed.  Who would have thought my Beloved would ask for more cabbage!

To make room in the freezer have brought out a large gammon, defrosted overnight and today this will be cooked.  Also thawed out some packs of the Beef Rib Trim delivered yesterday and these have been slow-cooking overnight.  This morning they were perfectly cooked, the cooker now switched off so they can cool in their own (now) 'gravy/stock', leaving the meat in the liquid helps it to absorb some of this flavour back into itself.
All I have to do then is pack the cooked strips of 'trim' into boxes with some of the liquid and then find freezer space for them!  

Looks like today is going to be busy as with the threat of frost last night feel it is now time for me to remove the many geraniums from the containers in the garden and put each into a small pot so they can continue flowering throughout the winter on the windowsill in our conservatory.  The then 'geranium free' containers will be emptied and sorted (there may be spring bulbs lurking towards the base, and the new bulbs that B brought me last week will be planted.  Not all done today, but certainly must see to the geraniums as today is forecast as sunny, but tomorrow and for the rest of the week we have to expect gales and lots (and lots) of rain.

By the way, your geranium will probably be OK Lisa if the main stalk and branchs seem alive.  You could prune it down to a lower shoot (if one can be seen) then protect it from the cold  (even let it dry out during the winter) and come next spring it should produce more leaves and flowers again).

Was a bit disappointed in the Cup Cake challenge on the Food Network yesterday.  This time four English cooks were competing, but even that wasn't quite as it should be.  One lady came from Yorkshire, a man from Brighton, but the other two - although born in England - had moved to America some many years ago and have to say this was very noticeable with their 'that's awsome' (a word we don't use in the UK), and their 'high fives' (rarely used in this country except by the youngsters).  Not to mention the 'squeaks and screams' that (thankfully) did not come from the 'real' English cooks.
Myself (and Eileen who text me after watching) did not think the right person won.  Myself thought the 'man from Brighton' made the best cakes and had the best display (this being very traditional but probably not understood by the US judges who liked a bit more OTT).  The winner (of course?) was one of the two Brits who had emigrated and who had picked up the US accent and was very 'verbal' with her 'squeaks'. 
The male runner-up was very British in his manner, he didn't flap when things went wrong (perhaps not enough went wrong with his cooking to make his part of the action a bit boring?), and he certainly didn't throw the 'we like to hear' wobbies.  In fact at one point, when the first cook had been eliminated and the three left were told what they had to do, they didn't make enough noise and the presented had to remind them they were in America now and to make more noise about it.  So there you go.

Oh yes.  Another shock, horror cookery episode (at least I thought so), and this in one of the Barefoot Contessa's Basic Cookery series.  Apparently Ina had never made an omelette, so she had brought in a chef to show her the correct way.  I've never seen an omelette made like he did and it certainly wasn't correct.  What he did was break two eggs into a bowl (Ina was following what he did so she could make one too), then add 2 tblspoons of milk (milk is NOT added when making an omelette and we would use 3 eggs not 2)).  Then he added some finely chopped herbs (that bits OK), some seasoning and then beat the lot together. 
Not sure if it was oil he put in the omelette pan but it should always be butter, and when melted the beaten eggs were poured into the centre so they would spread to the sides (that bit was OK too), but then he started mixing the centre up with a fork/spatula, as did Ina with hers and have to say this IS often done by chefs in this country, but myself (and Delia Smith) prefer to drag sides to middle, tipping the pan so the runny egg from the centre then goes to the edges.  This leaves a 'ruffly' centre to the omelette that makes it much lighter and thicker when served.
The 'shock, horror' bit came next.  The chef then said the omelette had to be flipped over (like a pancake), then the heat turne off.  This meant the (now) topside (ending up as the inside of the folded pancake) was a bit brown and crispy.  
More herbs were scattered on the pancake, then one side folded to the centre, the other side folded over to top that and then slid onto the plate (correctly the pan should be turned to 'flip' the pancake onto the plate so the folds were underneath).  Well, maybe that demontration may have shown the the US way to make a pancake but it certainly isn't the French (or for that matter British) way.

It crossed my mind yesterday that it could seem I'm always critisising the US cooks (and what they eat and maybe sometimes their way of life).  This doesn't mean I feel it is wrong (even though they do seem to eat - or at least be served - too much), it's just me chatting about the differences between the way we live in our two countries (and maybe even a little envious).  Am sure the way we live in the UK would make our US cousins feel far too restricted if they lived here.  Am beginning to feel that way myself at times. 

Most of what we believe about other countries comes from what we read in the newspapers, or hear on the TV.  Documentaries and films show ways of life that may not always be as accurate as they appear, or at least leave a lot of the 'real life' out, concentrating only on the dramatic.  So we end up getting a blinkered view, and this can lead us to misunderstanding other cultures. 

It has always seemed (again only through TV/films) that the small American 'townships' are very community minded and everyone seems to know everyone else, at least by sight if not by friendship.  Here in Britain we are lucky if our nextdoor neighbours go further than a 'good morning' when passing, and maybe occasionally a chat over the garden fence to pass the time of day, then weeks/months can go by before seen again.  Our true 'villages' being small with probably just one village shop and postoffice, a church and maybe two pubs, are much more likely to be community minded, but not sure if American has anything like a 'village'.  The series 'Midsomer Murders' gives a good idea of what village life in England is like.
We used to live in a village (this has now had so many new houses built it is like a small town), and although not knowing all the residents, did have more than a passing relationship with neighbours and others in the village.  Probably helped because I worked as a barmaid in the old coaching inn in the centre of the village (that has since been pulled down and a new one built in its place).
Also worked for a couple of years as 'Honorary Secretary' with the Village Council, so all round managed to dabble my toes in many of the village waters, so to speak.  That was a nice time of life, being part of a community where you could guarantee meeting someone you knew everytime you went out for a walk. 

It is said that 'an Englishman's home is his castle' and it does seem that most 'lords of the manor' do tend to pull up their drawbridge' too often and so keep themselves (and family) to themself.  It's only in recent years that gardens have stopped having high hedges, walls or fences surrounding the property, and new estates now often have 'open frontage' (as so often seen in America).  This 'open to all' would make me feel a bit insecure, not from burglars as probably there is less chance of this as they would more likely be seen breaking in, but that we would lose all privacy as people could so easily look through windows when passiing.  Perhaps why many houses these days have net curtains and blinds pulled down to stop this happening.  
Sitting in a rocking chair on a verandah, especially in the evening after a full days' work, in full view of passers by (as seen in US films) is something I'd love to see in this country, but our desperate need for privacy (why?) seems to prevent this, or perhaps more to do with our climate as it is hardly ever warm enough to sit and 'have a rock' once the sun goes down.  We do have 'swing seats' (like couches on chains) sold as 'garden furniture' but these always in the back garden out of sight.  Maybe if in the front garden someone would come and steal them.  We (as a nation) have people who steal garden gnomes, Victorian chimney pots (holding flowers), and even solar lights along the garden path.  A wooden garden seat would be stolen in a flash.  Seems now everything (certainly visible from the street) has to be chained down or cemented in and even then fitted with an alarm.
Just as well we don't live in a mobile home or we might wake up one morning to find that has been stolen too (with us still in it?).

Enough rambling and being a Saturday, the sun shining and LOADS to do in the kitchen and garden, plus wanting to watch a repeat cookery prog on BBC 1 this morning, am still hoping to find time to 'have a scoot' this afternoon.  So with this aim I'll now love you and leave you and return again tomorrow.  Enjoy your day.  TTFN.

p.s. spellcheck has failed so excuse errors, I can't be bothered to close-edit due to time moving on too fast.