Thursday, September 20, 2012

Fresh is Best

It's surprising how a week can make that much difference to a courgette.  You may remember me mentioning how crisp and almost sweet this week's delivery of courgettes tasted when nibbled raw.  Yesterday I used one from last week's delivery and already it had begun to change, both in taste (now slightly bitter) and also not quite so crisp.  And not even stored in the fridge so obviously time was taking its toll.
The older courgettes - apart from being organic - were much the same as those bought from the supermarket in the past - just that little bit older than fresh if you know what I mean - so proof positive that 'fresh is best'.

With that in mind have decided to blanch and freeze the string beans and most of the spinach that came with this weeks order otherwise by the time we've got round to eating them they won't be any better than supermarket ones. 
The lettuce has turned out to be quite large and although 'looseleaf' has a certain amount of 'crunch'. I'm using the old tip of placing the root end of the lettuce on an upturned saucer that is in a bowl with a little water to cover said saucer, enough to just touch the root end, the bowl then covered.  The lettuce can then 'suck' up water to keep it crisp and fresh.

For B's supper yesterday decided to do a 'quickie', this being Chilli con Carne (with salad and avocado PLUS some gnocchi that I'd seen Gordon Ramsay make earlier this week.  To make the gnocchi Gordon mashed up potato (I used organic spuds) with some ricotta cheese (I used cream cheese) and flour (I couldn't remember what flour he used so I used strong white as I was making bread almost the same time).  When mashed together, added and egg (as I THINK Gordon did), and then some Parmesan to give more flavour.   This made a good dollop of dough and in the end only used half (the rest in the fridge at the moment), rolling it out into a long thin sausage and cutting it up into little chunks - these I pressed with a fork in the time-old traditional Italian way to give a ridged surface.  Then popped half of these into a pan of boiling, salted water until they floated to the top. Drained well they were then fried off in a little sunflower oil and turned out really well with a crispy coating and a soft cheese flavoured interior, B loved them.  The second lot of gnocchi made and shaped will be cooked today for my lunch et al, the remaining ball of dough I will freeze (just to see if it will freeze) to use later.

As to the Chilli itself, cheated a bit here as I pulled a tub of home-made spag bol meat sauce (one 'B' portion) from the freezer, thawed it out, added this to some onions frying in a pan, tipped in a can of chopped tomatoes, half a pack of chilli mix, and when this had cooked for a while, finished with a can of red beans.  Together the lot made a good helping of Chilli for B, one for me and a full tub of Chilli left over that I have frozen for B (or me) to eat another day.   So - by just adding the onion, tomatoes, flavouring and beans, one portion of cooked meat sauce has now stretched to  three.

Baked two loaves of bread yesterday (using a brown bread mix extended with half as much white flour), made a bit of a mix up with amounts when adding water, made (I thought) an error and added too much, so threw a bit more flour into the bread machine, then realised I hadn't made a mistake so sloshed in a bit more water.  By then realised I probably HAD made an error (one way or the other) but as the dough felt about the right consistency half way through the kneading process, left it as it was and so ended up with two good sized loaves that have a slightly closer texture than normal (my fault for not letting them rise long enough), but this means they slice very neatly and the 'crumb' is moist and very tasty.  Had a couple of slices this morning and it makes lovely sarnies (and - according to B, also makes good toast).

Put a shallow container of water into the freezer last night to turn into an ice-block as will need iced water to cool down the to-be-frozen blanched veggies.  When in bed suddenly remembered I had several of those 'ice-bottles' (used for keeping food chilled) in the freezer, so could have put one or two of those into a big bowl of cold water to chill it down.  So will now probably keep 'my' frozen water to smash up in case I want to add some to a jelly or something to rapidly chill it down.

Norma the Hair will by now have returned from holiday and due to do my hair tomorrow, so that means I may be writing my blog later in the morning as almost certainly I won't be up early enough to get it written and published before she comes at 9.00am.  The mornings now seem very dark compared to a week or so ago, especially when the sky is overcast and raining (as happened last night).  Today feels so cold and damp and am sitting here almost shivering.  B tells me to put the gas fire on to warm myself up, but it is still only September and starting to warm the house this early on could mean a massive fuel bill later, and need to be cautious as if we have a really cold and wet winter (wet, cold and moist weather always seems chillier than when dry and frosty) we may need the heating on more hours than usual.  I'm already sorting out different garments for winter wear, aiming for several layers, and thankfully as I've lost so much weight my over-large ones will now be perfect for the top layer over a couple of ever decreasing sized ones.

Thanks for your comments, just love it when I see a large number appear in my email 'inbox', nearly a whole screenful today but unfortunately many turned out to be 'spam', so won't appear when readers check the comments box.

Interesting reading how you see the differences between the US and UK 'cultures' Lisa, especially when you say the Yorkshire accent is not always easy to understand.  Having lived in Yorkshire for a good 40 years have no problem understanding what is said, but was surprised how the accent can vary greatly over the region, the Halifax accent being quite different to the Wakefield one etc.
Myself find a broad Cornish accent almost impossible to understand, and although the Edinburgh Scottish is clear enough, the broadest Glaswegian (from Glasgow) accent neither B nor I can work out, we have had to have our Scottish daughter (from Perth) to translate for us.

Made me smile a bit when you said that people in the UK live so close together they can walk or cycle, where as in the US distances are so great between places that cars are necessary.  Believe me, in the UK it seems almost obligatory that everyone owns a car (who can afford to and many who can't still do), many families own more than one car (one for dad, one for mum, and sometimes one for the children), even though the distance to work (and play) maybe only a few miles. 
My B will jump into the car just to go to the chemist, post office, corner shop even though they are less than a quarter of a mile away, sometimes only 100 yards.  Seems that today walking any distance is becoming something that only the wise do, and that to keep fit, not for any other reason such as saving money on fuel.  
Having said that, now that it costs so much more to fuel up a car (and here in the UK it is a lot more expensive per litre than in the US), many people are beginning to cycle short distances, and also take public transport (buses).  Train journeys are expensive (but then so are buses although pensioners go get free bus passes to use at certain no-busy times).

The 'jelly roll' you mentioned Lisa sounds the same as we call a Swiss Roll.  A flat slab of sponge, spread with jam (US 'jelly'), then rolled up.  Sometimes we spread it with whipped cream and jam or a light butter icing. By the way, what is 'Ranch dressing'?
Battenburg Cake is a great favourite of mine although I don't make it often.  If interested in history, you might not know (or perhaps you do), that the family name of 'Battenburg' was changed to the Anglicised version 'Mountbatten' during our wars with Germany.  Prince Philip's uncle was a (now) Mountbatten.  At least we still call the cake by its original name, 'Mounbatten' cake wouldn't sound as tempting.
Our own Royal Family being German descendency through Victoria's marriage to Albert, leading to the family name being the Saxe-Coburg-Gothas, and for the same reason as above this name was later changed to 'Windsor'.

Several readers have sent in comments re courgettes, spinach, kohl rabi, so a blanket 'thank you' to all.  Will be trying the kohl rabi grated raw in coleslaw as suggested by Sarina, and also try making a courgette cake, thanks Alison for that idea.

Have noticed that the Riverford 'organics' do offer certain imported items (such as oranges, bananas etc) but so far these are not included in the standard veggie boxes but can be ordered separately, although some do occasionally turn up in the mixed veg and fruit box.  So not sure if you used a different supplier Madmittens, if your veggie box contained out-of-season produce from other countries.  Riverford seem to 'specialise' in locally grown and freshly harvested veggies.  They do supply quite a large variety of other 'organics', cheese, butter, dairy, wine, bread, preserves.... but too expensive for me to consider (although the cheese is tempting).

Both Les and Shayna agree that fussy children do seem to eat food elsewhere that they would normally refuse at home.  One of our children used to be a bit like that. Do not know why other than perhaps they can gain a bit of attention at home when they are 'picky', as it can be a way to get Mum to serve food they like better (in other words only get served favourites - a bit like my B).
Doubt during war years many children got the chance to be fussy eaters, food was so scarce they would just about eat everything placed before them, and not a scrap was allowed to be left on the plate.
In the 'old days' (like when I was a child) if you didn't eat your food, then it would be served up to you again (cold) and continue to be served until it was eaten.  This rarely happened with me (as grew up during rationing) but a commonplace 'threat' that lasted many years and was a good way to stop children being fussy eaters.

Loved hearing about your 'eats' when you visited Montreal Margie.  Mind you, even I might turn out to be a bit 'fussy' as don't think I could eat escargot (think these are snails), and here in the UK 'fois gras' is just about 'verboten' due to the way the geese are force fed to get their livers to grow to such a large size.  'Blood sausage' (boudin) is probably the same as our 'black pudding', this being a very traditional 'sausage' in the North West of the UK (they even have competitions to find out the butcher that makes the best), although slices of this are now becoming part of the mixed platter of 'fried foods' that we call a 'full English breakfast'.

Am thoroughly enjoying Gordon Ramsay's cookery series (Channel 4, 5.00pm weekdays), as his instruction is clear and concise but by adding that little bit of extra something he stops it being so black and white (in other words - boring), and so I can almost smell and taste his dishes as he makes them.  His hints and tips are also good to know.

Decided to ditch 'Dallas' (think we've grown out of it after so long), and instead watched a programme about the medicinal qualities of food (Thursdays, Channel 4, 9.00pm).  Found that very interesting, especially about the way an allergy doesn't always appear instantly, but often can be a day or two after eating something that causes it.  So who knows what causes mine?  Food or something else?  Unfortunately nodded off close to the end so wasn't able to find out if the young lad was allergic to lactose, and did his change of diet help?  The poor little boy was so unhappy with his constant itching, do hope something was able to be done.  His face looked a lot like mine when the allergy flares up, but at least the face doesn't itch, but the patches on my arms/legs do.

Have quite a few busy hours ahead of me today.  Am having a DR delivery tomorrow (Beef Rib Trim too good an offer to miss), and as I've ordered some pork min-shanks and lamb shanks, need to fine room in the freezer.  The pork mini-shanks seem to be what Nigella calls 'pork knuckle' and having watched her (several times recently - her progs seem to be constantly repeated on the Food Network) - just KNOW that B will love eating them, all that crackling.  And so cheap for what you get.

'Fresh Food, Fast' is the name of that programme mentioned yesterday (the one where 'grandma' was cooked).  The presenter is a Bernard Manning look-alike, with a name something like 'Emirel', and am finding his approach more down to earth,  and more useful and explanatory than the programmes hosted by the ladies. Yesterday he said that in in the US 'shrimp' is bought by number.  A 'number 10 'shrimp' means 10 to the lb.  A '20' means 20 'shrimps' to the lb. And so on.
Here in the UK we'd probably get about 300 shelled shrimps to a 'pint' (the measure traditionally sold - in actuality this is approx 10 oz (275g) unpeeled, and 12 oz (340g) peeled shrimps   for a 'shrimp' here is very tiny indeed.  Anything larger we call a 'prawn', and sold not by number, but either 'small', 'large' or 'Jumbo', sometimes called 'tiger prawns'. Bigger ones are probably those we call 'Dublin Bay prawns' and  'scampi' we think of as a breaded-to-fry prawn but more usually the tail of a larger and similar crustacean.

In another programme it also appeared that chickens in the US were sold in about 4 set 'sizes'.  We in the UK buy whole chicken by weight that can be anythng from 1lb up to about a maximum of 5 lbs (or possibly lower that that), very small chickens are called 'poussins' and these can sometimes be just as expensive as a much larger one because a 'poissin' is sort of 'posh nosh'.
When visiting America some many years ago my cousin (who lives there) told me their ovens were always huge, not because they cook large amounts of food, but to hold the gynormous turkeys sold for Thanksgiving.  She mentioned the 'average' weight of said turkeys, and doubt that many as large as that are sold here, most bought for a big family Christmas gathering average around 11lb (approx 5kg).  True, there are bigger and heavier ones (and also smaller ones) these usuall bought and cooked by caterers who have larger industrial ovens, but our domestic ovens couldn't cope and we are always told that if a turkey is too large, then remove the legs to cook separately and if necessary cut the bird in half before cooking.

One final mention of the 'Fast Food, Fresh' prog.  Yesterday 'Emiril' was demonstrating 'tapas' (and it sounded as though he had Portugese ancenstry), and was surprised when he went into a fishmongers to buy 'fresh sardines' - that had actually been flown in from Italy.  Am supposing they were packed in ice, and possibly under 24 hours old, but hardly 'fresh'.  Don't sardines swim around the coasts of America.  Maybe not.  We here are lucky in that we have our own supply - our Cornish sardines being famous )originally called 'pilchards' and pleased they changed the name as 'sardines' sounds so much more 21st century).  Having said that have yet to cook any 'fresh', we tend to eat only the canned wee ones.

Wish I could ramble on for longer, but really must get on with what needs to be done, but looking forward to joining you again tomorrow and hope you feel the same.  TTFN.