Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Hidden Assets

It really does pay to keep a record of what we have in store as all too often foods not 'in your face' are hidden behind other. We've all spring-cleaned our kitchen cupboards and discovered some packets/ingredients bought that we've completely forgotten about. Even more likely is that we find umpteen little packs of things in the freezer (again pushed to the back of a shelf - or under everything else if a chest freezer) and if like me, most of these haven't the contents marked (many thing look exactly the same once frozen. Is this mince beef, pork or lamb? Chicken stock, apple sauce, egg whites...?

This is a good time to 'stock-take' and clear spaces on shelves and in fridges and freezers to make way for the 'winter stores' that we are hopefully about to make now that autumn is in the air.
Like Jane - who has discovered food in the freezer she had forgotten about - I've too found half a dozen beetroot that I cooked and froze last autumn(!!) so today will be using some to make beetroot chutney (one of my favourites) and also some Chocolate and Beetroot Brownies (these can be frozen once cooked).

With your son now having hot lunches served at school Jane, it would be interesting to know what is served in schools these days and whether the children (particularly your son) like the meals (for in today's world its 'don't like, won't eat).
Alison mentioned that in her youth (also in mine) we had to eat what was given to us. Having a meal we enjoyed was something quite special. Memories of soggy green cabbage, gristly mince, watery potatoes come back into my mind (and especially the smell in the kitchen of cooked cabbage. B remembers, as a lad, visiting his aunt who she worked in London as a housekeeper - in a house a bit like the Bellamy's lived in in 'Upstairs, Downstairs'. She was a good friend to the cook who worked there, and B's main memory was going down the steps to the basement door to be greeted by the cook and a very strong smell of cooked cabbage).

Although natural in war years (due to food rationing) that all food should be eaten that was on our plates, even in much earlier times everyone - other than the wealthy - would eat up what they had been given. Food wasn't as abundant as it is now, and there were other things to occupy minds (such as hard work) rather than fuss about whether the food served was nice or not. It was probably only at the traditional times of feasting and celebration that the 'working class' got to eat anything special. Farmers wives tended to provide more flavoursome meals as most of the ingredients were on their doorstep, so to speak, but even then normally 'good plain food' although today this 'rustic' type fare is becoming very fashionable, perhaps because we've got fed up (no pun intended) with the more spicy, fancy dishes that have become more common today.

Thanks Les for the website regarding the relative values of the £1 today compared to earlier times. Not sure when I'll get time to look at it, but hope to soon. This is the problem with me and computers, I'm of the old school preferring to ask someone for an answer rather than have to take time to find out for myself.

Being 'old fashioned' in the way I think (and sometimes work) was probably apparent when I mentioned yesterday that taking uneaten food home from a restaurant was a sign of poverty. It was in my mother's day and some of that has stayed with me until 'too poor' to worry about the shame.
I remember my mother once asking me to go into the butchers to buy her two rashers of bacon (she lived alone and didn't eat bacon that often). As we were both standing outside the shop I asked why she didn't go and buy them herself "He'd think I was poor only needing that small amount" she replied "and he knows you don't have much money so he won't think it odd if you ask".
Nowadays everyone is considered thrifty and frugal when they buy only the amount they need, maybe requesting the ham-bone once the meat has been carved off. Or the ends and rinds of cheese from a deli counter. Possibly asking for the heads and bones of fish (to make stock). Not forgetting the free chicken carcases from the butcher that I always ask for!!

So, as you say Lisa, being poor and poverty stricken isn't now the same as 'being without funds'. Most of us are without funds during these times and have to struggle to make ends meet each and every day.
The good thing is that the less money we have the more we begin to be self-sufficient (at least hope we do), and this then improves our life-style, not lessens it. Almost everything 'hand-made', 'home-made' costs a fortune if bought over the counter, whereas in my youth generally these were considered 'second-class'. Centuries ago (and even later that that) people made patchwork quilts and rag rugs from old material around the house. Now these would cost a king's ransom to buy the originals, and not a lot less to buy the same made from new material.

If we can keep the old crafts going, then the more likely we are to end up with a home that looks as though it stepped from the pages of 'Country Living', or 'Homes and Antiques'. Who needs money when we have God's own tools - our hands - to provide the necessary.

Thanks to those who wrote saying they like this blog, and also how the comments are helpful. Am very impressed when I read that Angela has been living on wartime rations for 3 months using the food allocated then, plus items from her stores taken on the 'points' system. So obviously we can still manage today using this very small amount, if not comfortably then at least eating enough to keep ourselves alive and healthy. Not sure whether I'd have the strength to keep it up for so long, but as it obviously saves a considerable amount of money compared to the today's 'normal' food budget, then worth having a go now and again.

With B out yesterday and not sure of the time of his return, decided to make him a Prawn Cocktail for his supper. He still had half a Rhubarb Crumble for 'afters' (heat and eat with cream), and suggested he had Chicken Liver Pate on toast for a later snack as I'd taken it from the freezer the day before, and didn't want it to go to waste (I'd already had some). He grumped a bit about the pate as he wanted to eat some ice-cream and jelly instead, but noticed he did end up eating pate on toast.
B is at the RNLI shop this morning, not working with his friend this afternoon, so maybe will thaw out some chicken and B can make himself another stir-fry (or instead I'll make a chicken dish), and tomorrow he works with his upholstery friend again, who said he will be sorting out some offcuts for me (but I'm not sure when).

An absolutely lovely morning, and the weather set fair for this 'Indian summer' for a few more days. Am thinking of going out on Norris this afternoon (if I don't go now, the weather may never be as good again), so will have to get all my chores done this morning. Must be home in time to watch the start of the second series of Downton Abbey, this being especially good as now don't have to wait between series, the last episode of the first series ended yesterday. Makes for better continuity. Once the three series have been shown, then we should see the start of the fourth almost immediately after (this being a new series not shown before).

Am very much enjoying 'The Great British Bake-off', and there have been some wonderful 'bakes' made, several inspiring me to have a go. Next week it will be all about pies.

Today's recipes have nothing to do with cakes OR pies as they are both curry based, easy to make and very economical. Unlike a curry made with chunks of stewing meat, the first takes less time to cook as it is made with minced meat and has the appearance more of a spag.bol. meat sauce than a traditional curry. Once made (but before the peas are added) this can be frozen so worth making in bulk.
Instead of the chillis, garam masala and turmeric we can instead use 1 - 3 tblsp curry paste (to taste) stirring this into the onions when frying. If no coriander, use flat-leaf parsley or fresh mint.
Keema Curry: serves 4
1 large onion, finely chopped or grated
1 clove garlic, crushed
finger length piece of root ginger, grated
2 red or green chillies
3 tblsp oil
12 oz (350g) lamb mince
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
2 tblsp Greek yogurt
salt and pepper
9 oz (250g) frozen peas
handful fresh coriander, chopped
Put the onions in a frying pan with the oil and fry for a few minutes until beginning to soften, then add the garlic and ginger. Fry for a couple more minutes before adding the minced lamb. Keep stirring until the meat has browned all over, making sure to break up any lumps.
Add the spices and fry for 1 minute, then add the tomatoes and heat until simmering, then reduce heat and cook for half an hour. Stir in the yogurt, cook for a further 5 minutes (at this point it can be cooled and frozen). Add the peas and cook for five minutes then stir in the chopped herbs and serve with naan bread, chutney and raita.

This second dish is a great one for using up cooked rice (or use one of those microwave 'pouches'), and also the scraps of chicken taken from a carcase boiled for stock. Slightly more Chinese than Indian, you could fry curry paste with the onions instead of adding the soy sauce (later) if you wish. As it takes only 15 minutes to cook, once everything is prepared (this can be done earlier in the day), a good meal to make when a bit short of time.
Spicy Rice with Chicken: serves 4
1 tblsp sunflower oil
3 rashers streaky bacon, chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
11 oz (300g or 1 'pouch') cooked rice
1 oz (25g) butter
5 oz (150g) frozen peas
6 oz (175g) cooked chicken, shredded
3 tomatoes, finely chopped
2 tblsp soy sauce (see above)
salt and pepper (opt)
Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the bacon. Fry until crisp then remove bacon and set aside, adding the onions to the fat in the pan and fry for a few minutes until softened, stirring the garlic in towards the end. Add the cooked rice (if using a microwave 'pouch' no need to pre-heat), give a stir then add the cooked bacon, butter, frozen peas and the chicken. Heat through, stirring continuously, until everything is piping hot, then stir in the tomatoes, soy sauce and seasoning to taste (but it probably won't need any as soy sauce is salty enough).

That has to be it for today - just in case I do take the afternoon off and go out for a scoot. Must also find time to hunt out more ideas/recipes to help fill our shelves for the winter (as well as making some gifts ready to give at Christmas). With Hallow'een, Bonfire Night coming end of October, early November, even more traditional 'edibles' we could start planning for. Have to say - as a cook (if I dare call myself that) - this is the time of year I enjoy most, much of this due to the ancient instincts that already are stirring in my veins. I can actually FEEL them. Am sure other readers feel the same. Do hope so for then we are all in for a happy few months of culinary (and other home-craft skills) activity.

Enjoy your day, and do hope you find time to send in a comment, and certainly 'drop by' and have your usual 'virtual coffee' with me again tomorrow. See you then.