Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Look, Listen, and Learn

Three interesting TV programmes yesterday, the first being Gordon Ramsay demonstrating 'budget cookery'.  Although not normally liking the man, do find this latest series inspiring.   Doubt there is any need to buy his cookery book if his series is recorded and recipes then copied into a personal recipe book, but that is me being frugal.  Many of the recipes for the dishes shown can also be seen on the Channel 4 website (forward slash Gordon).
Also was pleased to see the bit about eating the freshest of vegetables, and also the explanation about what type of potato to use (although did know that that anyway, but every bit of info of this type helps).

In the evening two more watchable progs regarding food, the first dealing with Poundland and the products it sells as 'below supermarket prices'.  That was very enlightening as it was proved that many of the packs have been deliberately made to look the same size but contain less by weight (or amount) for Poundland to sell, and buying the larger weights/amounts from the top supermarkets would give better value.

There are so many different ways that stores and manufacturers can disguise the product so that we think we are getting more for our money when in fact it could be the opposite. 
We shouldn't need to have to continually check prices in every store and although there are websites that will do this for us, this still means we have to take time to check each and every item (I can't be bothered) rather than just shop at any store knowing there will be no difference in the price between the chosen products (as they used to be in the days before supermarkets). The only 'bargains' then were the dented tins and broken packs that stores would sell more cheaply.

Following the above programme was one about 'food wrapping', this one mainly about the wax on lemons.  The more I hear about what is done to keep food fresher for longer, the more I am glad I've now changed to buying extremely fresh food harvested within hours from the field and greenhouse.  It may cost me more but as I'm aiming to prove it could end up costing less if it means me cutting out supermarket shopping almost altogether (except for buying milk etc), then it show an eventual saving for however much I try to keep within budget when shopping at Tesco (and always do), still end up buying far more than I need 'just to keep in store for that rainy day'.
So - for a while - am going back to living like my mother did, and do without all the imported and make good, wholesome meals from local produce.  Today we do have the advantage of knowing a lot more about the best way to cook our veg as in the old days they were boiled to within an inch of their life, now they are served almost 'al dente' and all the better for it.

Not sure I quite agree with all you say Les about 'the old ways' do not mean they are the best way   It is a matter of how we look at it.  Does a 'slow-cooker' (or, heaven help us the sous-vide) do a better job (flavourwise) than cooking the same thing in a hay-box?  The problem with technology it does have a way of suggesting 'this is the way to go', when all it does is save time and also costs us money.

Heston B. insists that when frying a steak it should be turned every 15 seconds, many times until it is cooked to the way we like (either rare, medium rare, or well-done....).  Gordon Ramsay says the steak should be put into a hot pan and turned once only during the cooking time.  So who IS correct?
Actually I've tried both methods and there seems no difference in the end result, and certainly find the 15 second approach gives me no time to leave the hob an have to continually clockwatch (or count down) to make sure the time has not been exceeded.  Cooking steak the 'Gordon' way means I do have time to lay the table whilst one side is cooking, or drain the spuds, microwave the peas etc.

Useful comment Catriona as it shows that there are many different ways of cooking, and the Remoska is certainly far more useful than a mini-oven as it can do so much more.  Am surprised that Les hasn't yet mentioned his (or maybe he hasn[t yet got on), as this is one of the 'better ways' to cook many foods.  I'd really love to own a Remoska but unfortunately cannot really afford to buy one, in any case firmly believe that cooking the 'old way' in a conventional oven can do the job just as well - at least for me as I'm not that bothered in doing everything the way it should be done, just as long as the end result is enjoyed.

The problem with a 'cheffy' approach to cooking is that they leave us mere mortals feeling very inferior, and if we cannot afford to own the appliances they rely on, then we cannot produce a good meal.  The rise in popularity with the sous-vide, the gadgets that produce 'foam', or tiny gelatinous 'bubbles', all advertised as a 'must have', and now we see appliances that can do just about everything from grating to heating to pureeing to cooking, all in one pot with just a throw of a switch.  Once we begin to let machines do practically all the work for us, then it becomes less a labour of love (well, certainly less labour), and more like working on a factory floor. 

Perhaps I view cooking the wrong way, and certainly feel that men tackle it differently, for anything mechanical is right up their street, they can understand it, they find pleasure in using it.  We womenfolk are happy to have some of the labour taken away (I really prefer to use an electric (hand) beater rather than whisk by hand with a balloon whisk) and the food processor certainly saves time when chopping or grating (although more often than not use my mum's old grater to grate, and chop by hand),  After that it is 'hand's on' adding the love and care that machines still cannot compete with.

Les's words have reminded me that I am a bit stuck in my ways, and not everything I do is correct, but then I don't think it matters for - as I have said - as long as the end result is satisfactory, why strive to improve?  It is true that I DO this, especially when baking (my daughter makes much lighter cakes than me and I can never find out why as I make mine using the same method/utensils/ingredients as she does) and I'm still trying to perfect my scones, although everyone at the sailing club raves about the ones I send them, so no real need to improve.
But then knowing there is always a better way is beginning to make me feel that I'm a worse cook than I could be.  So perhaps Les is right.  Hope regular readers will share their views on this. 

Yesterday make that 'cheat's Beef Wellington for Beloved's supper. Made a few subtle changes to the recipe as I used pre-cooked mince that I heated up in the pan after frying an onion, and instead of ketchup added a dash of HP sauce and a teaspoon of 'Bisto Best' gravy granules (as together these give a much more 'meaty' flavour to the mince).
Although using only 8 oz (225g) of cooked mince, once made up into the 'sausage' this was enough for two portions, so had my share just as 'meat' without the mushroom 'duxelles' and the puff-pastry wrapping.

Possibly because of the pastry, this made the 'Wellington' look a good size and after B had his supper he said there was enough for two - yet without the pastry and the mince cooked with a potato topping as 'Cottage Pie' he would have considered it just enough for one.
So - a good way to make a small amount of mince go further is to bake it in a puff pastry crust, and make that one portion serve two (or two portions serve four!).

I asked B what veggies he wanted with the Wellington, and he said potatoes and green (string) beans.  I queried the spuds as he was having carbos with the pastry, and he said he would like potatoes and "just cook me six small ones" (which I did).  The (frozen) green beans I put in a steamer over the spuds that were boiling beneath, but they were done too soon, so removed them, put B's big dinner plate on top of the spud pan to warm up, placed the beans on top of that with the saucepan lid over.  This kept them hot without cooking them too much more (lengthy cooking and they lose their colour).
B had also requested gravy, so made a cheat's version by blending in a spoon of Bisto Best beef gravy granules with some hot water then microwaved to boiling, then standing the jug in a pan of hot water to keep it hot until the Wellington was ready.

Normally have already worked out the timings so that all the ingredients are cooked so they end up ready at the same time, yesterday B wanted his supper at 5.15, so had to make sure the Wellington was cooked by then, but had to put the veggies on earlier, hence the juggling around with the beans.  But it all ended up as it should. Perhaps not the best way, not the right way, but all was as good as it should be.

Today I get my second veggie box delivered, most of last weeks has now been eaten, but this is a larger box that I'm planning to last us at least two weeks, so won't need to order next week.
Have already managed to reduce some of my regular (no-food) purchases, and having my hair done once a fortnight instead of once a week (occasionally) should find that this money 'save', will be much the same amount that the veggie boxes will be costing me.  So you could say the veggie boxes will be almost 'free' (well, at least make no difference to my monthy budgeting and that's all that matters).  Just shows that by robbing Peter to pay Paul can work.  Although am feeling a bit guilty that 'Peter' could be Norma the Hair.

Tonight I believe it is 'The Great British Bake-off' but unfortunately there is a footie match on at the same time.  On the good side the 'Bake-off' should be repeated next weekend so can watch it then.  Yes, I know I can see the repeat on iPlayer, but somehow I don't find watching any repeats (or even cookery videos) on the computer as enjoyable as watching these on the TV screen.  Don't know why, must be another of my foibles.

D'you know, I've got this 'best way to do things' sitting on my shoulder like a black bear (or whatever the expression is) I cannot throw it off.
There are so many things I do that are NOT the best way, and I know this, yet deliberately done the 'wrong' way because it suits me best. And suppose when push comes to shove, why bother to change, especially when 'best' does not give the same pleasure as 'not quite the right thing to do'.   Or is that just another of my excuses?

B has left for his temporary part-time job, so now must removed myself from my desk to make sure I'm free to take in the veggie box when it arrives (as have a few questions I wish to ask the delivery man).

Forgot to mention that Sunday sailing had a couple of disasters.  The day began well enough with a couple of races having no particular problems, the suddenly the wind began to increase and very rapidly, with 'white horses' appearing in the Bay, several boats capsized, one broke his main mast, and the safety boats went to help get them back up, and also bring back the sailors when the boats couldn't be righted.  These boats were then towed to shore, or should have been, but the wind was fast blowing them towards the Irish Sea and the RNLI lifeboat was called to 'capture' them as the club's safety boat couldn't reach them.  Unfortunately the towing rope came adrift, and two boats ended up being blown out to sea, but thankfully with no-one left on board.  What will happen to them I don't know, maybe they'll end up blown onto the shores of Ireland (or America!). 

Today began wet and windy, but now the skies have cleared a bit and the sun keeps peeping out between the few fluffy clouds.  How long this will last I don't know, but need the sun to shine this afternoon or the laundry on the airer won't dry. 
Now the weather is getting colder, the kitchen gets steamy when boiling veggies etc (even though we do have an extractor fan over the hob), and as we have a moist climate anyway in the North West,  have sometimes found that what was nearly dry washing, the next morning it seems even damper than the night before.  Perhaps I should place the airer in another room, but none get the sun with such ferocity and warm as does the conservatory, the only problem being is that this is at the end of our kitchen with no doors to keep one apart from t'other.

Hope you will be able to join me again tomorrow, if not see you soon!
(spellcheck has failed, so apologies for any errors it would have picked up).