Friday, September 21, 2012

Vive la Difference!

Had to change my hair appointment to next Wednesday instead of today as have too much to do this morning to waste time sitting under a hairdryer, as later this afternoon will be taken up with watching the English cooks competing in the US cup-cake challenge, followed immediately after by another episode with Gordon Ramsay. 

Having great fun at the moment each day working out what to do with 'what's left from the veggie box', so yesterday - after reading a very good book (sold at reduced price from Barton Grange, but have seen this - also reduced - in other garden centres) - "The Garden to Kitchen Expert"  by Judith Wills and Dr. D.G. Hessayon.    This lists most of the vegetables we (in the UK) can grow in our garden and/or allotment veggie plots, with details on how to store etc, plus plenty of recipes. 

Found a very useful recipe yesterday that used up the last of the previous week's sweetcorn, and the last leek, plus using some of the organic spuds and to this added a couple of 'ribs' of non-organic celery that I'd already got.  Might as well give the recipe (I used half quantities and used more of some veg and less of others according to what I had) and although I found it a bit bland, when I suggested to B that it needed a bit of salt to bring out the flavours, and he added a grind of rock salt, he said it was absolutely gorgeous (wish I'd done that myself).  Just shows what a difference a bit of salt can make.
As I had no fish stock, instead half poached the fish in a little water and used the liquid as the 'stock', then finished the fish in the milk to add flavour to that as well.

Instead of sticking to just smoked haddock, I used one fillet of this, one of white fish, and a little chunk of salmon.  The same mixture of fish I use when making a fish risotto.  Myself had a bowlful of mainly the liquid (there was quite a lot of that) with a little of the fish and plenty of the veg.  B's portion was much more 'chunky' and possibly why it had a bit more (fish) flavour.

Smoked Haddock and Leek Chowder: serves 4
1lb (450g) smoked haddock fillet
17 fl.oz (500ml) milk
1 bay leaf
black pepper
4 oz (100g) streaky bacon
1 tblsp olive oil
3 medium leeks, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 potatoes, diced
4 oz (100g) sweetcorn kernels
17 fl.oz (500ml) fish stock
4 fl oz (100ml) cream
2 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
Simmer the fish with the milk, bay leaf and pepper for approx 4 minutes - it needs to be just barely cooked.  Remove fish (reserving liquid) and peel away any skin (discard this) and coarsely flake the fish.
Put the oil in a large frying pan (or saucepan) over medium heat and add the bacon. Fry until starting to brown/crisp, then add the leeks, celery, potato  and corn.  Give a stir then leave to cook for a couple of minutes before adding the stock and the reserved milk. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.  If you wish for less liquid in the 'chowder' then raise the heat slightly so that more evaporates during the cooking time.
Add the flaked fish and cream, simmer for a further couple of minutes, then serve sprinkled with the parsley.

Watching Food Network yesterday noticed again how (some) French cookery terms are pronounced correctly by the US cooks, whilst we here say some of them correctly and some as spelled.  Fillet of fish (or beef) for example, (French/US - say 'fill-ay', we in the UK say 'fill-it' - we really ought to get it right), and now that I've been watching this channel for several weeks (and am hooked on it), realise also that there are a lot of dishes and foods that are regularly cooked on most of the 'serious' cookery spots, and these do seem 'favourites' in the US, such as  'Mac 'n Cheese' (UK macaroni cheese) seems a dish the US folk love to eat, also 'meatloaf' (we hardly ever make that here, don't know why).  'Shrimp' (called 'prawns' in the UK) also very, VERY popular, but over here shellfish is not so often eaten (a bit expensive),  although perhaps prawns more than the others, many Brits have a dislike of eating 'shellfish' in any form due to being informed that certainly the molluscs 'diet' is often the sewage that pours out around the coast. 
In fact doubt that many of us have moved beyond our North Sea cod and haddock. Salmon (once expensive and still is if 'wild', is now - when farmed - one of the cheapest of fish. Kippers/herring used to be eaten more in the past than perhaps today, and mackerel is becoming more popular.  Do remember my mother liking flat fish (turbot, hake, plaice, sole), but these today are - like most fish - becoming more and more expensive and the more unusual - such as red snapper, sardines, and monkfish et al, becoming more familiar on the fishmongers slabs,  but not always bought by us older folk. Compared to the vast variety of fish seen used in the US progs we don't have nearly as much choice. 
Yesterday - in the Fast Food, Fresh prog saw a 'hog snapper', this had a very strange 'face', this alone would put me off buying it (mind you, monkfish is even more ugly but usually we don't buy it with the face on) but the 'hog' did have plenty of meat on its body.

Probably there are a lot more varieties of fish on sale here in the UK, but as I don't 'frequent' the fish shops or counters in the supermarkets, tend to stay with what I know and love, and these usually frozen - other than fresh salmon which we buy as a whole (but filleted for us) fish from the Smokehouse in Glasson (for a very good price).  This I then portion into steaks immediately after returning home, wrapping each tightly in foil to remove as much air as possible, then freeze them.

Thanks for your recipe for Ranch Dressing Lisa. Coincidentally Sunny Anderson made her own version of this in one of yesterday's Food Network progs.  Similar to yours but she used less herbs and added a dash of pepper sauce.  Suppose it is one of those 'dressing's where the 'base mixture' (mayo and sour cream) can have different flavourings to the cook's choice.

We do see Chocolate 'Swiss Rolls' on sale in the supermarkets, usually filled with a type of cream, but normally the basic 'Swiss Roll' in our recipe books is a fatless plain sponge 'slab', then spread with jam (or lemon curd) and rolled up.
You are right Lisa in that 'M.R.L' (as I think of him) is Emeril Legasse, and good to know that he resembles your OH, for now I can visualise him.  He look very 'huggable'.  Who do you resemble?

What massive turkeys you seem to breed over in the US.  Possibly need to be that large as I understand Thanksgiving is normally a time when as many members of the family gather together in one home.  Here at Christmas we try to do the same, and 'in my prime' did have around 16 of our family (our children, our grandchildren, and my mother and B's sister etc, plus B and myself) come to stay at Christmas for a couple or so days (at least those that didn't live in Leeds). Yet doubt the turkey was more than about 12 lb (can't now remember). 

Because there was so much food to be cooked on that day, used to cook the turkey a day or so before, then slice and keep it in the fridge (or freezer) in some of its 'gravy' (to keep it moist), and then reheat on the Day.  This left my oven free to roast potatoes, cook the sausages and bacon rolls, the stuffing balls etc...  The hob was cooking more potatoes (to be mashed), the Brussels sprouts, carrots, and bread sauce had to be made, also gravy.  Christmas Pudding would also be steaming over one of the gas burners (like for several hours). Am sure other things too but have now forgotten, my mind taken over by the D.R. meat that has this very minute been delivered (safe enough to be left in its chilled box for a while).

Just got time to say that Gordon Ramsay's prog yesterday was another good one, and last night 'sort of' enjoyed 'Wartime Farm' although hearing the air-raid sirens at the beginning really made the hairs stand up on my neck.  Took me right back to when we lived in Coventry.   Also seeing 'how it was then' reminded me how much this way of life was taken for granted (by me) as being so young (well six when the war began, but life was a bit frugal before), and must have felt much worse for the adults who had grown up used to a much more 'luxurious' life.
No wonder when rationing ended (early 1950's) and the new 'convenience' foods appeared on the grocer's shelves, plus the more 'unusual' fresh foods that were now able to be imported were treated with great delight by the cooks, and everyone went mad making and eating foods that had never graced their table for almost a generation.   Unfortunately this 'habit' was difficult to break, hence the problem we have today when 'convenience foods' now almost rule our lives.  Well, some of us at least (but I'm not one of them although admit to using a casserole mix and a jar of curry sauce now and again).

Everything in 'those days' - at least household furnishings etc - use to always be 'brownish' (as seen in the above series).  Often films showing bits of our past seem to be sepia coloured, and perhaps deliberately made this way to look 'authentic'   Internal walls were covered with fawn patterned wallpaper, skirtings, door and even the floorboards around carpets (no fitted carpets in those days), always painted/stained dark brown, and don't remember any bright colours around the house other than the lovely red glow from the coals in the fireplace.  Maybe the smoke/soot didn't show up so much when everything was already brown.   Cigarette smoke also discoloured any paint that was white, turning it to a deep cream within a couple of weeks.  So no wonder rooms looked drab. Certainly in those days rooms really did need 'spring-cleaning' and I used to love the summer when my mother would fill vase full of lilac, sweet peas, roses etc, as these brought colour into the rooms and also perfumed them far better than our 'room fresheners' do today.  But in those days most of these flowers were heavily scented, and sadly - like many veg - today the scent (or flavour) has been bred out in favour of a more perfect bloom/shape.

Forgive me if I leave you now as have to sort out the meat delivery, bake a white loaf for B (who tells me he prefers white to brown bread - but I prefer brown to white so we both end up satisfied), and sort out what to make for supper tonight.  Probably something with roasted veg as can include the kohl rabi, the peppers, onion and sweet potato that were delivered this week.  Can also add some chunks of butternut squash (that I've had for several months and still OK), and probably parsnip and add a red onion.  Must then find some meat to go with that.  Myself will be happy with just roast veg and maybe a fried or poached egg on top.

Can't believe it is Friday (AGAIN!), and although the weather has not been good (rain over most of the country I believe) tomorrow is supposed to be set fair before it again goes back to 'normal' (wet and windy) on Sunday.  Definitely MUST go out for a scoot tomorrow, and see if I can get some free chicken carcases from the butcher (if not, he'll save some for me the following week).  Chicken stock is a MUST (kept in the freezer), and as I use it frequently, always need to keep making up a new batch.

Hope you enjoy your weekend, and apologies if I've missed replying to a comment, the meat delivery arriving so early has thrown me off balance. Should be back to normal again tomorrow so hope to see you then.