Monday, October 01, 2012


My computer is playing silly beggers at the moment.  Luckily Steve has set it to be used by three 'usuers', one for B, two for me.  A couple of days ago I started the comp on one of my 'sides' and it came up 'we are now disconnecting the Internet'.  Why it did this I don't know other than B had been using the computer for hours the day previously and might have done something wrong,.  He lost his own Internet connection on 'his side' some months ago, and now I have only the one left of mine that still works.  Hopefully I will be able to follow the instructions on how to get it back working again, but always afraid I'll make things worse.  It's when it asks me questions that I can't answer that flummox me.
Anyway, will still keep blogging while I can but if suddenly the blogs stop you will know what has probably happened.  I'll ask Steve or Eileen to keep you posted.

Hope you all had a good weekend despite the bad weather in various parts of the country. Thanks for comments.  It's a good idea to have a dog cage Jane, as I believe they are less likely to constantly bark when left alone in the house.  Obviously owners don't know the dog barks as it usually hears them returning  well before they reach the house so then stops making a noise, but believe me your neighbours would soon let you know.   We had a Labrador that barked when left alone and our neighbours complained bitterly, so when I had to go on jury duty I put her in kennels to say the 'animosity'.   Yet, years later our neighbours bought 3 West Highland Whites and when these were left alone they all barked constantly for hours, she had put them in the room that was next to our living room - am sure she did it deliberately.

Yes, the price of dog food is excessive.  The kennels where we took our dog was a good one, and when Simba (we named her after her father 'Simon' and her mother 'Amber' - also Simba is the African name for lion and she looked like a little lion cub when tiny) returned home each time she looked really fit and well, coat shining, wet nose etc.  I asked what they fed the dogs on and was told 'tripe'.  Not sure if that is available in butchers but am sure it could be ordered.  Not a lot of people eat it these days, but in Leeds there was a stall in the covered market that sold nothing but tripe, think there were four kinds.

As Sarina says, dogs can usually fill up with what their owners have to eat, and as long as they get some meat, then they should stay healthy.  Before the war dogs were usually fed horse-meat (used now in cans of dog food I understand), or meat 'not fit for human consumption' - usually marked with a splodge of purple paint so the butcher doesn't sell it for human eating.  Maybe butchers can also obtain this meat if requested.  We never know unless we ask.

Sarina also mentioned the usefulness of oats, especially porridge oats.  Myself always buy the largest packs of the cheapest I can find as they are all-round useful both for sweet and savoury dishes.  One of the best ways to make minced beef go further is to use less meat and make up the shortfall with porridge oats as they absorb the meat flavour (especially if a stock cube has been added to the liquid), and after cooking almost impossible to know the oats are there.
Blitzed up oats make good flour, useful for making bread, oatcakes, cookies etc.  There is also a Scottish dessert called (I think) Cranacan made with oats, whisky, raspberries and cream.

We watched the second episode of 'Man Made Home' yesterday evening and I was very impressed with the window assembled from 'home-made' glass.  Also loved the stove made from a big metal safe.  This certainly looked hot enough to boil a kettle of water or cook a casserole placed on the top.
So far the 'obvious' are missing:  fresh water and 'bathroom facilities'.  No doubt these will be dealt with next week.  Catching rain water from the roof should be easy enough, but the rest will probably have to be sited outside, maybe one of those 'self-composting' things.  Interesting to know. 

Am getting very addicted to Downton Abbey, but after yesterday's episode where they went to visit one of their second homes with a view to having to move their (they also have a house in London), and seeing the size of it, wondered why - if they were so desperate for money to keep Downton, they didn't sell their two houses instead of selling Downton.  As they also own most of the village at Downton they could sell a lot of that as well.  But as B says, it's only a story, not real life.  Although knowing someone who lived in a stately home (a castle), also owning the whole village (and having to maintain it), so he nearly had to sell and move out due to massive death duties when his father died, but the family had been there for centuries. In the end a lot of the surrounding farm land was sold and he also began to sell one or two of the larger properties in the village, then began letting TV companies and fashion mags use the castle and grounds (in the same way as Highclere), for film settings.  It's also available for weddings, and open to the public, so now it is just about self-supporting, but it took a lot of hard work and change of life-style to manage it.

This week have ordered a 'season's' veggie box as I don't need very much, and this doesn't include potatoes (I have plenty), and then probably won't need to order for a fortnight as still have quite a bit left from the previous two boxes (potatoes, carrots, onions, sweet potatoes, one pointed cabbage....).  Yesterday decided to use up the half cauliflower (bought weeks ago) and the big bag os spinach (from Riverford).  Normally only eat baby spinach as a salad leaf, and - faced with a huge bag of fresh 'older' spinach - wasn't sure what to do with it.  The leaves were too bitter to eat raw in salads.  
Yesterday decided to wilt the lot down in a saucepan, and had to use a huge pan, but when wilted down the spinach was really only enough for 2 - 3 servings.   As I was making curry for supper, decided to add it to that.  B wanted a Thai chicken curry and I wanted a vegetable Tikka masala Indian curry, so made both, stirring in the chopped cooked spinach at the end.  Ended up really well.

My curry was just Tikka masala curry paste fried with some chopped onions, and then I stirred in some partly cooked cauliflower florets, adding some water then let it cook on until thickened, adding the spinach at the end.   As B was having a 'Chinese Fried Rice' 2 minute microwave rice with his, I used a 'family pack', and removed about one third of rice from the pack, adding it to my curry in the pan and cooked it with the veg.  The remaining rice left in the pack for B to heat up in the microwave.

B's meals was fried onions to which were added chunks of chicken (these were the cut 'fillets' I'd cut from the back of those chicken breasts bought at Barton Grange the other week, then froze separately). When partially cooked, stirred in some Thai Green Curry paste, then added coconut milk and continued cooking until the chicken was ready and the sauce thickened.  Finally stirring in the chopped spinach. 

Having the veggie boxes delivered once or twice every few weeks certainly is making me think harder about what meals to make using the fresh produce, and am now finding that the food in my 'dry goods' larder is virtually untouched these days.  So no need to fear that this dramatic change in the way I shop will reduce my stores to the panic level, somehow it seems to be the reverse.
Even better, once I get my bank statement and see how much has been paid on food last month (I use the card to pay for Tesco, and this last month it has been Donald Russell, and Riverford), am sure I will find I've spent less than I would normally when ordering from Tesco.  How can this be when we are now eating far better quality produce than before?  That's the interesting thing about food, as I'm beginning to find out, it's not so difficult after all to eat better and healthier meals AND spend less.  We just have to get into the way of thinking beyond how we normally shop/cook and try a new approach.

Here is a different way to make fried onion rings.  Normally we would make a batter using eggs and milk, but using water instead not only makes a crisper batter, it also makes a cheaper one.
Battered Onion Rings: serves 4
4 oz (100g) plain flour
1 tblsp cornflour
1 tsp salt
ice-cold water
1 large onion
sunflower oil
Mix the flour, cornflour and salt together in a bowl, then add enough ice-cold water to make a thick batter.  Leave to chill in the fridge for half an hour.
Cut the onion into rings, then separate each slice into 2-layer rings, add these to the batter and stir well to coat.
Half fill a large pan with oil and heat to 180C, or until a cube of bread dropped in turns golden in 30 seconds.  Then fry the battered rings in the hot oil for 1 - 2 minutes until golden.  Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper, then serve whilst still crispy.

You know this thing they say about Marmite: "you either hate it or you love it".  Well, I quite like it, and yesterday tried something different.  Decided to make a slice of toast for my breakfast and was wondering whether to spread it with Marmite, or mashed banana.  For some reason decided to do both and spread the banana on top of the Marmite-on-toast.  Not quite sure why, but this seemed to make the Marmite taste more salty, but this also made the banana taste nicer, and can honestly say this combination is a marriage made in heaven.  Well, at least for me.

Gill once told me she loved egg mayo sarnies where the bread had been spread with a little Marmite, an having tried this can also say 'it works'.   It may also work with peanut butter (on toast), who knows?  From now on I'll be adding Marmite to several more things and see how much I enjoy them. 

Do know that spread on rolled out scraps of leftover pastry, Marmite gives a lovely flavour when making 'cheese straws', and could also be used in a similar way to flavour 'pinwheels'. 
The useful thing about 'pinwheels' is that we can use all sorts of fillings, either savoury or sweet, and one of those delightful recipes where we can end up having a 'good play'.   Here is one recipe to use as a guide, then make up your own 'spread' according to your taste preferences.  Myself ring the changes, often using shortcrust pastry instead of the puff.
Pizza Pinwheels: makes 12
1 x 375g pack ready-rolled puff pastry
6 tblsp tomato pasta sauce
4 oz (100g) wafer thin ham
4 oz (100g) mature Cheddar, grated
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
Roll the pastry out to 40 x 32 cm, then spread a layer of pasta sauce over this, leaving a 1cm border all round.  Lay the ham evenly on top, then sprinkle the cheese over this.
Working from the narrow end, roll up the pastry as tightly as possible (it helps to keep it tightly wrapped by then wrapping in clingfilm). Chill in fridge for 15 minutes (or longer if you wish), then use a sharp knife to cut the 'sausage' into 12 even slices.   Lay these flat side up on 2 non-stick baking trays, brushing the tops of each lightly with the egg and sprinkling each with the herbs.
Bake for 12 - 15 minutes at 200C, 400F, gas 6 until puffed and golden.  Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Final recipe today is one I've probably given before, but as these scones are flavoured with Marmite, then worth giving a reminder today.
Cheese and Marmite Scones: makes 8
5 oz (150g) self raising flour
5 oz (150g) wholewheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 oz (50g) butter, chilled and cut into small cubes
3 oz (75g) mature Cheddar cheese, grated
1 egg
1 tblsp Marmite
2 tsp Greek yogurt
3 tblsp milk
Sift together the flours and the baking powder, adding any coarse brown flour left in the sieve. Rub in the butter until like fine breadcrumbs (this can be done in a food processor), then stir in half the cheese.  Whisk together the egg, Marmite, yogurt and milk, then make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in the 'liquid' mixture, using a knife to bind the lot together to form a soft - but not sticky - dough.  If too dry add a little more milk. If too 'sticky' add a little more flour to the work surface when turning out and knead it in gently.
Roll out to just under 1" (2cm) thick, then - using a scone cutter - cut out four scones, gathering together the trimmings to roll again and repeat until all the dough has been used.
Place scones on a baking sheet, brush tops with milk and scatter the remaining cheese over the tops. Bake for 10 - 12 minutes at 200C, 400F, gas 6 until golden.   Remove to a cake airer to cool.  Best eaten - like all scones - as fresh as possible, but can be refreshed for a few seconds in the microwave.

Have gone slightly over my allotted time for today, but only by five minutes.  It certainly does help to move from the computer into the kitchen as early in the morning as possible, for then I seem to be able to get a lot more done.  Morning has always been the best time for me to 'slave away in the kitchen'.  Maybe I have more energy then than during the afternoon.  Isn't that what happens when we get older, always having long naps after lunch?  I certainly seem to.

As ever, hope you all enjoy your day, and as this is the 1st October seems that we now have to start to gear ourselves up to welcome Hallow'een, Guy Fawkes Night, and then - yippee!! - Christmas.  We could be having a busy few weeks ahead of us.  So had better get on and start clearing the decks for what is yet to come. 
If the computer behaves itself, then will be back again tomorrow.  Hope to see you then.