Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Still on Track

Bit late starting my 'chat' this morning as had a few things to do before I sat down to tap the keyboard.   Then several emails (other than comments) to read (and reply to), one from the 'catering committee' at the sailing club letting me know numbers will now be 40 not 50.  Suppose that is a good thing as it means 100 less canapes to make (and a few less desserts). 

Got on well yesterday - up to a point.  Decided to make the Macaroons today and also the bread (my list of 'things to do today' now already written up ready for me to start as soon as I've finished 'chatting').

Decided yesterday afternoon to make some blinis, but as I hadn't any buckwheat flour needed to find a recipe that used ordinary flour and not many of those, but I did find one although it did seem a bit complicated and would take quite a time to prepare.  After reading the chosen recipe decided that as it used bread flour and yeast (bubbling up the yeast/liquid from scratch before adding to the flour), decided there was no (theoretical) reason why I couldn't take a short cut and use packet bread mix instead, so this I did.  I weighed out the required amount of mix, omitting the yeast from the recipe, and then went on from there.  Forgot to add melted butter to the end batter before frying, but it didn't seem to matter as they seemed perfect.   Blinis are like drop scones (aka Scotch pancakes), but in my case made mini ones.   After I'd used half the batter, added some dried herb 'salad shake' to the rest which gave the blinis more flavour.

Here is my version of a blini recipe:
Shirley's Blinis:  makes 50 mini-blinis
125g white bread mix that has yeast included
pinch each salt and sugar
60 ml hand-hot water
120 ml hand-hot milk
2 eggs, separated
1 oz (25g) melted butter (opt)
Put bread mix, flour, salt and sugar into a bowl.  Put the warm water and milk into a jug and beat in the egg yolks.  Pour this into the flour mixture with the butter (if using) and beat together until smooth.  Cover and leave to stand in a warm place for 45mins to 1 hour to allow it rise  (it may not double in bulk but should become 'frothy'.   Beat the egg whites to soft peaks, then carefully fold them into the blini batter.

Have ready a pre-heated large heavy frying pan (dry heat), then add a very little oil to grease the base.  Drop teaspoons of the mixture onto the base of the pan (you should be able to make five or six in each batch), cook until the top looks dry and shows bubbles, then flip over and cook the reverse side for about 20 seconds.  Remove and place on kitchen paper laid on a cake airer, and overlap each, adding more as you make each batch.  Then cover with kitchen paper and leave to cool before packing away.

Watched Jamie Oliver's new series "15 minute meals" yesterday, but although useful for those strapped for time, found the meals could turn out a bit expensive as he was using some ready-prepared ingredients, and no doubt will be using others in later programmes.  As he says - to get the meals on the table in this short time it is necessary to multi-task.  As far as I know, he seems to be the only man that IS able to multi-task at the speed needed.  However, we girls have the genes (as well as the experience) of being able to multi-task at almost Olympic level.

Mentioning 'genes', there was a remarkable programme about the workings of a human cell on TV the other evening.  It showed how each cell has its own job to do, and how it gets on with it.  Admittedly the 'workings' looked a bit like cartoon characters sometimes stomping their way along their set routes, but it made me realise that our bodies are more like a complex community of 'workers' than just one entity.  There is so much 'organisation' to make it all work perfectly, a bit like a clock but a million times more complex, that I find it hard to understand this is just 'evolution' and 'trial and error' that got us to where we are now.  There has to be some intelligence behind all this.

I did a very silly thing yesterday.  Realising it could take me several minutes to fry the blinis (as there were so many, but in fact it didn't take that much time in the end), and having a few aches and pains, decided to sit at the hob to work, but the ordinary chair was too low, so went and got a wooden stool from the conservatory that was a few inches higher.  Once in place it was perfect,  only I made the mistake of leaning back to reach something and the stool overbalanced and I toppled over to the floor!!
Luckily I was in a fairly 'compact' section of the kitchen, so I fell over towards the table, landing ona an knocking over a few things as I collapsed, and fortunately the floor was carpeted, so it didn't hurt my knees as much as it might have done (fortunately I twisted myself when falling so I ended up face down, and onto my knees).  Unfortunately I twisted my back a bit when I fell and am feeling the ache of this today, but not THAT bad. 

I couldn't get up at the time, mainly because my knees hurt to stand my weight on them as I pushed myself up, so had to call B in to give me a hand.  Also I was very shaken, but after a few minutes managed to get up unaided (as long as B put his weight on a chair so it didn't fall over as I pushed myself up using it as a 'half-way' house.
Just shows how things can happen when we don't take enough care.

B has gone out early this morning to the club, think either a newspaper reporter or radio presenter had gone there to do an interview. Not sure about what, but B didn't want to miss getting in on the act.

Good idea Les, for B to take a photo of the display of canapes when laid out at the club house.  Am hoping to take some myself when packed up in the individual boxes.  That's what I'm hoping to remember to do.  I should have taken a photo of the blinis once made (but with the shock of the fall - I was about to fry the blinis when it happened, luckily no fat had yet been put into the pan - I forgot to take the pics.).

It was interesting what you said about Quorn not having much flavour Jane.  Have found this myself and one of the reasons I don't (normally) buy it as it seems to work out just as expensive as the 'real thing'.  If Quorn is preferred but the person eating it isn't vegetarian, then flavour can be added by using concentrated meat stock/gravy that might have been saved after previously cooking a roast (or slow-cooking less tender meat).  I often add good beef stock to the pan instead of water when making up a Mexican (chilli con carne) or Spag. bol 'Beanfeast' (the main ingredient in this being TVP to take the place of minced meat).  Believe it or not, this usually ends up looking like AND tasting like the 'real thing', purely because I've added the 'essential' flavour.

Yes, do like watching the Food Network (well some of it),  even enjoying Nigella (which is saying something).  Sunny Anderson does some good cooking, but yesterday she got on my nerves with her never-endless chatter.  How she manages to find time to take a breath I don't know.  Some times she says less, and then her cooking is far easily understood.

My daughter loves cooking as much as I do, but her preference is more to do with cakes.   She makes far better cakes than I do, and I still can't work out how or why.  I do exactly what she does and hers always are lighter than mine.
We used to work together (often with my friend Gill) as 'free-lance' caterers and got some really good commissions, even for weddings.  To get round the problem of having to have special kitchens to use for cooking, we used to use the customers own kitchens to prepare and cook the food,  in other words we were just 'employed' as chefs.  They paid for the food and for our labour.  Easy as that.

Many years ago I used to really hate eating mushrooms.  Think it was because my mother cooked them until they were 'soggy' (to me they then seemed slimy).  Now I just love mushrooms, often eating the small ones raw.  So can understand how you dislike turnips Lisa, but am sure there are a few recipes that you might like to try.  Here are a few suggestions.

The young 'early-season' turnips can be eaten raw. Grate or thinly slice and use in salads, coleslaw, or cheese sandwiches.

fried turnip: slice and parboil for 3 minutes, then drain, pat dry and fry in shallow oil over medium-high heat until tender, 3 - 4 minutes either side.  Drain on kitchen paper and add seasoning to taste.

roast turnip: parboil for 3 minutes (if small and whole) or 5 minutes (maincrop, cut into chinks). Drain and toss with oil and seasoning, then place in a roasting tin and roast at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 40 minutes, turning once, or until golden and tender.

Here is a recipe that really works due to the combination of flavours, and a good way to use turnips if you normally don't care for them.  Serve with baked gammon (ham), or roast lamb.  A similar mash without the celeriac, that included chives, is the traditional Scottish dish: 'Clapshot'.
Turnip, Potato and Celeriac Mash: serves 4
2 turnips (approx 14oz/400g)
1 small to medium celeriac
2 potatoes
7 fl oz (200ml) milk
1 bay leaf
boiling water
1 oz (25g) butter
salt and pepper
Remove peel from the veggies (as thinly as possible) then cut the flesh into fairly small cubes.  Put into a pan with the milk and bay leaf, then add enough boiling water to just cover the veggies (do not add more). Add a pinch of salt then simmer for 20 minutes or until everything is tender.
Using a slotted spoon, rremove the veggies from the pan and place in a bowl, reserving the cooking liquid (or pour the lot into a colander placed over a bowl to catch the liquid).  Remove bay leaf.
Add butter and seasoning to taste, plus two tablespoons of the cooking liquid to the cooked veggies and mash thoroughly together, adding more cooking liquid as necessary.
Serve hot with cooked ham, roast pork, roast lamb etc.

That's it for today.  Am now off into the kitchen to bake bread and plan the timings for the rest from my list. 
Yesterday asked B to bring himself one 'ready-meal' from the supermarket so he could quickly reheat this in the microwave (he was going out anyway).  Thought that would ease the load from my shoulders, esp as still shaky from my fall.
So what did he do!  Bring in two Pukka pies and two microwave meals.  One Pukka pie would have been fine, but the other three meals had to be kept chilled in the fridge and so I then had to move stuff around to find room for them.   B seems to think the fridge has endless capacity.  He is the same with the freezer.  He sees a gap (even a small gap that I've deliberately made room for something I was about to cook then freeze), and dashes out to bring back a big box of ice-cream. Well saw there was room for it" he always says "and you know I like ice-cream".
Think I'll have to write up cards with words such as 'keep this space clear', 'do not use', 'do not move', 'do not touch', 'do not eat', and  'this is Shirley's',  and place them where necessary.

Absolutely MUST love you and leave you for today.  More from 'canape corner' tomorrow.  See you then.