Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Thinking on my Feet

Up early enough to write/publish before Norma arrives.  Even though it is 15 minutes short of 7am BST it is still dark outside, and raining by the sound of it.  So what's new?

Still continuing to think of ways to lighten the 'making canapes' load on 'the day',  and also the problem of keeping them separate and not sliding around the platters when B loads and drives off wth them, thought I ought to make some cardboard dividers to place between each canape, THEN - seeing the empty cardboard roll (once holding kitchen paper) still on its stand, took that off and thought I could be cut into rings to lay on a piece of clingfilm, wrapping the film up each side and tucking it over and into the circle, then popping a ring over each canape.  The clingfilm (not top side up) will protect the tops of the canapes from the air as well.  When the platters are filled (to my satisfaction) they can be covered with more clingfilm, these wrappings removed only when ready to place on the tables at the last minute.
As I've saved several of the cardboard tubes from inside loo rolls (usually use these to make crackers), these can also be cut up for protective 'covers'.

Another thing that occurred to me whilst walking around the kitchen, was - when my eyes lighted on the stack of foil party platters on the conservatory table, was that it would probably be a good idea to write on a piece of paper what would be going on each platter, then place all the bases ready on each (different breads, pastry cases according to fillings) and place a sheet of parchment or cling film over for protection, then just take a platter at a time and then put the toppings on, finishing with the garnish.  That way half the preparation is done (even more prep really as the previous day I'll have made the pates, the various spreads 'to go under', and also prepared a lot of the garnishes.
As said yesterday, it's all looking too easy.  Will the above work to my advantage?  Let's hope so.

Was so pleased yesterday evening when the football was a wash out as then I could watch the final of Great British Bake-off.  Expected the older man to win, as he had been more consistent throughout, but think the judges (probably) got it right. The runner-up (they don't call them losers these days), really did make mess of what I call 'bridge fancies', the the final cake didn't look nearly as 'professional' as the winners.

Enjoyed the last episode of 'Man Made Home' the other evening.  What a wonderful 'shed' he had made for himself out of what was either to hand or destined for the tip.  Even made a hot tub.  The only thing that didn't seem to have been mentioned was the source of the water  used.  Ok, it had been raining for weeks and no doubt much could have been collected in water butts as it rain off the roof, but what about drinking water?  B said there was perhaps a spring.  Personally doubt that as the land around was pretty flat, but maybe there was a river running through the wood and I missed that bit.

Another interesting programme has been Ian Hislop's series on the British character.  Stiff upper lip and all that.  Also how we can laugh in the face of adversity etc.  It is true - at least the last century - we did seem to shoulder hardships with a cheerfulness that doesn't seem around today. 
Maybe much of this 'Britishness' could be regional, for when we moved from the Midlands to Yorkshire, there was a vast difference in the character of the people.  In the Midlands, people seemed more 'smiley' and had 'positive thinking'.  Yorkshire folk were far more dour.   You could say to them 'good weather today' as you began to chat, and they would come back with a grunt and reply 'only for now, it'll probably rain later'.  'A miserable lot' I thought at the time, but later grew to love the 'Yorkshire way'. 

Time moves on (although only just past 7.00am), so will now reply to comments...
Have not yet made any sausages Les, although may make some venison sausages next week if I can't buy them ready-made.
Thanks for reminding us about Jamie Oliver's new series.  I knew it was coming, but didn't realise this week so missed the first one.

Sorry to hear that you didn't get that job Kathryn, but please don't let that get you down.  It often happens that after an interview like that, an applicants details will be kept on record and contacted if here is another position vacant at that school.  It saves the school from going through the process of advertising and interviewing all over again.  So just sit tight and you never know.
However, good to hear you have extra work at the livery/competition yard.  That could well lead to something.  Life has a way of giving you what you want when you least expect it. 

As Eileen said, you are very skilled in many crafts, and as you already hold a teaching degree, then you would be able to teach at night school (or adult day education classes), and with the country now in deep financial recession, these skills will be needed.  Having taught at night school myself (one night a week) when a degree wasn't needed, just 'experience', can say the pay is very good indeed. 

Was pleased to find out that bagels are nicer heated than when eaten cold.  Will have to try that with the sesame-seed coated ones.

Do agree with you Alison, once we tasted Riverford carrots we now don't wish to go back to buying/eating those from the supermarket.  Not only do the organic carrots taste have so much flavour, they also take far less time to cook to tender.

Am going to suggest we have a Chinese take-away tonight as I feel like treating myself to eating a meal cooked for me, not by me.    Yesterday took the easy road anyway, letting B fry himself a steak that had been thawed - this he ate with salad.  Still had to make supper for myself ( thawed and reheated home-make chilli con carne), but having someone else make a meal for me is absolute bliss.  It has to be said that when faced with a work-load such as those canapes/desserts I don't really feel like cooking anything much during the run-up.  Probably because I can't concentrate on anything much other than 'you know what'.   Will be very glad when it's over, although am really looking forward to doing it - once I make a start.  It's the waiting that I am finding frustrating.

Still time left to give a couple or so recipes, and today am beginning with a vegetarian 'burger'.  We need now to think more about using these cheaper ingredients, and less about serving meat so often.
Mushroom and Chickpea Burgers: serves 4
1 tblsp sunflower or olive oil
9 oz (250g) mushrooms, pref chestnut, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 bunch spring onions (or 1 shallot), finely chopped
1 tblsp curry powder (or to taste)
grated zest and juice of half a lemon
1 x 400g chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3 oz (75g) breadcrumbs, pref wholemeal
6 tblsp Greek yogurt
pinch ground cumin
2 English muffins or rolls/baps, halved and toasted
Heat just 1 teaspoon of the oil in a frying pan and cook the mushrooms, garlic, and onions for five minutes.  Stir in the curry powder, lemon zest and juice and cook for a further 2 minutes, or until any liquid from the mushrooms/onions has evaporated.  The mixture needs to look quite dry.  Tip out onto a flat plate and leave to cool slightly.
Meanwhile, put the chickpeas in a bowl and mash with a fork (or potato masher) until 'squashed' down but still a bit 'chunky'.  Fold in the cooled mushroom mix and the breadcrumbs, then form into 4 patties/burgers.
Put the remaining oil in the wiped-clean frying pan and when hot, fry the 'burgers' for 3 - 4 minutes on each side until crisp and browned.
Mix the yogurt with the cumin, then place a half (toasted) muffin/bap on a plate, spread with the spiced yogurt and place a burger on top.  If you wish you could top this with slice tomato and either watercress or rocket leaves.

Chickpeas are quite a favourite of mine, as well as using them to make hummus, I add them to soups and casseroles, often in place of canned beans.  Here is a way to use chickpeas as 'nibbles.
Spicy Chickpeas: serves 4
1 x 400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 tsp sunflower oil
1 tblsp chilli powder
(sea salt when serving)
Put the first three ingredients into a bowl and mix well so that all the chickpeas are coated with the oil and chilli powder, then spread the chickpeas on a baking sheet and cook at 220C, 425F, gas 7 for 25 mins.  Then remove from oven and leave to cool on the tray.  Sprinkle with sea salt before serving.

Here is another 'chickpea nibble' that uses a few more ingredients than the recipe above, but if you've any left of the above, you could add it to the 'mix' below.  The suggestion is we buy a pack of ready-popped popcorn, but myself would 'pop' this from scratch (in a saucepan on the hob) as this works out VERY MUCH CHEAPER.
Bombay Popcorn: serves 4
1 x 400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 tsp sunflower oil
salt and pepper
2 oz (50g) butter, melted
2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp curry powder
1 x 70g bag salted popcorn (see above)
3 oz (75g) salted peanuts
4 oz (100g) sultanas
Mix the chickpeas with the oil and spread onto a baking tray.  Cook for 25 minutes at 200C, 400F, gas 6. Meanwhile mix the melted butter with the garam masala and curry powder and keep warm..
Put the popcorn, peanuts and sultanas into a bowl, add the baked chickpeas and pour the spiced and melted butter over, stirring well so everything is coated with the butter.  Leave to cool, then serve.

Final recipe today is one I'll be making to give those 'Trick or Treaters' at Hallow'een.  Another way to make that home-made popcorn turn into something a bit more special.
Popcorn Brittle: serves 8
7 oz (200g) white chocolate
7 oz (200g) milk chocolate
2 x 30g bags toffee popcorn
Melt the chocolate in separate bowls then cool slightly.  Line a Swiss roll tin with baking parchment, then pour over most of the chocolate onto the tray, swirling it together to give a marbled effect.  Immediately sprinkle over the popcorn in a single layer, then drizzle the remaining chocolate over the top.  Put in a cold place (or fridge) to chill until set, then break into chunks and bag up.

So that's is for today having given myself enough time to clear the conservatory (the table at the moment stacked with party platters/baking trays etc (Norma and I sit at the table while I'm under the dryer).  Also have to find somewhere to put our large wicker laundry basket that now holds empty boxes, cardboard tubes etc, that are intended to be used for protection/packing.
Also have to move B's kit that he has draped over each chair to 'dry off/air' after his return from the gym yesterday afternoon.   Might even find time to do the washing up of the plates, and pans that B used when cooking his supper.

By now dawn has broken, but still not quite fully, and what a dim and dismal day I can see through the window in front of me.  Everything looks very wet, so it is probably still drizzling although no rain-drops on the window.  Still very breezy.  With a high tide yesterday and the strong winds, apparently the sea was blown up and over right onto the promenade.  This rarely happens these days, although - before big rocks were laid down and other sea defences to make a barrier - many years ago the sea would rise over the front and cross the road to enter the houses built there.  There is a marker on the internal wall of the sailing club-house where the sea water once rose to.  About waist height I think!!  Just as well our home is on slightly higher ground, for with this weather (global warming, ice-caps melting) you never know what might happen.  Certainly not in my life-time - which in some ways I feel is a pity for am sure there are things to come that I wish I could be around to know about (but hopefully not experience). 
Yesterday there was so much rain that a big football match could not be played.  Considering that particular pitch had a roof that could be closed in bad weather, what silly fool decided it wasn't worth closing it?   The match will be held today (5.00pm start I believe), unless there has been more heavy rain.

Half an hour before Norma comes.  So must dash and do what needs to be done.  Hope to meet up with you all tomorrow.  TTFN.