Monday, October 29, 2012

What Next?

Read in the paper recently that millions (or was it billions?) of £££s are spent by families on everything bought for Hallow'een and Guy Fawkes each year.  None of it necessary in my opinion, but just goes to show how easily we can be persuaded to part with our money, even in these hard-pressed times.  If that's what the nation pays for the two smaller traditions, then how much more do we (again as a nation) spend over Christmas? 

It does seem, in these times of recession, we seem to be encouraged to part with our money rather than save it.  Suppose that is what 'business' is all about, and as we are always being told that our economy depends on us spending our money to keep people in work then - as the saying goes - we are stuck between a rock and a hard place.  However, do feel that we could do more ourselves rather than rely on manufacturers to do the work for us. 

As B hasn't yet altered the clock that runs our central heating, it now bursts into action (the boiler is in our bedroom so wakes me up) and hour earlier now we are GMT.  So I was up at 6.00am instead of 7.00.  Gave me a chance to sort out a bit more of the kitchen (now almost back to normal), before coming in here and beginning to write my blog.

A blanket 'thank-you' to all who wrote in re the recent canape marathon.  Especial thanks to Eileen who am sure was being kind, it can't ALL have been good.    However, being given a plate of some 'left-overs' to bring home (which I then ate after back in my own arm chair), have to say was quite surprised that even I enjoyed them.  Particularly liked one (a pastry 'cup' that held a little salad with some little strips of sticky beef cooked in oriental sauce on top), the different textures, esp. the unexpectedness of the crunchy salad (hidden by the beef) made it a better than average 'nibble'.

This was one of the reasons I filled the small pointed sweet bell peppers with egg mayo.  The egg being soft, the peppers crunchy.  Same with the toasted bases (crunchy bruschettas - is that the correct spelling?) topped with soft pate (chicken liver, smoked mackerel etc), again the best of both worlds.

Poor old B.  As we were about to leave the clubhouse, B trapped his thumb in the car door and the nail almost immediately turned black.  He was in agony for quite some time.  He was saying yesterday how much we use our thumbs without realising it (he was trying to slice a shallot at the time to go with his supper yesterday which was Thai Red Curried Prawns and rice).  At least that got rid of the remaining thawed prawns (held safely in the fridge overnight), and myself had some pate on toast topped with the last of the egg mayo.   
There are quite a few bits and bobs that were left-over so am working my way through them as fast as possible, and it surprised me how little was really needed to cover all the canapes and they haven't worked out nearly as expensive as expected, even though many of the ingredients were 'special' (smoked salmon, game bird breasts, Parma Ham, 'caviare', assorted pates, etc, etc.).  The prices' charged by caterers would be the time (and skill?) it takes to make and prepare canapes I suppose.  At least my time is 'free'.  

After eating half the Ferrero Rocher chocs yesterday, gave the remainder to B in return for some of his raffle-prize biscuits (although he wasn't prepared to give me half of these  - he got quite cross when I took all of six biccies from his large tin!!).  But I don't want to gain back the several lbs lost last week (due to all my activity and very little eating). 

Watched Nigel Slater's cookery prog.  I enjoy the way he makes things from what he has in his storecupboard/fridge rather than plan his shopping to fit an already fixed menu for the week  (although obviously his purchases ARE  planned to suit the programme).  Have to say that I'm tending to work this way now that I have different veggies delivered from Riverford. 
Actually it's now several weeks since my last veggie box as still have a whole red cabbage, an unused (as yet) cauliflower, several carrots, plenty of potatoes, and about 3 turnips that still have to be used.  At this time of the year seasonal produce stores well, so I won't need to order so often.  Thankfully, this is really saving me money as I'd normally be shopping on-line at Tesco and this I haven't been doing (except for a few items needed for the 'social' and only because they were on offer).  Am so very pleased that I'm able to buy even better quality food than before and still manage to spend less.

Most of yesterday was spent in my easy chair, and a lot of that time I was asleep.  It was good to relax again.  Also slept well last night, much of the time spent dreaming (happily).  Today don't feel like doing very much at all, so will probably take another day off work.
All the laundry has been done, the supper easy enough to make, so won't need to start that until late afternoon, and with B out most of the day helping his friend at the upholstery shop, then I can put my feet up without feeling guilty.  B doesn't really mind how I spend my day as long as he has good food made ready for him when he wants it.

Bonfire night is the time to make warming food to be eaten indoors or out.  We all have our own idea of what to provide (my suggestion would be mugs of hot soup, hot jacket potatoes with assorted fillings, sticky sausages, and something sweet to end the evening.

Here is a suggestion for the 'sweet' (on of the recipes torn from a mag), the photo shows it studded with lit sparklers, but that of course is optional).  The good thing about this recipe is that it can be prepared 24 hours before being cooked, and it also makes its own sauce. 

Sticky Chocolate Pudding: serves 10
13 oz (375g) self-raising flour
good pinch salt
6 oz (175g) caster sugar
2 tsp baking powder
6 tblsp cocoa
12 fl oz (340ml) milk
5 oz (150g) butter, melted
3 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 lb (450g) light muscavado sugar
6 tblsp cocoa
1.25 pints (700ml boiling water)
2 good handfuls marshmallows
Sift together the flour, salt, caster sugar, baking powder, and cocoa.  In another bowl put the milk, butter, eggs, and vanilla, then mix until combined.  Mix the 'wet' ingredients into the 'dry', then pour into a greased large shallow backing dish (about 2 - 3 litres in size) (at this point it can be covered with clingfilm and kept chilled for 24 hours. Remove clingfilm before continuing)...
Sprinkle the muscovado sugar and cocoa over the top as evenly as possible, then pour over the boiling water and immediately bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 35-45 mins (if chilled it will need the longer time), until the pudding has risen and firm in the centre.  
Scatter the marshmallows on top and return to the oven, checking every half minute (30 seconds) until the marshmallows have melted.  Serve immediately (take care, it will be hot), and especially good when eaten with cream or ice-cream (on a cold night you may prefer to serve it with hot cream or custard). 

That's it for today, my mind is still not working properly, but will have to start thinking 'Hallow'een' goodies pretty soon ready for the little monsters who knock on the door.  Will probably take the easy way out and make lots of toffee popcorn drizzled with melted chocolate.  Very cheap to make and a mug of uncooked popping corn will end up filling a bucket!

The east coast of the USA looks as though it is going to get hit hard by a hurricane of some strength. Thank goodness we don't get such severe weather here, although nowadays who knows?  With the mention that many parts of New York City will need to be evacuated to keep the citizens safe sounds very alarming, very similar to the fictional films that I've been watching recently.  

Was it in 1956 (or thereabouts) when there was an exceptionally high tide, plus gale force winds blowing inland that caused a lot of our East Coast to flood?  Many people drowned, and the water came inland to almost ceiling height of property closer to the shore.   Although we (naturally) were concerned with the damage and deaths in our country, apparently the Netherlands had it much worse at that time.
When Nature is in the mood, what chance do we have other than run to the hills?   Just let us hope that all we do get this winter is 'normal' seasonal weather, and nothing worse than that.  Even so, best to be prepared.  Keep our larders well stocked with food, and hope for the best.

Not that I'm forecasting gloom and doom, suppose it's just my survival hat I feel like wearing at the moment.  The older we are the more experience we have of things happening when least expected.  But for the moment today I'm going to take things easy and watch the Food Network for starters (in the hope they show something interesting, at the moment it seems to be all repeats).  This maybe will put me back into 'cooking mode', so I can then continue with a normal life.

Hope you will find time to join me tomorrow - if so, see you then.