Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Fair Warnings...

Thank you for your comments.  Firstly let me explain to Carol that my thoughts were generalised, as obviously there are people who live alone, who are ill, and who cannot do all the things necessary to combat some crisis.  It is the rest of those who can but can't be bothered that I was 'ranting' about. 
Also hoped to get the message across that when we know there are people who are going to be without food, cold and need care and attention, we should not leave it to others to seek them out, we should ourselves give a helping hand.

However cold it is, there is one - perhaps unusual way - to warm up a room.  That is to gather in as many people as possible as each give out heat, almost like mini radiators.  Only yesterday, when our living room was cold, as soon as B came in it seemed to warm up and got even warmer when our daughter arrived, even without any heating being put on. 

Also yesterday decided to get myself a cuppa soup to help warm me up, it didn't really, so made myself another adding a dash of hot chilli sauce, and believe me this really got my innards glowing.  Maybe false heat, but it certainly helped.

Somehow put my back out yesterday (it can happen when I feel cold), so as I couldn't sit comfortably in my chair, or even stand or walk around without an 'ouch', took myself off to bed about 7.00pm, missing all the progs I wanted to watch, but somehow they didn't matter.  All I wanted was to lie down.  Fortunately was able to get to sleep fairly rapidly (lavender spray on my pillow works marvels), and woke when B came to bed (after 2.00pm - late for him, expect he fell asleep in his chair), felt like getting up as I'd had almost a full night's sleep already, but stayed in bed and slept until first light, unfortunately back still aching, but after a paracetamol has eased off a bit.

Yesterday made B a supper or sliced roast beef with onion gravy, cooked beetroot (reheated the beets that were in a vacuum pack), string beans, and TWO jacket potatoes that had been oven-cooked.  It's very rare cook 'jackets' in the oven as they take so long, normally do them in the microwave, but have to say that the oven-baked taste a hundred times better and the crunchy skins are GORGEOUS.   I cooked an extra one for myself which I ate with a salad. 
After the meal B came into the living room and did an impression of one of the 'Strictly' judges, saying to me.  You. Can. Cook!  I was well pleased (even though there was hardly any proper cooking involved, the meat being already home-cooked/sliced and from the freezer), all I had to do was make the onion gravy, reheat the meat in this, cook the beans, put the beets in the oven later under the spuds, the spuds themselves had been put in the oven earlier at the same time as a loaf of bread (and three baps) that I'd made. 

I'd fancied eating the baps myself, possibly with soup or maybe a beefburger (having watched Jamie O doing interesting things with a burger and bap).  B popped his head into the bedroom later to wake me up and ask me if he could have one of the baps and I sleepily said he could, but this morning found he'd eaten all of them!!  I'll have to settle for toast with my soup, and do without a burger.
Was a bit annoyed yesterday to find that Jamie O's prog. timing had been changed to 5.30 instead of 5.00pm.  I'd timed supper to fit in with this, so had to give Jamie's prog a miss.  Normally most of his series each week are repeated back to back at the weekend so can also watch one I've missed (or maybe all of them - they are very inspiring.  Have I mentioned that B thinks Jamie O is the only TV cook/chef worth watching?).  Are any of his programmes seen in America I wonder?  Believe they are shown in Canada.

I've gone off watching Food Network as it seems mainly to be repeats and if I see the DC Cupcake family again it will be once too often.   None of it seems to be 'fly on the wall', far too many of the 'verbals' and 'accidents' seem pre-planned, so it all comes over as very false.
Ina Garten is good, as is also Emilio (?) who cooks 'real food fresh' (or some such title). But at lot of the latter are now repeats.  It is only Ina (the Barefoot Contessa) who seems to come up with something new.  The other day she was on her travels with her Jeffrey, this time in London.  For some reason London looked so 'quaint', all those red buses, and some of the architecture shown.

Thanks to Les who (for once?) seemed to be on the same wavelength as myself.  What he said about preparing for any eventualities is the sort of thing we need to hear about.  It does give a certain feeling of comfort to know we have covered many of the problems that could occur either man-made (strikes etc) or 'natural' (storms, earthquakes....).

Was reminded of the male v female attitude again after I'd finished writing yesterday.  Not sure when it was (in the 60s/70s?) when there was a very great fear that we would get involved in an atomic war with - of course - massive devastation and loss of life.  That even before the hydrogen bomb had been 'invented'. 
It was at that time I joined Civil Defence (the updated 'atomic' version of Home Guard).  Partly because it gave me something to do outside the home, and perhaps more because I wanted to learn the best way to protect my children if the worst came to the worst.  I was able to learn a great deal about this,  and felt that if the worst came to the worst we might just be able to pull through.  B - on the other hand - just shrugged his shoulders, said there was no point in learning how to manage, we'd none of us live through it.  If he was away from home (he worked away a lot) when the bomb/s fell, there would be no point in returning home (to die along side us), he'd have to make for the hills.

'Survival of the fittest' is what they say, so perhaps it is instinctive for men to run if only to make sure of passing their genes on later, and the only way to do this is to look after number one. So  suppose this is understandable (I never query the common sense of nature's instincts).  Women however think only of protecting their children, maybe for the same reason, but myself did feel that if there was the slightest chance of coming through an atomic 'hit', then I just HAD to find out how to do it, and make sure I knew what to do.  If I had a car then I too would probably have bundled the children into the car and got as far away as I could, but as we were expected to have only four minutes warning of any attack, these few minutes would not get us much further than the road outside our house, so hardly worth bothering.  No, we'd take the inside precautions (very primitive but probably quite successful) and hope for the best.  At least we'd be together (sans B).

Think it was around this time that the youngsters began to change their outlook as for them there seemed no reason to plan for any future (for it was on the cards there would be no future worth considering). 'Live for the day' seemed the way to live then, and somehow this attitude doesn't seem to have changed much today.  We buy what we want NOW, and lots of it, even though we haven't the money. It is almost as though using credit cards and owing thousands doesn't really matter any more. Maybe we expect the world to end before we need worry about paying any of it back.

But whatever, the old ways (morals?) of working hard to make enough money to have at least some of what we wish -  have really disappeared. However poor we are we still want our plasma TV screens, our computers, our mobile phones, our cars, our holidays abroad.  And somehow managed to get them.  Credit cards again?  As ever am generalising, as of course there are those who are really strapped for cash and often through no fault of theirs. But - in general - our society does seem to have got itself in a hell of a financial pickle, and even though be blame the banks for being so generous (credit cards etc),  the fault still lies with those who spend beyond their means. Nobody forces us to, although blame can be attached to the many advertisements and promotions we are constantly drowning in.

Which reminds me.  In the paper yesterday they were saying how the Christmas meal will be considerably more expensive this year due to the rise in price of turkey (and vegetables).  Yet only the day previously there was a page in the paper showing how the four largest supermarkets were doing great deals on Christmas food.  Seems we could serve a full Christmas dinner for under £2 a head.  The most expensive being under £5 a head, so doubt any of us need to be overly concerned.
Thank goodness for the continuing 'store wars', for without these we'd really being paying over the odds.  They will continue to pull out all the stops to gain our custom, so am sure we will have another year ahead of us with plenty of offers.

Moving away from the supermarkets, have to say that although I was thinking about ordering from Riverford again, realised I still have plenty of their previously delivered veggies in my fridge and veggie basket, so am able to manage another week and maybe even two without ordering from them.  Was a bit sad about that as this week the beautiful Romanesco would have been included in the box, but am sure it will appear again.
This means - because of the few veggies boxes that have been delivered (plus some D.R. meat) its been weeks and weeks since ordering on-line from the supermarket (discounting the food bought for the recent social which the club paid for, this way I was able to enjoy the 'shopping', knowing my purse remained padlocked). 
At the moment my food budget is looking extremely healthy, and personally I feel a lot healthier now I'm eating more of my five-a-day.   I hardly ever seem to go into the larder these days - what a change that makes where at one time it was my 'comfort zone' and I would happily sit in my chair there planning what to remove each day to form part of 'supper'.
Some 'stores' are being used (tuna, sardines, plenty of cans of chopped tomatoes and assorted canned beans etc), so shelves are slowly (very slowly) becoming empty, and at the moment have no wish at all to refill them - and considering how I used to urge everyone to stock up - this is very strange.  I haven't had any Spam on the shelves for months now, and at one time couldn't live without it.  After all these years am still able to discover that changes can be made - and all for the better  (quality etc) - without any loss of finance.

Here is a recipe intended as a breakfast dish, although a half quantity will be good enough to serve to B's as a supper dish along with a side salad.  Even though it feeds four, it uses very little fish, but then the eggs and cheese add more protein.  Basically this is an omelette, but one that is very satisfying.  It doesn't need serving with anything else, but if you wish to serve some 'greens', then either include peas with the ingredients, or serve with a side salad.
Smoked Haddock, Eggs and Melting Cheese: serves 4
6 oz (175g) smoked haddock
half oz (12g) butter
4 large eggs (beaten) or use 5-6 medium eggs
salt and pepper
3 oz (75g) grated cheese (pref Lancashire)
Take the fillet of smoked haddock and slice it very thinly (as you would smoked salmon).  Put the butter into an 8" (20cm) omelette pan and heat until melted, then swirl the butter around to coat the base of the pan.  Season the eggs with salt and pepper then pour the eggs into the pan, stirring with a wooden spoon to turn them into a soft 'scramble' consistency, then remove from the heat before fully cooked.
Cover the 'scramble' with the slices of smoked haddock, then sprinkle the cheese over the top. Place under a pre-heated grill and cook for a few minutes (maybe only seconds) until the cheese has melted and is bubbling.   Serve immediately, cut into wedges.

This is another 'breakfast' dish, but myself feel it could make a good light lunch or supper (again served with a side salad), as this savoury version of 'drop scones' (made smaller you can serve them as 'blinis') can be served with more than just the bacon, why not add fried or poached eggs, or serve them with the 'full English' instead of fried bread etc.
Pea Pancakes with Bacon: serves 4
8 oz (225g) frozen peas, pref petit pois, defrosted
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
3 tblsp plain flour
3 tblsp milk (any type)
salt and pepper to taste
half oz (12g) butter
8 rashers streaky or back bacon, halved
Put all the ingredients - except the butter and bacon - into a food processor and pulse/blitz until slightly chunky (or smooth if you prefer).   Melt the butter in a large frying pan, then pour most of it into the batter mix, giving it another pulse, then pour mixture into a jug.
Drop 2 tblsp of the batter onto the hot greased pan, keeping the pancakes well apart, cooking three or four at a time over medium heat for 2 - 3 minutes, then flip over and cook for a further 1 - 2 minutes on the other side.  Remove to a cloth lined cake airer, covering with cloth to keep them warm while frying the remainder (should make about 12).
While frying the pancakes, grill 8 rashers of bacon for 5 - 6 minutes, then serve pancakes in stacks interleaved with the bacon. 
In America these would probably be served with maple syrup, but feel this would be two sweet for our English tastes.  Maybe HP sauce or Tomato ketchup would be a better suggestion?

I've discovered a recipe that as it stands I probably wouldn't consider making (not sure why), but do feel that it is a perfect one where we can move the goal-posts.  My thoughts moving in the direction of covering the 'Scotch Eggs' with stuffing mix instead of sausage meat.  Or covering the hard-boiled eggs with a thin layer of minced cooked chicken, beef etc (blended with crumbs, onions, sauce etc to add flavour.  I leave the experimenting to you, but really worth considering.
Scotch Egg Pasties: makes 8
8 medium eggs, hard boiled for 6 minutes
8 pork sausages, skins removed
1 shallot, finely sliced or grated
2 x 500g blocks puff pastry (defrosted if frozen)
plain flour for rolling/dusting
salt and pepper
1 egg, beaten
Remove shells carefully from the hard-boiled eggs (cooled by standing in cold water - see tip below recipe).
Mix together the sausagemeat and onion, then roll roll out each block of pastry large enough to be able to cut 3 x 18cm circles (about the size of a side plate).  Lay the trimmings on top of each other to keep the layers, then re-roll to large enough to give another two circles.
Divide the sausagemeat mixture into 8, and put one onto each of the pastry circles, flattening it down to almost reach the edges (but not quite). Put a peeled egg onto the centre of each, sprinkle over seasoning to taste, then dampen the rim of the pastry with beaten egg and  pull the sides of the pastry up over the egg and crimp together to seal. 
Put the pasties onto baking sheets dusted with a little flour, brush the remaining beaten egg over the pasties, chill for half an hour, then bake at 220C, 425F, gas 7 for 25 minutes until golden.  serve hot or cold.  Make good picnic or packed lunch 'fodder'.

tip for easy shelling of hard-boiled eggs
put eggs in a pan of cold water then bring to the boil to the time given in a recipe (but no longer than 8 minutes to prevent that green colour around the egg yolk).
Drain the cooked eggs and immediately put in very cold water, then when cool enough to handle, tap gently against the rim of a cup or pan to crack the shells all over, then replace in fresh cold water.
If the eggs have been boiled for the full length of time (say 8 minutes) then after cooling and the initial cracking, they can be rolled over the work surface to crack them further.  Then continue as below.
To remove shells, lift away some of the cracked shell, making sure the membrane beneath is also removed, but take care not to split the whites if at all possible.  Then, very carefully insert the tip of a teaspoon where the shell/membrane has been removed, sliding the spoon up under the membrane up towards the tip (or base) of the egg, then carefully slide the spoon around and you will find the shell with membrane beneath will then easily lift away from the egg.  Repeat doing the other half of the egg. This really works, and much the best way of shelling when you want a hardboiled egg to look perfect without the normal bits of white that can be broken off when trying to shell using our fingers.

Incidentally, really fresh eggs are almost impossible to peel successfully, although the above method is likely to work well enough.  Always best to hard boil eggs that are at least a week old.  As long as they don't float or rise up when placed in cold water, they are still 'fresh' enough to use.

That's it for today.  Let us hope spell check works, it is surprising how many errors I make each time, mainly because I type far too rapidly.  But if it is playing silly beggars again at least I have left a bit of time to allow me to do my own editing, although cannot promise all mistakes will be corrected (I 'speed read' also too rapidly).
After a few good days, we are back to wind, rain and this makes the cold weather feel even colder. Will probably end up sitting in my chair with a 'hottie' behind my back, and cuddling another to my front.  Plus at least two quilts to keep my knees warm.  Knees, that's a laugh, my quilts are tucked right up under my chin and round the back. 
When we had our first home, the only heating was a coal fire that had to be lit each day (actually every other day as it was a Baxi), and the winters then were 'proper' ones, lots of snow and ice for weeks, ice-fern patterns on the bedroom windows when we woke etc.  We bought a portable paraffin heater so we could heat the hall (the hot air rose to help heat the landing slightly) and in the kitchen we could light the gas oven and leave the door open to heat the room there (fuel prices obviously affordable at that time even though we lived on the breadline).
Nowadays it seems there are no 'portable' heaters any more that don't run on electricity, although I do believe there are some that run on Calor gas.  Might be useful to think about getting one of these, although we do have a gas fire in the room I'm working in at the moment, and if electricity works the 'ignition' then can always go back to the old fashioned ways of lighting the gas with a match.
My greatest fear is 'being held to ransom' by the great fuel companies, who know that most of us these days use gas and electricity to keep ourselves warm.  It is at least good to know that some of the readers of this blog have fitted alternative heating (and cooking) to their homes (woodburning fuel stoves etc). Am really wondering if one of those would sit easily into our rather grand wood-panelled dining room, then I can keep myself warm and cook in here at the same time. Could move my bed in as well (plenty of room).  There is a TV point in here, so I could be well suited for all my needs (or most of them). There is a water tap under the window (albeit outside) and the larder is the other side of one wall, I could cut a door through!!! Have even got my own 'front door' (patio doors leading to 'my own' terrace). Norris could be parked outside (in the plastic covered greenhouse, there is an electric plug close by where he could be charged). What more does an old girl need?

Well, that too another 15 minutes of 'chat', and there was me already to depart.  Really must go now, but - as ever - hope that many of you will return again tomorrow.  Hope to see you then.