Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Helping Hands...

Shorter blog today as I stayed up all night watching the results of the American election.  How eye-opening that was!  I could not believe the bitterness between the Republicans and Democrats, and unless they can resolve their differences am sure that American won't rise from its ashes very rapidly - if at all.
As Obama said in his victory speech (possibly not his exact words but the same message) "it is not just Blue states and Red states, we should be the United States."

There is a saying (at least over here) "United we stand, Divided we fall".  Worth remembering, as it seems that there are many countries now who have divided loyalties causing both economic crises and also civil wars.  Dare I say men are the leaders of such uprisings?  Women are genetically far more concerned about keeping the peace, even if this does mean giving up some things.

Am a bit confused about American politics, also rather disgusted at the way millions of (much needed) dollars have been pumped into the election campaign  (did the Republican candidate give any of his 250 million dollars to help him on his way, or expect others to prop him up?).  That money could and should have gone where it was most needed. Not sure what it is like in the US, but most families in the UK(who can afford to, and even if they can't) do support many charities.  Myself manage to regularly support two that help the Third World, but think now any other/s I take on will be 'home-based' as it is beginning to seem that the saying  'charity begins at home' should now be my concern ('home' being the nation, not within our four walls).  It's not that I'm being overly 'charitable' in an 'aren't you good' way (Yuk!), it's just that if I 'deliberately' save money by changing the food I buy and cutting the cost of the meals  I make (still keeping the quality), I do this because I enjoy the challenge, not because the money saved is to be hoarded in my purse.  Of course some IS saved, but, well, giving away some makes me feel 'useful', and old people need to keep that feeling to make it worth staying alive.  Otherwise why bother?

Returning to US politics, asked B today what the Senate was all about (he said it was a bit like our House of Lord's). "What is the House of Representatives?" (reply: Like our House of Commons).  "What is Congress" (don't know). I don't really care anyway how the Americans run their country for this is their concern, not mine.  But the 'side' now still in power really does need to be stronger to combat the 'other side' - for it does seem they deliberately put spanners in all the works (propositons)  just because it upsets the apple cart, never mind if the idea is a good one.  That is not the way to run a country successfully.

Thanks to Les for his mention of the foil on sale (to put behind radiators).  We put ordinary kitchen foil stuck on thin card (or a bit of old wall paper/newspaper etc), behind all the radiators in our house in Leeds, and it worked perfectly.  The shiny side of the foil must face the radiator to give best reflection of heat.  This is far cheaper than buying the 'special' foil for the job.

Lined curtains also give good insulation over windows that are not double-glazed, the fuller the better as they trap the still air between curtains the glass in the windows, and the lining gives extra insulation. some curtains are sold with an extra lining, but an easy way to gain extra insulation is to hang net curtains over the windows during the colder months, as these also help to give a little extra protection between the main curtains and the glass.   Those folding internal shutters - so often seen at the side of Georgian windows in older houses - used to help trap the still air between window and room, and with curtains hung over as well - the rooms were really cosy.   Many older houses still have these shutters but often never used.  So if you have them, use them.  Will help you save £££s.

A bit confused about your comment MamaDragon when you queried why people want to boil fresh eggs anyway?  Presume you meant 'hard'-boil,  as soft-boiled fresh eggs are lovely (eaten with 'soldiers') and far easier to cook than poached eggs (unless you cheat using poaching 'cups').  Myself always use the freshest eggs possible when lightly cooking eggs (poached, boiled, scrambled, omelettes...) and use the older ones for baking and hard-boiling.

Good to have you back Rachel.  Thanks for letting me know you can now find this blog again, hope you will continue reading.

Yesterday B said he fancied egg, sausage, beans and chips for his supper, but unfortunately I had no oven chips and B did not like the idea of me deep frying (he said the deep fat fryer was on a high shelf and he didn't like the idea of moving it with oil in it - it has a separate oil reservoir to drain off the oil before putting back but B has mislaid it, it was in the garage!).
So decided to cook some of the small new potatoes that were in my veggie box some weeks ago and still unused.  When they arrived they still had some soil on them, most of this had been rubbed off in the potato bag, but I didn't bother to scrub them, just gave them a quick rinse then put them in a a pan of water to boil (the skins then became clean). After draining and throwing away the rather muddy water, held each spud in my left hand (protected by a double thickness of kitchen paper as the spuds were still hot), and peeled away the tissue-thin skins to reveal perfectly clean potatoes.  Saved a lot of prior scraping with a knife.

Then mashed (or rather 'crushed') the spuds with my potato masher.  Having just fried some rashers of bacon (draining these on kitchen paper so they would crisp up), put the spuds into the frying pan so they would fry in the bacon fat, patting it down to make a 'cake'.  After a few minutes turned it with a fish slice (it broke up but was easily patted back into shape), and sprinkled the crushed bacon on top, also pressing that in.  Gave it one more 'flip', then slid it onto a metal plate and popped it into the oven to keep hot (the oven just turned out after cooking the sausages).  B was then able to fry his eggs himself and heat the baked beans in the microwave.  He thinks that means he now cooks his own supper, but as long as he does part, who am I to complain I do most of it anyway?

Not sure what we will have for supper tonight, it is Norma the Hair day but as she has changed the appointment to 4-30 'ish', this means I'll be under the hair dryer until after B's supper time (he likes his meal at 5 'ish'.   Might suggest we have a Chinese take-away tonight, or I might manage to make a casserole this morning to cook slowly, and then it can be reheated (or ready) for B to help himself to. He won't want to eat it whilst Norma is here as the kitchen table is visible from the conservatory.  Myself don't like anyone (other than family) watching me eat, except perhaps in a cafe or restaurant.   Is this another instinctive thing?

Some time ago mentioned hearing about 'Canadian Butter Tarts'.  Think Margie sent a recipe at that time, and have seen variations via Internet cookery sites.  Here is a recipe for these tarts that I came across in an English mag.  Haven't yet tried it myself (but intend to as it seems very simple), and from the few ingredients it appears to be fairly inexpensive (it can make up to 20).  The recipe tells us to use two deep x 12 hole tart tins, or if we have only the regular (shallower) tart tins to use these and we can then end up with a few more, but NOT to use the deeper muffin tins.
Use ready-rolled shortcrust pastry to make sure the pastry is the correct thinness (even so it needs to be rolled slightly thinner as you will see from the recipe below).
If you haven't single cream then use half whipping (or double) and half milk (pref semi-skimmed).

Canadian Butter Tarts:  makes 18 - 20
1 x 375g pack ready-rolled shortcrust pastry
2 eggs
6 oz (175g) light muscovado sugar
4 oz (100g) raisins
2 oz (50g) butter, melted
4 tblsp single cream (see above)
2 oz (50g) walnuts, chopped
Place the unrolled pastry onto a floured board and roll it slightly thinner than when it came straight from the pack.  Cut out 18 - 20 rounds using a 7.5cm (pref fluted) cutters (re-roll trimmings as necessary) and use to line 2 x deep hole 12-hole tart tins (see comment above recipe).
Break the eggs into a large bowl and beat together, then mix in the rest of the ingredients (but not the nuts).  Tip this mixture into a pan and stir continuously for 3 - 4 minutes until the mixture begins to thicken - it needs to be thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.  Don't overcook, and make sure you keep stirring to prevent the mixture burning (which it can do easily!!!).
Remove from heat and fold in the chopped nuts, then spoon into the unbaked tart shells so the mixture is level with the top of the pastry, the carefully place in the oven and bake at 190C, 375F, gas 5 for 15 - 18 minutes (depending upon depth) until the filling has set and turned golden.
Leave in the tins to cool for a few minutes before removing, then place on a cake airer to finish cooling.  Or if you wish eat whilst still warm.  Good also eaten cold.

Yesterday switched on to the Food Network at 12 noon.  Lucky I did as it was the start of a new series with A.W.T, Brian Turner, Oz Clarke, and Linda somebody or other (she was showing table decorations), all geared up to cooking and planning for Christmas, so if you want to get away from the US cooking for a while, worth watching.  Wasn't THAT interesting yesterday (think black and white table decor is not my idea of Christmas) but it has potential.

Having rather had my stomach full (almost literally) of the Man v Food, and Dinners, Diners and Dives, was however interested in an article published some months ago (torn out and kept from a mag) about American Diners.  Perhaps we have a few over here (more in London I suppose than anywhere else) that serve meal US-style, but doubt they are of the quality and amount seen in the above progs. Both B and I wish we could tour American visiting only diners for our meals.

The article says "American diners reflect their local culture an ingredients - New England has its clam chowder, Louisiana its biscuits and gravy, and Texas its chilli.
Diner food is neither delicate nor fancy, it's pure comfort food, with dishes often coming straight from the grill to table, with burgers and steak the favourites.
Breakfast is also a mainstay of a diner menu as are the dessert options, which always include a pie.

Originally conceived as lunch wagons, diners fed hungry factory workers and their railroad shape made them easy to tow to convenient locations.  Modern versions are rooted to the spot, with classic comfy booths, and long shiny counters surrounded by chrome with high seats that spin round.

Waitresses are known as 'soup jockeys', pouring endless refills of coffee and shout orders in diner lingo:  'dead eye' is a fried egg, 'bow-wows' are hot dogs. and 'java' or 'joe' is coffee.  
Diners are for casual, anytime eating,  some serve beer and drinks, others are dry, and they are all, above all, affordable.

If only we could see the like here.  My mouth is drooling at the thought of stepping into one of the above and hearing more 'diner lingo'.  Here are some other expressions I would hope to hear:
' Dough well done with cow to cover' = buttered toast
'Adam and Eve on a Raft = 2 poached eggs on toast
'Breath'= onion
'Burn one' = put a hamburger on the grill
'Burn the British' = toasted English muffin
'First Lady' = spare ribs
'Keep off the Grass' = no lettuce
'Nervous Pudding' = jelly
'Warts' = olives
'Wreck 'em' = scramble the eggs

Am sure small children might find the veggies they eat sound more appetising and acceptable if we gave these names such as above.  What could we call 'Brussels sprouts?
Just in case anyone is slow cooking belly of pork, this recipe (although made using pork shoulder and cooked from scratch) is also a way to use some of the leftover belly pork cooked meat and serve it 'diner style'.  An easy snack that youngsters will enjoy both making and eating.
Pulled Pork Sandwiches: serves 4
2 lbs (1kg) pork shoulder with fat left on
2 tblsp olive oil
2 tsp Spanish paprika
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
8 fl oz (250ml) barbecue sauce
4 crusty white rolls
Rub the pork with the oil, then sprinkle over the paprika, oregano, and the salt and pepper.
Heat a non-stick (dry) frying pan until very hot, then place in the pork, searing it on all sides, then place the pork in a roasting tin and slow-roast for 5 hours at 120C, 250F, gas 1/2.
When cooked, carefully remove the fat from the pork then shred the flesh using two forks.  Pour the barbecue sauce into a large frying pan then add the shredded meat and warm through over medium heat.  When ready to serve, scoop the meat into the split rolls and serve with coleslaw and pickles.

Despite being awake all night feel bright-eyed and bushy-tailed enough to go into the kitchen and start preparing 'something that can be re-heated' for supper tonight.  Chinese we can have another day.  There is a cookery programme presented by Clarissa Dickson Wright (I believe) on BBC 4 tonight (think at 8 or 9pm) that I will be able to watch as nothing else is on that B and I wish to see at that time.  That's a first.  Had to miss quite a bit of 'cooking' last night due to the footie.  Other than soaps or nature programmes (and Downton Abbey) there is not a lot we both wish to watch at the same time.  I sometimes wish we had two TV's but that would be both selfish and greedy, and having just one TV means we can 'share' rather than disappear to different rooms and end up like ships passing in the night. Anyway B is becoming more interested in cooking, so he is beginning o watch (and I'm sure enjoy) SOME of the cookery progs. Esp. Jamie O's (and sometimes H.F.W's).

Not sure what Heston B. cooked last night, as I didn't watch his prog., but he is usually beyond my understanding, preferring to experiment with foods, rather than just 'cook'. Probably a man thing.

Really must love you and leave you.  It wasn't such a short blog after all.  But then that's me, cannot stop typing once I start.  Have just received the free Open University booklet re 'Wartime Farm', and with it came details of some of their courses.  At my age seems daft to take a course that leads to a degree, but am thinking about taking up one (or more) of their 'starter courses' as I just love 'learning'.  Will give me something to do other than continually think about food.  I do love reading about what I call 'domestic history' (like life below stairs, and poverty....) so perhaps 'Social Studies' would cover some of this.  Will have to contact them to find out.

Hope to meet up with you all again tomorrow.  Love to hear your views on any of the above, and always hope to be sent more hints, tips and money-saving ideas.  See you then.