Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Week to Go....

This time next week it will be Christmas Day, and there is still a Christmas decoration on a shelf in the kitchen placed there last year (or was it the year before).  At my age time moves so fast it hardly seems worth putting things away, for in a blink of an eye they are needed again.

Had a lovely chat with Clippy on that radio broadcast yesterday evening,  it took me back to the many years when I had a regular cookery spot with BBC Radio Leeds prior to moving to Morecambe.  Quite often they brought their OB van to our home and we used to do the broadcast from my kitchen so that I could 'demonstrate' (verbally of course) how speedily some dishes could be prepared and cooked (all of 10 minutes).   It is necessary to make more noise when cooking 'on air' so that people can visualise the beating of eggs (rattling whisk in bowl) , flour being sifted (tap the sieve on the side of bowl), and closing of oven door (slam shut!), plus - of course - almost non-stop chatting from me so there would never be any silent moment (that bit wasn't difficult, those who know me understand it is very, VERY difficult for me to keep my trap shut).  Any TV work, and radio that is 'live' (such as Pebble Mill at One, the Bazaar series, radio etc) is much more fun than having to remember something that has been scripted for me to say (as in 'The Goode Kitchen' series).

Details of my blog were given out over the radio, so do hope this brings in some new readers, who - I sincerely hope - will send in comments to let me know they are there. 
We do have a new name to welcome: Maz (maybe a listener to Clippy's prog?) who requests my recipe for 'lamb au choux'.   Think this must be the recipe for  'lamb with cabbage' - name changed by me to 'Poitrine d'Agneau au Chou' because the dish it sounds so much more appetising given a French name.
I've checked my postings and am pleased to see the recipe for the above lamb dish is still on this site, so anyone wishing to read/copy it should go to 'archives' and look up October 2006 and scroll down to the 5th (some days will be missing) where the recipe will be found.

Many of the earlier years of this blog have had many dates/recipes deleted as blogger began to limit the amount shown per month, and then only the last few postings were 'allowed' to stay on the screen to be viewed.  At least I was able to keep all the postings previously written in 'draft', so about a year ago began reading through every one, deleting what was not really worth knowing, so able to clear enough space for many of the missing recipes to be returned. 
Unfortunately most of the 'chat' had to go, and think I need to give my postings another 'edit' as the last year I've not done any checking to see what has deleted, and so no doubt most of 'wot I writ' has now disappeared (but still kept by me in draft form thank goodness).  By taking out the chat (this is of no real interest anyway), hope then that most of the recipes can be brought back and kept for all to read.

Let me know what you think of the four bird roast (Aldi) Eileen.  We had one a couple or so years ago and it seemed more stuffing than bird(s), but even so it did make a different and good alternative to a turkey for Christmas.  It can often work out cheaper to buy a turkey crown rather than a whole birds as the carcase alone weighs quite a bit, and to get value for money the turkey needs to be a very large one (the larger the bird the more meat on the bones).

Interesting how you eat our traditional Christmas Dinner on Christmas Eve Marjorie. But then with the US and Canadian Thanksgiving Day (albeit on different dates) being a much more family orientated time than Christmas, and with turkey being traditional at Thanksgiving, it's a bit of overkill to serve the same (or similar) meal barely a month later.  Your re-arrangements sound very good, and I was pleased to read that you serve 'jellied salad' with your re-heated meal.  So much better than our 'Bubble and Squeak' on Boxing Day (with cold turkey).  

It was many years ago when I first discovered 'jellied salads' in a US magazine, and used to make quite a few.  Must hunt out some recipes and introduce this way of serving 'salad' to readers.  If I remember I used to make up a packet of (probably lemon) jelly with ginger beer, and then set the various vegetables in this.  Also remember making a lemon jelly with mayo to set diced cucumber et al.   Sounds very odd, but quite delicious.

Do agree Jane (Willis) that cookery programmes can seem very complicated these days.  Even something easy to make, can - to a novice cook - seem difficult when prepared at speed.  The cooks never seem to slow down enough to catch their breath.  Maybe this is supposed to make things look easy, but often quite the opposite.  Dear Jamie Oliver in his 15 minute meals works so fast that only an experienced cook can understand the why's and wherefore's of most of what he does, even though he tries to explain it.  We don't even have time to write anything down for if we take our eyes off the screen for a couple of seconds, Jamie has done three more things that needed to be seen and not just listened to.  Maybe one way to sell more books if we have no option but to refer to them, but myself do prefer a much slower approach to cooking.

Lorraine Pasquale does explain many reasons why she does things, and does work more slowly, but then she is not overly concerned about the cost of her ingredients, and it would be good to be able to have a cookery series that shows us not just HOW to cook, but also how to be a canny shopper and make the most of what we have bought.  
Nigel Slater's recent series attempted this - buying foods and then deciding after what could be made from them, but again he didn't bother too much about cost.  What I'd like to see is the 'scraping the barrel' type cookery prog.  Maybe one day this will happen.  There must be some young (or even middle aged) cooks out there who know how to scrimp and save yet can still provide meals worth serving to a king.  They should make a video and then get one or t'other TV channels to take an interest. 

In 'my day' it appeared I was the only media cook who concentrated on 'barrel scraping' - and have to admit not difficult to continue as I had absolutely no competition because other TV cooks were far more interesting in using the more expensive ingredientes, and rarely demonstrated a 'budget' dish as it wasn't 'fashionable' to serve 'pauper's fare' - this being popular only  to those who could not afford to cook in any other way.  Perhaps people have always preferred to watch cookery programmes that show the more upmarket dishes.  You tell me.

Missed most of the Michael Roux Jnr cookery programme yesterday evening, but was able to see how he deep-fried some chilled cream.  This reminded me of how I used to deep-fry ice-cream.  Our children (and my B of course) LOVED it.

In those days we were able to buy ice-cream in long blocks that were very hard like home-made ice-cream, not the soft-scoop so often sold today.  This hard ice-cream was very useful when making Baked Alaska etc., but the good thing is, those of us who make our own ice-cream and moan because it is much harder than the bought should now be pleased because when they freeze it in shallow trays (rather than the deeper containers), then this can be used to make yummy Alaskas, and the 'deep-fried'.

To deep fry ice-cream, first make some thin pancakes (these can be interleaved and stored in the freezer - they thaw almost instantly),  Then cut small squares/cubes of solid ice-cream (about1" x 1"), put pne in the centre of one pancake, fold the pancake over tightly to make a parcel, then deep-fry (folded side down) for half to one minute, until the pancake is crispy all over,, then serve immediately.  The ice-cream will have been insulated by the pancake and still remain fairly solid.  Hot pancake, cold ice-cream, a marriage made in heaven.  Even more wonderful when chocolate sauce is poured over the top when serving.

The mention of cook-in-sauces (a 'yuk' from Jane) reminded me to give another mention to those cans of 'value' soup as these make a very good substitute for a 'cook-in-sauce'.  Myself often make up a chicken (or oxtail) cuppa soup made up with a cup of chicken (or beef) stock to use for the same purpose. 
When we make chicken stock, we could keep some back and blitz it with a few of the veggies from the same pot (carrot, onion, celery), freeze that to serve later as soup or as a cook-in-sauce.  Herbs add the flavour that we sometimes associate with a ready-made 'sauce', so we can also add these to our 'home-made', with a reminder that dried herbs should be added at the start of cooking (to allow their flavours to develop), but fresh herbs added only towards the end of the cooking time (so they they don't lose their flavour).

Have now got numbers for Saturday's 'social' (just under 50), so that means making more desserts than expected, so now it will be Trifle, Tiramasu, and Cheesecake requested.  Plus 3 quiches (had not planned for these).  Have just about finished what was needed for the Foodbank 'gathering' on Friday.  So up to speed.  Just have to add a few more things to the Tesco order to be able to complete the 'social's needs, these to be delivered tomorrow.

Tesco have joints of beef at half-price, so have ordered one.  This to start off my New Year challenge.  If it can be frozen, then it will be, otherwise will have to cook the roast then carve some into slices to pack/freeze in gravy, and dice/mince the rest to make other dishes to be served next January.
My aim is to see if we can still live cheaply basing a week's meals on the Sunday Roast.  It's been decades since I bought a joint to roast 'for Sunday', and knowing that it is always better to cook a large joint than a small one, have tried to keep costs down (my goodness, never realised how expensive topside is now!!!!) but still end up with a joint large enough to 'do things with'. 

Slow-roasting the meat is the best way to keep the meat both tender and moist.  The higher the cooking temperature the more the meat dries out and a quite large joint can shrink enormously during the cooking time.  I want the most for my money, so slow-roasting it will be (after initially sealing the joint to keep the juices contained).

With both Christmas Day and New Year's Day falling on my organic veggie box delivery day, have had to order a few veggies (carrots and onions) to get me through Christmas and the start of next year, but after that will be returning to the organics again, hoping that will then be able to manage with these, the Sunday Roasts, and seasonal (cheap) steamed puddings etc. and not a lot else (do we really need anything else?).  But that will be then, and this is now, so without spending too much am still hoping to provide my Beloved with enough 'treats' for him to feel it is Christmas without buying too much.   As B said yesterday "all I want is plates of mince pies, Christmas cake, gingerbread. grapes and cheese....laid out for me to help myself, and tins of sweets and biscuits. Plus a bottle of whisky...".  Bless.
Me, I'll be happy with some clementines and perhaps one gin and bitter lemon (now and again).

When clearing up yesterday discovered my McCance and Widdowson's 'The Composition of Foods' published by Her Majesty's Stationary Office (my version in 1960, subsequent editions will contain details of more 'convenience' foods I expect). This is an amazing book that lists most of the foods we eat, giving (g per 100g) the protein content, fat, carbos, calories, and minerals of each. But not only that, it shows the difference in the above when something is raw, boiled or even roasted.
When every penny spent has to provide the most nourishment, it is useful to know that beef (for instance) retains more protein when boiled than the same amount when roasted.

Obviously this book is aimed at nutritionists and dietitians, and the first few pages contain many recipes that are later in the book shown in detail as to the amount of protein/carbos/calories/minerals they contain.  Simple recipes worth knowing especially when feeding a family.   We have only to read the recipe for 'cheese omelette' to discover how packed with protein this is, far more than other much more expensive meats, so any reader wishing to provide the best nourishment for the lowest cost would find this book invaluable.  Maybe older issues (the details remain the same, just perhaps less 'convenience' and other 'newer' foods not mentioned) may be sold cheaply on Amazon.  Or perhaps able to be borrowed from a library. 

To prove a point.  Winter (white) cabbage, raw has 2.2 g per 100g of protein, but when boiled this drops down to 0.8.  Cauliflower has 3.4 eaten raw, but 1.6 after boiling.   
Foods are listed by category (fruit; vegetables; fish; meat; dairy etc... then within their section are alphabetical, so what I do is run my finger down the 'protein' column (or fat, or calories, or iron....) and find the one that has the most (or least if 'fatty'), and only then see what it is and decide it would be worth cooking it more often (or best left alone).  Helps to focus on the most nutritional foods rather than just buy what we like. 
We may enjoy eating Dover Sole, but this is one of the least nourishing fish.  Canned pilchards (fish only, not the sauce) weight for weight have much more protein.  And much, MUCH cheaper than most other fish, fresh or canned.
You can understand why I enjoy running my fingers down all the columns in this quite large and educational book.

One recipe today that thankfully does not require 96 hours cooking in a sous-vide (sorry Heston!).  This onion relish has a caramel flavour that eats well with cold meats, cheeses, salads... good also spread on toast and given a quick blast under the grill to heat up.
Toffee Onion Relish: serves 4
3 large onions, halved then thinly sliced
2 oz (50g) butter
2 tblsp olive or sunflower oil
2 tblsp light muscovado sugar
2 tblsp pickled capers, roughly chopped
2 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper
Put the butter and oil into a large frying pan over low heat, and - when melted - stir in the onions and sugar, then cook very gently for half an hour, stirring occasionally, until reduced to a soft, thick, brown 'toffee' mixture.  Stir in the capers, then remove from heat and leave until completely cold.
Fold in the chopped parsley, and add seasoning to taste, spoon into a bowl, cover with cling-film and chill in the fridge until ready to serve.

Weather forecast today is good, and looks like it is right for once.  A low early sun shining on the house at the back, with blue sky overhead, well this lifts my spirits.  Just as well for it seems as though we will be in for a worse weekend ahead when low pressure hits our shores and we have gales and more rain (plus more flood alerts).  All we can pray for is reasonable weather next week to allow everyone the chance to be able to visit friends and family (and do last minute shopping) without getting soaked.  

Tomorrow's Tesco delivery will be my last 'shopping' for this year, and hopefully for the next 6 - 10 weeks following.  Other than the occasional delivery of the 'organic veggies'.  If reader's have been able to follow my advice (some may say not necessarily good advice), then our cupboards should have enough on the shelves to see us through any severe weather, bad health or lack of funds that may disrupt our normal shopping 'life-style'.   But who cares - whatever the reason it is always much more fun 'making do with what we've got' (prefer to call this 'making the BEST of what we've got), than just going out to buy more food when we've already got some.  And we all do that, don't we?  Roll on New Year, new resolutions, and finding new ways to save even more money.
Please share your ideas too.

Until tomorrow, when I'll be back on firmer ground with a few cheap and interesting recipes for you to try. Hope to see you then.  TTFN.