Sunday, December 02, 2012

Basic Needs

It's surprising how much thought I'm having to put into working out what foods should be taken to the Foodbank for those who have no heat to even cook.  At one point I thought that egg sarnies would make a nourishing 'meal', but then reminded myself that the eggs needed to be hard-boiled. Heat needed again. 

At least nourishment in foodstuffs is not reliant on having to be first cooked, although we now know that cooked carrots are better than when eaten raw, but better raw than none at all, so even if fresh veg are not available cold cooked canned (drained) veg. still have some nourishment.   Sardines, pilchards, corned beef, even Spam also able to be eaten cold.   But I wouldn't wish a continuous diet of cold foods on anyone this weather.

For those that do have some means of heating water, then a spoonful of Bovril in a cup of very hot water makes a much more warming (and comforting) drink than does a cup of tea.  I'm including jars of drinking chocolate and Ovaltine as a good drink to take to a cold bed, especially for children.

Thanks for your input Les, and although agree that children love the assorted individual packs of cereals, am not including these as they may keep wishing for them (these are very much more expensive than buying the same cereals in larger packs), instead I'm sending packs of ten individual sachets of fruit flavoured 'instant' porridge that I'm hoping will be more nourishing and warming (but again need heat to cook the porridge).
I've been told that heating is not allowed to be cut off if there are children under school age in the home, but not sure if this still stands where the heating in (say) a bed-sit is controlled by a landlord.  I'll find out more about then when I visit the organisers of one of the local Foodbanks this week.

Although I do know a way to cook without using gas or electricity, no doubt 'elf and safety would not allow it.  But for those readers who have enough common sense to have a go - it is worth trying just in case we have our own electricity cuts (as has happened in the past and why I discovered this way worked).
Set up six tea-lights fairly close together under a metal grid (an oven shelf or a cake airer), but stand the tealights on something like a metal tray or large platter as the under heat as the candles burn low can char whatever they are sitting on.  Put a small pan of water over the lit candle and eventually it will begin to boil.  The amount of heat that can make it do this is enough to heat up a pan of soup, or boil water in which can be cooked eggs (soft, hardboiled or poached), cook rice or pasta etc, or heat up a can of almost anything that needs to be heated (including porridge).  It will also heat a frying pan (preferably thin based) and cook scrambled eggs or an omelette, also fry bacon. 

The tea-lights I've seen on sale these days are half the depth of those sold formerly, but still last at least 2 hours when lit, and not expensive for a large bag.   We have loads of these as I always use them for our table 'hot-plates' (two candles needed per 'hot-plate).  When we had the Chinese meal I added extra candles under the lids - and these didn't go out because they were so shallow - and thus kept the bowls placed on top (and the food inside) really warm throughout the whole meal.

It is fortunate that our local Foodbank does accept some home-made 'bakes', as these are given out on the day of arrival, so will make some home-made biscuits, probably with oats and chocolate in them, as wish to provide something a bit more 'healthy' for the children than the normal shop-sold biscuits.  Light fruit cake also as the fruit is another of the 'five a day'.  

Interesting to hear that in Marjorie's area (if you are the Canadian Marjorie?) that they also have food banks (these not accepting home-cooked food). 
Agree with Janet that the Fairshare way of providing food is good, and giving money to support this probably goes further than if we support charities abroad.  Having heard that a lot of money donated to Third World charities does not reach where it should (a good percentage goes on administration costs), am now putting my (disposable) money where I can see it work.
However bad it is overseas, perhaps we should also remember the plight of our own people and that 'charity begins at home'.  This doesn't mean I don't support the Third World, I do, but share and share alike.

Bet you were relieved when you found your missing credit card Jane.  Yet, having just the £5 to spend on food seemed to focus your attention more onto how much you could purchase with it, and this alone was a good exercise. 
Helping your daughter out with her children is just as good as helping others Jane,  for one thing you have a chance to 'sow seeds of creativity' in their little minds, and help them understand how they can become more self-sufficient as they get older.  Teach them how to spend money wisely, and save what they can.  They can learn how to cook, grow plants (even on a windowsill), make their own Christmas decorations/gifts, and appreciate the love and care that people put in when these are made rather than just going out and buying something.
Lessons like that can last more than one generation, and if enough of us do this, then there is hope for a better life in the future for many.

Yesterday watched the Food Network and was (at first) delighted to see Delia Smith showing us how to make Christmas easy for the cook.  Easy perhaps (not so sure about that), but darn expensive.  But it was good to see her again.  There is a new Christmas cookery series on the same network starting tomorrow - and English one with Lisa Faulkener and some other chef.  Think it was timed for 12 noon.  Will take a look-see and if it appeals, hope to watch it daily.   Not that I really 'need to know', at my age there seems little new that is worth a try, B and I seem to prefer old favourites (mince pies, trifle, Christmas pud, Christmas cake, boxes of chocolates....).

A few veggie recipes to start today's 'selection'.  The first is for a pickle - a good way to use up the odds and ends of veggies.  As the recent veggie box included a big bunch of runner beans (not our favourite bean - although did cook some to add to the Chinese stir-fry, and also serve some with a beef casserole) was pleased to see these were included in the following recipe (but could be omitted). Courgettes could be used instead of cucumber.  Use large chopped onions if you don't have the small.  Use 2 tsp made mustard if you haven't the powder.  I don't add the hot chillis, but if you have them....
Piccalilli: makes approx 4 x 14oz (400g) jars
1 cauliflower, florets only
1 cucumber, peeled and chopped
a good 1lb (500g) small onions, chopped
8 oz (225g) runner beans, sliced
4 oz (100g) salt
1.75 pts (1 ltr) cold water
1.75 pts (1 ltr) pickling vinegar
1 oz (25g) pickling spice
8 whole dried chillies (opt)
2 tblsp turmeric
2 tsp ground ginger
2 oz (50g) sugar
1 oz (25g) plain flour
1 tblsp mustard powder
Put the prepared vegetables into a bowl and add the salt and water.  Cover and leave overnight, then rinse and drain well.
Put the pickling spice and chillis into a muslin bag, and put into a pan with all but 2 tblsp of the vinegar, and add the turmeric, ginger, and sugar.  Bring to the boil.
Meanwhile, mix together the flour and mustard powder with remaining vinegar to make a paste, then add this to the pan and stir well.  Add all the vegetables and bring back to the boil.  Simmer for 5 minutes, then cool.  Remove the muslin bag and pot up in to clean, sterilised jars.  Cover with vinegar proof lids.

Next recipe uses turnips, preferably the really small ones ones, but larger can be used if cut in  halves or quarters.  My economy suggestion is to use bacon from the cheaper packs of 'offcuts' that are on sale, and because of bacon as an ingredient, this turns the turnips into a meal in its own right - making a good, warming light lunch or supper dish.
Baby Turnips with Bacon: serves 4
6 rashers smoked back bacon, chopped
1 tblsp olive oil
a good lb (500g) baby turnips
1 oz (25g) butter
1 clove garlic, crushed (opt)
juice of 1 lemon
3 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper
Fry the bacon with the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat until golden and just being to crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and allow to cool a bit, then crumble it up.
Meanwhile, add the butter to the oil left in the pan, and when melted and hot, add the turnips and fry (saute) for 3 - 4 minutes until golden. Stir in the garlic, fry for a further minute, then add the lemon juice, 2 tblsp of the parsley, and seasoning to taste.  Reduce heat to low and continue cooking until the turnips are tender, then add the crumbled bacon, allowing a further minute for it to heat through, then serve sprinkled with the remaining parsley.

Swede is an excellent winter vegetable as it stores well.  Closely related to the turnip, it has a sweeter flavour and a yellow/orange flesh.  Three suggestions below for the use of swede that I think you will enjoy eating.  Although not mentioned, the swede needs to be peeled before using.

The first is for a warming and very traditional English soup.  Serve it topped with toasted cheese (as the French do with their onion soup), or with warm cheese scones instead of crusty bread.
Pearl barley is one of the cheapest grains and one we should all keep in our storecupboard as this grain can also be used in place of rice (cooked as a risotto).
Swede, Carrot, and Barley Soup: serves 4
1 small (or half a large - approx 14oz/400g) swede
2 carrots
1 onion
1 rib celery
1 oz (25g) butter
2 pints (1.2 ltrs) vegetable stock
4 oz (100g) pearl barley
salt and pepper
3 tblsp chopped fresh parsley (opt)
Chop all the (peeled where necessary) vegetables, and put into a large pan with the butter and fry gently (saute) over medium-low heat for 5 minutes until beginning to soften, then add the stock and barley, bring to the boil, then immediately reduce heat to low.  Cover and simmer for 45 minutes.  Add seasoning to taste, the serve with the parsley sprinkle on top.

Next is a very tasty supper dish that is similar to the first recipe (above: turnip and bacon), but this time using swede with the addition of chicken.
Swede, Chicken and Bacon Supper: serves 4
1 large swede (approx 18 oz/800g)
2  large chicken breast fillets, sliced
8 rashers bacon
3 tblsp olive oil
2 - 3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp ground cumin
juice of 1 large lemon
4 fl oz (200ml) chicken stock
3 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper
Chop the peeled swede into chunks and boil is slightly salted water until tender, then drain.  Put back into the pan over low heat for a minute to dry out thoroughly.
Put the oil in a frying pan over high heat, and fry the sliced chicken and bacon for a couple of minutes, turning once or twice, until brown, then add the Swede, garlic and cumin.  Reduce heat to medium and cook for a further five minutes or until the swede is light golden and the chicken cooked through.
Add lemon juice, the stock and parsley to the pan, seasoning with pepper to taste, then raise the heat and cook, stirring continuously, for a couple of minutes until bubbling and the stock has thickened slightly.  Taste and add a little salt if necessary.  Stir in the parsley, cook for a further minute, then serve.

Instead of cooking oven chips, why not serve swede chips instead?  These eat well with steak, gammon, and chicken (also with burgers, sausages, salads etc...).  Unfortunately I'm not sure what the 'season-all' seasoning is, and have a feeling this could be MSG.  Can anyone enlighten me? Myself would use instead something like Cajun seasoning, or similar.
Swede Chips: serves 4
1 large swede (approx 1.6oz/600g), peeled
2 tblsp olive oil
1 tsp Season-All seasoning (see above)
2 oz (50g) finely grated Parmesan cheese
Cut the swede into chips approx half inch (1.5cm) thick and 2" (5cm) long.  Put into a bowl with the oil and toss together.  Drain off any surplus oil, then add remaining ingredients, tossing again so that the swede chips are evenly coated.
Arrange the 'chips' on a shallow baking tray and bake for 25-30 minutes at 200C, 400F, gas 6, turning half-way through, until the swede chips are golden and crisp on the outside but still tender inside.  Serve immediately with what you will.

Am winding up my 'chat' for today because of a late start (stayed in bed until 8.15am because I was lovely and warm, so had to wait until Gill had phoned before I began my blog). and enjoying seeing an almost blue sky (a few very few high white clouds) but still frost on the lawn and the roof on the house opposite the window where I sit.    B has gone out to the club house to do some 'necessary outside work' there (with other male club members - no doubt the 'ladies' are in the kitchen providing hot drinks for them, with their usual bacon butties), so I've put the central heating back on again so I can stay warm.  The 'meter-man' came to read both meters (we are on dual-fuel with B.Gas), on Thursday, so now sees the start of the most expensive quarter of our fuel year.  Having had that extra fuel subsidy (because B has reached 80) that will (hopefully) pay for the extra heating that may be used if the weather is exceptionally cold (as they say it will be) this winter.  Have really got past caring.  As long as I have the money to pay for warmth, then why not?

 It's not as though I 'waste' my disposable income on myself (normally my 'expenses' - all household bills plus food and charity donations - come to less than our monthly basic State Pension paid in').  My only luxury is having my hair done, and now mainly once a fortnight instead of once a week.  Although did spend a bit when at the Pampered Chef evening, the Christmas present for B (chefs self-sharpening cook's knife) being the most expensive.  If I couldn't have afforded it, I wouldn't have bought it.  Simple as that!

Almost noon, so will say my farewell for today.  Hope all readers managed to keep warm and well fed.  Hope to hear from you tomorrow.  TTFN.