Saturday, December 29, 2012

Doing Without!

Another late start to my blog, and not because I slept in - I began work early as I stayed up all night, mainly due to B coming back from the sailing club in a filthy temper.  Because he couldn't use the car he had to cycle there, and it was raining (but only a bit).  Very few people turned up, so B said he sat in the corner reading a book, then when he was about to leave three people he knew turned up so he was able to join in the chat for a bit.  When closing down and locking up the bar he inadvertently set off the burglar alarm (and not for the first time!), so he had to ring the 'alarm' office to send someone down to reset it. 
As B uses me as his 'kicking dog' when he has been annoyed by someone (I'm used to it), I suggested he went and read his emails before going to bed, but then I had to set up the right page for him as previously he 'lost' his own connection and has to go through mine, and as he can mess up the comp just by looking at it, I needed to know it was OK for him to start, and also requested that he didn't switch it off, but leave that for me.  Ages later he finished and went to bed, so I came in here and checked my emails/comments ready for today's replies.  By then I was wide awake so sat and watched films/news until about 7.00am.  

After putting in a load of laundry (now washed and on the airers), took the beef from the fridge to come to room temperature before I begin cooking it (once I've published this), did the washing up, made myself a bowl of porridge, weighed the beef to see how much weight it will have lost after cooking, then did some 'kitchen tidying', went back and watched TV news (more rain, rain, rain over the next few days - it's been the wettest year since records have been kept), and after realising the time (9.15am) despite it still seeming darkish outside (heavy rain clouds) that made it seem barely past dawn - decided I'd better make an effort to write something for you to read today.

Not that there is much of interest.  B requested sausage, egg and oven-chips for his supper yesterday, I made myself a salad and had that with a few sausages.  Late I ate a couple of mince-pies, and B ate more of these when he returned, so only one mince pie left and a good chunk of Christmas cake.   For some reason B hasn't seem to have been interested in the selection of cheeses I bought for him to enjoy - when I don't have much cheese in the fridge he always seems to want it, but when I do have it, he ignores it.  All the more left for me to grate up and use to make 'meatless' meals I suppose.

Think the problem with B is that he is not enjoying being around the house all day long. When he was able to use his car, almost every day he would find a reason to go out (birdwatching, library, Morrison's, club house....) and he doesn't enjoy not being able to do what he wants.  Myself wish he would go out, even for just a walk or cycle ride (which he won't do in the rain - and rain we keep getting), so that he is out from under my feet.  At the moment I'm contemplating taking a few days holiday on my own, maybe just staying in a local hotel, but at least away from the house and B who really is not nice to know when he can't have what he wants.
This is the first time he's had to give up doing what he would like to be doing - at least since we moved here - so perhaps I shouldn't grumble.  All I hope is that the repairs to the car to get it through its MOT won't take too long and B will get the car back by the end of next week.

Anyway, perhaps spending the day in the kitchen today will keep us apart, and when I do go back into the living room B will probably be asleep in his chair (when he has nothing to do he tends to sleep as much as he can - probably to make the day pass faster). 

Remembered that 'frothy' coffee was called Cappuccino, not espresso.  Thanks for reminding me Jane.  Think that we all find when drinking tea or coffee, there are 'favourites'.  Do remember once having a weekend break in Amsterdam, being served coffee at breakfast and it was gorgeous.  I asked how it was made, and they used coffee with a name like 'Doue Egberts' (am not sure of the spelling but near enough), and the milk was Evaporated.   I bought some of this coffee in 'instant' form at the airport, and when I got home made coffee using the evaporated milk, and it certainly was lovely, but since then have gone back to using Nescafe Original (I use the jars as storage jars), and both B and I prefer it rather weak - adding just a little milk.  Can't say I find it bitter, but myself feel that ground coffee IS bitter, so maybe everyone tastes things that little bit differently.

My favourite teas (according to my mood) are English Breakfast, Earl Grey, and Green Tea (only the E.Breakfast with milk added).  As the flavour of any tea depends upon the water used, even this can change from region to region, county to county. 
At one time used filtered water to make tea (jug with a filter attached), and it was amazing how a cup of tea made with tap water would have almost a 'rainbow' sheen on the surface, whilst the filtered tea looked very pure (there was also a noticeable difference in the taste of tap water and filtered water).  If it wasn't that the filters are rather expensive, I'd use filtered water all the time when making drinks (but not for cooking).  

Glad you haven't (yet) had snow Lisa, although a slight fall will help your parched earth.
I too am a fan of sushi, but not the sort made with raw fish (think this is called sashumi?).  The supermarkets sell trays of mixed sushi, and sometimes (but rarely) treat myself to one. 
At one time I used to make my own sushi, but (silly me) gave my mat, sushi rice, sheets of seaweed, etc away to someone else who liked sushi.  I haven't seen them on sale in Morrison's (and not on Tesco's site either). Are these 'sushi makings' still on sale?

A welcome to Pauline - who may be a new reader or a regular who has sent in her first comment. Hope to hear from you again Pauline.  Like many small families (two adults only) today, she has little or no leftovers this Christmas.  That makes good sense, for we do tend to spend far too much on food to eat over the Twelve Days, and am sure in some households (but not those of our readers I am sure) there will still be quite a lot thrown away that could be used but people are just fed up of eating the same thing day after day.

Let us hope that I can make the new challenge (using the left-over Sunday roast over the week), something that B won't get fed up with.  He has always liked to eat a different meat (or fish) each day, and in no particular order this would normally be beef, lamb, pork, chicken, salmon, prawns.... so am hoping my challenge will last at least a month before he says 'enough is enough'.
If I play my cards right and make the meals interesting enough, he may wish to continue.

Took a look at the Guardian article you mentioned Margie (re 'posh' Spam).  I've already eaten Spam-with-Bacon, and enjoyed that, so will look out for (and hopefully find) some of the more 'gourmet' versions that seem to be on sale.  Will still enjoy the ordinary Spam, but not quite sure why as it really doesn't have a very interesting flavour, but there must be something (nutritious)about it as I have real 'cravings' for Spam sarnies - and I'm not even pregnant!

At the moment am having to decide whether to braise the rump joint of beef, or cook it by the 'low-temperature' method (which is not the same as cooking in the slow-cooker - best used for the humbler and cheaper/tougher meats).  Whichever way I choose, the joint has first to be seared in a hot pan, and experience has taught me that the slower the meat is 'roasted' the more tender it will be, and also lose less weight, so low-temperature cooking \(80C) seems to make the most sense as the more meat there is, the more meals it will make.
Have to admit that roasting at high temperature does give a wonderful flavour to a tender cut of beef, but when it comes to the crunch - beggars can't be choosers.  What I want is to gain the most for my money, and if it has to be through slow-cooking, then so be it.

With slices of beef served in a rich, hot gravy, doubt that B will notice much difference in my meat and the roasts his mother used to cook (at least hope he won't).  As long as he has 'Yorkies' with his beef, roast potatoes, and Brussels sprouts (and maybe carrots as well), he will be a happy bunny.

By now you know that the 'Sunday roast' (tomorrow) will be beef.  Next weekend I'll be making a choice between a large chicken or a joint of lamb.  Much depends upon the price and how much can be made from it.  It will be towards the end of the week before I have that decision to make.

However, today am giving a recipe for a chicken curry 'with a twist' (in other words not an Asian dish).  Although this version uses raw chicken, no reason why it could not be made using left-over cooked turkey, and myself might make it as one of the weekday meals when chicken will be the Sunday 'roast'. 
Instead of curry powder, use curry paste.  Instead of sweet potato use butternut squash (or ordinary 'spuds').  Instead of chicken breasts use boneless, skinless chicken thighs (cheaper and have more flavour than breasts) - or use about 1lb (450g) cooked chicken/turkey, diced.
West Indian Chicken Curry: serves 4
1 large onion, chopped
1 tsp sunflower oil
1 - 2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tblsp curry powder
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks
4 skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks
1 x 400g can coconut milk
4 oz (100g) cherry tomatoes
Put the onion and the oil into a large frying pan and fry for 5 minutes, then stir in the garlic and curry powder (or paste) and fry for a further minute, then stir in the sweet potato and chicken.
Add the coconut milk and simmer for 10 - 12 minutes (until the s.potato and chicken are cooked), then add the tomatoes and simmer for a further 2 minutes.
Serve with (or without) cooked rice, but do serve it with a cooling dip of 'raita' (chopped mint and chopped cucumber folded into Greek yogurt).   Being West Indian, possibly corn tortillas would make a good 'flatbread' to serve with this curry (as they are similar to chapatis).

Today sees the beginning of my preparations for my new challenge.  My aim is for B not to notice he is having to do without (his favourite meals), but make what will be served interesting enough to hold his attention.  There is no real need to use left-overs in the way my mother did,  just as long as the 'left-overs' are much the same (this week: cold beef). Whether the meat will be minced depends upon what I'll be making - should it be used for the traditional Cottage pie, or should I use the mince to make a spag.bol?  'Sliced cold meat' (normally served on Mondays) could instead be sliced thickly and then cut into strips to marinate in a bit of sherry, to then be cooked with mushrooms and cream to make a Strogonoff.  Or instead could stir-fry the strips with veggies to make a Chinese meal.

Let's call it the 'traditional' way of cooking a Sunday roast, with the advantage of 21st century 'knowledge' to turn the left-overs into something more interesting.  So really not THAT much different, as my mother would have done much the same had rice, pasta, curry paste, soy sauce, black pepper....been common ingredients in her larder in those days.

Reminds me - recently have noticed how many cooks/chefs are now using white pepper again.  When in my youth there was no other kind, with the black peppercorns (that needed to be 'freshly ground') something that seemed to 'appear' in the 60s or 70s, and so we all then went out and bought the pepper mills!  Sea and rock salt is also 'new' in that previously salt was always 'fine' for table use, and 'coarse' for cooking (or for strewing over icy patches to prevent us slipping).   Now it seems we all use black pepper and have forgotten about the white.  Many of us now also use rock/sea salt (better for us anyway).

White pepper (whether freshly ground or 'loose' in jars) works best as a seasoning in something (like a white sauce) where the appearance would be spoiled by flecks of black pepper.  There is a slight difference in flavour between the two peppers (there are also other 'coloured' peppers - pink etc...) myself finding the freshly ground black more 'fragrant' than the white - which has a stronger, 'hotter' flavour. 

I could ramble on about 'what's new' (by this I mean in my life-time - but probably common to all who are younger than 50!).  So should be grateful that there is so much more on sale today than ever before - some of which I hope will improve the 'left-overs' to turn them into a dish in their own right.  To find out if this will happen, all I can say is "watch this space".

Hope you all have a good weekend, despite the bad weather that has been forecast.  I think it has stopped raining here, but for how long?  Not that it matters, I'm staying indoors (so what's new about that?). Expect B will find a dry minute to cycle down to the shops to buy his Lottery ticket. He wouldn't dare miss that in case this is the week his numbers came up (always a mistake to keep the same numbers for that very reason).  As he (like many others) buy Lottery (aka Lotto) tickets each week (now twice a week) ever since they began (without winning more than £10 over that period), just think how much money must have spent (wasted!!!!!).  I shudder to think.

Yes, yes, YES! Really must stop tapping the keys and go and get on in the Goode kitchen.  Gill will be phoning tomorrow, so if I can get up early enough to write and publish before she phones (at 9.00) then hope to do so, otherwise it will be 10.00am before I begin.  Either way, will be back tomorrow.  See you then.