Sunday, December 09, 2012

Keeping it Simple

Perhaps, not surprisingly, I've now come down with a scratchy throat and coughing bouts (plus a bit of sneezing as well), so my attempt to keep clear of B's bugs were not successful.
At the moment am deciding whether to play the 'male card' and go and sit down in the living room most of the day licking my wounds, or still carry on, for it's not as though I feel ill, just don't feel quite well.  A 'nuisance' cough is more of an annoyance than anything else.   Maybe though WILL act macho for once and attempt to feel sorry for myself.  Having said that, it's not in my female genes to do so, so suppose will 'struggle on'.

Maybe I'm coping with the cough more easily than B because at the first tickle I went and ate some raw onion (something I would normally never do unless added to salads etc).  This always helps to soothe (if that's the word) a bad throat, and almost before I'd finished eating cold feel my throat had 'loosened'.   Coughing became much easier and I certainly don't feel it is getting worse, in some ways better as I'm coughing a great deal less often now, also had a good night's sleep (seemed no point in staying away from the bedroom now B's bugs had taken me over.

As nothing else of interest on TV at that time, B and I watched half of Heston B's programme where he was attempting to build a pub out of meat pie 'bricks'.  After watching some of it decided it was not interesting (all that food wasted), and it does seem as though H.B. enjoys playing with food rather than really using it for the purpose it is here for.   
Even the demonstration on how to assemble a 'Ploughman's Lunch Terrine' was not enough to keep me glued to the screen.  An original idea perhaps, and possibly slices of this (after cooking) would make a filling for a lunch-box sarnie, but personally enjoy a Ploughman's served the traditional way with every item separately placed on a plate and eaten in the order I wish, not lumped all together so one bite gets the lot. 

This seems to be the way the food trade is moving at the moment.  We now hear of things like sausages et al containing all (or most of) the foods that would be served on our plates for Christmas Dinner. Another 'taste of the whole meal'  in one bite sort of thing.   Similar things are happening to Pot Noodles, sandwiches, sausage rolls...   Don't know how you feel about it, but it does seem that this removes a lot of the pleasure taken from eating a dish prepared in the traditional way.
Myself enjoy eating a piece of turkey that has perhaps been spread lightly with some cranberry sauce, but do not wish - at the same time - to spear my fork with sausage, sprouts, potatoes, bread sauce and a bacon roll, then shove the lot into my mouth (nearly said gob as this way of eating seems to fit the word!) in one fell swoop.   We should enjoy the flavour of each food that is on our plate, not mash the lot together.  
My B does not understand this, he is always suggesting I put the cooked ingredients for a meal into the liquidiser then serve it as soup.  He is a man that sadly hasn't moved on much from wanting to eat baby foods. 

I've finished the latest book on food that B brought me from the library.  It's so good that I'll be giving it a second read before it is returned, also copying out one or two of the few recipes given.
Most of the pleasure of the book has more to do with the style of writing than the actual content, although this too makes fascinating reading.   Here are the details...
"Eating for Britain" by Simon Majumdar.  Published by John Murray ( in 2010, and in paperback in 2011 (it was the paperback I've been reading and the price shown for that was £9.99).  The ISBN number is 978-1-84854-227-3. 
Definitely a book I can recommend as it makes me want to make a lot more traditional meals in the traditional way - and eat them at the traditional time.  For those who live in certain areas of the country there are a list of 'eateries' where the best of these foods are still served.

After reading the above, began to read a second book that B brought - this time about 'life below stairs'.  This also paperback, but in smaller print (this I always find more difficult to read), and the book mainly about servant life through the centuries.  Although only a few chapters in, a lot is almost word for word as that written in the Clarissa Dickson Wright book read recently.  Obviously taken and adapted from other books (little number references being given with the list at the end of the book), and (thankfully) Clarissa omitted the reference numbers but did give a similar list at the end of hers.   Almost certainly I'll be speed-reading the book as there is too much information that I find boring.  Perhaps only of interest to someone reading for a degree in the subject.

Good to hear from you again Lynne.  Do keep up the challenge of 'making the most of what you have' once Christmas is over, and also let us know how you get on - how long you can last out, and how much you have managed to save.  The more we can prove this 'using it up' works, the more people (I hope) will have a go at this challenge for themselves.
I do agree that when we buy 'quality' meat, because of the depth of flavour, we can serve less than normal - especially when using the meat in a casserole where the taste is not just in the meat but also in the gravy, and carried on through anything else in the pot that will absorb it.  Using less means that although expensive, it probably doesn't cost a lot more than if we bought the cheaper and much more tasteless meat that we might have done in the past.
Certainly Donald Russell meat is by far the best I've tasted, and as - at full price - far too expensive for the likes of me, do find that by deliberately saving money (by now we all know that this can be done when we try), these savings will be more than enough to pay for those splendid offers that Donald Russell have throughout the year.  And the way I look at it, any money 'deliberately' saved (in other words only when we bother to do so) anything we then buy with it could be counted as 'almost free'.   Quality meat for 'almost free' makes for very good (and therefore cheap) meals.  Eat like a king on a pauper's purse.  That's the way to go.

Am pleased that Jane found a website that might help you with your query Alison, as myself was uncertain.  I tend to rely on the size of tin given in a recipe, then if I wish to use a larger tin, measure the volumes of the tins (fill with water to find the capacity), and if the larger tin holds a quarter (or half) more than the smaller, would then make a quarter (or half) more of the cake mix.
This might be of help:  if a recipe calls for a round cake tin and you have only a square one, use a square tin that is 2 - 3 cm smaller than the round.  Example: if a recipe calls for an 8" (20cm) round tin, the same amount of mixture will fit into an 18cm square one.

And thank you Jane for finding the website.  Agree with you it is far cosier in bed on chilly nights if we wear a dressing gown, and ones with a hood are particularly warming.  Myself find that my fluffy scarf cum snood really does keep my neck warm, and like feet, and fingers/wrists, the next has blood vessels close to the skin, and these get chilled rapidly when open to cold air.  Keep them warm and the whole body stays warm.
In hot weather the reverse works - when over-heated, put feet in a bowl of cold water, run cold water from the tap over the wrists, wrap a cold damp cloth round the neck.  Instant cooling down of body.
On the rare, very hot days, that we sometimes have, I've even slipped one hand through our jelly-filled wine-bottle cooler that we keep in our freezer.  Wear it like a wide bangle round my wrist and 'instant' cooling down.   Did the same a few months ago when I scalded my hand badly and it really hurt.  The chilling immediately took the pain away (at least whilst I wore the 'cooler').

Only if you come before your family Les, then can you call yourself 'self-centred', although perhaps when the family are not involved, you may well 'look after number one' (an expression B uses as this is how he feels things should be).  It's an interesting thing, but very often I've read that men have priorities, usually sport comes first, work second, and family last.  With women it is children first, husbands second, work possibly third, themselves last (with sport rarely in the picture).  But then that was how it used to be, no doubt things are different now what with role-reversals, broken marriages, and women playing football. 

Women now have some improvement in their lives compared to their great-grandmothers, but there is the other side of the coin, like going out to work (not always because of necessity) and still having the domestic chores to do on return, as well as rearing a family.   Family life today is not what it was, and when it comes to the children, feel a mite sorry that things have turned out the way they have.  Not always the fault of parents, it's 'elf and safety that seem to spend most of their time trying to find ways to prevent everyone (adults and children alike) enjoying themselves in the way that we older folk had freedom to do in our youth.

Although I delight in reading cookery magazines and watching cookery programmes on TV, it does seem that we are now being encouraged to think outside the box when it comes to preparing meals. Why the need to 'deconstruct' (or even reconstruct) a traditional recipe when it was perfectly satisfactory in its original state?  Then, having said that, sometimes a little imagination can lift what was acceptable into something that was even more perfect. 
In the above book mentioned (Eating British...) the author met the Asian gentleman who first lifted the classic Chicken Tikka, into the now famous Chicken Tikka Masala (considered now to have taken over from fish and chips as the 'traditional' British meal). It just shows what can be done when a customer complains and half a can of tomato soup saves the day.  Obviously improved slightly from then, but does leave the door open for us to add a hint of chilli to our Cottage Pie if we so wish, or add salt to our chocolate (it improves the flavour).  But take small steps, otherwise we could ruin our reputation of (now) having a nation of food that is worth eating (unlike in the past when our traditional foods were not so well known to foreigners and we almost always boiled our vegetables beyond recognition - even I remember that bit).

Instead of recipes, today am giving a few tips that really are worth knowing...

Make your own creme fraiche by blending together equal quantities of lightly whipped double cream with Greek yogurt.  If adding this to a dish when cooking, don't boil or it cold separate.

Chill the bowl, beaters and cream before beating as this helps the cream whip up quickly and smoothly.
If cream has been over-beaten, add a little more unwhipped cream or milk and slowly beat this in, this will then bring the cream back to where you wished it to be.

To grate cheese more easily using a hand grater, put the cheese in the freezer for an hour before you wish to grate it.

Fruit and veg. such as avocados, bananas, peaches, pears, broccoli, cauliflower and tomatoes all give off a natural gas that causes other fruits and vegetables to ripen.  So speed up the unripe by placing them in a bag with one or more of the above.  But beware, keep them away from ripe fruit and veg as they can cause them to go off more quickly.  Keep them separate.

To keep pans from boiling over (esp. pasta, rice, potatoes etc), smear a thin layer of butter around the inside rim of the pan.

When cooking  a food or a whole dish from frozen, it saves oven time (fuel) if it is first defrosted in the microwave, then when completely thawed finish cooking it in the oven until piping hot.

It's getting on for noon now, so had better take my leave.  So far it's turning out to be a lovely sunny (but very windy) day, with no sign of frost on the lawn, but apparently next week things will change and we will get lower temperatures, but then that's pretty normal for this time of year.  I've known a lot harder winters than we are having now, and a lot sunnier summer days, but certainly don't remember having such severe winds quite so often, and certainly not the heavy rainfall we seem to get now.  But when we consider the age of our planet, the seasonal weather we had last century may be more of a 'blip'.  What we are getting now may be returning back to normal. 
Millions of years ago our country had a tropical climate, then came the Ice Age, so which is it moving towards now?  Unfortunately the age I am now, I'm not likely to find out. Perhaps as well.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend.  Visit a Christmas Fair if there is one in your vicinity (these are always fun, but leave most of your money at home), or just sit with your feet up (as I'll probably be doing), then come back to me tomorrow and tell me all about it.  See you then.