Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Bits and Bobs

A shorter blog today as Norma the Hair will be arriving at 9.00am. Keep forgetting Wednesday comes after Tuesday, should have given it a mention yesterday in case I got up late and my blog would not then be published until around noon.

Three photos today, the first shows the batch of little loaves made recently from half a batch of bread dough (the second half made a 1lb loaf - still in the oven when I photographed these). This half-batch made six mini-loaves, two seen in their reusable cardboard 'baking boxes, the other four removed from their boxes. Four more were made in my metal dariole moulds (one still in the mould). All are a perfect size to serve individually with (say) soup.Below you see one of the loaves that I sliced to make those mini-sandwiches I raved about the other day. This time managed to cut 10 thin (but not too thin) slices that I hope you can make out, the two end crusts at the top. Again these could be toasted with cheese to float on top of French Onion Soup. Or just eat as a toasted cheese snack or canape base.

Final photo today is of my Beloved (as requested by Susan G.) after asking B's permission to take it and put it on my blog.
It is a very good likeness, and was taken yesterday evening as he was sitting watching TV. Must try and find a photo of both of us so you can see what we looked like in our twenties. To me B never looks any different now as he did then because I still view him through rose-coloured glasses even though I keep 'going on' about him all the time.
Now to reply to your comments.
I have tried the EasyYo ice-cream mix Jane, but this was years ago when it was first on sale. Have to say I was a bit disappointed. It was OK, but not (to me) tasting as nice as bought (or even home-made) ice-cream. It may have improved. The EasyYo yogurt mixes to me seem BETTER than bought yogurt. Myself like to blend EasyYo fruit flavoured (or caramel etc) made yogurt with the same amount of Italian meringue and then freeze it. This is even better than ice-cream.

Yes, thought there must have been a Superscrimper missing Susan G. Now that I've been on ITV Player see that I can watch the ones already missed (if I really want to, and have to say I really don't), but there must be more ways to save money that I don't already know about.
Doesn't that make me sound smug and clever? Don't mean it like that, it's just that the prog is pretty basic, and suppose having lived most of my life 'cost-cutting', perhaps becoming interested in what I was doing led me to learn that much more than I would have otherwise.

Interesting hearing about the weather in Missouri Lisa. It does seem so very similar to what we have here at the same time.
Was very interested to hear about your family 'gene-bank'. When it comes to families, we always get 'throw-backs' with children, who then resemble ancestors of the past, often long past. With two of your children looking like ones in an Italian painting, it could be the people in the original portrait were related and came from the same area that your ancestors did.
In the old days, when people didn't move around much (marrying a girl from the same or next village was as far as they wandered), often we get facial features that are still the same in the same regions. Over here it is easy to recognise what I call a 'Scottish face', or a 'Welsh face', and and 'Irish face' (all Celtic and there are more than one 'types'), also those whose ancestors descended from the Vikings (me being one), and the Romans (both who invaded our country many centuries ago).
I've a very good book (out of print) called 'The Blood of a Britishman', and this explains the regional differences that are here now, due to the different cultures (Romans, Jutes, Saxons, Vikings etc) that came to our shores a thousand (or less) years ago. Many of their descendants still remain in the area they first settled and enjoy the different foods and entertainment from their mother countries. Suppose much is the same now in America as there are areas where the many different nations have settled.
When we visited our daughter in New York State, it was very obvious (names over shops etc0 that the area near Kingston was (and perhaps still is) habited by the Jewish and German communities. How thankful I was when I discovered that many of the 'bakers shops' were German-family owned - their gateaux and bread are out of this world!
Am presuming the New England States were settled by those who emigrated from England, and America (esp New York city according to the films I watch) seems to have a lot of Irish people living there.

Pleased that the photos of the Cassata were useful Cheesepare. Once made and ready to serve no doubt it would look better if it was chocolate coated, but as it is very rich anyway (because I whip the cheese with double cream), tend to serve it as-is. Possibly it could look similar to brown bread ice-cream, but although it will freeze, the Sicilian Cassata isn't an ice-cream (although some ice-creams ARE called Cassatas) and needs thawing before being eaten.

When the weather is clear the block of flats at Bare are easily visible from the Lakeland side of the Bay, and if they were not there possibly you might have been able to see the roof of our house as this is on higher ground not much more than a quarter mile behind the flats, quite close to the railway station.

Making a meal to serve four with a budget of £3 is the type of challenge I enjoy, so thank you Mabel for the query.
The way I would plan this is to probably (almost certainly) serve a three-course meal, for that way the main course can be smaller (starter and pud being the 'fillers'). Soup is an obvious 'starter' as these are very inexpensive to make, probably no more than 50p to serve four on a good day. OR serve home-made chicken pate with slices of toast (again costing not much more than 50p for four).
Then I would choose an 'economical' pudding. Steamed sponge is probably one of the cheapest (and most filling), but pancakes are also very cheap to make and these can be filled with stewed fruit. Dare I even mention serving profiteroles with chocolate sauce for as we now know we can make these (cream-filled) for less than 5p each.

Am assuming (serving the above) there would still be around £2 left to make the main course (or to be on the safe side allow £1.50). If we can avoid serving meat, then this should be enough to pay for the ingredients to make either a vegetarian curry or lasagne (or other pasta dish).
This amount of money would be enough to make a vegetarian chilli con carne using a Beanfeast mix plus half a can extra of red beans and chopped tomatoes. This I made the other day and it made more than enough to serve four.

With eggs on sale for 8p each (based on a tray of 15 from Tesco), eggs too can make a 'main course' (curried eggs etc). Also there are many dishes where canned tuna or sardines/pilchards can be used. It doesn't cost a lot to make some super fishcakes using canned fish (and instant potato or breadcrumbs), and if we stay with soup and main course and omit any dessert this gives us 50p or more to play with and we might even be able to include meat in the 'mains'.
Don't forget that if we get those free chicken carcases that most butchers are happy to give away to their customers, these too will provide 'free' meat to peel off the bones once cooked, and this can be made into pies, curries or whatever you wish.

When we grow our own Mixed Salad Leaves on the windowsill then we can provide the necessary vitamins (aka 'greens') for hardly any cost at all (one packet of seeds for 99p is enough to sow 9 boxes of salads, each providing at least 2 - 3 'crops' (each 'crop' serving four).

The above is the way my mind works when it comes to working out what to make on a set amount of money. If I'd been asked to make a meal for four for a lesser amount (say £1.50) could probably come up with something. Already my mind is thinking 'cheap to make' such as that classic French starter: 'Pissenlit au lard' (dandelion leaves served with crispy bacon - dandelion leaves are 'free', only a little bacon needed to give flavour). For the mains almost certainly would be pasta based. Perhaps Carbonara with ham scraps/egg/cream. Pudding something like 'Poor Knight's of Windsor', these being basically jam sandwiches cut into strips, fried in shallow fat (pref butter but oil would do) then drained and immediately tossed in caster sugar. With custard.
Haven't priced out the above to the penny, but having done the same in the past (for a mag) know that we really don't need to spend a lot to put a meal on the table. Whether a low cost meal can always be satisfying or not is debatable, but then as so many people can spend a fortune eating 'nouvelle cuisine' in a top restaurant (this being a teeny-weeny portion but beautifully presented), eating to satisfy the appetite is not always the reason why we eat.
What we have to remember is that the amount on our plate is no indication of its nutritional value. We don't need to eat a lot to keep ourselves healthy, but we often do - and one reason where there is so much obesity around these days. So we need also to consider this before we start worrying about not 'providing enough'. We managed with meagre war-time rations, we can manage now.

Have to dash, time has caught up with me. Hope you can join me again tomorrow. If so - see you then.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

More Party Desserts

Today am describing how to make/assemble the Sicilian Cassata. No reason why it couldn't be made in a cling-film lined loose-bottomed square or round cake tin, I uses a 2lb loaf tin as it is easier to slice (and a more traditional shape), and this will serve 8 - 10.

This is an easy dessert to prepare, but needs to be assembled at least a day before serving. After pressure, it can also be frozen to thaw and eat later.

The first picture shows the loaf tin, lined with cling-film (with plenty of overlap) and the bottom covered with halved trifle sponges, sugar side down. I drizzled over a little Cointreau, but it could be just a little orange juice (or maybe even Limoncello).

Then I made the filling by blending together a tub of ricotta cheese and a tub of cream cheese, then beat in half a pint of double cream until thick (you could use all ricotta cheese, or all cream cheese, or even curd cheese if you wish) with a tablespoon of icing sugar and a tablespoon of Cointreau (the liqueur is optional). Ricotta is the 'traditional' cheese to use.
To the thick creamy mixture, then folded in half a tub of candied peel and about four heaped tablespoons of finely grated chocolate. Add more of both if you wish. Half this mixture was spooned and spread on top of the sponges in the loaf tin. You can see this below.

On top of the filling was placed another layer of sponge, this time the bottom half of the trifle sponges (without the sugary coating), a couple and a bit more needed this time due to the loaf tin widening towards the top. The picture below shows how I placed them. Add another drizzle of Cointreau if you wish.
On top of these was spread the last of the filling (below)

The final layer of halved sponges placed on the top, sugar side up, eight needed plus a thin slice to cover the top. Then folded the surplus clingfilm back over to cover and placed a piece of card cut to size on top. With the Cassata now assembled, all that was needed was to put weights on top of the protecting card to compress the 'cake', this you can see below. Then it was placed in the fridge to chill for 24 hours (or up to 48 hours).
When ready to plate up, remove weights, fold back clingfilm and upturn onto a plate, the bottom then becomes the top. Unfortunately forgot to take a photo of it once ready to serve, but think you can get a good idea of what it would look like. The traditional Cassata has an extra addition, the top and sides then spread with chocolate ganache (or you could use Nutella), but as it is already so rich, I omit this as I feel the addition of chocolate 'icing' over-eggs the pudding so to speak.

The reason behind compressing the dessert with weights is two-fold. Firstly the creamy filling is so squidgy it would be difficult to serve in neat slices. Also the sponges soak up any 'liquid' that is in the filling and then become moist rather than stay dry, making them more delicious to eat. This also helps to firm up the filling.

Did not take photos of the Tiramisu as am assuming most people know how to make this. In a way it is very similar to the Cassata, but this time sponge fingers are used, the underside of each dipped in strong coffee then placed on the base of the container (sugar side down). The 'filling' is much the same as the Cassata, but this time made with marscapone cheese. Rum is sprinkled over the sponge, and also added to the filling. Traditionally raw egg is beaten into the cheese, but I beat in either cold custard or a lemon yogurt. Again it can be made using cream cheese (or even thick Greek yogurt if you wish or a mixture of marscapone, cream cheese and yogurt).
Cover the base layer of sponge with half the filling, cover with more coffee dipped sponge fingers, then add the final layer of filling, but this time NOT topped with sponge. Give the top a covering of sifted cocoa then leave in the fridge to chill for at least an hour before serving (although it can be made a day in advance).

Uncertain as to what mould to use for the party Tiramisu, discovered that the white plastic containers that normally hold my Value Pack of mushrooms (from Tesco) were perfect as these have ridges on the base exactly the size for holding the sponge fingers. I always save these boxes, so had plenty, each holding enough to serve 8 - 10. The mushrooms now seem to come in similar boxes but these are now dark brown in colour, but could also be used. I also line these with clingfilm before using (or you could line with baking parchment).

Time now for me to give a mention to the 'trade news'. See now that the 15p off a litre of petrol or diesel offered by Morrison's is due to run until the 11th March, so you have just under two weeks to take advantage of this really good 'Fuel Brittania' campaign.

With the growing use of buying food on-line (said to rise a third by 2016), the supermarkets are expected to reduce their large displays of 'ambient goods', with a report suggesting that the extra gained floorspace would be opened up to other businesses such as gyms as a way of attracting more shoppers.

The report also predicted a race to develop technology that would allow customers to dock smartphones into trolleys, so they could navigate stores and access individualised promotions by communicating with technology on packs and shelves.

All I can say is - whatever next?

A full page feature covers the current problem with farming.. "it's been the worst drought for a generation, with few counties from the Midlands down to Kent escaping unscathed. The situation is so severe that a 'drought summit' was hastily arranged, bringing together farmers, water companies, the Environment Agency and Defra to discuss what's being done to tackle the issue.

Following the summit, the environment minister called on the whole country to find ways to save water, "It is not just the responsibility of government, water companies and businesses to act. We are asking for the help of everyone by urging them to use less water, and to start now".

Remembering that half a century ago it was normal for folk to have a 'bath night' once a week, the rest of the time washing daily at the bathroom basin. This still meant we were perfectly clean. Today it seems that people must stink to high heaven if they need to have a shower each and every day. Or is it more likely they find it a pleasurable way to wash (which it is)? Time perhaps to have a rethink and shower less frequently and go back to filling the wash-basin with water and make do with that. At least until it rains in any amount again.

Some farmers have switched to shorter season crops, and others have reduced the amount they plant - one telling the NFU he was going to plant 20% fewer root and vegetable crops this year. Some farmers are saying "if I haven't got water, there's no point in planting".

As a consumer I can see what will then happen. What local veggies are able to be grown will undoubtedly be in short supply so the prices will rocket. Even though we can import, these will almost certainly be sold at a higher price just because of our 'shortage'. So it does make sense to use as little domestic water as we can in the hope that if we all do this we can then prevent at least some price rises. Which would you prefer, to shower every day and pay £££s more for food, or wash in a basin and keep your costs down?

We had to reduce our water consumption in war-time, so if we could do it then, we can do it now.

Anyone interested in the wholesale prices of fish and seafood will be pleased to know that farmed salmon is now 40% cheaper than last year, and haddock also seems to have gone down in price. On the other hand coldwater prawns - due to high demand sending prices soaring - are currently 63.3% more expensive than this time last year, with prices continuing to rise. On the other hand the price of warmwater prawns (which account for about 85% eaten worldwide) have stabilised over the past month. From a list given, plaice, hake, pollack, cod, salmon, and haddock are all cheaper than they were last year.

Funny how different countries view the same foods. An interesting article gave an insight on to the American way of advertising the dangers. In Wisconsin they had a an ad with the grim reaper, scythe in hand warning of the dangers of cheese!!.... "Cheese Can Sack Your Health. Fat. Cholesterol. Sodium."

In Albany, New York they have a poster showing a plump lady's leg with the slogan "your thighs on cheese", another with a man's belly with "your abs on cheese". As the article says, bad adverts based on bad science. "The fact is that consumers world wide make a connection between dairy products, calcium content and bone strength. Cheese is, in nutritional parlance, a 'good source' of calcium and eight other essential nutrients.

Science doesn't support the demonisation of dairy. Findings have shown that for every additional dairy serving consumers ate, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes fell by 6%. Cheese has its place on the 'eat well' plate.

In moderation, cheese is a positive addition to the healthy diet. Why not demonise Cracker Jack, nachos, pretzels or Hershey bars instead?"

Obviously we shouldn't eat too much cheese as it is 'calorie dense', but far better to cut out the junk foods that so many children wish to eat and instead replace with cheese. Myself love to eat salad leaves, first sprinkled with a little dressing then tossed with grated cheese. The cheese sticks to the leaves so each mouthful is full of flavour, and not as much used (in other words less calories) than if the cheese was eaten in chunks.

We - as consumers - need to realise that when we change our life-style, then the manufacturers will come up with something new to 'help us do this'. Now that 'home-cooking' is taking over from the ready-meals, to save us cooking from scratch we will continue to see new 'meal kits' on the supermarket shelves.

We are already familiar with the El Paso Mexican kits, and now Sharwoods will be doing something similar. From next month we will be able to buy four Indian and two Chinese wrap meal kits in tikka, balti, jalfrezi, masala, sweet chilli and hoi sin flavours. The products contain wraps or chapattis, a sachet of spices and a sauce. The rsp. is £3.29 although not sure how many the kits will serve. Could be for just one for all I know.

The 'trade' believes "that meal kits were a huge opportunity as it was the fastest-growing part of the cooking sauces and accompaniments market - up 8.7% y.o.y."

A food analyst said about a third of British consumers used meal kits, but warned that families with children might be put off kits if they were too spicy.

Have I ever used a meal-kit? In all honesty have, but only a very few times. The most recent purchase was an El Paso one by B's request as he wanted to have a go at making it himself, but in the end left me to do it. As I had still to buy the main ingredients, it would have been cheaper to buy the tacos etc separately.

The one time I bought a complete Indian 'banquet' was quite amusing. The package (almost a carrier bag full) contained several different curries (each packed in small containers), a pack of rice, chapattis etc. The chapattis had to be heated in the oven while the curries were - each individually - heated in the microwave, then the rice had to be heated in the microwave, all taking different times, and as it took a good 45 minutes to heat up everything, by then most had gone cold so when plated up this then had to go back into the microwave. I worked out that I could have made a chicken curry (in three curry flavours) plus cooking rice from scratch and heating up chappatis/naan, AND making a Raita, in just half an hour. Proving that a ready-meal really isn't that 'ready' after all.

Moving to the home-baking scene we would expect the 'basics' (flour, sugar etc) to be left well alone, but not so. There is a new retail sugar brand "designed to take the hassle out of home baking". "How can it do that?" I ask myself so I read and see that we will now be able to buy 'fine caster', 'superfine icing sugar', fine Demerara, crunchy Demerara, light soft brown sugar, selling in weights from 350g to 600g that carry an rsp of £1.50p.

These will be packed in resealable pouches that can stand on their own. Research had highlighted that spillage and waste from split packs was the biggest gripe for consumers, and the new pouches would redress these concerns so "while the sugars would sell at a slight premium compared with other packs on the market, shoppers would be willing to pay extra for the added convenience" says the marketing director.

Get this Mr Marketing. If I want finer sugar I just grind down the coarse in my liquidiser/blender, or just make do with what is already on sale. Am perfectly happy with the paper bags the sugar is sold in (also those with plastic wrappings). The trade says "packaging is a big issue for shoppers but there's been little innovation in the retail sugar market for a number of years...AND...Home-baking has seen incredible growth over the past few years...and this is the first stage in the revitalisation of sugar". So we can see where it all will lead.

It doesn't seem to matter that for generations (centuries in fact) we have been successfully baking cakes, biscuits, pastry etc to a very high standard using what we call 'basic' ingredients, there is always someone who comes along believing they can make things even better for us. All I can say is we don't need all this 'new stuff', and we shouldn't waste our money on it, even though the 'new pouches' will stand up on their own. Myself lay the bags of sugar on their side and they are then perfectly stable, also can stack one on top of the other until they reach the ceiling (if I had enough). You can't do that with 'pouches'.

Sainsbury's will be re-launching its ready-meal range next month in four varients: Chicken Thai Green Curry with Bamboo Shoots, King Prawn and Chorizo Paella, Makhani Chicken Tikka Masala, and Tagliatelle Pistachio Pesto and Cherry Tomatoes. The rsp of the products has been reduced from £4.99 to £3.99.

Far be it from me to suggest buying a ready meal ever, but have to say the names alone make my mouth water, and possibly might give us enough inspiration to have a go at making something similar from scratch ourselves.

Albert Bartlett 'Rooster' potatoes are a favourite of mine as they do seem to have more flavour than most spuds on sale, and now read that A.B. is now to sell American Style Russet Potatoes. These Russet potatoes have a creamy yellow flesh and a dry texture and are America's favourite potatoes, grown in Ohio and enjoy protected status. The ads for this spud will tie-in with National Chip week - in which it claims that the (russet) potatoes 'put US diner chips on the UK dinner plate'. These 'russets' are available in selected Asda, Booths, Lidl and Orcado stores with the rsp £1.59 for a 1.75g pack.

You see, this is another thing. We are now persuaded to try another new-to-us variety of potato. Me, I'm happy with King Edwards, Maris Piper for the roasting/chipping or jackets/mashing, and Charlotte or 'baby new' for the salads and skin-on boiled. Sometimes I buy the Rooster, and (in season) Jersey Royals, and other varieties if the price is less than my chosen selection, but to pay more just because it is America's favourite.

At one time believed America's very best potatoes were grown in Idaho (the potato state) so perhaps the 'russets' are different in flavour due to the difference in the Ohio soil perhaps.

Vegans may be interested to know that the world's first fryable vegan egg could be on the market as early as next year if a US inventor (who has already created a vegan egg yolk) has his way.

The vegan egg yolk (called the VEGG) is made from a blend of yeast flakes, sodium alginate, kala namak and beta-carotene and these take on a yolk shape after a 'molecular gastronomic technique', and this will be launched in the UK in mid-March of this year.

Its creator is now working on a whole egg - complete with faux egg white - to be sold as a pre-formed whole fryable egg in supermarket fridges.

All I can say is 'thank goodness I remain an omnivore and can eat real eggs and not have to 'make do'. Can never understand why people who refrain from eating any animal products still wish to pretend they are still eating them.

The main feature in this week's trad mag is to do with changing the way we get our protein, and however horrific this may sound, it does seem that it will happen sooner rather than later, for we have already made a start with what we consider (in the UK) to be a bit 'yukky'. The French enjoy eating snails, the Japanese love the scavenging eel, the Chinese delight in the 'sea cucumber' (aka sea slug), and in Thailand they enjoy locust kebabs.

We have to remember that the prawns we enjoy are basically 'locusts of the sea'. But will be go that one step further and add to our diet insects? Insect eating has been common in Asia, South America and Africa for millenia, with 80% of the world happily consuming about 1,400 insect species each day.

It has to be said that most of us would eat almost anything that is edible if there was nothing else to eat, so perhaps we shouldn't be too picky, for with the world population increasing by the second and the food grown decreasing almost as rapidly, then raising insects for food makes a lot of sense. They require very little space per pound of protein produced, have a better feed-to-meat ratio than any other animal, more of their body mass is edible and they reproduce very quickly. With no added hormones they are also good for us with their high protein and calcium densities.

Being incredibly versatile (insects can be toasted, fried, roasted and chocolate covered - these the most popular way to eat them at the moment) we could soon be seeing 'insect burgers on sale.

We mustn't forget that much of what we eat is to do with fashion (and price). What was once 'poor man's food' (offal, brains, sweetbreads, tongue) is now considered almost gourmet fare, and when chefs start to demonstrate (and serve in their restaurants) dishes made using insects as an ingredient, the sooner we will learn to begin enjoying them.

If you care to hunt around (and even give it a try) you will find there are some insects-to-eat already on sale and a brave person who sampled all of these so that he could give a write-up for the mag. This is what he says:

The flavour of the Cheddar Cheese Grubs is not too bad at all. They are like emaciated Wotsits (cheesey and tooth coating). Rated them five stars.

The Toasted Weaver Ants were Thai green curry flavoured and like the crumbs left in a bag of pork scratchings. They have the texture of one of those not-quite-cooked scratchings. Rated 3.

The BBQ flavoured Flying Grasshoppers looked liked terrestrial prawns, but don't taste of anything. Texture is horrible and the wings stick in your throat. Rating 2.

The Thai green curry flavoured Toasted Silkworm Pupae look awful, but the fact is the flavour isn't too bad at all. A bit like a crunchy curry that could catch on. Rating 4.

We all know that what starts in America usually ends up here, and when I read that a Brooklyn entomologist has been hosting 'insect-based dinner parties' for the past few years, and is now hoping to make cricket flour and create a new line in insect snacks (such as Hoppin' Good bars, with crickets, oats, grains and nuts - triple the protein with zero fat content), then quite possibly we will be seeing the same here, but hopefully not in my lifetime.

However, when we think back at Jamie Oliver's demonstration as to how chicken nuggets et al are made from 'pre-formed' meat, and even knowing now what that 'meat' consists of, how we still serve products made of this to our children and maybe even eat it ourselves (out of sight, out of mind, or what the eye doesn't see etc), then feel that 'pre-forming' insect meat will not be too far in the future. At least it would be one way that we might consider eating this particular form of protein.

Another article in the trade mag is again to do with ready-meals. What concerns the manufacturers is that TV dinners are not winners for everyone. Last year's big ready-meal success story (not sure what that was) has fallen out of favour with consumers, to be replaced at the top by Italian. The problem, the experts say, is that English food is seen as easier and cheaper to cook from scratch than other cuisines.

The danger is (here I am speaking as a consumer) is that English food is perceived by the manufacturers and retailers "to be less exciting" - and this could play into the hands of nternational cuisines this year, and not just Italian.

As a chief executive says "It's cyclical. We've been bombarded with messages over the past few years about buying British and now people are saying we've tried that, let's have something new and flamboyant. Mexican and Spanish will do well this year."

This week, last week, and in previous weeks there have been new 'ethnic' products on the market given a mention, and as the article goes on to say "even in straightened economic times, consumers are prepared to fork out if the quality of the ingredients justifies it. Premium sales are doing well, and that helps us".

"There is, however, a limit to what people will spend on dining in. 'Our £10 price for a whole aromatic duck was too high in a recession', admits a supplier of a meal range. 'We brought out more ranges at lower prices and are now starting to see a recovery. A new Simply Duck range this September with an entry point of £3 should also help".

"In short, the price has to be right - and, at the more value end of the spectrum, that means low. The reality is that many ready-meals consumers only buy on promotion".

As we 'home-cooks' are now turning away from the 'readies' and (for both economy and pleasure) beginning to cook a full meal 'from scratch', the manufacturers and retailers have to find another audience to target. and I read that "chilled meat snack producers are repositioning their offers as ready meals for younger consumers....and 'we are doing very well with young lads. With high youth employment and high college costs, more are staying at home. Our snacks are helping mums feed them but we want more impulsive buys".

There is the usual small advertising column showing a few 'ready snacks' that these young lads would enjoy. We have 'The Skinny One' - 350cal microwavable pot meals that include Mediterranean prawns with orzo pasta, Bombay spiced chicken, and Thai spiced chicken. "A welcome relief from the usual January cardboard diets" says the manufacturers. The range retails in Tesco at £3. You could make a meal for four (or more) for that money.

For something cheaper there is a microwavable bowl range that includes Meat Chillibowl and Bean and Vegetable Chillibowl aimed at the older, more affluent customers, as well as young professionals, who are looking for a convenient and tasty lunch. Rsp is £1.99p.

If eating 'a deux', then we could consider choosing one of the nine new chilled ranges from Charlie Bingham's. "Satisfyingly succulent" salmon en croute and "classic creamy' carbonara al forno head the range "to excite twosomes". The other choices are red Thai chicken curry, Chicken and Ham pies, Chicken en croute, Chicken in prosciutto, Chicken Kiev, Bolognese al forno, and Shepherd's Pie. All priced at £5.99 except the Chicken and Ham Pie - this being £6.99p.

Again this 99p added to the ££s. Make it sound so much cheaper than £6 and £7 which is the true prices (less the 1p). This then gives us an idea of how much cheaper it would be to make any of the above ourselves, from scratch (to feed two and bet the portions are not THAT large).

As with anything already partly or wholly prepared, we pay lots more for the convenience, and in the hard times surely we can find time to do most or all of this ourselves. Just think of how much we can save by doing so?

That's all the trade mag has of interest (at least to me) this week. Have heard on the news that we are now moving away from eating the plainer (digestive) biscuits to wishing for something more exciting, like chocolate coated ones. Seems that the recession is making some of us 'eat for comfort' so no doubt the manufacturers are thrilled to bits as they can see they have another way to get us to open our purses. Supply us with more and more new 'comfort foods'.

Am surprised someone hasn't yet come up with toffees that are able to be eaten easily by those wearing dentures. Or perhaps they already have. Is it called 'fudge'?

Thanks for the comments. Will take a photo of B for you Susan G. Maybe wearing his birthday hat.

Good of you Eileen to be kind about my desserts, am sure they were not that good. But as I didn't eat any (except a profiterole - and that was OK), can only hope they were as good as those previously made and sampled by me.

Wonder if the whole word is getting unseasonable weather. Maybe because we are on (almost) the same latitude, certainly in the Norther hemisphere where Margie lives (Toronto, Canada) and the UK are both having milder weather than is right for this time of year. In Scotland today it is forecast to be 17C! What is it like in Missouri, Lisa?

Do have a go at making Choux pastry Margie, it really is easy. Much easier making the 'paste' than making short pastry. Just dump the flour into the boiling liquid (water, melted butter) then beat with a wooden spoon. Originally eggs were beaten in by hand and this can be hard work, but using an electric whisk makes it a doddle.

Probably the only problems would be when baking, don't remove too soon or the profiteroles will collapse, and they do need piercing with a knife and returning to the oven to dry out or their 'innards' stay soggy. It comes with practice, and - if using the recipe given yesterday - it is easy to use only one ounce of everything plus one egg and make just a small amount as a trial batch.

A bit puzzled as to why you need to be so exact when measuring amounts for your bread machine Alison as an ounce or two more (or less) of flour should not make too much difference, you can even add half as much flour again and there will be enough yeast to make the dough rise (although it may take longer). Sometimes we can improvise by balancing something long and solid over a rolling pin (making sure the centre is placed on the pin) , then put a weight on one end (this could be a can of beans, the weight is on the label), then fill a plastic bag with enough of whatever to place on the other end so that the 'support/plank' ends up level and balanced.

Next time it might be cheaper to buy a loaf of bread and order inexpensive scales from Lakeland for even if paying for next-day delivery it would still be cheaper than what your scales cost.

Am hoping that anyone with an 'electronic' something checks first it doesn't need a new battery (or fuse in the plug if it has one) before buying new. It is surprising how many times I've been ready to ditch something and then B found the problems was I replaced with already used batteries, or the fuse has gone.

Thanks also to Gillibob for her comment, but not sure what to make of Michelle's. Did she type out sense but hit all the wrong keys? Or is she trying to say something unpleasant in a language only she understands? Perhaps in some way I'd rattled her cage and she wishes to annoy me. Well she didn't, I was at first puzzled, then amused and ended up (because there was no sense there) feeling sorry for her.

Have to admit that yesterday I did eat that last piece of chocolate cake. But nothing else until supper time when I had a bowlful of chilli con carne for my supper. B also ate chilli, in fact he liked it so much he went and had another big helping. Barely enough left (from a huge panful) to even bother to freeze, so I ate that myself later after B had gone to bed, then washed my dish so he didn't find out!

Not sure today what I'll be making for supper. Every time I open the fridge door I feel slightly alarmed as there is one completely empty shelf (this was cleared for the party desserts) and one almost empty. Of the four drawers in the little freezer, two are now empty (these held boxes and boxes and boxes of all the profiteroles made).

Probably will make that vegetable soup that I intended to make yesterday. But then will probably change my mind.

The last of this series of Superscrimpers was on yesterday evening, but missed seeing it due to B wishing to watch something else. Can always see it repeated on ITV Player, but doubt I will. Always get the 'been there, done that' feeling when I watch it.

Please join me again tomorrow, and keep those (sensible) comments coming. Have more photos to show you so hope you will be logging on. See you then.

Monday, February 27, 2012

After The Event

Sorry to delay my return, needed a couple of days to get back into the old routine. Think my adrenaline was flowing most of last week and shut itself down once the party was over. For two days didn't feel like doing anything at all. Not even sure what day it is today, but hoping it is Monday.

My Beloved's 80th birthday bash went very well. It was good to have some of the family together as this doesn't happen very often. Two live abroad so not able to come, but they were in contact by phone to send greetings.
As Eileen's foot was less painful she was also able to join us, she and I didn't do much more than sit, chat, eat, and drink, but nevertheless hope she enjoyed herself.

I'd taken several photos of my 'activities' during the week, and discovered when loading them onto the comp. today that there were 15 shots in all, so think I'll spread these over this coming week and deal with one topic at a time.
Also the trade mag (arrived Saturday) so will pass on 'trade secrets' also later this week, other than one which I feel is the most important so am giving it now: Morrison's this week are giving vouchers for 15p off a litre of fuel, but to get this you need to spend £60 in store. This it is a very good offer, much better than other stores 'fuel vouchers'. Presumably has to be spent at one of the petrol stations at a Morrison's.
Not sure how long these vouchers will run for, but if you are interested, better start stocking up your shelves (again!) to take advantage.

I'd sent in an order to Lakeland for some of their products and these also arrived early last week. Got some more of those mini-loaf cases and baked more mini-loaves (photos of these will appear later this week). Also treated myself to a flat digital scale that shows imperial (oz) and metric (gr) weights and also fl oz. The scales can be reset to zero so that more foods can weighed while others are already in the bowl.
Did I really need new scales? Have to say that as I've managed for more than half a century without using modern electronic scales, but now we've gone metric, and it is almost impossible to weigh very small amounts on my other scales, so (for a cook) suppose it is 'allowable'. The model I chose was very much cheaper than others that did the same thing but as these had 'extras' such as clocks, room temp. gauge, felt that as these were not an essential part of weighing, so why spend more?

Also bought B a small wok that he had been asking for (the one thing he loves to cook himself is a stir-fry). We had a huge wok before, and as this was too large when cooking for one (or even two), this was given away when we moved. The baby wok was only part of his present as the decision was made that for his 'real' present I would buy him lots of good meat from Donald Russell, all for B to eat, such as Chateaubriand, fillet and rump steaks etc. Something I wouldn't normally have spent money on, but as it was his special birthday and anyway it is food - at least his present serves a purpose.
Fortunately, all B's choice of meat cuts are on offer at the moment from D.R. so an order will be placed this week and from then on B will be able to enjoy the 'Good Life' for a few weeks/months.

The Croquembouche mould also came from Lakeland. It was in three parts, a metal base and metal top 'hat', and a flat sheet of non-stick material that needed to be folded with lots of little flaps on one side that needed tucking into holes on the other side. A bit fiddling to assemble, but once I'd followed the instructions (properly) it was easily done and once the 'material' cone was set on the base and the top held with the 'hat' it was pretty solid.

As the mould was not catering size (these are huge with the profiteroles placed inside the cone then the cone lifted off once the caramel has set), the one I bought was for domestic use and would hold up to 60 profiteroles placed around the outside. As I needed at least 80 (one for each year of B's life plus extra), it wasn't really big enough, so made it deeper by sellotaping the base part of the original 'kit' onto an upturned flat-based metal mixing bowl I had, then sellotaped ths onto a wider plate so the bottom profs has something to 'sit' on, and this worked very well, so in the photo below you can see the mould as assembled ready for me to start sticking on the profiteroles.
During the week I'd made about 100 profiteroles in four batches of 25. Once made these were filled with whipped and sweetened cream and then frozen. It is easier to handle frozen profs. when dipping in caramel.
Even though I'd made half as much again of caramel as the recipe stated, still found I ran out (it began to set before all used up and I couldn't soften it again in time, so made another couple of much smaller amounts. Making caramel was probably the only difficult part as the temperature needed to be very exact, but luckily did have a sugar thermometer.
Once the bottom of the profs had been dipped in the caramel and then turned slightly then immediately placed on and next to another, they were 'glued' together.

Above you can see the Croquembouche once it was assembled and although it doesn't look as though it has that many, there were at least 80 profiteroles surrounding it. Surprisingly the whole arrangement was very stable, and there was no danger of it collapsing or breaking up when taken (in a box) to the venue.
The way to fill profiteroles correctly is make a hole in the base once they are cooked to let out the steam and then put them back in the oven to dry out, then the cream is piped in through the hole, but I've always slit the profs. close to the base as this makes it easier for me to fill.

If I'd done it the correct way the choux pastry tower would have looked more impressive with no cream showing (other than occasional rosettes of cream tucked into gaps), and for you to see how it should have looked took a pic of the photo that came with the kit. You can see this below.

Even though my first effort wasn't that good, it certainly looked impressive (well at least I was reasonably pleased and for me that is saying something), B was over the moon when he saw it. The good news to anyone who is thinking of making one themselves is that the completed display as made worked out (mainly because the cream was on offer) to just £5!!!! So think that this HAS to be the cheapest 'dinner party extravaganza' ever.

The mounds of cupcakes that were the 'new kid on the block' when it came to 'wedding cakes', will soon be 'old hat', to be replaced by something else, and doubt that royal icing will make a come-bake, so possibly the Croqembouche will be the next favourite choice. After all it is and has always been served at French weddings, so why not?

Certainly if counting pennies, what better 'wedding cake' could we make? Never mind the low cost, the end result could look magnificent, especially if swathed with strands of sugar syrup (a few were on mine but not seen in the photo).

There are many recipes for making choux pastry, no two seem exactly the same, and most of those using imperial measurements use fractions when it comes to weights. As I said before I cannot weight out tiny amounts (half an ounce) etc on normal scales, and when I came across a very easy-to-remember recipe (everything is in 'fours') for choux pastry from a chef's instruction book, so had a go and it worked! So I give it to those of you who still prefer (like me) to use the 'imperials'.

Strong plain (bread) flour works better than ordinary plain as it has a stronger gluten content which makes the profs hold their shape, but ordinary flour can be used. The milk makes a softer pastry which is preferred when making profiteroles, using all water they can be a bit 'crustier', but again it doesn't really matter which you choose.

Was once told by a chef (who knew the scientific reason behind this - which I have now forgotten), that the best choux pastry is make using strong flour, and the fats used should not be all butter but half butter and half hard margarine (like the blocks of solid Stork, not the soft marg that is more normally bought these days). Using some cheaper marg would make the choux pastry even cheaper to make.

The amount of eggs can vary. I find four eggs (medium to large) exactly right, larger eggs might be too much. Although the eggs can be broken into the mixture and beaten in singly, best to beat the last egg before beating in only enough for the mixture to just drop from the spoon or beater.

Choux Pastry: makes 25 - 30 profiteroles

4 fl. oz milk

4 fl. oz water

4 oz butter

4 oz strong plain flour, sifted

4 eggs

Put the milk and water into a saucepan with the butter and heat until the butter has melted. Bring to the boil then tip in all the flour in one go. Immediately start beating with a wooden spoon for a couple of minutes then remove from heat and beat well with the spoon until the mixture comes clean from the sides of the pan and forms a ball. Place this into a bowl and leave to cool for 5 - 10 minutes, then beat in the eggs one at a time (using either the wooden spoon or an electric whisk at slow speed). The mixture should be thick but soft enough to slowly fall from the spoon.

Spoon the choux dough into a piping bag and pipe small blobs (about the size of a 2p piece - or even smaller - they will grow enormously) onto baking trays that have been covered with a sheet of baking parchment, leaving space between each for them to spread, place in a 200C (400F) gas 6 oven and bake for 5 minutes, then turn the temperature down to 180F etc and carry on baking for a further 15 minutes. Do not open the door!

By this time the profiteroles will have risen into golden balls. Remove from oven and quickly make a slit near the base in each and then return to the oven for a further five minutes to allow the steam to escape and the profiteroles to dry out. If your oven has a drop down door, then open it slightly and tuck in an oven glove or wooden spoon handle to keep it very slightly ajar - this helps the steam to leave the oven. Do not reduce the oven temperature during this time.

Place the profiteroles on a cake airer to get cold. They can be frozen as-is (but be careful not to squash them) or (as I do) fill each with whipped cream before freezing. I then put them either on a shallow baking sheet and open-freeze, then box them up when solid, or put them in smaller containers in a single layer, place on lid and freeze.

Once removed from the freezer they thaw out fairly rapidly so if dipping in caramel or chocolate, to make them easier to handle, remove only a few from the freezer at any one time.

Apart from the cooking, I did a lot of clearing out of cupboards purely because the spring cleaning instinct has now kicked in. The weather has been very mild recently, with lots of bird activity in the garden (blue-tits taking up residence in our nest boxes etc).
In some parts of the UK the weather has been the warmest in February since the late 1800's, and it is good to see the spring flowers now in the garden, the 'Lenten Lily' (Hellebore), snowdrops, crocus etc. even a daffodil or two in a sheltered spot. Feel like winter has now gone and even though we have had several very cold days, it hasn't really felt like winter as we have not seen any snow in Morecambe other than the odd flake one day.

If it doesn't rain, this country will be experiencing severe drought conditions this coming year. Except for us in the north west who are always getting rain. It is raining as I write. Our many water butts are full to overflowing, and our lawn squelches when we walk on it.

Trouble is with drought conditions this will do harm to crops, so we could see shortages, potatoes being the crop that needs water, so perhaps we should grow at least some in our gardens or tubs this year as all shortages of anything means rising prices.

We also hear that a new virus now affecting sheep will mean less lambs born (so this will mean the price of lamb will also rise).

Watching Countryfile last night there was a mention of another 'health problem' with chicken meat. We all know about salmonella, but there is another that can cause problems, and although (like salmonella) killed off by cooking thoroughly (so no need to be concerned), chicken liver pate when cooked the 'cheffy way' (barely cooked - the chefs like the centre to be still pink), this doesn't always kill the 'nasties' and some people who have eaten the pate at a restaurant have been made ill because of this.

Some many months ago a reader queried why I always make my chicken liver pate by cooking it in the oven for some time when it was easier to fry the livers and then mince/chop them to make the pate. Me, I put the livers into a food processor with other ingredients: bacon, onion, breadcrumbs, butter, brandy...then blitz together before pouring into a greased loaf tin, covering with foil then stand the tin in a 'Bain Marie' and cook at 180C for an hour. Leave to cool slightly then I 'grind' it up in my food mill (Mouli-mill) then mash with a little more butter and then pot up in small containers, pouring a little melted butter over the surface to seal. Then it will keep (seal unbroken) in the fridge for a week, or can be frozen. This makes a soft spreadable pate, rather than the rough type that is often made with the lightly fried chicken livers.

Many thanks to all who sent in comments. Sorry that many of you are having difficulty with the word verification. You shouldn't need to use this if you just want to read the blog, as you can reach this by just typing up the blog name in Google Search (or whatever the one you use). Probably to send a comment you need to go through word verification.

One comment needs a reply, this from Campfire. All the EasyYo's I have bought (from Lakeland) have always been five or six to a box. The price can vary per pack according to the flavours. Sometimes they have these on offer and as I always get sent an advance copy of their latest catalogues, will be able to let you know if any EasyYo are reduced in price (or anything else for that matter).

As to the coconut flavour, am sure it would be possible to make something similar ourselves using half a pack of an unflavoured EasyYo, adding dried coconut powder with the water, alternatively make it up with coconut milk and water. Could also add some desiccated coconut. Maybe someone has already tried this, if so let us know if it works.

During last week also made plenty of Tiramisu and also Sicilian Cassata, but more about these another day.

Saturday was spent clearing up all the kitchen chaos - B kindly cleaning out the caramel crusted pans that fortunately came clean easily. There seemed to be caramel everywhere - the kitchen table had its full share of set 'blobs' dropped when I glued the profs together. But it all got done and quite fun as well.

At least managed to watch the first episode of the new 'Benidorm' courtesy of ITV Player on Saturday. Would hate to have missed that. It was repeated yesterday on one of the Freeview channels, but that was at the same time as Upstairs and Downstairs - another I didn't want to miss (although so far not nearly as good as the original series). See Benidorm is being repeated later in the week on ITV so will probably watch it again.

Have put on so much weight recently due to stuffing myself with 'naughties', will have to be really strict this week to try and get rid of the extra before it stays with me. 'Easy come' weight is 'easy go' as long as it is tackled soon after. By the end of the week hope to be back to where I was before it began to pile back on. Should I just eat less of everything or should I eat more (and only) protein? The latter seems tempting but maybe today will start with just bowls of home-made vegetable soup. Already I am feeling hungry and desperately want another slice of that chocolate cake that our daughter made for B (and me). There is only one slice left, and B doesn't want it (at this moment in time). Can't throw it away can I? I don't do throw away. Help!!!

Better start writing out my DR order and phoning it in, then move into the kitchen to make a big pan of soup, then something for B's supper (probably chilli con carne and suppose I could have some of that with a salad?). Why is it that after months and months of eating small amounts, having now fallen by the wayside and eaten some choccies and other treats, now can't seem to stop eating? Perhaps if I give up all 'good enough to gorge on' food for Lent, that will put me back on track. Let us hope so.

Enough for today. More photos tomorrow (probably of the S.Cassata), and maybe a few trade secrets. Haven't yet decided myself. Am all in a dither at the moment, not sure whether I'm coming or going. Perhaps it is the spring in the air awakening old instincts. Like if only I was young again! I feel young. Trouble is don't look it. At least I can still dream.

Enjoy your day and hope that you can manage to get over the word verification problems and continue sending me comments. Always look forward to these, so keep 'em coming. If you can join me tomorrow, will look forward to 'seeing you' then.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Taking the weekend off to recover from festivities. Will be back on Monday.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Spreading the Load

Yesterday made another 30 profiteroles, this time better than the previous (although they were OK), they did seem better baked on a flat baking tray with no rim. Perhaps better if I'd cooked them in two batches as on the one (large) tray the middle ones were quite as golden as the outer, although once I'd removed the crispy ones and put the 'middles' back for a few minutes then couldn't tell one from t'other.
Incidentally, it doesn't matter if the choux mixture is cooked as soon as made or allowed to cool. It can even be piped and frozen to bake later, although I prefer to freeze the pastry once cooked.

Love the sound of your doll's house food minimiser deb, myself used to enjoy making miniature foods using different colours of a craft 'clay' that is a bit like Plasticine, but once the item is made it can be hardened off in a domestic oven. Also have made the doll's food using 'baker's clay (made with plain flour, salt, and water), this can also be baked in the oven and then coloured with paints.

Re your query m.deb. When making profiteroles the mixture can be spooned out (with a teaspoon - you don't need more than that) and then pushed from the spoon onto the baking sheet into a 'blob', or - as I am doing this time - with a piping bag.
The piping bags that I'm using came from Lakeland. They are fairly large and disposable, the outer size being slightly rough to stop hands slipping. Have found it is best not to fill them too full, otherwise harder to handle. I fold the top of the plastic bag halfway down and then put it into a long drinking glass (or hold with my left hand under the fold, then fill with a spoon held in my right hand, then snip off the tip to squeeze out as much as needed.
The useful thing about disposable bags is that they can be binned when finished with (they are very cheap to buy).
Much depends on the finished size of the profiteroles, but if large would serve three, make them smaller then serve five (larger foods (by this I don't mean peas) should always be served in odd numbers - do the same with flowers when flower arranging, as the arrangement is always more pleasing to the eye).

Thanks Chrissie for the tip that horse muck loses its smell once rotted. It is always best to leave it for a year before putting it on the garden for, as you say, too fresh and the acid damages the soil/plants.

Watched Superscrimpers last night. Noticed it was the fourth of five episodes, and although saw the first, had to miss the second, it seemed then not to be mentioned in the TV schedules, so somehow missed the third. Does anyone know when this was shown?
Doubt that I would have learned anything that I didn't know already (other than car repairs that I don't now need to know about, but am sure was useful). Is it me or what, but do people really need to be shown how to freeze 'ice-cubes' of wine to later add to a meal they are making?

When the bit in Superscrimpers about the couple spending so much money on regular 'treats out' (mainly dinners, weekends at hotels etc arranged by the man to please his OH), came up and the yearly total was shown, I laughed and looked across at B and said "does that make you feel guilty?". Gosh, that hit a nerve, he glared back at me and was very shirty with his reply, so I quickly added "I can't see many men wanting to spend all that on their partner" (he firmly agreed with that), and thought it best to begin talking about something else. Mind you I was rather envious. It would be good to hve a considerate husband.
To be fair, B does take me out for a meal a few times a year, it's only me feeling the need to have another moan about my man. Think this has become more a habit the older I get, for am definitely ending up a grumpy old woman. finding fault in loads of things. B has always been a grumpy old man, even in his twenties. So I should be grateful that now he is not quite as bad as formerly. Still room for improvement though.

Today I have another batch of profiteroles to make (now needing two drawers in the chest freezer to hold all of them), and as long as they end up OK (shape/size) then over 80 will have been made which is the plan (one profiterole for each year of B's age), need extra just to make sure I have as many perfect looking ones as possible. The rest can stay in the freezer and eaten later.
Tomorrow (Wednesday) Norma the Hair will be coming, that is the day to make three large Sicilian Cassatas (these need to be chilled under pressure for at least a day before turning out and eating), On Thursday will need to make 20 portions of Tiramasu, also chill these overnight, so that mean clearing two shelves in the fridge to hold both desserts.

With the possibility of guests coming (maybe even staying over) also want to give the house a good scrub up and tidy, so am taking the rest of the week off from writing my blog so that I can make an early start. Hope to be back with you on Sunday, once everything has got back to normal.
By 'spreading the load' in this way am hoping to avoid any stress that seems to happen now I am getting ancient (used to cope with anything when younger, now the smallest things can give ma a panic attack), so with any luck, all that will need to be done on Friday is just make the caramel and assemble the Croquembouche.
Must remember to take photographs of the desserts (during making and end results).

Today want to finish with a couple of gluten-free recipes that I discovered last weekend. One day must buy some gluten-free flour and find out if there is much difference using that instead of the normal flour. Did once ask readers if gluten-free flour will work much the same way with most recipes that use 'ordinary' flour, but so far no one has come up with an answer. It would help me when giving future recipes to know.

Because making profiteroles are taken up much of my time this week, it was good to find a recipe to make choux pastry that does use gluten-free flour. The proportions of all ingredients are not the same as the recipe I am using at the moment, so perhaps one recipe cannot be adapted to another when gluten-free flour is used.
Although the choux pastry in the following recipe is piped into circles, no reason why it shouldn't be piped (or spooned) in 'blobs' to make profiteroles. Also, because the weights need to be fairly accurate, if using metrics you will see they are slightly different (higher) than ones I might normally give, so follow these.
Gluten-free Choux Pastry: makes 12 rings
2 oz (65g) gluten-free plain flour, sifted twice
1 3/4 oz (50g) butter
5 fl oz (150ml) cold water
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 oz (50g) flaked almonds (opt)
Heat the butter and water in a saucepan until the butter is melted, then bring to the boil and tip in the flour in one go, then remove from the heat. Beat with a wooden spoon until the mixture forms a smooth ball and leaves the sides of the pan. Put into a bowl and leave to cool for five minutes. Meanwhile lightly beat the eggs with the vanilla extract.
Using a balloon whisk or electric mixer on low speed, beat the eggs into the 'dough mixture' a little at a time until it turns to a smooth sticky paste that holds its shape when the whisk is lifted.
Spoon the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a round nozzle and pipe 12 rings of this choux pastry onto a greased and parchment-lined baking sheet. Wet your (clean of course) finger and smooth down any peaks on the top of the circles so that it is smooth.
Sprinkle with flaked almonds (if using) and bake at 200C, 350F, gas 4 for 15 minutes, then pierce each ring at the side with a sharp knife to allow steam to escape. Continue baking for a further 5 or so minutes until the rings are crisp. Place on a cake airer to cool then cut in half and fill with whipped cream that has been sweetened with a little icing sugar.
Serve immediately, or cover and keep chilled until needed. Could also be frozen.

Have a sudden urge to start making macaroons, and if I have spare time might also make some this week. They look so pretty and as they use only the white of an egg, having leftover yolks can be useful. We don't always need to use the white of an egg when cooking, so any recipe that uses either white OR yolk is always written down and saved for future use when I have one or t'other to use up.
So as today's recipes are based on gluten-free edibles, then hope this you will also enjoy. Not sure what 'powdered fondant icing sugar is'. Is this different to ordinary icing sugar? Hope a reader can let us know.
Walnut and Spice Macaroons: makes 12
2 1/2 oz (60g) ground almonds
2 1/2 oz (60g) walnut pieces
1 oz (25g) dark soft brown sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
5 oz (150g) powdered fondant icing sugar
3 egg whites (approx 3 1/2 oz or 90g)
3 oz (75g) caster sugar
few drops orange food colouring (opt)
4 oz (100g) walnut pieces
2 oz (50g) butter
7 oz (200g) icing sugar
2 tblsp double cream
Put the ground almonds, walnuts, brown sugar, cinnamon and fondant icing sugar into a food processor and blitz together until a very fine powder. Sift into a bowl, returning any larger pieces to the processor to re-blitz down. Sift onto the others and repeat if necessary.
Whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks, adding the caster sugar a little at a time. Continue whisking until the meringue is smooth and glossy, then fold in the walnut mixture using a spatula. Do this in batches, about a third at a time, testing towards the end. If the mixture folds to a smooth surface when a little is dropped onto a plate - it is then ready. If still holding a peak then fold it a few more times. DON'T FOLD IT TOO MUCH OR IT WILL END UP RUNNY AND THE MACAROONS WILL NOT KEEP THEIR SHAPE.
Spoon the mixture into a piping bag, and pipe the mixture in 2" (6cm) rounds onto a lined baking sheet. Leave room between each as they will spread slightly. Leave on the baking sheets for about an hour to 'set' (to allow the surface to form a skin).
Bake for 15 - 20 minutes at 170C, 325F, gas 3 until firm. Leave on the baking sheets to cool.
Make the filling by blitzing the walnuts down to 'finely chopped' (not a powder this time), then add the butter and pulse until blended. Remove and place in a bowl and add the icing sugar and cream then whisk together until light. Spoon into a piping bag and pipe a swirl onto the base of one macaroon then top with a second. Repeat until all the macaroons are made.
Either serve immediately, or if you wish to eat later they can be stored in an airtight container for up to three days.

Yes, I know it is still not yet 9.00am, but do have lots to do and must get on, especially as B will be out part of the day and we are expecting some deliveries (don't want to be caught halfway thorough baking profiteroles to spend time answering the door/phone, you wouldn't believe how often this happens when I'm in the middle of doing something that needs all my attention).

Almost certainly will check my emails each day and note the comments, so if there is an urgent query will find time to give a speedy reply. Otherwise (as mentioned above) will now be taking a few days off and concentrate on B's 'birthday bash'. Tonight we will be eating out (small family gathering) as the first part of this week's 'celebrations', so at least no supper to cook, but almost certainly B will wish me to make him a pancake sometime this Pancake Day. He hates missing any traditional 'eats'. Bless.

Expect me back on Sunday and in the meantime carry on saving/cooking and enjoying life as much as possible. Can't wait until this week is over and we can all get back to 'meeting up' again.
Hopefully see you then.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Small Is Beautiful!

Had a good day yesterday. Make the first batch of choux pastry and ended up with around 30 round profiteroles (plus half a dozen mis-shapes that were saved for B's supper). Doesn't seem to matter which recipes I use to make this pastry, all are slightly different and really dislike any that gives imperial weights in half ounces (as impossible to weigh correctly.
However, my 'catering/cheffy' cook book gave a wonderfully easy recipe to remember and this was the one used yesterday. The only difference I made was to use strong plain white (bread) flour instead of the normal plain used when baking cakes. This has a stronger gluten content that gives a firmer shape without the pastry ending up 'tough'.

One thing I realised was that the small blobs of choux rose slightly more when baked on a flat baking sheet with no sides than in a shallow Swiss roll baking tray (had to use both as wanted to bake the lot in one go). There are other tips to make perfect profiteroles, but will give these with the recipe and photos once the 'cake' has been made and assembled.

Because the profiterole mixture made slightly less than the recipe said (I wanted them slightly larger), and as strong flour was more expensive than the plain, now that I've worked out how much cream will be needed to fill the 80 profiteroles (already filled the first batch, they are now in the freezer), also estimated the amount of sugar or chocolate for garnish (or both as may do half and half) see the final total comes to £6 (give or take a penny) for an 80 profiterole Croquembouche, slightly more expensive than first thought (originally hoped to keep it to under £5), but even then not at all expensive for what it is. Certainly worth thinking about as an alternative wedding cake (traditionally served in France, so if it's good enough for them it HAS to be special enough for us), and - according to number of guests - even if there are double or treble the number of 'profs' needed to be made, still far cheaper to make than any other special occasion cake.

Have taken to having a small breakfast before I begin my blog each day and this morning decided to thinly slice one of those mini-loaves made the other day. Spread with Flora pro-active and a little mustard, formed the slices into mini-sarnies filled with home-cooked ham. Each just the right size to eat as one bite, although did cut them diagonally to make them even daintier. Thought how wonderful this size sarnie would be to serve to small children at their parties (or a little girl's doll's tea-party) along with mini-cup cakes. The little baking 'boxes' (mentioned previously) could also be used to make mini Madeira/lemon drizzle cakes etc, which could also be served as-is or ready-sliced. Or make a fruit 'loaf' in the little boxes, or, or, or... When it comes to children we could make so many in this way that look exactly like the adult version, but much more child-size. To me, cooking 'small-scale' opens another cookery 'door' and is a perfect way to delight not just children but also adults, for these mini-bread slices (each loaf cuts into 8 slices plus two end crusts) could also be lightly toasted under the grill or dried off in the oven to use as bases for canapes etc. You can't believe how thrilled I was when I made my wee sarnies this morning. Does "little things please little minds seem appropriate"?

It was great to hear from you again Kathryn. Am sure you will feel a lot more relaxed now you don't have the pressures of work you had in the past. With teaching qualifications behind you, there is always an option to teach at night-school, even if only one evening a week, and it doesn't have to be in the field you were teaching formerly (science?). As you do so many crafts, and people are clamouring to learn the old skills (due to the recession) you could run general 'craft classes' covering lots of things through spinning wool to crocheting and knitting, and on to using up old material for patchwork etc. Call it 'Rags to Riches'.

Loss of a regular wage is not always the disaster it can seem, certainly if one is 'crafty' and enjoys making instead of buying, also growing own produce, for then it's quite possible to live a very healthy and contented life - albeit simple one -by doing so. Certainly gain more sense of achievement than many paid jobs will give us.
Please keep sending in comments Kathryn, your previous ones, were always very interesting and inspiring to read. Don't know if you have our own blog, but worth starting one about your 'new-improved' life.

Regarding bringing horse poo home from the stable. Surely if it was bagged up in strong poly-bags, the top tied, then the bag placed end down into another strong bag (also tied), there would be no aroma to waft around your OH's car. Worth trying at least once as this manure is so useful for your garden. Am I right in thinking you now have an allotment, or are you still on a waiting list?

Thanks for letting us know minimiser deb that hummous (several ways of spelling this) does freeze. And thanks Jenny Mac for letting us know that Morrison's have quite a good selection of fresh produce sold in 30p bags, especially as the majority of my recent grocery delivery (other than the ingredients for the 'social' desserts) were the 'fresh'. If I can keep topping up with these great offers on 'fresh', then this could see an even greater reduction of my already dwindling food budget. Will just have to wear blinkers so that I'm not tempted by other items on shelves as I 'scoot' through Morrison's. At least the fresh produce section (fruit and veg) are towards the front of the store so no real need to travel further in unless I need milk or eggs (one reason why these are always at the back of the store to tempt us to impulse buy as we walk past the aisles)

Beloved brought home two fresh mackerel from Morrison's on Saturday, but as kedgeree had already been made, it was decided he would eat them the following day (yesterday). As B wanted to cook them himself, found a suitable recipe and let him get on with it. He only wanted one, but when I said I'd have the other he looked a bit glum, so said no reason why he couldn't eat them both. Suggested he stuff them with some gooseberries, so got some out of the freeer to thaw. When unwrapped he found the mackerel were really plump, and as they already been gutte and had heads removed, he also found they had been stuffed with slices of lemon and herbs.
To cut a long story short B grilled the fish and brought me one with some very cold gooseberries at the side. The fish wasn't really to my liking, although cooked well enough. It had lots of bones and was very rich (aka 'fishy') and oily in flavour - thankfully the goosegogs offset this. Certainly seemed to be worth the cost as plenty of flesh on the bones £2 for two large fish).
For 'afters' B ate the six cream-filled profiteroles that I'd saved for him (with a dusting of icing sugar on top), then later ate the last of the fresh fruit salad from the day before, with half a jug of double cream (also left over). He later went and made himself another snack but not sure what.

Later that evening I ate an orange, and later still was really desperate to make myself a sandwich or something. I spent about an hour persuading myself that I didn't need to eat anything and - for once - managed to stay in my chair and not touch another morsel. This at least meant I had lost 1 lb overnight. Having put a few pounds back on again (due mainly to me scoffing most of that fat-less, one-egg fruit loaf made recently. It was gorgeous, but hardly fat free as each slice I spread liberally spread with butter or Flora pro-A). Do need to lose nearly a stone by the start of April just to prove to the diabetic nurse I can still lose weight (am losing much more slowly these days).

Kathryn has requested recipes using eggs, so today's 'offerings' are based on these. Perhaps one of the simplest 'mains' we can make is an egg curry. Basically this is hard-boiled eggs served in a curry sauce (and if those cheap curry sauces - once as low as 4p a can) can still be found, then use one of these to make a really cheap meal. Just heat the sauce, add the eggs, then serve on a bed of rice.

Here is a recipe that uses chicken joints and as this dish also included hard-boiled eggs the chicken joints could be - if small - one per person, or if large - half a joint per person. When we buy fresh chicken joints (cheaper if we joint a fresh chicken ourselves) that we are planning to freeze, we should remove the bones then they are easier to divide up in pieces once thawed. We know that leaving any meat on the bone improves flavour, so the flesh could be re-wrapped around the bones to cook, or the flesh removed from the bones after cooking. Whatever suits our purpose.
Myself tend to buy several chickens to portion up, then wrap each portion singly for freezing (other than winglets - these bagged in half-dozens) as it is almost impossible to separate any raw meats (and sausages) that touch each other. Far better to freeze in small quantities than have to thaw out too much at any one time. Easy enough to thaw out two small packs than divide one large then have to find a use for the rest.
When I freeze the chicken, some joints are boned, others left as-is. Likewise some have the skin left on, the others have skin removed. Much depends on the recipes I will be using, if frying or roasting crispy skin is usually desired by B.
Save any skin and bones removed to add to the carcase when making stock. The skin usually gives off plenty of fat (dripping) and this I use for frying or when making pastry instead of lard (to cover chicken pies etc).

But I digress. Here is the recipe I was about to give. An Ethiopian dish, slightly spicy that is more fragrant rather than curry-hot. Although 2 chicken portion would normally be served per person, we could use just one per head and make up the protein shortfall with a larger egg (or two small ones)
Ethiopian Chicken with Eggs: serves 4
2 tblsp sunflower oil
2 large onions, chopped
1 - 3 garlic cloves (to taste) crushed
1" (2.5cm) piece fresh root ginger, grated
1 tsp ground cardamom
half tsp turmeric
quarter tsp each ground nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon
6 fl oz (175ml) chicken or vegetable stock
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
salt and pepper
4 hard-boiled eggs, medium size (see above)
4 - 8 chicken portions (see above)
paprika pepper
red onion, finely sliced
naan, flatbread or rice for serving
Heat the oil in a pan and fry the onions for 10 minutes until softened. Stir in the garlic, ginger and spices and fry for a further minute, then add the stock and chopped tomatoes. Bring to the boil and stir-cook for 10 minutes until thickened. Add seasoning to taste.
Transfer half the pan contents to an oven proof dish and place over the chicken, then pour the rest of the 'sauce' over so the chicken is covered. Place on lid (or cover with foil) then bake in the oven for 1 hour at 180C, 350F, gas 4.
Prick each shelled hard-boiled egg a few times with a fork or cocktail stick. Add to the sauce and and cook for a further half an hour, or until the chicken is cooked through and very tender. Add extra seasoning using paprika pepper.
Serve with boiled/steamed rice, naan or flatbread and sliced raw red onion rings.

Next recipe is easily adapted by using different vegetables, but always include chorizo (or another similar spiced meat). As this is very definitely a dish with 'eye appeal', aim to keep to the red, green, yellow and white ingredient colours.
Flamenco Eggs: serves 4
2 tblsp olive oil
4 oz (100g) streaky bacon, diced
3 oz (75g) chorizo, cubed
1 onion, chopped
1 - 2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 each red and green bell peppers, seeded and chopped
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
half tsp paprika pepper
1 tblsp sherry or white wine
3 tblsp finely chopped fresh parsley
8 large eggs
salt and cayenne to taste
garlic crumbs:
4 slices toasting bread
2 cloves garlic, bruised
sunflower oil for frying
Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the bacon and chorizo until they give up their fat, then add the onion and cook gently for five minutes. Stir in the garlic and peppers and cook for a further 1 - 2 minutes or until the peppers have softened. Pour the canned tomatoes into a sieve to remove some of their liquid, then add the tomato 'solids' to the pan with paprika and sherry. Mix gently to combine, then divide between four individual baking dishes, sprinkling each with parsley. Break the eggs into a bowl, just breaking them up with a fork (do not beat), stirring in some salt and cayenne, then pour this over the vegetables and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 8 minutes or until the egg has just set.
Meanwhile make the garlic crumbs by removing crumbing the bread with a grater or using a food processor/blender. Put enough oil to fry the crumbs into a a frying pan over high heat, add the garlic cloves at the start so they begin to flavour the oil, then remove when the oil is hot and discard. Scatter the breadcrumbs into the hot oil and as they begin to colour, turn them with a slotted spoon until crisp. Drain on kitchen paper, season with salt and paprika, then sprinkle spoonsful over the eggs. Serve hot.

Anyone who has a surplus of fresh eggs could pickle them (as often sold as 'pub grub' - also can be bought in jars in the supermarket). All we have to do is hard-boil the eggs, shell carefully (unfortunately the fresher the egg is the more difficult it is to remove the shell), then place in wide-topped (pref glass) sterilised jar and cover with boiled and cooled spiced or plain vinegar. The clear (distilled 'white') vinegar keeps the eggs white, covering with the brown malt vinegar turns the whites a pale brown (same shade as egg shells). These keep well for several weeks/months in the larder and are good served with salads, cold meats, chopped with mayo to make a sarnie filling, or nibbled as a snack etc.

An early finish today as must now go and make my second batch of profiteroles, maybe the third (and last) this afternoon. The rest of the week will also be busy. Have not yet decided whether to take a few days off from writing my blog. Probably will later in the week, but will let you know closer to the time. Tomorrow at least will be back as usual. Hope to see you then.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Meals in Minutes?

One hour and a half before Gill phones, so must get the replies out of the way, then this weeks' 'trade secrets', ending with yesterday's 'Goode life'.

A welcome and group hugs to Catriona. Loved the way she mashes up vegetables to mix with mashed potatoes. Children can be easily tempted to try almost any food if it is colourful enough or a shape that pleases them (like funny faces, dinosaurs, footballs etc), they then seem far more inclined to eat what pleases their eyes, so this a good way to feed them veggies (that would refuse if in their recognised state) by 'stealth'.

While potatoes are in my mind, B took daughter to Morrison's yesterday and she brought me in a 1kg bag of 6 good sized baking potatoes priced at (wait for it!) just 30p!! that's 5p a spud! Even cheaper than Aldi's four baking potatoes for 50p, so it's always worth shopping around if we can find the time.
Once this week is over and B's 'birthday bash' is out of the way, will begin to visit several supermarkets and see what is on offer, buying only the best buys from each (being foods I would normally be wanting anyway). Maybe I won't need to have home deliveries from Tesco again - at least for several months by which time they will probably have given me more money-off vouchers to 'persuade' me to return. Seems that this could be turning into quite a lucrative game as far as my food budget is concerned.

Thanks mimSys for your suggestion as to how to eke out the EasyYo mix with dried milk powder, will be trying that myself later this week, and if it works (well, it does for you so why not for me?) will then have a go using less powder. Maybe others already have - is so please let us know as these are moneysaving ideas that are worth knowing about.

Lucky Urbanfarmgirl to own a Kenwood Chef. This was one of the first mixers I treated myself to (paying for it weekly through a Freeman's catalogue I was running, so got the extra discount). Later, when I began to teach myself to cook from scratch, it really came into its own and over time saved me even more money that it cost me to buy. Must have lasted 30 years before it gave up the ghost. I still have its mixing bowls (one plastic, one metal).

As to freezing hummous. Not sure but I think I may have frozen bought hummous, but see no reason why it shouldn't freeze as it contains no water (other than that held by the chickpeas). My suggestion (as with any freezer query) is when next making, put a small portion into a container and freeze, then leave for a week and see what it is like once thawed. Unfrozen hummous should keep reasonably well - if covered - in the fridge for up to a week.
If you do try this, please let us know if freezing the hummous works.

The trade mag has slightly changed since its 150 celebratory issue, not to the advantage of the consumer (that's me folks) as more is written about wholesale prices and world trade. Plus a lot more about tobacco products and all types of drinks (especially booze).
However have managed to find something of interest, starting with chocolate.

Keep an eye on chocolate on sale for the biggest name brands are still hiking prices AS WELL AS SHRINKING THE SIZE OF THEIR BARS - this despite the falling prices of raw materials.
The excuse being 'it takes time for commodity changes to influence retail prices and....'chocolate on shelves was made a long time in advance, further delaying the on-shelf impack of price changes'.

A supplement (more an advert) with the mag deals with 'bakery' (main bread and bread products), with sandwiches remaining the most popular lunchtime choice amongst consumers. "With a range of options from a healthy (bought) 50/50 roll stuffed full of delicious grilled chicken and salad, to an indulgent Doorstep Bacon Butty, it's no surprise that the humble sandwich remains so popular".

Advice is given by on how to maximise bakery sales. Expand the range, and 'important for retailers to ensure they have a wider range of Waffles and Crumpets on display ready for when mums call in on the way back from collecting children from school. Also display Toasting Waffles and Pancakes 'to cope with the breakfast rush'.
Interestingly it says that Scottish consumers love pancakes - they account for 12% Scottish bakery take-home favourites compared to the 6.6% in the UK. Seems that different regions prefer different breads. The largest number of Pancakes sold in Scotland, Seeded bread in London, Rolls and Baps in Scotland, Bakery 'favourites' in East of England, and English Muffins in North-East England.

You might also be interested in the most popular meal choices of this nation. The favourite comes first, the rest follows in decreasing order.
Starting with sandwiches;then soup; assorted pasta dishes; roast meat, roast potatoes and veg.; pizza; toast; toasted sandwich; cheese on toast; beans on toast; fish, chip and veg.; egg on toast.
Doesn't say much for the nation's interest in good food. Seems we have become a nation of preferring 'things on toast' rather than cooking more elaborate food. Can't believe that fish and chips are almost bottom of the list.

Quite a large article about Pepsi. Not myself concerned with the drink, but what the article has to say about other things, especially about how 'healthy eating' is not always a profitable way to go...."healthy snacks don't necessarily mean healthy sales".
"As Jamie Oliver has discovered, health is an even harder proposition to sell Stateside, with 'healthy crisps' being in freefall".
"Introducing food that's healthy and that people actually want to eat are two notions that are very hard to put into one product".
"There are very few healthy snacks that taste right.

Much of the article is given over to mentions of the larger companies who buy out the smaller ones. However much we (in the UK) associate Proctor and Gamble with cleaning products (think that's how they started) they now own all type of food companies, and now have sold Pringles to Kellogg's. The word in the US is "The lesson from the UK is basically - buy up everything you can and then make it really hard for anyone else to make money." At least in the US "they need to tread carefully as there is a lot of support for the little guy in America. People are passionate about their snacks and there could be a big brouhaha when they realise that a big multinational has bought their favourite brand".

Think the above proves that food is big business both in the US and in the UK, and probably all over the world. Making money is the name of the game, and if people want unhealthy snacks they they will still be provided with them.
But it all comes down to 'snack' foods again. A short article about a smaller store in Coventry says that the store "receive new products every three weeks or so", but on the good side "they are stocking more scratch cooking ingredients in recent months as this is a really big trend at the moment and looks set to continue to grow".
"Reflecting the rise in scratch cooking, a lot of customers now come into the store and ask for products that are used on cookery-based TV shows such as Jamie Oliver's, so we watch shows such as this to find out what products and ingredients the TV chefs are using and then act on this information and bring these products into the store".

Nothing wrong with that of course, but have you noticed how - all of a sudden - there are lots of new 'bakery garnishes' for sale. The Dr Oeker range (which I have yet to discover, Tesco don't have them on their on-line site), seems to add more and more to sprinkle over the top of the ubiquitous cup-cakes we are all presumably making.
So it's almost guaranteed that the more home-cooking we do, the more 'extras' to lighten our load will be manufactured and on the shelves in the very near future.

In the 'brief news' column have just seen "Eggs for Baby". In my day it was normal to soft-boil and egg and feed it to a weaned baby by dipping bread 'soldiers' into the yolk. Then due to the salmonella scare that really never was, it was deemed unsafe to feed lightly cooked eggs (or any foods made with raw eggs) to young children and the elderly.
With the little red lion on our eggs (showing they are salmonella free), possibly we may now be able to give our 'littlies' boiled eggs and soldiers again. The UK Egg Producers Assoc. has produced a leaflet called 'Eggs for your Baby' encouraging parents to include eggs in their children's diet.

Final extract refers to a recent TV programme Britain's Favourite Supermarket Foods (which I unfortunately missed seeing). But as the article says "Who would believe that tea was such a cocktail of happy chemicals, including flavonoids, which help cut our chances of heart attacks, strokes, and even cancer? If only we left the bag in for at least 3 minutes instead of whipping it out after 40 seconds".

Also..."baked beans, if served on wholemeal toast pack as much protein as a steak; eggs - which contain cholesterol hadn't markedly increased (the amount in the body trial) after a fortnight of eating four eggs a day; and milk, which contains as much potassium in a glass as 41 bananas, helps your muscles recover twice as fast from exercise as a sports drink".

This next bit I like. "Crisps are not as salty as we think (there's the same amount in a bag as in six slices of bread) and contain potassium - which handily counteracts salt." Not that I'm suggesting we start snacking on crisps (but I do love 'em). But the above facts are interesting.

At least we 'home-cooks' are able to control how much salt we use when cooking, and reading the list of 'favourite meals' it is good to know that in almost every case we can make them all from scratch (incl. the bread), just buying the meat/fish/cheese/eggs and fresh veg (we can even grow the veg ourselves, and if we keep chickens also have our 'own' eggs).

Yesterday's - after some thought (I was planning soup again for supper) - ended up with me making a speedy Kedgeree. I'd poached some smoked salmon, then finely chopped an onion, fried this in butter, then added some of the water the fish had been cooked in. When this had reduced down, opened a pack of Lemon and Rosemary 2-minute microwave rice and added this to the pan (it doesn't HAVE to be cooked in the microwave), with a little more 'fishy water'. When heated through added the flaked fish and the juice of 1 lemon. Decided to add a little double cream (as had a bit left in the bottom of a tub), a little more butter, and ended with a good sprinkle of chopped freshly picked parsley, and then garnished the dish with halved hard-boiled eggs. This was greatly enjoyed.
'Afters' was a big bowl of fresh fruit salad (red and green apples, orange segments, halved green grapes, sliced kiwi fruit, plus a can of sliced peaches and it's syrup to make enough to keep B happy later in the evening. Served with a jug of double cream.

Just enough time left for me to edit then publish before Gill rings. After that will be making the first batch of profiteroles to freeze.
As this could be a busy week for me (what with B's birthday earlier, Norma the Hair midweek, more profiteroles and other baking to do, plus the two desserts made in bulk for the social on Friday, and with more family arriving I may take a few days off from writing this blog from mid-week, but will let you know. It all depends on how much I can do today/tomorrow.

Another lovely sunny day with a lot less wind than yesterday. Hope you all get to enjoy it, and by now most of the snow should have disappeared elsewhere. Let us hope we don't get more for soon it will be time for 'garden-work. Please join me again tomorrow. See you then.