Thursday, May 31, 2012

More Experimenting

An early start this morning, it was 4.45am when I woke so decided to get up anyway as I have LOADS to do. Lo and behold - it was raining! Mind you we need it, and am hoping it will clear away for this weekend's Celebrations.

Went to Morrison's yesterday afternoon at 3.30pm. A good time to go as the car-park was half empty and again not a lot of people there. Nearly had an accident when walking through their very wide revolving doors, some young boys (should have been at school) were with their mother, but they were running in and out as I got there and although I was the only one in that part of the door, just as it got to the bit where I could walk out (and normally walking into the 'revolving door' the timing is right so you carry on walking and you reach the opening at the right time, the doors suddenly stopped and so I walked right into the glass at the edge of the door. Luckily didn't hurt myself and the mother dashed in quite concerned (and rightly so), but I didn't make an issue of it.

Managed to get some good bargains (prices were already being marked down although the store didn't close until 9.00pm!!), and especially pleased as they had a 'reduced' set of shelves at the bakery section and a man was putting on bread products, so I picked up a fruit loaf (B loves this sliced and toasted) as it had already been marked down from 99p to (I think) 56p, but as I lifted it from the shelf, the man took it from my hand and slapped on another ticket that reduced it down even more, so I got it for 25p! That was really good timing. Quite a few of the displays in the fruit/veggie section had been cleared, not sure why, it seemed very early to starting removing products.
From now on think I will start shopping in Morrison's at that time for not only is there room to scoot round (and the scooter worked perfectly this time thank goodness), but the chances of bargains seem greater.
However, I was only in there for the extra ingredients needed for my 'cook-in', so tended to concentrate on those, and did buy a bag of gluten-free flour. Have a g.f. recipe for Viennese Whirls that I will be making, also one for chocolate brownies, and am hoping to make some gluten-free pastry for one of the quiches.
Have to say the g.f. flour is very expensive compared to the ordinary flour. A 500g bag of g.f. was £1.60p! Am sure it would be cheaper to make it myself (only I didn't have all the ingredients it is made from - tapioca flour, rice flour, potato flour, xantham gum...). Am wondering if yam flour would be a substitute for tapioca flour. Anyone know?

When we came out of Morrison's, and while B was loading up the back of the car at the 'picking up' bay, in front was a type of 'mobility van', the back doors were open and two men were trying to push a man in a wheelchair up ramps, but one of the rubber tyres had come off a wheel. The two men were unable to put it back on however hard they tried (one of the men helping had lost a leg below his knee, wearing one of those artificial metal 'sticks' with a false foot on the end). Loads of people were passing and not even bothering to offer to help. Beloved had a lever in the back of the car so got it out, took it to the chair and he managed to get the tyre put back on and then the chair rolled up easily into the van. That was three 'good deeds' from B yesterday, firstly the voluntary help at the RNLI in the morning, then driving me to the store and helping me load up the shopping into the trolleys etc (and guiding me round the store for now he knows where EVERYTHING and I still don't), and then helping put the tyre back on. He deserves a gold star!

My kitchen table is absolutely full with all the 'necessary' for my cooking over the next three days. Will have to get B to get the ironing board from the lobby cupboard and put it up in the kitchen for me so I can put everything on that and then take what I need when I need it. It will a continual 'bake-off' today and tomorrow, and Saturday will be the same as then I will be making the quiches, the cakes, leaving just the scones to be freshly made early Sunday morning.
Have to pace myself as am much slower due to my bad back, had to use two sticks to walk from room to room part of yesterday, but nothing I can't cope with, having 'been there, done that' more than once before.

Will be missing both 'street parties' because of my back and the time needed to spend cooking for the second, but would not have gone to the Sunday one anyway. B knows that and my daughter will be his 'companion' for both. Am not a 'party' person anyway, and my enjoyment comes from taking part working 'behind the scenes' and out of sight, feeling acutely embarrassed (and uncomfortable) when anyone publicly thanks me. What is there to thank? I'm only doing what I enjoy doing the most.

Also tend to feel that street parties and Jubilee Celebrations are mainly for the young (or middle-aged). Possibly there are some older folk who also enjoy such festivities, but these 'special occasions' are to me a bit like the eclipse of the sun and moon, or the Northern lights. Been there, done that, and never found it very interesting at the time.
In 'my day' did celebrate the Coronation, the ending of World War II (in Europe, and later in Japan), to some extent the Silver Jubilee. Have to say I did enjoy my personal and annual celebration when Wimbledon was on - this for many years - eating strawberries and cream with a drink of Babycham whilst watching the finals. Until my favourite players didn't play any more and since then hardly ever watch (although do when Andy Murray is playing).

A couple of comments to reply to (hope I haven't missed any - please remind me if you'd sent a query and I haven't given a response).

Hope you enjoy your Jubilee tea-party at the local college Catriona. I'd be interested to know what they offer in the way of food. Liked the sound of the students being told about learning new skills (demonstrations given etc?). There are so many 'skills' today that are dying out, and so great opportunities for earning good money if youngsters could take up an apprenticeship in each of the trades. A few come to mind, blacksmiths (who make gates, brackets, door latches, etc), farriers (who shoe horses), thatchers (who thatch a roof), dry-stone walling, hedge-laying, and of course many, many other skills that are still needed (possibly more now than in recent years).

Took a look at the crochet 'throw' (photo on your website) Campfire. Looks the perfect size to 'throw' over your knees when sitting in the chair on a chilly day. Have a similar one (different pattern) which I use almost every day, winter and summer, drawing it right up to my chin to cover the tops of my shoulders and my arms to snuggle into on really chilly days. Certainly helps keep me warm.

Have found a recipe for plum chutney, and although this doesn't contain ginger, you could include some grated root ginger if you wish. Not sure that ginger and plums would go together, but having never tried it, am not really in a position to tell.
You can use 'ordinary' vinegar and pickling spices as per recipe, or omit spices and instead use ready-spiced 'pickling vinegar'.
Plum Chutney: makes 4.5lb (2.25kg)
2 level tblsp pickling spice (see above)
2 lb (1kg) plums, stoned and chopped
8 oz (225g) tomatoes, skinned and chopped
1.5 pints (900ml) malt vinegar (see above)
1 lb (500g) onions, skinned and chopped
1 lb (500g) cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped
4 oz (100g) sultanas
1 lb (500g) demerara sugar
1 level tblsp salt
Tie the pickling spice (if used) in a muslin bag and and place in a pan with the rest of the ingredients. Bring to the boil and simmer for about two and a half hours, stirring occasionally, until thick. Remove bag of spices. Spoon chutney in pre-heated jars and cover immediately with air-tight vinegar-proof lids.

Once upon a time I used to make 'real' lemonade, and was often asked to make 'n take this to bridge parties when the summer was hot. Although not the recipe I used (can't now remember which this was), here is a very quick and easy recipe that could make very pleasant drinking during the hot weather (if this returns).
Speedy to make Lemonade: serves 4
3 unwaxed lemons, roughly chopped
5 oz (150g) caster sugar
1.75 pints (1 ltr) cold water
Put the lemons, sugar and HALF the water into a food processor and blitz until the lemons are finely chopped. Pour this through a sieve into a bowl, pressing through as much juice as you can, then add the remaining water. Pour into a jug and chlll (or add a few ice cubes) before serving.

That is it for today. An early finish to my blog means I have gained up to three hours that can be used to cook my gingerbread et al. Could make a lot more in a shorter time if I had a lot more ovens! Do have two ovens (a much smaller one under a larger one, but it is the larger one I use most when baking as I am far more familiar with it - the smaller one doesn't cook cakes nearly as well). It's really a matter of making something, then clearing up and gathering ingredients for the next whatever, and carrying on until the day's cooking is done. Then when everything cooled, some put in tins (must find enough tins), some put in the freezer (must clear a drawer for those), and some wrapped in paper and foil (gingerbread etc) to store at room temperature.
It will no doubt all get done, after all I still have today and tomorrow to do the cooking for the Saturday, and part of tomorrow and most of Saturday to cook for Sunday.
Not a problem. The secret is with the organisation. Make lists then start working through. Easy as that!

Will probably be able to make time to write an early blog again tomorrow, but Saturday will be too busy to do more than cook, and as mentioned previously, the Sunday blog will be written later in the morning, once the cooking and Gill's phone call are over. But if I 'go missing' tomorrow, you will know the reason why.
Whatever you are doing this Bank Holiday weekend, and fingers crossed the weather will be fine for it, do hope you all enjoy yourselves. Me, I'm now off to the kitchen, B having put up the ironing board for me. TTFN.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Time Waits for no Man (or Woman)..

Ten minutes and it will be noon. My intention was to begin this blog after Norma had left, but then had the police call at the house due to someone putting superglue through the keyhole of a house opposite "and did you see anybody hanging around?". No I didn't, but as the window cleaners were in the street then thought they were the best ones to ask. Of course had a bit more of a chat than that, then came into read my emails (these include your comments, and blow me there was more than one from the organiser of the sailing clubs' Jubilee party re what I was to make, what others would make, and then requesting recipes from me for this purpose, so I had to deal with that first.

As I have LOADS to do myself, will have to curtail my own blog today, but at least have time to reply to your comments and was very interested in hearing about that 'loom' you have Rachel, sounds just up my street, I could play happily for hours cutting up all my old clothes (I never throw anything away, and B's old T shirts (he never throws these away either), then making rag rugs, cushion covers, all sorts of things. If you have any more info re this look, please let us know.

Am sure I can find a recipe for plum chutney for you Campfire if you can allow me a couple or so days to do this (but hoping to give one tomorrow, I've already made a note to remind me), you could stone the plums then freeze them to make the chutney later. If you cannot store them by freezing, then maybe you can find a recipe on the Internet.

You sounded as though you had a very pleasant day in Scarborough Jane, it is really a lovely place to holiday, part tourist, part old-type fishing 'village'. Luckily the weather is holding out although we are forecast more cloud and a possible light shower in some places. The sun didn't come out until late afternoon yesterday, and looks like being the same today, but it is still warm.

An interesting blog from you (as always) Lisa. I love to hear about life in America for it sometimes seem so different from ours, and in other ways very much the same. The 'Housewife 49' is exactly like it was in those times as I was old enough (6 when the war started)
to remember those days and because they were very traumatic (we lived in Coventry, one of the towns that were daily bombed almost to destruction) they probably are more vivid that some later years.
Your mention of using up the last dregs in bottles (not foods in this instance) reminded me of something said in 'Superscrimpers' yesterday when a lady used to put the almost empty bottle of shower gel (and did she mention hair conditioner as well?) into her washing machine (she did mean the bottle and not rinse it out and use only that), and her laundry turned out smelling wonderful and soft, and the water did not get too 'sudsy' either. One worth remembering.
What are weiners? You mentioned freezing beans, so do these grow too?

The numbers for the sailing 'do' are close to 40, and as the food needs to be as fresh as possible, the earliest I can start this is on Saturday, so that's put paid to me doing anything else that day. My daughters community do is on the Saturday, and that means most of Friday taken up for baking for that (as the cakes need to be there by Friday evening). Not that I mind as am at my happiest when baking for others. Wish I could do more. At least the marmalade have been done, and if I can grab a couple of hours am hoping to get B to take me to Morrison's this afternoon as I need more ingredients. Otherwise it will have to be early tomorrow morning, and if it is tomorrow, then that means another late blog. Be assured I will write something, even if short and later than normal. Friday and Saturday I will NOT be blogging as need to concentrate only on my baking. Sunday possibly will find time to return to chat as my Beloved will have delivered the cakes, scones, biscuits, quiches.... to the club house early in the morning before he begins sailing. That is the plan anyway.

Just remembered, Gill will be phoning at 9.00 for an hour on Sunday as per usual, so blogging will have to start after 10.00am. Just seems to be all go at the moment. Could do without having a bad back though, yesterday had to use two sticks to walk around comfortably. At least - when cooking - a lot is done sitting down, so that really isn't causing me much difficulty, and sheer pleasure when I can go and sit in my easy chair and put my feet up for a while. Sometimes its good not to take things for granted, then when we do get them back they are that much more appreciated.

So sorry today's blog has little of interest, but am sure something will happen soon that will give me something more interesting to write about, or even find extra pleasure in (at the moment am on a downward spiral with each day giving me something more to be concerned about - but with positive thinking, know that sooner or later things will improve again, so best to looking forward to that).
One good thing - went to water my plants yesterday and noticed the avocado stone - planted many, many weeks ago - has just split and a stem is growing upwards out of it. As soon as it grows a bit more will take a photo of it. It was only the other day nothing seemed to have happened and I was going to bin it. Just as well I didn't.

Enough for today, am now off to get a quick snack, cup of coffee and sit and watch Superscrimpers. Hope to meet up with you again if you can find time to log on tomorrow, if so - see you then.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Is it Worth It?

There are times when I feel that all the hard work we do to keep the wolf from the door can be very stressful. Many people today are in the depths of misery because their life has not worked out as they hoped and planned for. The recession has bitten deeply and they cannot see beyond that. Myself like to feel that is light at the end of all tunnels, as long as we keep walking (or should that be 'working') towards it and meanwhile enjoy what we have, not what we don't have.

At the moment I'm 'enjoying' using up the odds and ends of food, and yesterday managed to cobble together a very attractive looking fresh fruit salad using four large strawberries (quartered), one kiwi fruit (thinly sliced), one apple (ditto), a handful of loose grapes that had fallen from a bunch, and segments from an orange. It helped (of course) to have all these in the first place, but they were (sort of) almost 'left-overs', having reached and passed their best before date.

Managed to make 16 jars of marmalade yesterday (took less than one hour to make the lot as I used the canned prepared oranges and lemons), and although these were made for a charity stall, there is enough there that would keep one family in marmalade for a year. Shows how a minimum of effort in a very short time can fill the larder shelves. Definitely worth it!

Not everything is worth doing, but by now have learnt what is and what is not and I'm still inclined to use SOME 'convenience' foods (rather than make from scratch) purely because the are good (quality curry sauces etc). Suppose in this 21st Century the ideal way to cook is do as much as possible at home, but still take advantage of (some) of the 'readies'. Best of both worlds.

Again have been watching the repeats of Superscrimpers, and do hope this series continues, for although I've 'been there done that', it certainly gives excellent advice to younger people, and who knows - perhaps the 'old ways' of make do and mend will become fashionable again, although I think most of the reasons why these skills were lost was because in the old days they HAD to be done, because there wasn't the money. Making do is the cry of poverty and nobody liked to be thought of as poor.

What used to be made from necessity, was then turned into a money-maker for industry. In the old days patchwork quilts were made from old, used material, normally thrown into a rag-bag, nowadays brand-new material is used to make quilts, often sold pre-cut (and of course this now costs a lot when originally all was 'free'). Recycling had become almost obsolete, and we were almost encouraged to use up everything as quickly as possible, then throw it away and buy another.

Depending upon our age, there can definitely be a great divide between certain generations, one not understanding the other at all. My way of thinking has more than once been likened to 'living on another planet', and I have to smile for the youngsters really don't know very much about 'real life' do they? I expect I felt the same when I was young, but in those days things really were very different than today anyway. Now it seems we have turned into a very selfish society that believes personal needs come above all others, and with the recession forcing people to cut corners is not turning out to be popular at all. Yet in many ways this is quite a good thing to happen. Or so I like to think. Otherwise we would end up doing nothing at all, always paying for someone else to do it for us. And end up bored, bored, bored.

Obviously one of my more philosophical days today. Put this down to the weather, today being cloudy with a feeling of thunder in the air, this always makes me feel gloomy. Yesterday was another gorgeous day, slightly cooler in the breeze. My Beloved and I took a bottle of chilled Chardonnay into the garden and sat and drank it between us, ending up full of giggles (as we do after a drink with no food inside us). We decided to leave our bodies to science (true), and if we are eventually handed back to the family in pieces we wish them to be put together and buried, our tombstone with the inscription: 'Bits R Us".

Suppose my mind should return to the present and should concentrate on food. Still have plenty to do for the Jubilee weekend, and have to fit it in between bouts of aching back - which isn't getting any easier. Possibly the hot weather doesn't help, as I find it hard to stay cool at night and so toss and turn, and when this happens it makes my back worse. Still, as B says "there are millions in the world who are far worse off than we are, many crippled, blind, dying from starvation" and have to always keep this in mind when beginning to feel sorry for myself. It could always be a lot worse and I should be grateful for what I have, not continually (as I seem ot be prone to do lately) gripe about it.

Anyway, food is what this site is (or should be) all about, so let's get on with today's suggestions. l A recipe for a vegetable curry comes first, vegetables only because cheaper than making it with meat, and also curry is one of those temperature-hot dishes that make good eating during the very warm weather we are having at the moment.
The vegetables can be varied (include butternut squash if you wish), but am keeping it fairly simple using a few vegetables that (hopefully) we all have. As there are not too many spices, would probably make this dish as given, if there were a lot more spices (as can often happen) I'd be more inclined to omit all these and use a jar of curry sauce. Cook's choice.

Potato and Cauliflower Curry: serves 4
2 tblsp sunflower oil
1 large onion, chopped
chunk of fresh root ginger, peeled and grated
1 - 3 garlic cloves (or to taste) crushed
half tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground curry powder (or paste) - or to taste
8 oz (225g) canned (or fresh) chopped tomatoes
good pinch sugar
1 cauliflower, divided into florets
2 potatoes, cut into chunks
squeeze of lemon juice
Heat the oil in a pan and fry the onion over medium heat until softened, then stir in the ginger, garlic, turmeric, cumin and curry powder/paste. Cook for a further minute then add the tomatoes and sugar, then the cauliflower and potatoes. Cover and reduce heat and simmer gently for about half an hour (giving a stir occasionally) for half an hour or until the veggies are tender. When ready, add lemon juice. Serve with either rice or naan bread, and a side dish of raita.

Next dish is a sort of 'spicy pie'. Not quite sure how to describe it - similar to a pork pie but without meat. Not a million miles away from a quiche - but without using eggs. A touch of the Spanish omelettes also comes also to mind. Perhaps this is true 'fusion food'. Who cares? It certainly tastes good and a good one to be eaten hot as a main meal (with salad?), and eaten at 'room temperature' is great for picnics or an al fresco buffet.
Bombay Pie: serves 6
1 lb 9 oz (700g) potatoes, sliced and cooked
1 lb (450g) sweet potatoes, sliced and cooked
1 onion, chopped
1 tblsp olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp ground coriander
1 - 2 cloves garlic, crushed
chunk fresh root ginger, grated
7 oz (200g) frozen peas
juice of 1 lemon
1 x 275g pack filo pastry
1 oz (25g) butter, melted
half tsp poppy seeds (opt)
After cooking the two types of potatoes, drain well and leave to steam-dry. Meanwhile, fry the onion in the oil until softened, then add the ground spices, garlic and ginger and fry for a further 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add the potatoes, peas and lemon juice, turning gently so everything is coated with the spices.
Halve the filo sheets and use two-thirds, laying one at a time (and brushing with butter) overlapping at angles to line a 9" (23cm) loose-based cake tin - allowing the pastry to overhang the rim (cover the unused pastry with a damp tea towel to prevent it drying out - which it can do almost instantly when exposed to air).
Spoon the spicy filling into the tin and cover with the remaining pastry (also in butter-brushed layers), then gather up the overhanging pastry and tuck back over to give a 'scrunchy' edge to the pie. Make a few slits in the top with a knife, brush with butter and sprinkle with poppy seeds (if using).
Bake for 40 - 50 minutes until golden brown. Serve cut into wedges, to be eaten hot, warm, or at room temperature.

Final recipe is a sort of hot tortilla 'sandwich (aka a quesadillas). Myself like this dish as it uses storecupboard ingredients and makes good use of those wonderful chicken scraps we pick from the carcase bones. Any oddments of hard cheese (grated) can also beused, and together they ingredients make a wonderfully tasty 'light lunch/supper' dish, good served with a crisp salad.

We could - I suppose - make our own tortillas and salsa - and I suggest (for economy) this is what we do, but otherwise take the easy route and buy these. Packs of tortillas have a reasonable shelf life (can also be frozen) so essentially this dish is 'storecupboard'. Salsa can be bought in small jars and - unopened - will have a long shelf life.
Chicken and Cheese Quesadillas: serves 2
4 tblsp tomato salsa (medium or hot)
2 large flour tortillas
1 x 220g can red kidney beans, drained and mashed
1 spring onion, chopped
2 oz (50g) cooked chicken, shredded (see above)
3 oz (75g) grated mature Cheddar cheese
fresh coriander leaves, chopped
oil (for brushing)
Spread the salsa over one side of each of the tortillas, then spread the beans on top of just one, followed by the onion, chicken and cheese. Top with the second tortilla, salsa side down, brushing the top with oil. Place in a pre-heated frying pan, oil side down, and fry for 4 minutes then carefully turn and cook the other side for 2 minutes until golden.
Slide onto a plate and cut into wedges to serve.

Another working day in the kitchen awaits me - between times I am continually sorting out papers and trying to keep control of all the 'clutter' that seems to come from nowhere.
Tomorrow is Norma the Hair day, so my blog will be published closer to noon (unless I get up mega-early and do it before she comes.

Thanks to Eileen for her comment. The info given is duly noted. No other comments arrived for me to reply to - so hope for a few more today. Not that I wish to be 'pushy', at this time of year we all have a lot more things to do than sit in front of a computer. Mindful of the 'recession' (now being called a 'double recession' as it is getting worse) hopefully those that are able will keep sowing and growing their own now that the weather has warmed up, for every seed sown (that grows) could save us a lot of pennies later this year. Not just pennies, POUNDS!
With that thought will leave you to get on with your own lives, and will be back having my usual 'chat' again tomorrow. See you then.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Pressure is Building Up!

Yesterday didn't end too well. I asked B if I could have a bit of his lemonade (so I could take one of my pills) and whilst lifting it off the floor at the side of his chair he accidentally knocked over a half-pint glass of red wine also on the floor. As we have a pale cream carpet, this was not good.
Of course it was my fault (if I hadn't asked for the lemonade etc. etc.). B put some newspaper over the spilt wine to soak it up.
Luckily I did have a 'red-wine remover' bought many months ago 'just in case', so B then sprayed the stain with that, but - silly boy - instead of following instructions on the can (wipe off the foam with a white cloth...) he then scrubbed the stain with newspaper, ending up with printer's ink on top of the mark left by the wine (and a big mark it was too as there was a lot of wine in the glass).

Off stomped B a very cross mood, he said he was going to bed (and it was only 8.30pm), so I then stood over the mark and wondered if there was anything else I could do. Decided to go into the kitchen to see if I had any other stain removers and discovered one I got from Lakeland 'Oxygen' I think it is called (removing wine not mentioned, but worth a try). So sprayed this on, and it was magic. After the five minutes, then a wipe with a cloth, all the stains had disappeared.

By that time I was wide awake and not in the mood to even think about going to bed, so did a bit of tidying up of the living room, putting all B's papers (that he leaves at both sides of his chair and also at one end of another couch) together in one huge carrier bag that he had thrown in a corner (B is far happier when the house is in a mess he thinks this is 'homely'. He doesn't do 'tidy'). Not that I mind, it saves me continually having to clear up, and on the rare occasions when I do, within a very few seconds things have been chucked around to make it more 'homely' again. Then watched a late-night film. Ended up quite a happy bunny.

Anyway, the spilt wine served its purpose for that's now one room sorted. Have to do a couple more and the place will almost be fit for visitors. But today is going to be mainly sorting the kitchen for I HAVE to get started on the coming Jubilee festivities. Having been asked to make and bake for two parties (one on Sat, the other on Sunday), still don't know exactly what is wanted or the amounts. At least today can make the marmalade (and have already weighed out the sugar ready to start the moment I leave this comp.).

The 'tidy-up' yesterday unearthed two packs of seeds that I didn't know we had. Don't know why these were buried in B's papers, maybe he bought them (if you remember he was told by someone that we could grow beans up one of our fences, so he then wanted to even though he doesn't like beans). One packet was runner beans, the other being French beans (these I call 'string' beans). These can be sown outside now, so am hoping to find time this week to do so (even though they probably won't get eaten by B), and also plant my tomato plants outside.

Also discovered an old 'organic (veg) mag', and flicking through before it ended up in the waste-paper basket (this being a huge log basket to hold the various newspapers and junk mail that comes through our door), saw a mention of growing our own chick peas. Most readers are already aware that we can grow a lot of things from bought (supermarket) foods, and myself have already had a go at growing the seeds taken from bought bell peppers and butternut squash, the pips and stones from citrus fruits and avocados, the dried peas and various dried beans, dried whole coriander spice (these will grow into fresh green coriander leaves - and perhaps fennel seeds also grow), so am now having a think about chick peas... If you are interested in doing the same, then read this extract from the mag:

"Chickpeas: You may be surprised that chickpeas grow in the Midlands, and have been cultivated on the region's allotments for years. An easy crop to please - drought tolerant, pest-free and doing best on poor, relatively roughly cultivated soil. Although they benefit from a warm soil and sunshine, they are originally a Middle Eastern crop, where temperatures can fall below zero at night, so the plants can tolerate a little frost.
For seeds, just buy dried chickpeas from the grocers, So directly outside from April till June. Space plants 15cm each way on beds or 10cm x 20cm in rows. The plants look like a vetch, sprawling along the ground. White or purple flowers develop into small pods, which contain one or three beans.
But what's the point in growing chickpeas when a pillowcase sized bag of dried ones costs next to nothing (where does the writer manage to buy his so cheaply?)? Fresh, green chickpeas, with their distinct, sweet but mild nutty flavour, are a delicacy. If you wait until the pods have turned slightly yellow, they can be roasted; the 'peas' inside make a popular snack."

Looks like this week is going to be 'all go'. Depending upon how I get on, I may need to take Fri, Sat, Sun off, as some of the cooking may have to be 'fresh', and last minute. Certainly the cake decorating will have to be done as near as possible to the 'party time'.
Am also hoping to grab an hour to get into the garden this week to both do some planting and also have a 'sit' so am sure you will allow me a day or two off from writing my blog. It all depends on what time I get up in the morning (this usually depends on what time I go to bed, and this can be later than it should be as there are often things I wish to see on late-night TV).

Why should I feel the need to explain the reasoning behind my every move? All that really needs to be said is that I might not be writing my blog over this coming Bank Holiday. But then that would be abrupt and that is one thing I'm not. Sorry for those who wish I were. Treat me like Marmite, you can then either love me or hate me.

Did manage to grab an hour (possibly longer) sitting outside in the sun yesterday, and it really was hot. Even in that short time I managed to acquire stripes of tan at the top of my arms, deep brown up to my elbows, then slightly lighter when I then folded up my short sleeves, then lighter still when I rolled up close to the shoulder, and lightest of all at the top when I pulled the sleeves back almost to my neck.

Thanks for that timely warning about air fresheners Sarina, also confirmed by Eileen. When much younger I used to enjoy the fragrance given off by 'joss sticks' - these being what are probably called incense sticks as mentioned by Campfire. Lovely 'home-made' incense sticks can be made using dried lavender stalks (flowers and leaves removed). Just put several in a jar and touch the tips with a lighted match and they should then smoulder away leaving the room smelling delightfully of lavender. Have to give a warning though as we need to be careful when lighting things. Think readers have enough common sense to make sure they have a glass of water close by just in case.
For several years now like to add 'fragrance' to a room by dotting around bowls of home-made pot-pourri. At least used to when we grew a lot of scented roses in our Leeds garden. We have no roses here. But do have lavender, so must bring the above 'joss stick' idea back into our home again.

Have never heard of 'the Childe of Hale' Campfire, expect there is something on the Internet about he/she. It would be lovely to have done something that people would remember us by centuries later.
The 'recipe blog' you mentioned is probably the new site of mine that is not quite ready to view. Once up and running the recipes will always be there to refer to, but my hope is that most can be remembered with just a few words jotted down as a reminder in a personal 'recipe' notebook such as:
'Yorkshire Pudding: same measure each of egg, milk and plain flour (one egg etc will make four individual yorkies). Whisk until smooth, pour into a tray containing a little hot fat. Bake at 200C for 25 minutes)".
Although all the recipes will be given in full, once made all we need is a quick reminder (without continually having to refer to the screen - or a recipe book). Much the same way that our (or at least my) grandparents used to cook. By memory.

A welcome to Andrea (McCulloch), who mentions Nella Last's books. I have all three, and just love the way she writes (although find her first book the easiest one to read - she rambles on a bit too much in the others. Who am I to talk!!!). Nella L. reminds me so very much of me, we seem to have the same 'mind-set'. As we both were alive during the war years I am not Nella's 'reincarnation', but when reading her books I feel as though I am.

Sorry to hear about your hip pain Andrea, and - as so often happens - sitting up instead of going to bed at night can cause swollen ankles, even when the feet are propped up on a stool. Mine are not too bad as I wear support stockings (and wish I could leave them off during day this hot weather), and not sure why but my feet (and maybe everyone's) swell up quite a lot more when the weather is really warm. Have to wear a larger size of shoe when this happens, yet in icy cold weather then my feet have shrunk so much my (smaller size) shoes fall off when I walk. Wonder if it only feet that changes in size or do I swell (or shrink) all over?

A thanks also to T.Mills for her comment. It is good to know I can keep 'rambling on', and as I am now 'set in my ways', it would not be easy for me to change them.

One recipe today that could suit everyone. Polenta (cornmeal) I believe is gluten-free, but semolina (which is not) could be used instead. To prevent the loaf tasting a bit 'gritty', then blitz a coarse grain down in a liquidiser/blender to make a finer flour.
The rum is optional (but worth it), orange or other fruit juice could be used instead.
Banana, Date and Rum Loaf: cuts into 10 slices
9 oz (250g) stoned, ready to eat dates
7 fl oz (200ml) boiling water
approx 5 oz (150g) banana (1 large or 2 small)
3 oz (75g) pecans or walnuts, roughly chopped
7 oz (200g) raisins
7 oz (200g) sultanas
4 oz (100g) fine polenta (see above)
2 tsp mixed spice
2 tsp baking powder
3 tblsp rum
2 egg whites
Put the dates in a small pan with the water and simmer for 5 minutes, then drain - reserving the liquid - and put the dates in a food processor with the bananas and 4 fl oz (100m) of the reserved liquid, then blitz until smooth.
Put the nuts, dried fruits, polenta, spice and baking powder into a bowl, then add the date puree and rum. Stir well to combine.
Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks and then carefully fold them into the cake mixture. Tip into a 2lb loaf tin lined with baking parchment (its OK if it just about fills the tin). Bake for 1 hour at 180C, 350F, gas 4 until golden and a skewer stuck in the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin, and don't slice until completely cold.

No more time to spare, so off now to the kitchen to make the first batch of marmalade. Hope you all have a good day and can grab some time to relax in the sunshine. Please join me tomorrow so we can have another good 'natter'. Well me doing the nattering, you resigned to having to put up with it. TTFN.

Sunday, May 27, 2012


What a lovely bunch you are - such kind comments. Oddly, apart from my initial reaction (more stunned than anything else) the one 'bad' comment has not fazed me at all. Have only had one other - this some many years ago now, shortly after I began my blog, where the writer thought I was a waste of space writing about what he called my "war-time thrift, and entirely unnecessary in this day and age". Perhaps now he sees there was some sense in it after all.

As to me (continually) moaning about men in general, have to apologise to MimSys. Of course not all men are the same, certainly believe that a lot of the younger generation today accept and treat women as 'equals'. In my day there was much more of a great divide, and as most of the men I have met socially and been much of the same age as myself, they nearly always fit into the 'dominating male' type that was acceptable in those days and that I now tend to go on about.

A lot of these 'male faults' are caused by us women anyway (and I include myself in this). If we didn't have this 'mother instinct' we would then not rush around caring for sons and husbands in the way we do, right from childhood to old age - sensible women today let them make their own meals, wash their own clothes, and hoover the carpets. So we can't blame men for expecting every women they live with to continue with the 'caring' if that is the role women have played in their lives.

There have been a few occasions when I have met men who are 'caring', and these times didn't sit comfortably on my shoulders. It seemed 'unnatural' to be fussed over, so possibly I subconsciously prefer to have an 'alpha male' in my life, with me being the reverse side of the coin, until something 'flips' me and I then being to sputter and sizzle.

Men and women really ARE completely different in the way they view all things. This is how it should be, and would work perfectly according to nature's plan if both World Wars hadn't led women to discovered there was a world outside marriage and they could regain the 'identity' that they lost when their father gave them away to another man to possess.
Maybe this began with the Suffragettes, but when the wars led to woman having to go 'out' to work, whilst their menfolk fought the battles, after the war they continued to do so because they enjoyed the experience. Earning your own money to spend on yourself instead of 'having' to live on what your lord an master would allow you (if at all) was really special.
Because women were paid less for the same work done by men, then came the demand for equality, but us 'old ladies' never even reached that level. In my day we were expected to stay and home and rear the children and completely lost any identity we had (or it felt like that - I do remember wishing I could be called 'Shirley' again as my Beloved, my children, and even my parents all called me 'Mum'.
All that equality means nothing to us stay-at-home (now 'wrinklies') as things have got worse. We now have to stand whilst men sit, we have to carry our own cases, open our own doors, and if we did go out to work, then we were still expected to do all the domestic work when we return home. Not much equality with that.

So my moans and 'whines' are purely due to old age, and really are not meant to tar every man with the same brush, and do hope male readers of this blog understand that. Don't know why, but I've not expected many men would be interested in reading blogs, so my 'outbursts' I assumed would be read by (older) ladies who are more likely to understand why I sometimes feel as I do. Some may even feel the same. I will try not to keep 'having a dig', but can't promise not to.

Thanks Eileen for letting us know about the Lidl bargains. I have yet to venture into a Lidl or Aldi (these stores originally one owned by two brothers who then split and now in competition with each other).

That saying you mentioned Sue: "if you have nothing good to say, then don't say anything at all" is of course a good one we should all follow, but if I did this, then there wouldn't be much written on this blog other than foodie things. The times I vent my spleen about 'elf and safety', the government, the world, young folk, food prices, and - of course - men, it doesn't seem as though I have much good to say about anybody or anything does it? Yet this is how all (or most) 'old people think. Those 'Grumpy Old Men/Grumpy Old Women' progs on TV say exactly the same things that B and I (and friends and neighbours of our age) keep saying. Our parents probably said the same things about us and the world when we were younger.

Took note of the various comments sent - and for which I thank you all - and although I could arrange to see and remove comments before publication, do not feel that I should. As I said before, maybe there could be a glimmer of truth in what is said, and if not - well all I would do is shrug them off. I feel that readers of this blog should read everything that comes in, and as to the one recently, not sure where that ended up for when I checked the site that particular posting is one of the 'lost' ones, so wasn't able to be read anyway, so how 'Anonymous' found it I don't know. But even though not visible still felt it should be read.

On the other hand, would never put my email address on this site as had enough problems with 'unpleasant' phone calls when I was on TV when somehow people got to know where I lived (not difficult, enough was written about the town where we lived). Also received many letters - luckily all were nice, but felt they all needed an answer, and then they wrote back again and it got a bit wearing. There were one or two letters where people had made something and it didn't work and they demanded the money back for the ingredients they had used (I used to ignore these).

Thankfully 'upstairs' got a plumber in shortly after the discovery of our dripping ceiling and after a floor-board or two had been ripped up a leaking pipe was discovered and repaired. The damp patch on the ceiling has now dried out, but as we are not using the ceiling lights during the summer months feel all will be back to normal within a few weeks.

Thanks for your comment Campfire, can imagine the problems with that house fire you mentioned. The Fire Service phoned last week to arrange a check up (this coming week), this is something they do for us 'older folk'. They had already been when we first moved in to fit a (free) smoke alarm, but they keep in touch and do occasional checks.
We were told when they came to fit the smoke alarm that the majority of house fires are caused by those 'air fresheners' that plug into electric wall sockets. When switched on, the heat given off evaporates the liquid (which helps to make the room smell nice), but once all gone, the fitting then heats up and can begin to burn, then burst into flames.
So anyone reading this, if you have one of those plug-in air fresheners, always remove it when just about empty and replace with a full container of liquid, and never leave it switched on if away from the house for any length of time.

Now I must be a good girl and no more moans or explanations today, just get on with what I seemingly have been put on this earth to do. Write about how not to spend much on food (but still eat healthily and well).

Having opened a recipe booklet and random, opened it at a page where was shown a recipe for chicken curry that had 24 ingredients listed. The prep time took longer than the cooking time, and this didn't allow for half an hour 'marinating'. Myself find a long list of ingredients the most daunting thing when it comes to choosing a recipe. Do other readers feel the same, or are you prepared to take the time and trouble to 'do it properly'?

With this in mind (and because time is now moving on - late due to Gill's phone call) am giving just one chicken recipe today - with relatively few ingredients - that would make perfect al fresco eating, either taken hot (with a crisp cold salad) to munch in the garden, or cold for a packed lunch or picnic. Goes without saying the chicken used should be that picked from the bones of a cooked carcase. These can also be made using short pastry if that is all you have.
If you prefer, use half to one tsp chilli powder or cayenne (or smoked paprika) instead of fresh chilli (or amount to taste).
If you cut squares of pastry instead of circles, this means all the pastry can be used (no scraps), and the 'pasties' can be shaped oblong, triangular, or square according to how the pastry is folded.
Spiced Chicken and Bacon Pasties: serves 4
2 rashers streaky bacon, chopped
1 large potato, peeled and cut into cubes
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
salt and pepper
approx 8 oz (250g) cooked chicken, shredded
3 spring onions (or one shallot) thinly sliced
1 x 375g pack ready-rolled puff pastry
2 tblsp milk
Fry the bacon in a frying pan over medium heat, then once the bacon fat starts to flow, add the potato. Raise the heat and fry for about 5 minutes, giving an occasional stir, until the bacon is crisp and the spuds not quite 'done'. Add the chilli and cook for a further minute. Add seasoning to taste (but be generous with the pepper), then put mixture into a bowl and leave to cool slightly before adding the chicken and onion.
Meanwhile unroll the pastry and re-roll until large enough to cut out four circles of pastry using a side plate as a guide. Place these on a baking sheet.
Spoon the filling into the centre of each circle, brush the edges with a little milk, then fold two 'sides' up to the middle, crimping the edges together to seal to form a pasty shape (alternatively fold one side over to the other to form the other 'pasty' shape - like a 'half-moon').
Brush surface of pasty with milk, then bake for 15 minutes at 220C, gas 7 until the pastry is risen and golden. If using shortcrust pastry, bake at 180C - 200C, gas 5 -6 for 20 - 25 minutes.

Another lovely day and really MUST try and grab an hour sitting in the sun and maybe take my lunch out there as well. Overnight have been cooking cubed venison in the slow-cooker, so possibly will make some meat pies with that as I have pastry I wish to use up (the pies can be frozen). Instead of adding port to the venison when cooking, I slung in the remains of beetroot juice from a bottle that also needed using up (beetroot eats well with beef so why not with venison I thought). It was an experiment that might not have worked, but had faith and it seemed to have given a lovely rich taste to the liquid, and also to the meat. I may add a little red wine to the 'stock' when making gravy with it to give it a more authentic flavour. Certainly cheaper than using all wine.

Incidentally, yesterday decided to have another 'test' session, but just me doing the tasting. A can of Tesco's 'value' tuna flakes in brine was opened, and a tin of Prince's tuna steaks in sunflower oil. Drained the liquid from both cans then had a taste of each. The more expensive tuna in oil certainly did seem to have more flavour, but not sure if that was the oil or the fish. However, when I mixed the two together, the end result tasted as if it was all the 'expensive', so by adding 'value' to a better quality, ended up with proper 'value' for money. Just a thought it worth a mention.

Just about noon, so really must love you and leave you and hope that at least some of you will keep on returning for our daily chat. Do hope so, and will 'see you then'.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Tall it How it Is

Received a comment via my email sent by someone (and I bet it was a man) who really let me know what he/she thought about my blog. Not quite sure where the comment is shown on this site for it was sent through the 'Taken for Granted' (title) published in October of last year (nearly all of this dealing with 'interesting things' from the trade mag).
He/she said I should take a look at his/her site, and although I tried and the page came up, it got 'stuck' and I couldn't move it to read on, despite having several tries. In any case, the site looked like an advert for a tea producer. The name (in blue) that I clicked on was flowering teas, and another name came up '', so you may wish to try and see if there was anything I said that could have rattled his/her cage.

As the comment is now 'lost', no need for me to even give it a mention, but need to be fair and maybe what was said it quite true. You tell me. Here is what was said:
"expected your site to be interesting, but it wasn't, whining about something that you can fix if you want, and too busy seeking attention!"

It is true, I often do 'have a moan' and this could be construed as 'whining' (one of the reasons I think the comment was sent by a man as if a woman asks twice it is 'nagging', if complaining about her lot this is then 'whining'). A girl seeking attention is only useful to a man if the girl is his 'arm candy', after marriage it has to be the other way round .

In some ways it can also be true that I could fix things I 'moan' about (like yesterday - instead of 'whining' about B eating my share of supper I could have taken mine before he started). But5 the bit about 'seeking attention', certainly I didn't expect that. Anyone who writes a blog is hoping that it will receive attention, but not personally. If I wanted personal attention I would be taking up all the (many) offers that I now constantly get to go down to London and meet celebrity chefs etc. Or I could offer to go on Superscrimpers (but haven't). Me, I prefer to remain behind closed doors and just share my (hopefully) useful hints and tips. As to the 'whining', if I did 'fix' things (instead of complaining all the time) there wouldn't me much of the Goode life worth writing about.

Today did not start too well. I was sitting in the kitchen drinking my mug of coffee and taking my pills, and B wandered in and suddenly I heard a loud tapping noise. Eventually discovered this was water dripping onto a plastic bag in a bowl on the floor (we collect the plastic in the bowl to take to the tip). Something was causing a leak in the upstairs apartment. We phoned them and the man came down to investigate. The leaking had stopped but a damp patch had appeared on the ceiling a few feet away from the drip and this was slowing spreading. Seems it could either be a blocked shower outlet or - more likely - a leaking pipe from their central heating boiler.
It didn't really bother us (more their problem than ours) other than it might affect our electric lighting in the kitchen ceiling (but we are not using that at the moment being summer - we have over the unit lights that give enough light when needed). Of course, this always happens at a weekend, so it could be next week before sorted, thank goodness it is not next Bank Holiday (Jubilee) weekend.

The good thing is that (so far) there are no leaks over the kitchen table, for this week I'll be doing a lot of cooking for two Jubilee street parties, and need space to cook and the table to prepare.

As you say Sarina, positive thinking can also be a healer, and certainly have found am able to cope with my aching back more 'comfortably' when in a good frame of mind. Did not have too good a night again last night, but mainly because it was a bit too warm for the duvet (which ended up on the floor). Am assuming yesterday was hot (it was wall to wall sunshine all day) but we had quite a strong wind blowing, so decided not to sit outside (I really dislike wind). Possibly might do today.

Watched another half-hour of Man v Food yesterday Lisa, this time from Indianapolis, the presenter manfully trying to eat four MASSIVE beefburgers (each the size of a dinner plate) with the usual salad and burger bun (can't remember if there were chips as well), total weight of burgers being 6lb. He only managed two and a half.
Certainly can believe that those 'burnt ends' are worth eating. Our beef brisket is normally sold rolled and tied, but the brisket on the programme appeared to be cooked 'flat'. Really must give that method of cooking/glazing a try for it really did look mouthwatering.

If people really love that 'cream gravy' Lisa, then maybe I missed something. A mixture of equal quantities of cream and soy oil really don't sound that appetising, and even when boiled down to a thick sauce, it is only the water in the cream that evaporates, the oil still remains. Having said that, my B always like what he calls 'greasy foods' perhaps would enjoy it.
During yesterday's prog, the presenter kept calling the customers 'hoosies', so would appreciate you letting me know what this word means.

Pleased you got to see the Olympic Flame procession Alison. There has been a lot of complaints about it due to the fact that in many places the 'flame' is carried in a van (or something) and not by a person jogging along. Makes sense in the open countryside where there would be no folk to watch, but do think that when travelling through all built-up areas someone should be 'out there' carrying the torch. Sounds as though you were in the right place at the right time.

Am not surprised that your OH was not aware he was eating a vegetarian substitute instead of 'real' meat Jane. Quorn products (and other veggie ones) can be quite good, especially when made into a spicy dish (such as curry or chilli con carne). My only beef about this (no pun intended) is that the veggie substitutes are usually as expensive as the 'real' meat. If it could be sold for a lower price then think many would change to using a meat substitute.
Certainly I now add a pack of 'Beanfeast' chilli con carne (or spag.bol) when making the dish, as this means I can use less minced meat. Only a small amount of 'real' meat needs to be used as this being less tender than TVP, having that little bit of 'chew' with each mouthful fools the person eating into believing it is all meat.

Yesterday felt a bit mean after I'd written my blog as I was 'whining' again about the water-bath method of cooking. Think that what bugs me is the seeming need for all new ways of cooking. We have the sous-vide (which may or may not be worth-while), and most cookery mags are chatting/promoting/advertising 'molecular' cookery (a way to make something like tiny 'jelly balls' et al). Some weeks ago on a Great British Menu a chef was endeavouring to make 'smoke' to serve with his dish. And the (no doubt very expensive) machine just wouldn't work. Without the smoke the dish would be a failure (as if!). The daft thing was, it turned out the machine wouldn't work because the chef had forgotten to switch it on!!! But who needs a machine to make smoke, me I just burn a bit of toast.

New culinary 'gadgets' and 'appliances' are rarely worth their money. Fun to play with but not fitting into a 'cost-cutting' lifestyle. Even the basic microwave - useful though it can be for defrosting, baking a speedy spud, or making custard/lemon curd... does not make such good cakes as those baked in the oven. Perhaps now why many microwaves also incorporate a 'roasting' element - getting the best of both worlds.
If an enterprising manufacturer could make a slow-cooker where the temperature could be reduced down even further to 'water-bath' level, then that would make more sense. If the temperature in the same cooker could also be raised much higher, then we could use it for deep-fat frying. An all-in-one cooking 'appliance' that then serves every purpose. Buying a separate one for each form of cooking can work out very expensive indeed, and also need extra space for storage.

Mind you, I do get tempted by all the different cooking gadgets/appliances on sale. I'd love to own them all, but have to consider my purse. Some people do own many, and yet end up never using them. A friend of mine has several, still in the packaging they came in. Admittedly not bought by herself, but given as gifts from her family. Still, having one of the top of the range Kenwood Chef's should be an encouragement to use it. "Can't be bothered with all that cleaning after use" was the excuse, and coming from someone who lives on M & S ready meals and does not have anything on view in her very expensive new kitchen (with glass topped table imported from Italy) other than a toaster and coffee percolator, perhaps this throws some light on her attitude to 'home-cooking' (this being if she can afford not to, why bother?).

Again - trying to be fair - the above friend does sometime 'have a go' at cooking and remember the time she decided to make 'proper' gravy the professional way by first roasting beef bones. Think that anyone who has tried this will agree this is not the quickest way to make gravy and probably best left for chefs and their minions to make in bulk. Throwing ourselves in the deep end of the culinary pool when we haven't even learned to swim is not the best way to keep afloat, and no wonder that many people even now believe that home-cooking is far from simple. Without experience a cooking 'swimathon' - making something that even I would rarely wish to attempt - would be almost doomed from the start. But this doesn't mean to say that ALL cooking is difficult. Everything is 'difficult' until we have learned how, and preferably at snail's pace to allow important things to sink in. Perhaps swimming and sinking should not be mentioned in the same breath, but think by now you will have got the gist of what I'm trying to say.

'Upstairs' has just phoned, and a plumber will be coming this morning to see what is causing the problem. Just went into the kitchen to see if anything else had happened, and the long wet patch has suddenly taken a right-angled turn and is now heading towards the centre of our property. Such fun! With us being 'below stairs' (this puts me in my place as a true Mrs Bridges happily cooking her socks of in the servant's quarters) the leak is not our problem.

As have quite a bit more 'kitchen work' to do today, also must get the washing hung in the garden (not allowed to hang out laundry on a Sunday), plus the usual 'plant-care' in the conservatory, must now get a wriggle on and leave you until tomorrow. See you then.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Positive Thinking.

Must give a mention to the 'Man v Food' I watched yesterday, mainly because I believed this one to be set in Lisa's state but possibly got mixed up (am now not sure it it was Missouri or Minnesota, but the town visited was Kansas City where barbecue food seems to take over).
For some reason this programme is becoming quite addictive, maybe because I'm British and the food consumed by the 'average' American always seems far more than we get served here in the UK (and often envy the choices). But not only that, it is the way the meat is prepared and cooked that goes far beyond any 'cooking' we do in our small island.

The first 'stop' was at Oklahoma Joe's where brisket was cooked in an oven after being liberally spread with a special 'glaze'. Now, am not sure whether the 'brisket' was beef, for quite a lot of mention of pork was given. Here in the UK, brisket is always beef.
Once the US 'brisket' had been basted and 'slow-roasted' for a good 12 hours, it was sliced to be served in split rolls - and always the last the last bit of meat (the 'tail end') was then basted again and cooked for a further six hours, then cut into cubes and served as 'burnt ends', and believe me my mouth was watering. I wondered that if the 'brisket' was pork, then maybe I could do the same thing myself using belly pork. Worth a try.

The next venue's name I've forgotten, but it was a 'historical building of great age'. Had to smile when they said the date was 1933, for that was the year I was born (so does that make me a 'historical figure'?). Here they were famous for their fried chicken. It looked simple enough, very thickly coated in 'only flour, salt and pepper', then fried in plenty of soy oil in a 'skillet' (think we call this a deep frying pan), in preference to proper 'deep-frying'. Once the chicken had been turned a few times during 20 minutes, it had a lovely crispy golden coating, then to be served with a special 'sauce'. We saw the oil beingdrained, leaving a lot of crispy crumbs (crackling) to be served with the chicken.
Then (and have to say my stomach turned when I saw this bit), a lot of fresh soy oil was put in the pan with a lot of cream and boiled down until it was a very, very thick 'sauce' ("too thick for drinking" said one customer "but gorgeous"). This was served with the chicken as a 'side sauce' (or possibly poured over). The cholesterol ingested by each diner must have hit the roof!

Third visit was to Papa Bobs, a short distance away from the city. This 'diner' was famous for it's 'seven meats' and the challenge to the presenter was to eat all seven layered in one huge 'Hogi Bun' (think that was what they called it - it looked like an 18" long baguette that had been split in half lengthways. But that wasn't the only bread served. Read on - I took notes!).

The Hogi started with a layer of cold pork, this topped with thickly sliced pork (from a different cut cut), then sliced ham. For some reason this was then topped with a thick slice of bread (to help separate some of the layers), and the layers continued with cooked turkey breast, and then smoked hamburger 'patties', then (horrors) another thick slice of bread, then came slices of tender 'brisket', and finally lean barbecue sausages with the Hogi 'lid' placed on top, all held in place by three long skewers pushed in and through to the base. As half a lb of each meat was in this gigantic Hogi, that meant three and a half pounds to be eaten (plus the bread). But not only that, the meal was also served with one and a half lbs of 'fries' (potato chips to us Brits)!!!

With 45 minutes to eat the lot it was not surprising that the presenter didn't quite manage it, and he blamed the 'burger patties' as he said they were tough and needed a lot of chewing (the other meats 'just melting in the mouth'. He constantly poured ketchup, brown sauce etc over what he was eating, and it was just unbelievable how he managed to eat the amount he did. Not that he actually 'ate' it - just stuffed as much as possible into his mouth all the way through, and kept swallowing.

Normal customers ate smaller Hogis filled with perhaps only a few of the selection of meats above, but me being able to see all the different meats and how they were cooked (fried, oven-roast, smoked) etc, made me realise how much care and attention is given when cooking/preparing meat in the US (especially in these barbecue diners), and the preparation and cooking of meats at this 'grass-roots' level of catering seems to go far beyond anything done in this country at any level.
Being able to see seeing meats that have been slow-cooked for a good 12 hours (slow-roasted in an oven, none of this sous-vide poncy stuff), ending up with a surface almost saturated and caramelised with the mouthwatering glazes, and then cooked for a further six hours to improve it even was incredible. We have to ask ourselves, where could we find meat cooked this way in the UK? And will it ever be done?

Below is a barbecue/grill recipe that is the English version of the above. Just shows the difference, and although good in its own way, could be improved I'm sure. Myself have 'test-tried' using Levi Roots Jerk sauce and this really is very good and if 'some like it hot', this could make a spicy alternative to the marinade in the recipe as given.

Here is a little known tip. Cheaper 'grilling' meat is almost certainly going to be tougher than well-hung 'quality' meat, and a good way to tenderise it is to rub the surface of the meat (on all sides) with a cut kiwi fruit. The fruit's juices contain an enzyme that helps break down the 'toughness' of meat fibres (the same enzyme that prevents gelatine from setting). After rubbing, leave the meat to rest for half an hour before cooking. Apparently this works like magic.

Barbecued Beef with Hot Dressing: serves 4
1 lb (450g) lean rump steaks
2 tblsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tblsp black pepper, coarsely ground
4 tblsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tblsp sherry (or wine) vinegar
2 tblsp horseradish sauce
8 oz (225g) pasta (pref fusilli)
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 red bell peppers, deseeded and sliced
Put the steaks in a single layer in a dish and spoon over the sauce, after 5 minutes turn the steaks so all side have touched the sauce, then leave for a further 5 or so minutes. Sprinkle the black pepper over the steaks.
Meanwhile, mix the oil, vinegar and horseradish sauce together, then set aside.
Cook the pasta as per packet instructions, then drain and put into a bowl with the onion and peppers.
To cook the meat: heat a barbecue or griddle pan until very hot, then cook the steak for 3 minutes on each side, or longer if you prefer it medium to well-done. Remove to a plate or board, cut the steaks across the grain into thick slices, then add to the pasta salad with the horseradish 'dressing'. Toss everything together, then serve.

Yesterday my Beloved said he'd like home-cooked ham for his supper, with fried eggs and oven chips, he even offered to cook it himself. Unfortunately I mentioned later that I'd found a pack of paneer cheese in the fridge so thought I'd make myself a curry with it. So of course B said he thought he'd like that instead of his first choice of supper.
Decided to thaw out a quarter chicken and cook this in some Tikka Madras sauce (from a jar, well you know me - take the easy way when I can), to make sure there would be enough for both of us. Made it in two parts - the chicken cooking with some onion in the sauce, and in another pan more onion fried with half a (diced) red bell pepper, and also fried the cubed paneer.
When the chicken was cooked, decided to take it off the bone, return the meat to the pan and then put most of the veg/paneer mix also in the pan, saving a very little bit for me - spooning a bit of the sauce over 'just to taste'.

Left the curry in the pan for B to reheat (and also heat up a 2 min microwave rice as well). He asked if I'd had any and I said "just tried a spoonful to see if it was OK", and after he'd had his supper I asked him what he thought "you made too much" he told me. "That's OK" I replied "I said I was going to make some for my supper, so was going to wait until you'd taken what you wanted and then have the rest.". "Oh" he said blankly "I thought you said you'd eaten, so I ate it all". Bless the boy, he always needs everything explained in black and white, or he doesn't seem to understand (or is it that he thinks one spoonful makes a supper?). A lot of men are like that (not all, but most). At least this enabled me to eat less than intended, and one good way to lose the large amount of weight I seem suddenly to have gained (thankfully this morning found I weigh 2 lbs less than yesterday). It helps to have a positive outlook on life.

Don't envy Lisa with her high temperatures, we never seem to get them that high, although this week is turning out to be hotter than usual. Our night-time temperature is around 11C (or less according to the region), and day-time today is expected to peak at 28C max (less where we live as we get a cool breeze from the sea).

I didn't go outdoors yesterday Jane, as I had another allergy attack - this time 'hives' - a rash that often appears the day before my face swells up (but took extra anti-histamine pills, and although they helped they always make me feel a bit 'off' and very sleepy, so ended up going to bed very early). Today hope to have an hour sitting out this morning, and maybe another this afternoon.
Seems as though another high-pressure will shortly be coming from the east so with any luck this should stay with us until the Jubilee celebrations are over.

Have a lovely holiday in July Sarina, let us hope by then most of the midges will have disappeared and you will not get bitten. The Avon Skin-so-Soft (I have read)is an excellent anti-midge deterrent. As are elder leaves, crushed and rubbed over the skin.
Do hope you get to visit Istanbul and see some of the ancient buildings there. Believe there is a very famous mosque/church where both the Islamic and Christian faiths used to pray. Maybe not at the same time of course. Can't now remember the name, but I believe well worth a visit and the interior decor is wonderful.

Still feel tired, due to me taking more anti-hists, but at least these are keeping the hives/facial swelling away. My back ached a lot during the night, due to me sleeping in the wrong position (again), but after painkillers this seems to have eased a bit.
Have a lot to do today - only a week to go before the Jubilee, and as I'll be providing a goodly amount of preserves and cakes for two different 'celebrations' need to make sure I've done as much as possible well before the events, just in case my back gives up completely. The older I get the more I feel I need to 'be prepared'. In the old days I'd leave everything until the last minute, and still get it all done.

Life is strange, when I was much younger, able to walk for miles, have loads of energy, it was all taken for granted. It's only now the realisation how lucky I was then to just be able to do all this. It never occurred to me that I'd end up barely able to walk to the gate without having some pain or other, or ending up mainly living a life indoors (and how often I think that if I was in a prison I'd get a better life than I seem to have at the moment). On the other hand, never believed I'd live as long as I have, so possibly a bonus there. All I have to do is make the most of the time I have left, and if this is just 'chatting to you', then certainly that part I DO enjoy. As I said, 'think positive thoughts'.

Enough 'rambling', and now into the kitchen to make the most of today, for who knows what the future will bring. Beloved keeps asking me when he can start eating the ginger cake made a couple of days ago (was hoping to keep this for one of the Jubilee parties), but he can be very persuasive, so it will probably end up with him eating this one and me making another. But I enjoy cooking (positive thoughts again).

Seems that most of the UK is now bathed in sunshine, so hope all readers managed to get a chance to sit outside and soak up some of the essential Vitamin D (that we all need), above all relax and let the rest of the nation (and the world) worry about its own affairs.

Some good news (well almost), the electricity bill arrived yesterday and it seems to be much the same as previously and no further increases will be taken from our D.D. as far as the 'leccy' goes. So things could be worse. All I need now to do is save £5 a week to cover the extra gas charges, and the bank balance should remain at the same level. Let's just hope no other charges rise in the meantime.

It's useful to remember that although food is our body 'repair kit' and needed to repair our body parts, it is also our 'fuel' to give us energy and warmth and so natural to eat more during the winter to keep ourselves warm (well that WAS nature's idea as in the old days there was no central heating, so now we could eat less all year round). During the warmer weather (like now) we don't need to eat nearly as much, and this is a saving in itself. Must now get into 'summer mode' when it comes to cooking/eating and lose a few more pounds (both lbs and £££s).

Hope to meet up with you again tomorrow. Keep thinking positively and you will enjoy your day. TTFN.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

'Weather or Not?"

It's quite true about the British weather. We can never be sure what the day will turn out to be when it comes to sun, rain or storms. Take yesterday, we expected a really hot day over the UK, and most of it was like that, but not here in Morecambe. Admittedly, when I went and sat outside for an hour waiting for my cake to bake, I was sitting on the bench sheltered from a rather cool 'off shore' breeze, and it was warm, however thin wispy clouds kept appearing and after I had returned to the kitchen the sun didn't shine quite so brightly, and then stopped shining altogether. When B returned at 1.30 (from his stint at the RNLI shop), he said he couldn't believe the sunshine here at the east end of Morecambe. The shop had been in fairly thick sea-mist all morning and it was so chilly B had to wear his coat in the shop. Now the shop is very close to the Midland Hotel, about a couple of miles from where we live, so maybe after all I was lucky to get any sun at all. Also the life-boat was called out whilst B was there, so someone had been out and got into difficulties.

This morning it is again dull, but with the sun again expected to 'burn off' the cloud, and again fairly warm (but not quite as warm as yesterday). We are several degrees cooler here in the north west of England against the London and other southern areas. It is strange how the temperature can be so different in places around the UK considering what a small area of land compared to say Texas in the US where I bet the weather is pretty constant over the whole of the state. Do know they have a lot of wind if watching Dallas was anything to go by.

A couple of comments from an Anonymous (one sent via a much earlier comment box), but believe each from a different one, so a welcome to both. If either write again, please give a name or some word to recognise you by as I like to feel I give a personal reply to a person I can 'visualise'. Replying to an 'anonymous' is like speaking to a person wearing a paper bag over their face.
A welcome also to Anne H. and thank you for giving your name. Hope you enjoy this blog and hope you will send in more comments from time to time (or even more often than that).

Pleased to hear that West Yorkshire had good weather yesterday, and that you really enjoyed your sit in the sun Jane. Myself always prefer an early start to the day, and when a few years younger always tried to get up at almost first light during the summer months (which could be around 4.00am), and do remember on hot summer that seemed to last several weeks when I would get myself an early morning coffee, take it outside and sit in the garden listening to the dawn chorus, the buzzing of the bees and also seeing other wildlife. Even the flowers seemed to be more scented at that time of day. Around 7.00am all the natural sounds ceased and then came the bleep, bleep of car alarms (no break-ins but people leaving for work and not switching off the alarm as quickly as they should), then the sound of cars driving around and - well, sort of 'civilisation' making itself known.

When our children were smaller - and even when almost up to teenagers, they would always wake early, around 6.00am, so we never had the problem of over-sleeping at our house. Possibly this was due to the fact we had no TV or computers, so children went to bed a lot earlier than they seem to do today. Seven pm was bed-time for the pre-school age, then it increased by either 15 mins or half an hour each birthday, but they were all expected to be in bed by 9.00pm until well into their teens. Have to say this was not a burden to them for they had such an active life outdoors they were dead tired when they came in, had their early supper, then later a warm bath and bed (plus bed-time story for the small fry - the older ones used to read their own books in bed).

How pleasing it was to read about your 'perfick' day Kathryn. For I know just how you felt. There is something quite magical happens when we start to become self-sufficient and thrifty and discover how 'perfick' life can be when opting out of the 'rat-race' of today's world. Sometimes it may seem harder work to 'work at home keeping the wolf from the door, than for those who sit behind desks all day, but the benefits we gain make it all worth while.

Am hoping that again will be able to bring some of this 'magic' back into my life for I've got so accustomed to 'making do' that it doesn't seem to please me as much as it should. Suppose I've taken this life-style now for granted. Luckily (or not according to how you look at it), yesterday got my gas bill for the last quarter. As you know the weather has been unseasonably cold, so we had the central heating on (normally this would be switched off at the end of April). Despite the fact we had a small credit from the previous quarter, we now owe British Gas money, so - as always - they up the direct debit to cover the excess and now the d.d. has risen a further £20 a month! If we do get a long, hot summer, and warm autumn, then hopefully this will be able to be reduced again next spring. Having said that, they did reduce it quite a lot some months ago (not sure for what reason), so if my memory serves me right, we are still paying slightly less than a year (or so) previously.

Even so - we haven't yet had the electricity bill (this may come this week), so if that has gone up as well, then belt-tightening really will have to start again. Even though food is still easy enough to keep within (food) budget, am not getting so many purchases for the same amount of money (even when buying mainly bogofs and reduced prices), so this will mean giving a little more thought into the dishes I make from now on. And of course, you know this is something I really DO enjoy.

Due to the new 'caring' system with egg-laying birds, this has now brought the price of those cheap 'value' eggs (recently working out at 8p each) up to 14p each - almost double in price. And that's just the start. Just about EVERYTHING is going up in price.

Checking (for interest) noticed that Tesco are selling Heinz beans in single cans, in packs of four and in packs of 6 (all cans the same weight). We would expect the packs to work out cheaper per can, but this wasn't the case. The single tins - not on offer - were the cheapest. So always worth checking the price (per 100g etc) in both bulk packs and 'singles' (whatever food it is, canned, packet or fresh) before the final purchase is made.

You certainly have been busy in the garden again Lisa. Is this a personal thing, or is Missouri a state that encourages 'growing your own'? Although I can only go on TV films, it does seem that American gardens don't have that many flowers, and hardly seem to grow any vegetables. Plenty of open fronts with a shrub or two and water-sprinklers to keep the grass green. Obviously in rural areas people do grow more produce, but very little of this is shown on TV, can't even remember The Walton's or Little House on the Prairie having much more than a fruit tree, or hens.

Watched the repeat of 'Superscrimpers' yesterday and again was amazed at the way people just wasted their money and couldn't see what they were doing (especially when they needed to save). 'Mrs Moneypenny' did her usual "go for a week without spending any money at all" challenge to the couple, and of course they were able to survive on what they had (including food they already had) without feeling THAT deprived. So this is a good challenge for each and every one of us, just don't spend any money for a week. Am sure most of us could do this easily, although probably we would have to allow some money for public transport to get to and from work. Or maybe cycle there and back?

Beloved went to have his medical MOT with the doctor the other day and was told he was most unsual in that he was the very few at his age who was in no need of medication whatsoever. Myself like to believe this is due to having a life-time of eating home-cooked foods with very few of the 'readies' being eaten. Not bad either considering (as I keep saying) the amount of butter and home-made beef dripping, double cream, bacon and cheese, loadsa meat, and all the other 'naughties' that B eats (and often double-sized portions) that the medical profession say is bad for us. But as I keep saying, if these are 'natural' foods, then what is so wrong about eating them?Or is he just lucky?

Yesterday filled six cannelloni tubes with home-made spag.bol meat sauce, and instead of using tomato passata to pour over and then top with a cheese sauce, instead stirred a tablespoon of tomato paste/puree (left-over decanted from a small can), with half a tub of creme fraiche. This made a lovely creamy tomato flavoured 'dip'/sauce, and so spooned half in a dish, laid the filled pasta tubes on top, spooned the rest of the sauce over, and topped with a good layer of (previously) grated cheese. Once the pasta was filled, a very speedy dish to put together.
For 'afters' B had one of three individual trifles made with some left-over trifle sponges (found in the larder), an orange jelly with sliced banana, and this was topped with the end of the EasyYo mango yogurt and then cream poured over.
For one of his 'snacks' he later had some pikelets/crumpets spread liberally with butter. Then ate something else later but I know not what.

During the day made a very successful ginger cake from my own 'easy' recipe (for my new site, so you will have to wait for that), and today am 'experimenting' again with other 'bakes'. Also need to bake another (and extended) loaf, then revue my larder and fridge/freezer contents to see what can be used up (to save further purchases) and also what needs to be replaced (but only when on offer.

Am now regularly wearing my big linen apron because this has a huge pocket at the front (that says "Never Trust a Thin Cook" across the pocket-top. In the pocket I now always carry a note-book and pen so I can immediately write down ingredients that need replacing. Also in the pocket carry a small pair of scissors and my mobile phone. The pocket is also useful for holding certain things that need to be carried (but won't drip etc), from room to room when both my hands are full (like when holding a walkng stick in one hand and a mug of coffee in the other). This does make me feel (and probably look) like a kangaroo with a heavy 'joey' in its pocket, but have to say an apron with a big pocket is the most useful thing a cook can wear.
If you have aprons without pockets, then always worth finding a bit of material (and it doesn't HAVE to match) and sew on a pocket (or even two).

Was watching Great British Menu last night (nothing else that B wanted to watch at that time for once), and had a bit of a smug feel when the sous-vide cooked meat got a thumbs down again. If a top chef can't get it right, then what hope do we have? Nothing wrong with the tenderness of the meat of course, it is the flavour (that roasting gives) it lacks This has been mentioned before by the judges.
Being a traditional sort of 'gal', then am quite happy to continue cooking in 'conventional' way, so please no-one write in and suggest otherwise.

Quite an interesting day for me when it came to TV cookery progs. Even though my day was fairly busy with cooking (and also sitting in the sun) managed to watch a channel 5 prog on Mexican cookery (wasn't THAT tempted), Superscrimpers, a bit of River Cottage, and Hairy Biker's who were doing slow-cooking (the trad way), and their mention of 'feather blade' of beef was a new cut to me. Must see if our butcher sells that by name. In the evening watched Great British Menu.
Whether I like or dislike a cookery prog. there is usually something new to learn with each, even Superscrimpers sometimes comes up with something I haven't yet tried (although not very often as there is very little new these days that has not been done on a regular basis by us 'old folk').

There are very few (if any) really 'new' recipes these days, for - as I keep saying - what we see is usually a variation on a 'classic', and the amount of variations and adaptations today it is very difficult to know what the original was like.
So, in a way the recipe that follows is yet another 'adaptation', although it is more a different way to use bread dough than an actual 'recipe'. Anyone who has followed my suggestion of adding half as much again strong bread flour to an already bought bread mix (plus half as much again of water) will already have proved to themselves that this way they can make an extra loaf of bread for around 10p (if using a store's own-brand bread flour).
The next time you make a loaf from a mix, by adding the extra flour/water you should have enough dough to make a plain loaf plus these cheese 'n nut rolls, ideally made with blue cheese, but any mixture of hard cheeses can be used - some blue cheese if possible as it adds extra flavour.
(the above reminds me - when I recently made a cheese quiche, included the last bit of 'cheddar with pickled onion' that I grated along with normal cheddar and this gave a lovely 'tang' to the filling). If you don't have a bread mix, then use the recipe as given.
A variation (although I haven't tried this myself -yet), could be spreading the rolled dough lightly with a bit of Marmite before adding the cheese.
Cheese 'n Nut Pinwheels: makes 8
1 batch (500g) bread dough
4 oz (100g) walnuts, finely chopped
8 oz (225g) blue cheese, crumbled
2 medium eggs, beaten
Make the bread dough in the usual way, leaving it to rise in a covered bowl in a warm place for about 1 hour or until doubled in bulk, then knock back, knead in the walnuts, then place back in the bowl to rise again for about half an hour before tipping onto a floured board.
Roll the dough out into a rectangle approx (50cm x 20cm x 2cm thick). Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the dough and lightly press in using a rolling pin. With the wide side towards you, roll up like a Swiss Roll, then cut this 'sausage' into 8 equal slices and place on a lightly greased baking sheet, flat/cut side down. Cover loosely with cling-film and leave again to rise for one hour.
Brush each round with beaten egg and bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 20 - 25 minuts until risen and golden. Leave to cool slightly before eating (these are best eaten warm with either a bowl of soup, or with a cool and crispy salad with apple.

In a recent 'Instant Restaurant' one of the 'home-chefs' served a risotto made with pearl barley, and this didn't go down well with guests. Have to say it wasn't cooked or presented well, so that is probably the reason. Myself find pearl barley a very economical grain and with its quite 'nutty' flavour I often prefer to use it instead of rice. So here are two very reasonably priced dishes that are made with this grain. The first recipe cooked on the hob (and more colour and flavour can be added to this dish by including some canned sweetcorn kernels or diced red bell pepper, frozen (thawed) peas etc, and these should be added towards the end of the cooking time).'
The second recipe is cooked in the oven, so after the initial start, then no need to stand over it and keep stirring...
If you feel like making on or t'other (or both), let me kow what you think of the result/s.
Barley and Carrot Risotto: serves 4- 6
2.5 pints (1.5 litrs) hot vegetable stock
1 onion, diced
3 carrots, diced
2 tblsp sunflower or olive oil
10 oz (300g) pearl barley
1 - 2 tblsp chopped flat-leaf parsley (opt)
salt and pepper
grated Parmesan cheese for serving
Put stock on to heat, and in a separate pan put the onion, carrots and oil and cook ('sweat' or 'saute') for 3 - 5 minutes until softened. Stir in the barley and cook for a further minute so that the grains become coated with the oil.
Add two ladles of simmering stock to the barley/veg and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the liquid has been absorbed. Continue adding a ladle of stock and cook/stir, adding another ladle of stock as the last is absorbed. After about 30 - 40 minutes the barley should have become tender and most (if not all) the stock has been used/absorbed. Add seasoning to taste. Stir in the parsley (if using) and serve immediately with the cheese scattered on top.

Butternut Risotto with Herby 'rooms': serves 4
4 large flat field or portobello mushrooms
sunflower or olive oil
1 oz (25g) butter, softened
water or stock
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
2 tblsp chopped fresh thyme (pref lemon thyme)
1.5 pints (900ml) hot vegetable or chicken stock
1 onion, finely chopped
1 lb (500g) butternut squash, peeled and diced
9 oz (250g) risotto (arborio) rice
4 fl oz (100ml) white wine
1 oz (25g) Parmesan cheese, grated
salt and pepper
Brush the mushrooms on both sides with the oil and place on a baking tray, gills side up. Mash half the butter with the garlic, parsley and thyme, then put a blob in the centre of each mushroom. Pour 2 tsp of water (or stock) over each, then cover with foil and set aside.
Melt the remaining butter in a flame-proof casserole, the add the onions and cook for a few minutes until beginning to soften, then stir in the butternut and 3 tblsp of the stock. Cover and cook for 5 minutes, then add the rice and wine. Raise the heat and cook until the wine has evaporated, then add the rest of the stock, bring to the boil then remove the casserole to the oven, but leave uncovered. Put the tray of mushrooms on the shelf above and then cook both at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 10 minutes. Remove foil from mushrooms and cook for a further 10 minutes, or until both mushrooms and rice are tender. Stir the grated cheese and remaining herbs into the risotto and season to taste. Divide between individual serving bowls and top each with a mushroom. Serve immediately.

Think I've forgotten to reply to one comment. Do hope you have a lovely holiday in Bulgaria Sarina, and if you get the chance to sample 'local cuisine' do let me know what this is like. You maybe will discover some new dishes as most of the time all we seem to hear about in any quantity are the French and Italian, Spanish and Greek, and some German. The Hairy Bikers' did do a trip around part of Europe, but mostly this seemed about baked goods - mainnly bread. European countries MUST have some wonderful dishes that we have yet to become familiar with.

The sun is now trying to break through, so am hoping it will warm up enough for me to have another sit down outside for an hour. Even in that short time yesterday my arms gained quite a tan and do need to absorb as much Vit. D as possible from the sun's rays to keep me healthy through next winter.

With plenty of kitchen and culinary work for me to do today, really must love you and leave you again, but of course already lookng forward to tomorrow morning when I'll be back again in this chair chatting my little socks off as per usual. See you then.
p.s. spellcheck suddenly switched off half-way through editing and having already seen some letters needed altering, didn't get to them in time to remember where they were and now can't be bothered to find them. Apologies for any errors.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Busy, busy...

A late start this morning, despite my intention to 'blog' early. Instead, having quite a lot of 'experimental' cooking planned for this morning, decided to get everything prepared (weighed and measured etc) ready to make and bake as soon as I've finished my 'chat'.
Whilst doing that, also decided to have a review of the larder contents, and found a few ingredients that could do with using up, so brought those out to put on the table. Plus the cans of Mamade and a big bag of sugar ready to make as many jars of marmalade that I can in one fell swoop so to speak, as making it in bulk takes very little time longer than making a smaller amount, and will mean no more need to make marmalade for a year (for our own use - although will be making extra for the charity stalls).

As my back wasn't very good again yesterday, decided to sleep in a sitting up position (in my chair in the living room) last night, and have to say that this morning the pain is far less, hardly need to use the stick at all. So am hoping to be able to go and have a sit in the garden for half an hour or so whilst some of the baking carries on all by itself in the oven.
It was a lovely day yesterday, but I didn't feel like taking those extra (and painful) steps to go and sit in the garden, but today it is expected to be even warmer (up to 27C in some areas!), and once the high cloud has been 'burnt away' by the sun (as is happening at the moment), hope to grab at least some time this morning outside, and also again this afternoon.

Thanks for comments, and it does seem that several of you have had (or are having) problems with weevils. One suggestion Campfire is to measure your bread flour in the amounts used for each loaf, then bag this up, seal and then store the bags in those plastic sweet jars. Am sure the jar's lids will give a fairly air-tight seal.

Finding a grub/maggot in a sachet of coconut cream (Anonymous' comment) must have been a shock. Presumably it was dead. My B would have shrugged his shoulders and said "use it anyway, it's all protein". Sometimes he is quite squeamish when it comes to eating certain foods, yet he would quite happily eat chocolate coated ants, or deep fried caterpillars. Probably because these are eaten as a normal part of diet in other countries. A cheap source of protein that - who knows - we may be forced to consider in years to come.

It's too early in the season for us to have caterpillars on our brassicas Lisa. Sadly, the only butterflies we seem to get in the garden are now only the Cabbage White. At one time we could expect at least 8 different varieties of butterflies (especially around the buddleia bushes), but we are lucky to see one Red Admiral these days. Our traditional garden birds too are now on the decline. It could be that few people these days keep dogs, and more seem to keep cats. We have at least 5 different cats (from neighbouring houses) constantly in our garden, climbing the trees and even climbing up the plastic greenhouse to reach a birdbox. B is going to get a water pistol in the hope of deterring them. Or should we get a dog?

Didn't realise you had a TV channel that had no commercials Lisa. Our BBC channels have no ads (other than their own), and although the other terrestrial channels do have commercials, don't think they occur as often as those in the US. Usually once every 15 or 20 minutes, and last about 3 minutes total (although believe this time is now being extended). Commercials can be quite useful as it is possible to nip into the kitchen when one is on and either make a cup of tea, or toast a slice of bread, or even pop a prepared dish into the oven to bake. Baking bread can also be fitted into 'commercial time'.
Our main 'beef' with the ads is that they are always far noisier than the programmes, and we have to turn the sound down when they come on. Don't know why they have to be so loud. Having said that, am finding that a lot of background music to (say) drama programmes is also too loud, and when it comes to American films - the amount of noise from those (gun shots, car chases, explosions etc) are almost guaranteed to burst our eardrums. Sometimes, when B is watching a war film or gangster something or other, I have to sit with the remote in my hand and keep turning the sound down as and when necessary.

Good to hear you have allotments in Toronto Margie. They sound very similar to ours although may not be the same size which was originally the 'allotted' space needed to grow all the vegetables needed for a year vegetables for a family of (probably) four (this was in the days of 'basic' veg, and before the bell peppers, the sweet potatoes, the pumpkins came on the scene.

Nowadays, with people buying at least some vegetables, the original full-size allotment is now almost always divided into two - this still being a good size plot to grow a lot of veggies and some soft fruits, and probably more than enough for one person to manage. Today these 'half-plots' are very hard to come by with sometimes a waiting list of many years, and - when one is available - if it can be shared between a couple of friends, this is probably the best way for more people to be able to 'grow their own'.

Thankfully we can still grow quite a lot of things in containers, and myself will continue to do that (plus using the sunny windowsills in the conservatory).

Forgive me for writing a short blog today, the sun is now shining brightly and I MUST get that cake made and in the oven, plus doing another five things before I venture outdoors. Who knows, if I don't sun myself this week, may never get another chance, our English weather being what it is.

If I get on well today, then will try my best to spend more time chatting to you. Look forward to meeting you then. Enjoy your sunny day!