Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Trials and Tribulations...

One of the problems with 'experimental cookery' is that occasionally it doesn't turn out as well as expected, and with our economic climate it is almost a sin to waste food, so more care has to be taken so that any - let's call them 'mistakes' - can still be eaten. As B says (once in the mouth) "it all goes down the same way".

Fortunately, at the moment my 'trials' are fairly successful and so I continue. Today am having a go at making some different flavoured 'nachos' (these to me are almost the same as tortilla chips). Flavouring some with paprika, others with herbs etc. So very cheap and easy to make that they should be made more often (the recipe has been given in the past).

Yesterday B had chilli con carne (and home-made 'ready meal' from the freezer), with some bought tortilla chips. For myself used some cream cheese, blended with some creme fraiche with a teaspoon of Korma curry paste and two teaspoons of home-made mango chutney. This always makes a really tasty dip and with it I had some 'sticks' of cucumber, red bell pepper, celery, carrot, with some small raw cauliflower florets and quartered chestnut mushrooms. Plus a handful of tortilla chips. This was surprisingly satisfying, probably because 'dips and crudites' take quite a time to munch through, and it is said that after 20 minutes of eating, our brain tells us we have had enough. One reason why a Chinese meal eaten with chopsticks can make us feel full (even when we haven't eaten THAT much - it takes some skill and quite some time to pick up rice with chopsticks).

Possibly, for those on a diet, eating any food with chopsticks is a good idea for it will always take more time than when eating the 'Western way' using a knife and fork. Unless of course we do it the Oriental way (as I do), when eating a 'Chinese', fill a small bowl with rice, topping it with the
chosen chicken, meat, fish (and sauce), then holding the bowl up to the chin and using the chopsticks to scoop the food inside the mouth, rather than picking it up bit by bit.

Enjoyed my 'dip 'n bits' last night so much will be having it again tonight. Not sure what B will have, will sort that out later.

Thankfully it is cooler now, with far less humidity, so back under the duvet again at night, and because I had nodded off in my chair (as per usual), B having already gone to bed, woke at around 4.00am, so decided instead of staying awake and starting chores early in the day, would at least grab 3 or 4 hours sleep in bed before rising.
About three hours later woke up and wondered why it was still dark, my bedside clock showing he time was less than it was when I went to bed. Had a really strange feeling I'd somehow got into a time warp, then realised that I'd misread the clock in the living room and it wasn't around four in the morning, but twenty-past eleven the evening before. That's the problem with having clocks where it is difficult to read the numbers and the hands are both the same length!
So missed the programme I'd hoped to watch later that night, but at least had a reasonably good night's sleep.

As expected, I am now (almost) becoming addicted to the Food Network channel. Well, sort of, although it does seem that many of the programmes have US cooks demstrating their dishes, and watched only for interest as doubt I would ever make anything shown as the food tends to be either over-fatty, or over-sweet. Most enjoyable to eat no doubt, but only in small quantities and not that often. Am not surprised that the US has an obesity problem if that is the normal type of food eaten.
Did catch part of a prog. called (I think) 'The Hungry Cook'. The cook showing how to make lower calorie foods. Still not quite as low-cal as I hoped. She did show how to make what she called 'pigs in blankets' (they looked exactly like what we call small sausage rolls), but used frankfurters (and having read recently what goes into them would never touch them with a bargepole as the saying goes), and the pastry was some chilled low-fat pastry that was sold in a cardboard tube and came out pre-marked in triangles. At one time we used to be able to get pastry to bake into croissants sold this way - and very good it was too - so wish we could still get this as myself have had no success (so far) in making and baking a good light flaky croissant (this 'pastry' being a cross between bread dough and puff pastry).

So far have seen only one programme on that channel with an English cook (and she was demonstrating Mexican food), and as our TV guide doesn't show all the Freeview channels (at least not the Food network one), I don't know what to expect when I switch over to it. Perhaps the Internet will give a listing so that I can pick and choose my times (at least when the Olympics are over).

So far we don't seem to be doing as well as expected in the Olympics, having not yet won a gold, but as we Brits say - 'it is taking part that matters, not winning'.
There has been an awful lot of griping about the empty seats at most of the venues. The organisers desperately trying to fill them up with servicemen and school children, but then the schools don't want to send children as they don't have enough teachers to chaperone them. Empty seats all the fault (they say) of thousands of tickets sent abroad and also to organisations here who haven't bothered to use them. They are now being asked to return them so that the public here can make use of them.

A lot has been written about the truly remarkable opening ceremony, which - unfortunately - was not always understood by those who live overseas, but to us it was the historical progression of our society. It was good to see the Pearly Kings and Queens of the East End of London (still around even now), and also the parade of our Suffragettes (from the Edwardian times). The way the scene changed from rural to the towering and smoking chimneys in a very few minutes was short of miraculous.
I just loved the 'doves' (men cycling furiously round with their lit-up wings flapping behind them), and if I had a gripe at all it was that there was too much 'pop music'. But as this was part of our culture, then it needed to be included.
The lighting of the Olympic torch was most unusual and unexpected and 'beat that' I say to the next Olympic hosts.

There was a feature in the newspaper about the women's cycle race and the beautiful English scenery that was shown as they rode through. Think it was the same route as the men's race, but do hope that overseas viewers managed to watch this as it did give a splendid view of what England (countryside and town) really is like, especially during the summer months with all the flowers and foliage (ignore the rain).

Was that a 'State Fair' that you went to Lisa, or a more local one? It sounded worth going to, especially the handicrafts sections/tents. Much the same as we have here I suppose, but most of our country fairs also have live-stock competitions. Best bull, or sheep, pigs etc. Often a dog show and usually some show-jumping. Plenty of tents showing local food produce (for purchase and tasting), and the usual handicrafts and cooking competitions.

From books I have read believe that a blue rosette is given to the winner, a red to the second. Here in England it is normal to have a red rosette when we win, and a blue for second (not sure about third, this could be yellow).

Do you knit socks with wool or man-made fibres Lisa? Am sure you are unusual in that you knit socks at all, doubt that many in this country still bother to do that. Remember trying to knit these when a teenager and never managing as had to use four steel knitting needles, the stitches held on three, and one to work with.
We used to knit gloves too in much the same way, but generally I knitted fingerless mittens as these were much simpler to do.
With knitting being an almost lost art (although plenty of older people still knit, or at least know how to), anything 'hand-knitted' - like most 'hand-mades' - can cost a fortune when bought from a shop.

Have not come across Jenny Cogan books Jane, but will look out for them. It's a sign of the times when a book such as 'Fifty Shades of Grey' has become a blockbuster, especially as it is said to be badly written. Must be the shocking content that people are buying it for, not the beauty of the prose.

Regarding coffee, have to say I cannot really get a taste for the 'good stuff'. Too strong for me, and also B, both of us preferring Nescafe Original 'instant'.
What bugs me is the way that coffee comes in so many different guises, each with a fancy name, and when we first came to Morecame with a view to living here, we were taken to the Midland Hotel for morning coffee. I was asked by a very snooty girl what type I wished for and I said 'just coffee with milk, please', and she looked down her nose and said "do you mean cafe latte." and although I knew it was the same thing, I said 'no, I want just coffee with milk thank you, none of your foreign stuff." Well, I wasn't happy about moving anyway, so was wearing my 'awkward old woman' hat, and - have to say - enjoying wearing it.

Think the coffee was brought to me in a tall glass (or was that another type drunk by B?) but not how I believed coffee should be served. Doubt in the 1930's (the Art Deco style of the hotel), coffee was drunk in tall glasses, and probably only then offered 'With or without milk or cream, Madam". Then poured directly into a cup in front of you from two pots, one holding coffee, the other hot milk, cream served separately in a jug, with demerara sugar lumps and a pair of sugar tongs to lift them with. Those were the days.

Am almost tempted today to serve myself an English tea of cucumber sandwiches with the c rusts cut off, scones with jam and cream, and a slice of Dundee cake. Trouble is, hate wasting crusts (so would have to dry them off in the oven), the scones would have to be freshly made (and although do have home-made jam, don't have any clotted cream), also have no Dundee cake, and anyway - nowadays don't eat or drink anything at tea-time. How un-English is that?

One way to make a sliced loaf go a bit further is not to make two 'rounds' of sarnies (using four slices of bread) but to stack the fillings between three slices, this making what we call a 'club sandwich'.
We could do this when making a BLT (bacon, lettuce, and tomato), but here is a much more satisfying version that turns it into more of a meal. Instead of cooked chicken or turkey, we could also make similar versions using cooked roast beef or ham, in which case omit the bacon and mayo and substitute horseradish sauce or mustard, and add a few thin slices of cooked beetroot (opt) .
Chicken and Bacon Club sandwich: serves 4
12 slices bread
quarter of an iceberg lettuce, finely chopped
8 tblsp mayonnaise
juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper
8 rashers of bacon, cooked and crispy
8 ripe baby plum tomatoes, thinly sliced
7 oz (200g) cooked chicken breast, thinly sliced
Lightly toast the bread and keep warm. Put the lettuce into a bowl with the mayon and lemon juice and seasoning to taste, then mix together and spoon onto 4 slices of the toasted bread, top each with 2 rashers of bacon, a few slices of tomato, and some of the chicken. Place another slice of toast on top and repeat the layer, end with the last pieces of toast.
Cut each into triangles, and hold the layers in place by stabbing through with a cocktail sticks. Serve immediately.

According to an Italian (TV) chef, fish and cheese do not go together in one dish. Possibly not traditional to the Latins, but myself have found they make happy room-mates. Here is a recipe for (yet another) fish cake, and if lucky enough to have some fresh cooked salmon, use this, otherwise use canned salmon. Or - if you prefer (and that's all you have) use cooked white fish, or canned tuna. Instead of broccoli, include some lightly mashed (or whole) frozen cooked peas or double-skinned cooked broad beans. In fact you could include other veggies such as diced and blanched finely chopped red bell peppers (or if you like spicy some Peppadew), as this adds extra colour as well as flavour.
As with anything that is 'egged and crumbed' for frying, we could use crushed cornflakes, crisps, or instant polenta as a coating instead of breadcrumbs.
Salmon and Broccoli Fishcakes: serves 4
12 oz (350g) mashed potato
2 oz (50g) grated Cheddar cheese
1 - 2 tblsp chopped chives or parsley
salt and pepper
2 salmon fillets, cooked and flaked (see above)
3 oz (75g) broccoli, chopped into small florets
plain flour for dusting
1 egg, beaten
3 oz (75g) dried breadcrumbs (see above)
Put the potatoes into a bowl with the cheese, herbs and seasoning to taste, and mash together. Fold in the flaked fish and broccoli, then shape into 4 cakes. Chill for at least 30 minutes - or to save time these can be made up to 2 days ahead, kept chilled in the fridge until ready to fry.
To cook: Dust the fish cakes with flour, then dip into the egg and then the breadcrumbs. If you like a really crusty coating, dip again into the egg and again into the crumbs (called 'double-dipping'. Fry in shallow oil for 4 minutes on each side, turning once, until golden and hot through. Serve with a watercress or rocket salad and sweet chilli sauce.

Next dish is what I call 'variable' as it could form the base of a chilli con carne (adding spices and beans), also a spag.bol meat sauce. In this instance it is more veggies than meat, with cheese adding extra protein. As with any dish such as this, use more veggies, less meat or cheese (or vice versa), according to what you have and what you can afford.
If you haven't any beef stock, either use a stock cube dissolved into hot water, or use some gravy granules (I use Bisto 'best' beef gravy granules) with water (if the latter you can omit the cornflour).
Cheesy Mince 'n Jackets: serves 4
2 large onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 large carrots, finely diced
3 ribs celery, finely chopped
2 tblsp olive oil
8 oz (225g) minced steak
3 tblsp tomato puree/paste
2 tblsp Worcestershire sauce
half pint (300ml) beef stock (see above)
salt and pepper
2 tsp cornflour (see above)
4 baking potatoes
9 oz (250g) Cheddar cheese, grated
Put the vegetables and oil into a pan and fry for 8 minutes until tender, then add the mince and fry this for 4 minutes, stirring, until the meat has browned. Add the tomato paste and W. sauce, and the stock. Simmer for half an hour then add seasoning to taste. Mix the cornflour with 2 tsp cold water, stir this into the mince and cook for 1 minute until thickened.
Meanwhile, cook the potatoes in the microwave for 15 minutes on full power, then remove, split in half and fill the gap with the vegetables and mince. Top with the grated cheese and - if you wish - pop under the grill to melt and bubble up the cheese. Serve with green veggies or a crisp salad.

Drop scones (aka Scotch pancakes) have always been a favourite in our family, but as one batch makes a lot, used always to make these when the children lived at home. Now there is just B and myself, haven't made them for ages, although they do freeze, but are always best eaten freshly made and still slightly warm.
Here is a recipe that uses drop scones with fruit as a dessert, and not a million miles away from Crepe Suzette's, although this is far more 'rustic. Make the drop scones normal size (for a family of four or more) or make them larger if serving only two or three.
If using frozen drop scones, then thaw and reheat in the butterscotch sauce after the apples have been cooked.
Although the recipe does suggest cooking the drop scones before making the sauce and cooking the apples, no reason why - once the apples are put into the sauce to cook - the pancakes should not then be made, as they should henF end up both cooked and warm at the same time.
Drop Scones with Apples: serves 4
7 oz (200g) self-raising flour
pinch of salt
1 egg, beaten
7 fl oz (200ml) milk
sunflower oil for frying
9 oz (250g) soft brown sugar
4 oz (100g) butter, pref unsalted
2 tsp lemon juice or brandy
4 large Bramley apples, peeled, each sliced into eight
Put the flour in a bowl with the salt, then make a well in the centre. Pour in the egg with a little of the milk, then beat until smooth and lump free, then beat in the rest of the milk to make a batter.
Heat a large non-stick frying pan or griddle/girdle and pour in a little oil (just enough to barely coat the surface of the base of the pan). Using a tablespoon (or small ladle) pour in the batter to make four 'pools' of batter, spaced well apart. After about a minute, when bubbles form on the surface and start to break, flip each pancake over using a fish slice, and fry the other side for half a minute, until golden and puffed. Slide onto a wire rack, covered with half a tea-towel, then cover with the other half of the towel so the scones stay moist and keep warm. Repeat with remaining batter.
Put the sugar and butter into the frying pan over low heat. When melted, let it bubble for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the lemon juice (or brandy), then the apples. Cook for about 7 minutes until the apples are softening, then serve by stacking the apples between the pancakes and pouring over the butterscotch sauce.

Final recipe today is very useful as it can be prepared and chilled a day ahead of cooking. A really good recipe to serve for a summer 'al fresco' lunch, and great for an evening snack whilst watching the Olympics. The bread to use for this is a big fat baguette, or bloomer loaf.
If no mozzarella (that's the Italian bit), use grated Wensleydale, Feta, or mild Cheddar. Instead of ham you could use thinly sliced salami or chorizo.
Hot Italian Stuffed Loaf: serves 6
1 x 800g bloomer or 2 x 400g baguettes
olive oil
2 tblsp tomato puree/paste
9 oz (250g) mozzarella cheese, grated
5 oz (150g) sliced ham
1 tsp dried oregano/marjoram
salt and pepper
Split the loaf lengthways, evenly through the middle but not quite through, leaving a 'hinge' at one side (like opening a book). Remove most of the crumb from inside, leaving an even layer around the crust (freeze the crumbs to use with another meal), then drizzle the internal surface with a little olive oil.
Spread the tomato puree over both of the insides, then layer the mozzarella, ham, and a sprinkle of herbs, with seasoning to taste, piling it high to fill the gap in the top crust.
Carefully close the 'sandwich', and squash down to flatten and become more compact. Wrap tightly in foil. Once wrapped in foil it can be made and kept (chilled) up to a day ahead.
To cook: still wrapped in the foil, place the filled bread directly onto an oven shelf and bake for half an hour (at room temperature) or for 5 minutes longer when chilled.
Unwrap, and cut into thick slices. Good served with small cocktail onions and tiny gherkins - or if made using Cheddar cheese, some pickle or chutney.

And another blog done and dusted. Tomorrow is Norma the Hair day, and now she has altered the time she arrives, am hoping to get my blog written before she comes, otherwise it will be close to noon before I get a chance. The rest of the week might mean short blogs (or maybe a day without a blog) if I am asked to provide plenty of baking for this coming Sunday. Still have not yet heard what is needed, so this could mean a lot of cooking will need to be fitted in towards the end of the week. But will let you know in good time if I 'disappear' for a couple of days.

Off to the kitchen to make gingerbread for Saturday - this at least improves with keeping - so one thing out of the way. Might make two large ones as B can always eat what is not required, and saves (fuel) cooking it twice if it IS needed by the club. Will also make up a batch of scone mix ready to just add the liquid as know that at least a dozen scones are needed (Saturday) and once the 'mix' is made, it will store for several weeks in the fridge for later use (B loves scones, and baking just a few when the oven is on cooking something else is easily done when the 'mix' is ready and waiting).

Weather looks set fair, although cloudy the sun might even manage to break through. It could be a lot worse (and could be a lot better), but then we never know in this country what to expect. A week's notice is about as good as it gets, and often then the forecasters don't get it right.

Hope to meet up with you again tomorrow. Until then - have a good day. Or should that be 'have a Goode day?' Bye for now.

Monday, July 30, 2012

New, Improved?,,,,

Maybe it is because I am now 'elderly' (but don't feel more than 35 on a good day), that I am suspicious when I read: "new, improved" on the packaging of a product that has stood the test of time for many years that I care to remember. Possibly it has less salt added than before (probably a good thing), but it does seem that more products we are told (on the pack) now they need to be kept in the fridge once opened, whereas before they would keep happily on the larder shelf (or in a cupboard).

'New, Improved' recipes are almost as bad. What's wrong with the old, traditional way of making? Far easier to remember than the endless variations that get published today that all need constant reference as we can never remember the 'new' way to make them.

There is so much 'new' in our lives that it seems we are using them too often. Look at mobile phones, the youngsters now seem to have them almost glued to their ears all hours of the day. Teachers are now complaining that their young pupils can hardly keep awake when they arrive at school as much of their evening (and quite a bit of their night) has been spent either playing computer games or 'texting' to friends. Older pupils no doubt 'twitter' for hours upon hours.
Unhealthy, and doesn't do anything to help our learning capacity.

Even I can fall by the wayside as I discovered yesterday after retuning the digi box so that B could watch more Olympics (and then discovered 'the little red button' on the remote doesn't seem to work). Just for interest tapped in 49 on the remote and up came the Food Channel/network. So I spent a happy hour learning how to cook Mexican food, then later (when B had trotted off to have his supper) watched another programme on that channel. Then, after B had gone to bed watched even more. Am wishing now I had left things alone and let B stick with the BBC channels for the Games for I know I could get hooked on '49'.

By the way, the Hair Bikers are starting a new programme this week, all about their challenge to lose weight and the recipes that helped them do so. Definitely one that I'll be watching and if it coincides with another that B wishes to see, can always pick it up later via iPlayer.

Yesterday was spent mainly doing 'experimental' cookery for my new blog. A batch of Flapjacks turned out really well, B having eaten most of them already. Very moreish.
Today will turn my thoughts to sorting out the frozen food. This is slowly being used up, and do need space to put some cakes etc for next weekend's 'feed the 500' held at the social club.
Will probably get out all the minced beef, thaw it, then cook it overnight in the slow cooker to pack up in small containers to later use for chilli, spag.bol, and cottage pie. Pre-cooked meat (in containers) take up less room in the freezers than they did when raw, probably because containers fill all the gaps and odd shapes of packaged meat/fish often have space left around them.

Frozen veggies too tend not to fill all the gaps, so often I empty the contents of their pack and decant these into smaller containers, writing on each with a marker pen (later easily washed off), so that I know exactly what is inside. As well as writing the contents on the lid, also write on the end so that when stacked they are easily found. Depending upon whether the containers are in drawers, on shelves or in a chest freezer, once frozen they can be stacked one on top of the other, or stood on end then stacked side by side with the written end facing up. Save having to have the freezer doors/lids open for too long whilst sorting out as this uses more electricity.

Organised cooks will have already made a list (or even made a sketch) of where exactly everything is in their freezer, unfortunately I'm not one of them. I try to be, and today will be (again) making a list of what frozen food I have, and will try to keep all the beef together, all the lamb, all the poultry, all the fish etc so that I know at least which drawer they are in, and hopefully stack all the containers so the contents can be easily seen and written down as to which shelf they are on. That is the intention, whether I can keep it like that is doubtful, normally I never do. B often goes into the fridge to get something (usually ice-cream or oven chips....) and then puts the containers/packs back in the wrong place. Does it really matter?

The other day read an article about being too specific about things. There was a mention about a husband who had brought the wrong sized tomatoes and the author had got really annoyed about this. Readers will remember the same happened to me when B brought in a small box of large tomatoes when I had expressly asked for a large box of small tomatoes.
As the article said, these are only little things that don't really matter at all, and life then becomes far less stressful when we 'go with the flow' rather than trying to have everything exactly as we wish. So now that is my new resolution. If something goes wrong, if B brings back the wrong product, or cuts something the wrong size, it really doesn't matter. Even this thought has made me feel far more comfortable in myself.

Loved the sound of your rhubarb pudding/cake Eileen. Looking forward to hearing about your next experiment.

Your charity shop 'finds' and what you made with them sound fantastic Kathryn. Do hope you get good weather for your pony 'fancy dress', and that your dressage event also goes well.
Myself like to watch most of the equestrian events held during the Olympics, and from today and the next few days will be watching. Did see some dressage, and cross country I can take or leave, but the show-jumping is my favourite. Don't want to miss that.

Although not a swimmer myself, find enjoyment watching the high-diving, especially the pairs. B likes watching all the swimming events as he is a very accomplished swimmer himself.
The cycle race the other day prompted me to ask B about the time he went on a marathon cycle ride with his brother. This was in 1949 when he was 17 (his brother a couple or so years older). In those days their cycles were fairly 'ordinary', no more than three gears (if that), and they spent a week cycling from Leicester, through London (where they stayed at a youth hostel io Great Ormond Street - B said he could hear the babies crying through the night), and then across the south to the Isle of Wight, where they stayed a few days, then back up the country to Leicester again.
I asked about food (war-time rations still applied at that time) and he said no problem as a good breakfast (and sometimes evening meal) was supplied by the Youth Hostels where they stayed each night, and each morning they had to do some domestic chores (washing up, cleaning etc) to help pay for their accommodation/food.
In those days you had to be a member of the Y.Hostel Assoc. and only walkers and cyclists allowed to use their facilities. Nowadays - apparently - car users can take advantage of the cheap accommodation.

At least in those days there was not nearly as much traffic on the roads as there is now, so the lads had quite an easy ride, even along major roads (can you imagine cycling through London these days?). Wonder how many youth of today would take the same sort of holiday. Not many I would suppose, but maybe more than we imagine. We tend to only hear about the young who spend their time 'twittering', drinking, and spending the night dancing or taking drugs. That has always been around (well, not the 'twittering' that is new), and strangely, in the old days, done more by the elite and wealthy, than the rest of the population. Now it seems many youngsters from all ways of life much - if not all - the above (but how they can afford to beats me).

Myself am quite content doing very little in the way of 'entertainment', although having unearthed some novels that I was once given and never read - am now considering going to the charity shop and buying more as once upon a time really enjoyed reading, but in my latter years these have tended to be mainly factual and reference books which are fine when I want to learn something, but can't really get absorbed in them as I can a good novel.

There has been a lot written and now even a programme about a new book 'Fifty Shades of Grey'. Apparently it is very 'racy' (and said to be very badly written, so that gives hope to any budding authors) , but this is not really my type of reading. Not really sure what is. Used to like A.J.Cronin when younger, and loved the Mazo de la Roche 'Jalna' books. Catherine Cookson is another author whose books I like reading, and generally do prefer stories set in bygone days (not deeply historical, just slightly before my time, or during my early years). Nella Last's books are favourites, particularly her first, but these are non-fiction, her autobiography of her life up to and during World War II.
Autobiographies I also like to read, especially those written by celebrity cooks, Clarissa Dickson Wright's, and Nigel Slater's I particularly enjoyed.

With the weather changing back to 'normal' British (cooler, windier and showery), now feel that we will be seeking to eat warm food instead of the salads we have craved recently, so here are a few ideas.

One of the 'new, improved' products that have arrived on supermarket shelves is the 'dry mixes' where we are provided with a bag and spices to put in it, then add chicken and 'give a good shake'. This then coats the meat and when removed from bag and roasted we are supposed to have given it a wonderful flavour.
Well, this might be so, but as it is so easy and VERY MUCH CHEAPER to make these ourselves, here are a few suggestions. It shouldn't be too difficult to make up other versions, so start experimenting.
All we need is a plastic bag to do the shaking, and the chosen spices or herbs - all of which we should already have, although unlike the packs, not everything need be dry (and all the better for it). Chicken portions are used, and these could be bought fresh (or thawed if frozen). The amount of 'shake' is enough to cover 8 thighs or drumsticks (to serve 4).

lemon and five-spice 'shake':
juice of 1 lemon
3 tblsp light brown muscovado sugar
thumb sized piece of unpeeled root ginger, shredded
1 - 2 garlic cloves, crushed
5 tblsp soy sauce
1 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
splash sherry or white wine
(chicken portions)
Put everything into a bag with the chicken portions and shake well to coat. Leave for half an hour (or overnight in the fridge if you wish).
Remove chicken from bag, shake off excess marinade (reserve this) , then cook under a pre-heated grill (or on a barbecue) for 20 mins, spooning over a little marinade every few minutes. Turn several times, until cooked through and dark golden brown.

garlic and rosemary 'shake':
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tblsp olive oil
2 tblsp white wine
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
salt and pepper to taste
Put everything in a bag with the chicken, then follow method above.

Chipotle 'shake':
2 tblsp chipotle paste
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tblsp olive oil
juice of 1 lime
black pepper to taste
Put everything into a bag with the chicken, then leave to marinate for half an hour (or overnight if you prefer).

The complete recipe for using the above makes the 'sticky' bit, so will give the whole recipe, but if you prefer, just use the 'shake' as the preceding recipes, and roast the chicken only, omitting the rest of the ingredients (as shown below). The chicken won't be sticky but it will have flavour.

Sticky Roast Chicken: serves 6
6 large chicken joints, skin left on
1 batch chipotle 'shake' (see above recipe)
2 onions, cut into 8 wedges
olive oil
4 cloves garlic, flattened but kept whole
1 mild chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 tblsp muscovado sugar
1 tsp tomato puree
1 tblsp chipoltle paste
7 fl oz (200ml) chicken stock
Make the chipotle shake in a plastic bag and add the chicken. Marinate for half an hour (or 25 hours in the fridge), then tip contents into a roasting tin and scatter the onions around. Drizzle top with a little more oil, then roast for one hour at 200C, 400F, gas 6 until the chicken is a deep cold colour and the skin is crispy. Halfway through the cooking, tuck the garlic between the joints.
Remove chicken and onions from the pan to a warmed serving platter, reduce heat of oven to low and return chicken to oven (uncovered) to keep warm (it will sit happily there for up to half an hour whilst making the sticky sauce (this can also be reheated).
Place the roasting tin on the hob, spooning off excess fat (but leave chicken juices) add the chill and fry for a couple of minutes before stirring in the sugar, tomato puree and the tblsp of chipoltle paste. When combined, stir in the stock, then boil for about 5 minutes until the mixture has turned into a sticky sauce. Spoon this over the chicken and serve with rice or salad.

This next recipe uses 'left-over' roast chicken. Reader will know this means using the scraps we have peeled away from the bones of a carcase after making stock.
Although the recipe uses tortillas, I've made this successfully using chapatis, and - incidentally - when frying a 'tortilla sandwich' these are often given the name of 'quesidillas'. If using the latter, why not add a little curry powder to the beans, and serve with mango chutney instead of the salsa?
Chicken and Cheese Tortillas: serves 4
8 tblsp hot tomato salsa (from a jar)
4 large flour tortillas
2 x 220g cans red kidney beans, drained and mashed
1 small red onion, finely chopped or grated
4 oz (100g) left-over roast chicken, shredded
5 oz (150g) mature Cheddar cheese, grated
handful coriander leaves, chopped (opt)
oil for brushing
Spread 1 tblsp tomato salsa onto each tortilla, then top half of them - as evenly as possible - with the beans, shallot, chicken and cheese. Scatter the coriander on top (if using) then cover with the remaining tortillas (sauce side facing down). Press gently to hold everything in place, then brush the top with oil.
Cooking one tortilla 'sandwich' at a time, heat a large non-stick frying pan and place the tortilla, oiled side down and cook for 4 minutes, then - using a fish slice or palette knife - carefully turn, cooking for a further couple or so minutes on the other side until golden.
Serve cut into wedges.

One final recipe, again using chicken and a version of the 'shake in the bag'. This makes a much healthier 'chicken nuggets' than any bought, so while the children are on holiday, let them help you make these. The use of pesto means we save ourselves the hassle of 'egg and crumbing'. If you think they won't like the flavour of pesto, use tomato ketchup instead, or even mayonnaise (as the crumbs will stick to any of these. Or make some of each and turn it into a 'taste testing game'. Instead of dried breadcrumbs you could use crushed crisps or cornflakes.
If the chicken breasts are large (and the children quite small) you may find you will only need two (or at most three).
Crispy Chicken 'nuggets': serves 4
4 boneless chicken breasts (see above)
6 tbslp red pesto or tomato ketchup
approx 10 oz (300g) dried or fresh breadcrumbs
olive oil
Cut each chicken breast into 12 - 15 small chunks and put into a bowl with the pesto (or ketchup). Mix together until the chicken is coated all over.
Tip the breadcrumbs into a large plastic bag, then add the chicken in batches, giving the bag a good shake so that the chicken is coated with crumbs. When all are done, place the chicken 'nuggets' on a baking sheet, placing them slightly apart, then chill (they can be open frozen at this point and when solid stored in a container or freezer bag. Thaw before cooking).
To cook, pour a little oil onto a shallow baking tray (Swiss roll tin etc) and heat this in the oven (200C, 400F, gas 6) for five minutes before adding the chicken. Roast for 10 - 15 minutes until the chicken is crisp and golden and make sure it is cooked through. Serve with oven chips, and a salad of your choice.

No doubt today I'll be doing more experimental cookery, and with this evening only having one episode of 'Corrie' and an 'EastEnders' that B will wish to watch, looks like another day of the Olympics. Not that I mind, as no doubt I'll be watching quite a bit myself. It is almost as good as being on holiday without having to travel to the various venues to have a 'live watch'. And far cheaper!!

Enjoy your day whatever it is you will be doing. And if something doesn't go quite right or to plan, then just 'live with it'. The less stress we make for ourselves the more pleasant our life will (or should) become. Advice I really do mean to take myself. A bit late in life to start, but it may mean I live a year or two longer if I do, so that's a bonus! TTFN.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Two Weeks and Counting....

Although yesterday was a bit tongue in cheek about B spending all day watching the Olympics on TV, unfortunately (for me) this turned out to be true. He sat and watched it from the very start of the day's showing, and continuously through to just after 10.00pm when he went to bed.
Asked B if this was his plan for the whole of the Games (think this covers at least two weeks), and he said '"yes". At least there are SOME things on that are good to watch, but disappointed that Andy Murray with his brother were knocked out of the first round of the tennis. Also sorry that we didn't get anywhere in the cycle race (as we expected a gold!).

After B had gone to bed, and as I'd nodded off anyway, was able to switch over to "Dave" (channel 19 Freeview) and watch a couple of repeats of 'Gavin and Stacey'. This series has been repeated so many times that I don't now bother (although loved it), but the two yesterday were about the stag and hen parties, and G & S's wedding, two episodes that I've only seen once, first time round, so was very pleased about that. Then watched a film about Alexander the Great. This looked promising as both Anthony Hopkins and Brian Blessed appeared early on, but obviously 'cameo' roles, as mostly the other actors were unknown to me and most had an Irish accent which sort of spoiled the effect. Otherwise interesting as regards ancient history.

Next weekend will be two days of sporting events in Morecambe, the Sunday one being the Swim in the Bay (or across the Bay?), anyway the social club are expected to provide food for 500, so will hopefully be hearing soon how much they wish me to provide. At least Saturday is just a couple of cakes and some scones.

That will give me something to do while the Games are on TV, and yesterday thought that it would be a splendid time for non-sporting people to go away on holiday. Nearly thought of going away myself. But where?

As Gill will be phoning in 45 minutes, have time to write a short blog today and get it published before her call. So replies to comments first.

Several keep coming in from various 'anonymous' (as has happened today) but will not give a reply to them unless thee writer gives a name other than referring to their own blog. Generally these comments are blocked anyway by blogger.com as 'spam', so if a genuine query, then please ask again and give a name. If no reference is given to your own blog, then the comment should appear for all readers to see. And for me to reply to.

Pleased you manage to watch the opening ceremony of the Games Margie, and suppose with the time difference much of what you see will have been recorded earlier to be shown during your day, but no matter, it is good to watch. Yesterday it was very 'bitty', with only some parts being shown, but as these were mostly heats, hopefully as they get closer to the finals we will see it all the way through. It is possible to watch more if we 'press the red button' on our remote, but have to re-tune the digi box to do this. As B wishes to watch everything (that he likes best) he has asked me to re-tune it today. Let us hope I don't make a mess of it and cut out some of the other channels.

Sorry you lost your comment Eileen, but good to hear from you. No doubt everyone will be watching a lot of the Games and spending less time tapping our computer keyboards, but we must try and arrange a 'get-together' once they are over (and my marathon cook-in for the club) has been done.

Still hot in your neck of the woods Lisa, and hope you soon get some rain. On a cookery prog last week the viewers were 'taken' to a glass-house where they grew cucumbers, and it was said they take only 8 weeks from sowing to harvesting. Didn't realise they grew so quickly, and - as I like cucumbers (very refreshing and low calorie), must erect my plastic greenhouse again next year and grow some myself. They need a much more humid atmosphere than do tomatoes, which is why they are not usually grown in the same green-house. Outdoor cucumbers have a lot tougher skins I believe.
My B won't eat cucumber at all. If there is a slice or two on his plate (when 'eating out') he always removes it and puts it on my plate. He says they give him wind! When we were younger the cucumbers usually did do that, but nowadays they have been bred to be 'burp free', but even so, B refuses to eat them. Not that I mind, all the more for me.

Not sure why, but the right side of my face (cheek and lips) are swelling up again. Have taken extra anti-histamines so hope this will calm it down. This often happens (but not always) when I have eaten Walker's Prawn Cocktail Crisps, so perhaps on of the 'additives/flavourings' that I'm allergic to.
Although shouldn't be eating crisps at all (I'm trying to lose weight), B will persist in bringing me a couple of packets each Saturday (my fault for not telling him to stop), and although I ask him not to bring the Prawn Cocktail ones any more, he still does. I'm quite happy with just the cheese and onion, and the salt and vinegar.

This reminds me - saw an offer in a 'flyer' that came through the door (might have been from Aldi), that was showing 'salt it yourself crisps'. As if that was new. Some half a century ago (or maybe much longer than that) we used to buy Smith's crisps that were unflavoured, but all had a tiny blue twist of paper inside the bag that contained salt, so we could untwist it and sprinkle as much or as little as we wished into the bag.
Very occasionally we would get a bag of crisps that had lots of blue bags of salt inside - some fault when packing no doubt.

I once bought a pack of Walker's crisps called 'Salt and Lineker' (Gary Lineker - very well known and respected footballer and now a TV presenter - promotes Walkers). In the bag were salt and vinegar flavoured crisps, and I found one ball of something inside that I thought was a 'Lineker', but when eating it found it to be all salt. Yuk. Another packaging error? Would have returned it (with the pack) to the manufacturers if I hadn't already chewed it.

A cloudy day yesterday but it seemed to stay fine for all the outdoor Games, and down south the sun seemed to be shining most of the time. For those watching the cycle race, this did give some good views of our English countryside around London, both at ground level as the camera-car drove along the lanes and through the towns, and also aerial views of Hampton Court and Richmond Park. I was far more interested looking at the buildings and fields than at the cyclists themselves.

Today the sky is still covered with cloud, but they are higher with many small gaps showing blue. Still quite breezy, and because the high tide is at the wrong time, there will be no sailing today, so B will settle himself down for another 13 or so hours of watching the Games. Not sure what I'll make for supper, he may wish to eat it on his lap instead of at the table.

Myself - being in the kitchen - must try and keep away from nibbling food. It is not easy when making things like biscuits, scones, cakes as tend to 'try one' just to see if it has turned out as good as hoped. Then if good, eat another, and so on.
At least have lost 1lb since yesterday, although I did succumb and make myself a chorizo and lettuce sarnie (and I was trying to avoid bread). This morning had a toasted end crust of brown bread with a banana, and if I can avoid eating any more carbos today then maybe will lose another lb by tomorrow. A pound (lb) a day lost would really be good. As would a pound (£1) a day saved by my own home-cooking efforts. A real win some, lose some, that for once works as a win-win situation.

Next week it will be August, and according to a book I was reading, this is when Autum begins in the north of Scotland. Here in Morecambe it will be mid-September, so had better make the most of the rest of our summer whilst we still have it. Or for that matter if we actually GET any.

No time for recipes as Gill will be phoning in less than 10 minutes, as now have only time to edit, spellcheck etc, and publish. Hope you all enjoy your day. TTFN.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Cold Comfort

After watching the opening ceremony of the Olympics last night and glad to say I'm (still) proud to be British. It was very impressive, although possibly other countries would not understand the early part where they showed the history of our country (from peasant farming, through the indusrial revolution, and onwards to the present day). The amount of organisation it must have taken to remove each era so effortlessly without a break in the proceedings was incredible.

Funny really, over the past weeks, everything seemed to be going wrong, but even though it was raining shortly before the start, even that went away and other than too much modern music for my tastes, it was just about perfect. Even lighting the Olympic flame was a new approach, and let us hope that British Gas foots the bill for that.

Quite a few of the athletes did not attend the ceremony as they have an early start today with their events and as the above did not finish until the early hours of this morning, they would have been too exhausted to compete. Do hope that the overseas readers to this blog watched the ceremony as it was shown world wide. And just to make sure you know, it wasn't really the Queen that jumped from the helicopter gliding down to the arena on a parachute. But that was very amusing, as was the Rowan Atkinson 'cameo' playing a keyboard along with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

Like the Jubilee, I was at first not that interested in the run up to the event, but now am really hooked and no doubt will spend quite a bit of time watching as many of the events that interest me as possible. BBC have set up a really good website where they cover all the events and we can choose which to watch via our computer if it isn't being shown on the normal TV screen.

Thanks for letting me know about the 'Diners...." prog Oliver. Am not sure whether the digi box should be retuned receive that channel as I watch enough foodie programmes already. With even more to watch I would never move from in front of the TV. Tempting though.

Yesterday we actually had quite a lot of sun and so outside I went to 'have a sit'. Took a thermometer out with me and the temperature in the shade had reached 80F, and in the sun it rose to 90C. B says it is always the temperature in the shade that is the one that is counted. Yet, even with that heat, it didn't feel THAT warm as there was a fairly strong and cool breeze blowing over me, even though I was tucked up in a fairly sheltered corner of the garden.

Over recent nights the humidity level has been 77, but last night it had fallen to 65 which made it a lot more comfortable when sleeping. After an cloudy start to the day, blue sky is now appearing and so we again have some sun, but with quite a strong wind, and considerably cooler.
Not sure whether I envy you your weather Lisa or not, certainly having such high temperatures for such a long period of time would not be bearable if not used to it. Perhaps it is normal summer temperatures for America (or at least your state), but certainly we never reach that heat here. But then our winter temperatures are possibly normally milder than yours.
With this global warming it does seem that a lot of our planet is getting more extreme weather at both ends of the temperature scale. So who knows what weather this coming winter will bring to our shores.

Myself am very fond of sushi, but only that type that has no raw fish, only the cooked or smoked shellfish/salmon etc. Think the 'raw' is called 'sashumi', not sure. At one time I used to make a lot of sushi, but gave all the 'necessary' away (rolling mat, sushi rice etc), and think it might be a good idea to start again as sushi makes a really good light meal/supper/buffet dish.

Am really going to have to be firm with myself and try and lose the weight I've been gaining (back) recently. Have over two months before my next weigh in and want to lose at least two stone. Shouldn't be difficult if it is worked to a few pounds loss a week, but how easy it is to fall by the wayside. I've tried very hard to keep control of my food intake, and relied a lot of 'cold comfort eating', but perhaps that is the reason. Cold food (for me) can often be 'something in a sandwich', and for me eating bread (carbos) is guaranteed to make me pile the pounds back on again. Also having had one sarnie, then I want another, so end up eating twice as much as I really need (or even really want).

All that weight I'd lost and I thought I'd really got control. My stomach seemed to have shrunk and even small amounts made me feel full. Something got me eating small amounts more often, and these became larger amounts less often, so my tum obviously stretched back and no longer do I feel 'full', and now eating three meals a day again when previously two was too many. How easy it is to fall back into bad habits. Do hope I can be strong enough to go back to a sensible routine and eat far less. Shouldn't be difficult during the summer months as we have such a big choice of all the seasonal fruit and veggies, many of them on 'offer' (but still not that cheap).

Went into the larder yesterday and sat down to see what I could eat that had few calories, and although normally I don't check the nutritional guide printed on the cans, was very surprised to find that the Tesco Value Tuna chunks were 100 cals per 100g, yet the same size can of Princes Tuna steaks showed this (per 100g) was almost double the cals (possible because they were in oil, the cheaper was in brine).
So a double bonus for those of us who want to lose both lbs and ££s. Buy the cheaper cans of tuna.

After reading the nutritional value of different brands of baked beans, chopped tomatoes, sardines, pilchards etc, it was very surprising to find out how some are much lower in calories than an other similar one. Usually the cheaper the brand, the lower the calories (and also lower the protein if it has any). Unfortunately to gain the advantage of price and low cal, we often have to lose the better flavour the more expensive has. Win some, lose some I suppose.

Quite a lot of food today does not seem to have much taste at all. Certainly fresh fruits (picked before being fully ripe to allow them to last longer on the supermarket shelves) have little flavour. Vegetables are now grown more for appearance than 'mouth appeal', and have to say when it comes to cheese - especially Cheddar - almost all the 'mild' and even 'mature/strong' Cheddars have very little to recommend them. We have to hunt out the cheeses on deli counters, cut from the whole cheese, before we can find one that really tastes as good as it should, and then it costs us.

Strangely, having tried many different brands/cuts of bacon, we find the Tesco's own streaky smoked rashers the ones we prefer, and these are probably their cheapest (other than the mixed 'value' packs of offcuts). The are thinly sliced (so plenty to a pack) and fry/grill really crispy and also taste good. Others may think differently, but once we all find something that suits our palate, then we are generally happy with it.

With fish, well I find this also lacks flavour. Not that fish often does have any, but for real enjoyment I prefer smoked fish: haddock, mackerel, salmon.

What about meat. A good home-cooked gammon (aka 'ham') is far nicer than any sold over the counter (unless a good York ham cut from the bone - and far too expensive for me). Well hung meat has a far better and stronger flavour than a 'younger' meat. But again more expensive.
But I do love sausages, the best I can afford, but will settle for Walls or Richmond's pork sausages if I have to. Our butcher makes great pork sausages, but again too expensive for regular use (I can eat 6 cold sausages in one go, no wonder I am gaining weight!).

The best tasting food (have to say this is now mainly from memory), is the home-cooked 'bakes'. The lemon drizzle cakes, the gingerbread, flapjack, parkin, rich fruit cake. Different home-cooked biscuits, light fluffy scones smothered with home-made jam and clotted cream. All out of my reach because of being 'officially' diabetic (although now well below the b.gl. level), and the many calories (if I eat one I have to eat the lot), so although still make these, it is B who gets the pleasure (and never gains a lb even though he scoffs the lot. Life just isn't fair!).

For those who are into healthy eating and/or counting calories (not necessarily the same thing), here are a few recipes to help shed a few lbs. Not necessarily the cheapest version we could make, but there is nothing stopping us substituting a lower priced (and still low calorie) ingredient for another.

First recipe uses chicken, the fruit being mango. Fresh pineapple could be used instead, and maybe canned pineapple if not in a heavy syrup. Apples go well with chicken, and also oranges or grapefruit.
Not a million miles away from 'Coronation Chicken' this recipe could have a spoon of mango chutney folded into the yogurt and omit the more expensive mango fruit.
Chicken Salad with Mango: serves 4
1 Little Gem lettuce
2 ribs celery, thinly sliced
4 spring onions, finely chopped
half cucumber, thinly sliced
1 mango, peeled and flesh chopped
12 oz (350g) cooked roast chicken
5 fl oz (150ml) natural yogurt
1 tsp mild curry powder
freshly ground black pepper
few mint leaves for garnish
Separate the lettuce leaves and use to line a shallow salad bowl. Scatter the celery, onions and cucumber over the top.
Make the dressing by mixing together the yogurt and curry powder. Tear the chicken into pieces and either fold this into the dressing and then spoon on top of the salad, or place the chicken on the salad and spoon the dressing over it. Finish with a grinding of black pepper and a few mint leaves for garnish.

Far be it from me to suggest serving a sarnie when on a diet, but two slices of wholemeal (or granary) bread will be far better for us than the bog-standard white we normally use, and calorie-wise (we are looking at around 250 for this one when using an ordinary low-fat mayo) and one portion of the below would work well as a summer light lunch.
Remember that the Hellman's 'Lighter than Light' mayo has only 10 cals per tblsp., far less than their 'light mayo' so the calorie count would be less.
Lemon Tuna Sarnie: serves 2
1 x 175g can tuna in brine or spring water, drained
2 tblsp low fat mayonnaise (see above)
zest and juice of 1 small lemon
freshly ground black pepper
2 tblsp chopped parsley
2 spring onions, finely chopped
4 slices bread (see above)
4 slices tomato
watercress leaves
Put the tuna, mayo, lemon zest and juice, pepper to taste, parsley, and spring onions into a bowl and mix well and mix well together. Spread this over two slices of the bread, then top each with tomato and watercress. Cover with remaining bread and serve.

We spread bread with butter to act as a barrier to prevent any moist filling (tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce....) soaking into the crumb, so we could instead use low-fat cream cheese or mayo to spread on the bread (instead of using butter/marg) to serve the same purpose.
Using a 'dry' filling, such as roast beef, this would still need some sort of moisture to make the sarnie more palatable, so the bread could be spread with a little mayo mixed with a savoury 'sauce'. Much depends on the meat chosen and personal tastes, but myself use brown sauce (HP), mustard or horseradish sauce with beef, mustard with ham, cranberry sauce with chicken/turkey. Mint sauce/redcurrant jelly with lamb.

Three more recipes before I leave for today. First is a version of 'tabbouleh' that includes cheese. If we have no bulgar wheat we could use couscous (this being 'cooked' by just pouring the boiling water over and then letting it soak for 15 minutes before draining - if necessary - then fluffing up with a fork). Preferably soak the grain this with home-made vegetable stock or you could use the same amount of boiling water plus a vegetable stock cube dissolved in the water.
Myself like to add diced red/yellow bell peppers and also a tablespoon of chopped fresh mint to this dish, but optional.
Middle Eastern Salad: serves 4
7 oz (200g) bulgar wheat
1.5 pints (850ml) boiling vegetable stock (see above)
1 red onion, finely chopped
half cucumber, finely chopped
2 large tomatoes, finely chopped
small handful parsley, chopped
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp Dijon or wholegrain mustard
salt and pepper
3 oz (75g) Feta cheese
Put the bulgar into a saucepan with the boiling stock (or water and crumbled stock cube). Cover and simmer for 12 minutes until the grain is tender. Tip into a large bowl and leave to cool then fluff up with a fork (draining off any excess water).Add the onions, cucumber, tomatoes, and herbs and fold together.
Put the lemon zest and juice into a jug with the mustard and mix well then pour this over the salad, folding it in so that it coats as much of the grain and veggies as possible. Add seasoning to taste then crumble the Feta cheese over the top. Chill until ready to serve.

Penultimate recipe is another great lunch or supper dish. If possible serve this on thick slices of bruschetta or diagonally sliced French stick (baguette), otherwise uses slices of wholemeal or granary.
Cheese and Mushrooms on Toast: serves 4
2 tsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tsp tomato puree/paste
4 slices bruschetta bread (see above)
8 oz (225g) mixed mushrooms
2 fl oz (50ml) vegetable stock
2 tblsp balsamic vinegar
2 oz (50g) creamy blue cheese (Gorgonzola etc)
freshly ground black pepper
Mix together the oil, garlic, and tomato puree. Spread this onto the bread, then grill until lightly toasted.
Meanwhile, slice up the larger mushrooms and put into a pan with the stock and simmer for a few minutes until the liquid has evaporated, then add the vinegar, stirring to coat the mushrooms.
Place one slice of the toasted bread onto 4 individual plates and top with the mushrooms, spooning over any juices left in the pan, the crumble the cheese on top and season with pepper. Serve immediately.

Final recipe also uses mushrooms, this time the large chestnut 'Portobello' (although the large white field ones are almost - but not quite - as good.
As I haven't fish sauce would use a miso 'soup' sachet, or a spoon of soy sauce, and it goes without saying that the shredded chicken would be that left over from a roast, and preferably use the scraps that are on the bones of the carcase once we have boiled it to make the chicken stock.
Normally I grate lemon and lime zest using a micrograter - this giving me very fine 'crumbs' of citrus peel. For this dish the appearance is better when a coarser grater or peeler ('cannelle' knife) is used so that the zest is in very thin short strips. But then as it all goes down the same way and tastes just as good, who cares what grater we use?
Oriental Chicken and Mushroom Broth: serves 4
1.75 pints (1ltr) hot chicken stock
1 tblsp Thai red curry paste
1 tblsp Thai fish sauce
2 tsp sugar
zest and juice of 1 lime
4 oz (100g) Portobello mushrooms, sliced
4 spring onions, sliced (separate white and green parts)
8 oz (225g) cooked chicken, shredded
Put the stock into a pan with the curry paste, fish sauce, sugar and lime juice. Bring to the boil then add the mushrooms and the white part of the spring onions.
Cover and simmer for 2 minutes, then stir in the chicken and the green part of the onions. When heated through, ladle into bowl, scattering the lime zest on the surface.

Still cloudy but with a bit of blue sky so we are getting some sun, but far too windy for me to want to sit out. B is sitting watching the Olympics on TV (he will probably not move far from his chair the res of the day), and I may even go and join him (depends what events are on). Saturday is normally the day we 'make do' as regards supper, B generally getting himself sardine or bacon sarnies, myself will try to 'make do' with a salad (with maybe some of the 100 cal tuna). Already the thought is making me want to go and get something to eat, and I'm really not hungry at all. I even had breakfast before I sat down to write so my fast was well and truly 'broken'.

Sometimes it is as though I am two people, one saying "I really fancy eating something" (especially Spam!), the other telling me "no you mustn't". Why is it the naughty one usually has the stronger will? Always after the eating I then sit there feeling guilty and tell myself I shouldn't have done it. So it's not as though the eating has cheered me up. Why can't I take control of myself? Am sure others have the same problem.

Enjoy your day and any good weather we may have left. It will be cooler, but after the heat that is no bad thing. Just as long as it stays dry. Will be back again tomorrow, if arising early enough will manage to publish before Gill phones me. If not then my blog won't be on your screens until nearer lunchtime. TTFN.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Fed up!

Today began sunny and I was really looking forward to going and sitting out in the sun after I'd published today's blog, but clouds have now appeared, and although high (this probably means no rain), too thick to allow the sun to shine through, only small bits of blue sky at the moment.

Am still feeling chilly, at least in here although the temperature in the kitchen shows 70F (20C), so it's not cold. There will be change to cooler weather over the next few days anyway, and that will be a relief to those down south as they have been having really hot weather (mid 80'sF). Hot for the UK that is.

Don't feel too good this morning, think it probably the humidity - it really doesn't suit me, and as there was non-stop Olympic football on TV from 2.30pm until 10.00pm yesterday, there was nothing for me to do but work through my list, then sit down late evening to catch up with some repeats on other channels once B had gone to bed. Had a late meal (as hadn't felt hungry during the day) and this caused me to have nightmares. I keep getting the same dream (the 'plot' is the same but the regions and people are different). Each time dream about being on holiday then when time to return home find - as about to leave for the airport - that I have lost my passport, money, and mobile phone. Yesterday I'd even lost some of my clothes, although I did remember that my mobile phone was in my apron pocket where I had left it (draped over the end of the bath - in real life as also in the dream). By the time I'd got it back, I'd missed the bus to get me to the airport.
Suppose that must mean I'm worried about something, but in real life, don't know what that could be.

Hadn't heard about that community cafe to open in Morecambe Kathryn. Thanks for telling me about it. We don't always watch the local news on TV, and we don't get any local papers except a couple of free ones that don't always get delivered, and these mostly contain local adverts. Am hoping it might be something I could get involved with. Will see if I can find out more about it.

Don't know how it ever got to be such a 'spend, spend, spend' way of life we Brits seemed to have got into. Half a century ago we seemed to only get presents at birthdays and Christmas, and because of this they were much more enjoyed, something to look forward to. Nowadays (as shown in the Superscrimpers), parents seem to feel they need to buy their offspring gifts almost every time they leave the house. A memento of a holiday, or day out for a special treat is acceptable (because it may just be a pen with the name of the place on it), and Mum may even buy herself a tea-cloth with details of the place printed onto the cloth. But why buy more?

As you say Sarina, children can find more enjoyment when they can create things themselves, it's a joy to watch them, and they can be engrossed for hours, rather than just playing with a new toy for a few minutes then getting bored and wanting another new one.

Am trying to remember what my children liked to play with. Myself had a toy farm (this kept me happy until my early teens) and used to ask for more animals/people/farm carts/gates/hedges/trees etc for presents. My dad used to melt down the broken animals and make new ones using home-made plaster of Paris moulds, then he would paint them for me. I remember cutting up squares of corrugated paper to lay flat with hedges round to look like ploughed fields.

Lego was one of our offspring's favourite toys, and think most children love these. Our son began a collection of Meccano when slightly older, and he then built quite a lot of impressive things that really worked. A doll's house was a favourite toy of the girls, and they also had a small collection of modern-type dolls, I remember the Tressy doll with short hair that - with the turn of a key - would lengthen into longer and longer hair.

Plasticine was also something that was played with for hours, and there was something called (I think) a Spirograph - this had lots of clear plastic circles of different sizes with holes pierced through them. The idea was to stick a pen through one hole then run the circle round another (like a cog wheel) and it would make different patterns. This was so popular we bought more than one.

Popular games were dominoes, draughts, and always jigsaws (we still love to do those, B can sit for hours trying to fit all the pieces together), but think reading was almost top favourite. We had all the Ladybird books and Observer books as well as the Blue Peter, Beano, Dandy and one other (can't now remember which) bought for them at Christmas time.

This brings back memories of my Christmas Annuals. There was a Japhet and Happy Annual, a and I think there was a Pip, Squeak and Wilfred one year. Anyone remember those? Always had a Rupert Bear Annual. We are all familiar with Rupert.
Dolls in my day usually had pot heads with fabric bodies. I had two, one I called Olive, the other Pinkie (due to their complexions). Also used to have a teddy bear 'Teddy Alice', this was passed down to a relative who gave it to her daughter and I hope she still has it.

I too am fond of cottage cheese with pineapple Lisa, and have always bought this. For some reason never thought of putting the two together myself. Cottage cheese also comes in other flavours, '...with chives' is one. If a tub of cottage cheese is frozen, this changes the texture, it tends to end up slightly 'dryer' and when mashed with a fork breaks down easily into curd cheese, so useful to keep a tub in the freezer to use when a recipe calls for curd cheese as this is rarely sold over the counter. After thawing this can also take the place of 'ricotta cheese' in a recipe as this is much more expensive to buy.

The sky now is just about completely overcast with much lower and darker clouds, so maybe we will have rain. Certainly doubtful we will get much sun, although it does have a tendency to return late afternoon, but too close to supper time to be able to have time to enjoy it, in any case the garden is mainly in shadow by then, so no 'basking in the sun'. Am really fed up that we are missing out on the good weather the rest of the country has been having, but on the other hand we didn't get as much rain when the others did and many places were flooded, so they have earned the treat of a lot more sun. Ooh, if I crane my neck and peep through the window I can see a streak of blue far over towards the north, let's hope that's a good sign. Can only hope.

It was too humid (this weather we Brits call 'muggy') yesterday for me to want to eat much, but did make myself a strawberry milk shake in a Cola glass, even gave myself two straws to drink it. Very retro, but very refreshing at the time.
Put the chips in the oven for B, and then fifteen minutes later he went and fried his eggs and put the ham on his plate, so assumed he managed to make his own supper. This was done between footie matches (or maybe during half-time). When footie is one, meals have to fit in so B doesn't miss anything. He prefers to eat his main meal at the table (either in the kitchen or conservatory), but is happy to eat several snacks later in the evening on his lap so he doesn't miss any TV.

You mentioned the 'Diners, Drive In, and Dives" TV programme Lisa, this was mentioned before (was it by Margie?). Have not seen this listed on any of our channels, certainly not on Freeview, the only one similar is 'Dave v Food'. Much the same perhaps, everyone being served the food of the region, in what - to us - seems huge portions, Dave eating massive amounts as his personal 'challenge'. As this always advertises the diners food, suppose he gets all he eats for free. He probably never has to eat anything at all for the rest of the day, the next day and maybe even the next, so he can burn off all those calories, so he would hardly need to have a personal 'food budget' for domestic use. I wouldn't mind a job like that. B certainly would enjoy it, although he - like myself - finds the food served not really to our taste. The meat looks wonderful, but it is the amount of bread, chips and all the other 'trimmings' that would upset our stomachs.

If we choose to eat a hot meal during the summer, our choice is probably chicken or fish as these are both quick to cook, and as spicy food has the 'feel good' factor and is also 'right' to serve during hot weather (it can make us perspire which then helps to cool us down), today am giving a few recipes that am hoping you might like to try.

First dish is spicy meatballs served the Oriental way, with noodles an in a bowl of broth. Not quite a soup, but almost.
Coriander grows well in pots in our conservatory, but unfortunately neither B nor I like the taste, so I usually give it away. If you grow your own, use ALL the plant as the roots are the tastiest part, this way you only need to use only a small amount as the roots and stems are chopped up to add to the dish, and the leaves for garnish.
No reason to make all the dish as given, you could make the meatballs, fry them and serve with a spicy tomato salsa and a salad.
Spiced Meatballs 'n Broth: serves 6
1 large onion, cut into wedges
1" (2.5cm) piece root ginger, peeled
1 - 2 red chillies, (remove seeds if you wish)
1 clove garlic, crushed
6 peppercorns, crushed
1 oz (25g) coriander (pref with roots)
2 fl oz (50ml) milk
4 oz (100g) fresh white breadcrumbs
2 lb (1kg) chicken mince
salt and pepper
3 tblsp veg oil
ingredients for broth:
2.75 pts (1.5ltrs) chicken stock
3 star anise
1 tblsp grated root ginger
1 sachet miso powder (opt)
few black peppercorns
6 spring onions, thinly sliced
1 x 10oz (300g) pack egg noodles, cooked
1 - 2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 red chilli, seeded and sliced (opt)
Make the meatballs by putting the onion, ginger, chillies, garlic, pepper and half the coriander stalks, half the roots (if using) and half the leaves in a food processor and whizz until finely chopped.
Put the milk and breadcrumbs in a large bowl and mix together, then add the onion mix (above) and the chicken with seasoning to taste. Mix with clean hands until worked into a paste (with no lumps). Alternatively add the milk and crumbs to the onion mix in the processor, then add the mince and whizz that all together to make the paste.
Shape this mixture into small balls about the size of a 50p piece, then put 1 tblsp of the oil in a frying pan over medium heat, and fry the balls in batches until coloured all over - this should take about 10 minutes per batch, and add a little more oil each time. When all are cooked, set aside.
To make the broth, put the stock into a large pan, bring to the boil then simmer for five minutes. Add the star anise, the ginger, the miso powder, the remaining coriander roots, stalks, peppercorns, chilli (if using) and sesame oil. Place on lid and simmer for 20 minutes, the add the noodles and spring onions.
Take six large bowls and using a pair of tongs, lift out the noodles and share them between the bowls. Add the meatballs, then cover with ladles of the stock. Garnish with the remaining coriander leaves. Serve and eat immediately.

Next recipe is not served as 'a curry', but certainly has the flavour. Because the chicken portions are not in a thick 'curry type' sauce, they can be served with salad, with or without warmed naan bread.
Spiced Chicken: serves 4
2 tblsp sunflower oil
4 skinless chicken thighs, bone left in
1 onion, chopped
3 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick (or tsp dried cinnamon)
4 cardamom pods, crushed
5 oz (150ml) Greek yogurt
handful fresh coriander, leaves and stems chopped
2 - 3 tblsp Korma curry paste
2 oz (50g) sultanas
Heat half the oil in a lidded heat-proof casserole dish (do this on the hob). Add the chicken and fry for 8 - 10 minutes until golden all over (turning at least once), then remove and set aside.
Add the remaining oil to the casserole dish with the onions, bay leaves and spices and fry for about 5 minutes, until softened and the onions are turning golden, then return the chicken to the pan.
Mix together the yogurt, coriander, curry paste and sultanas in a bowl. Using a slotted spoon, remove pan contents and set aside, then pour the yogurt mixture over the chicken. cover and cook in the oven for 30 minutes at 180C, 350F, gas 4 or until the meat falls from the bone. If you wish for a 'drier finish' remove lid for the final 10 minutes.

Final recipe is an Oriental dish. Just love these stir-fries as we can use a variety of veggies if we wish although the original recipe uses only carrots I've included bell pepper and onion to add colour and flavour. Feel free to add celery, mange-tout peas, sweetcorn, mushrooms, if you wish. The more veggies there are the more portions it will make, so a good way to make a small amount of chicken go much, much further.
Using those Tesco 11p packs of chicken flavoured noodles make this dish extremely economical to make.
Sticky Chicken Stir-fry: serves 4
2 - 3 packs dried egg noodles (see above)
2 tsp sunflower oil
2 chicken breasts, cut into strips
4 large carrots, cut into matchsticks
1 red or green bell pepper, trimmed and cut into strips
1 small onion, sliced
3 tblsp runny honey
juice of 2 lemons
3 tblsp toasted sesame seeds
small bunch coriander, finely chopped
Cook the noodles as per pack instructions then drain.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a wok or deep frying pan and stir-fry the chicken oven high heat for a few minutes, then add the carrots, pepper, and onion. Continue with the stir-frying for five minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and turning golden.
Add the honey and lemon juice and leave to bubble away for half a minute before add the sesame seeds and noodles. Using tongs, toss the mixture together until the noodles have warmed through, then add the coriander and serve immediately.

The following are a couple of alternative suggestions for flavouring roast chicken (whole bird or portions).
Mix together 1 tsp each paprika and dried marjoram/oregano, juice of half a lemon and 1 tblsp olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Rub this into the chicken skin before roasting.

oriental: mix together 2 tblsp soy sauce, 1 tsp five-spice powder, 2 tblsp white wine vinegar,
1 tsp grated ginger, 1 crushed garlic clove, and juice of 1 lime (or lemon).
Put chicken into a plastic bag with the above marinade, seal and leave in the fridge for 24 hours, turning the bag occasionally so every bit of the chicken gets coated. Then roast.

Have to say the above has now made my mouth water, so instead of being fed up with the weather, might feed myself up with one of the above today. Have to see which one B fancies. Or could make two different ones. Am used to cooking separate meals for B and myself.

Other than making supper, don't feel much like doing any other cooking today. The clouds are beginning to lift, but still no sign of sun, but as soon as it appears will be outside like a shot enjoying the warmth.

Tonight sees the start of the Olympics (although it has actually 'started' as we've already had several football matches these last couple of days, both mens and womens), but will look forward to seeing the opening ceremony this evening. Apparently there are quite a number of unsold seats - hardly surprising as the price is so high (over £1,000 in some instances), and few can afford to pay this, or even half, or a quarter. They say they are going to give the unused seats free of charge to schoolchildren and servicemen. Well, I mean it wouldn't look good to the rest of the world if the seats are only half-filled.
Why is this obsession to charge such high prices for everything (even food, fish and chips there at £8.50, and I bet the portions are small)? Far better to charge less for seats at least, and then sell a lot more. The profits should work out the same anyway, perhaps even better.

Yesterday signed off with the thought you would all now be having your weekend. Silly me got the day wrong, thought it was Friday when it was actually Thursday. Problem with me is that all the days of the week are much the same where I am concerned, and the way the weather ha s been this year all the months/seasons seem the same as well, so don't be surprised if you find me giving Easter recipes next week.

I'll say it again anyway - enjoy your nearly here weekend, and make the most of any good weather that we have left. It should be cooler, which will make it more pleasant at least in the south (think I've already said that). Hope you find time to drop me a line, and log on again tomorrow. See you then.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Whatever the Weather...

Cannot believe the weather we are having at the moment. Very dull and damp yesterday, with a short respite late afternoon when the sun came out. It was then very warm and extremely humid.
Last night seemed a bit cooler, although needed only a sheet over me (the duvet being too hot), and this morning it is very dull and I have just started a 'thunder headache', so possibly we will have a storm. No signs of any of the hot weather most of the country is having, and even that is due to change today with more cloud and some rain. Doubt that Morecambe will get its share of the sun this year.

You wouldn't believe it, but I'm just about shivering as I sit at the comp. Possibly this is more to do with the damp atmosphere than the temperature. If it was dry and cool then it would feel more pleasant. Yesterday the humidity seemed so high that I found it almost hard to breathe. Felt as though I needed to stand in a blast of cold, crisp air and fill my lungs. Perhaps I should have opened the freezer door and stood in front of it for a time.

In the paper they said the temperature was 86F in St. Jame's Park, London (don't know what that is in C), but still well below that across the pond. We rarely have such high temperatures, and doubt they have ever reached up to 100F more than once in my lifetime and never where I was at the time (usually London is a degree or two higher than anywhere else due it being a built up area with its own 'micro climate'.

The baby seagull now seems to have joined its sibling on the flat roof of a house close to where it used to 'live'. So thankfully, not got captured by a cat. Think it needed a good 'runway' to get it airborne, and probably had to go onto our drive to get it (maybe why it tried to walk down there twice the day before, and there was me shooing it back to the safety of our back garden).
Anyway, the young birds are not on the flat roof this morning so no doubt they have now really 'flown the nest'. It was interesting to see them daily grow from tiny babies to young adulthood.

Again managed to work right through my list yesterday, although not quite as many items on it as the previous day. So Jane, always worth writing down what you intend (or hope) to do each day, as it certainly helps to keep my mind focused when I have a list to work through. Now have loads of preserves (jams, marmalade) for both B, family, and the 'social'. Anyone making these for just home use would be able to make more than enough preserves to last a whole year in just a couple of hours max. This allowing for washing the preserving pan more than once etc. The MaMade (canned prepared fruit for marmalade) takes only 15 minutes boiling to setting point, the mixed fruit jam (made using thawed frozen fruit) took even less time than that yesterday.

Never heard of Flookburgh Campfire, it must be somewhere near Grange over Sands? You mentioned 'O Douglas' books, that is one author I've never heard of, although might recognise some of the book titles. Charity shops are a good source of books, but pure luck if you get the author/title you are looking for. A sure way to read any book of choice is to get it from the local library, if they don't already have it, they will get it for you.

Pleased you had such wonderful weather for your holiday in Bulgaria Sarina. As you are finding, it is now also hot here - at least in your neck of the woods. We have yet to experience this, and am now wondering if we ever will - at least this year.

As it was very sultry yesterday, and quite warm (this type of heat does not feel the same when the sky is overcast and humidity is high), made a big Prawn Cocktail for B's main meal, and also made a big bowl of fresh fruit salad (using the 'longer shelf life' fruit I still have: apples, orange, kiwi, grapes, and added a can of pineapple pieces as well). Myself had another of my 'pork pies' and a wedge of quiche, plus some salad. That was more than enough for me although B managed to force down another couple of snacks during the evening (ham sarnie, and something else I can't now remember).
Low on bread again, so that's one thing more to add to today's list of 'things to do'. I had intended to go out for a scoot on Norris during the sunshine (that was originally forecast for today) but may not now that overcast skies and the occasional shower is now what we are to expect.

Yesterday evening watched the first of a new series of 'Superscrimpers', and for once found it quite inspiring. Was shocked when I saw the bit about the parents who spent thousands a year on their offspring. 'A treat a DAY! How can people be so careless with their money, but very good for them to prove to themselves that several outings, 'treats', and a birthday party can be had for a total of under £50 (even that I thought was expensive, but compared to what it would have cost them formally.....!). Also think a lot more enjoyment was gained through making a lot of the things for the party themselves. The children really seemed to have a good time.

Loved hearing about the shop (there may be many over the country) that stocks remnants of fabric, odd bits of paper, all things that can be bought for very few pence, and much could be made with them. Think details of this will be on the Channel 4 'Superscrimpers' website.

Now that it is school holidays, children perhaps could be encouraged to being learning about the value of money. Maybe showing them how to buy something really cheaply, then turn it into something else that is worth more. Perhaps even be able to sell it to someone, or use it as a gift that they would have paid more money for than that originally spent. We should also start planning Christmas gifts long before the date, as often we can pick up for a pittance something that is 'just perfect', but would not be on sale closer to the time.
Also when making gifts, we do need to allow plenty of time to save rushing things at the last moment.

Even now we could be making our Christmas Puddings, mincemeat and even a rich fruit Christmas cake (to be laced with booze over the coming months). But for the moment will offer easier recipes, for none of us feel like doing much this weather.

First recipe is almost a throw-back to the 60's as can remember making this often around that time. It is not listed as able to be frozen, so made when intending to eat as a dessert (although any leftovers can be eaten cold.
This uses the Victoria sandwich cake batter (same weight of eggs, butter, sugar, flour...) the classic version of this cake/dessert uses pineapple rings, but other drained canned fruit could be used. Alternatively, use fresh fruit (apples, nectarines, pears....that have been cooked in a pan with a little butter and syrup, then cooled before putting into the tin with the cake mix on top.
Pineapple Upside-Down Cake: serves 6
2 oz (50g) butter, softened
2 oz (50g) light soft brown sugar
7 pineapple rings in syrup (from a can)
7 glace cherries
cake mix:
4 oz (100g) butter, softened
4 oz (100g) caster sugar
4 oz (100g) self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
First make the 'topping' by draining the pineapple and reserving the syrup. Beating the 2 oz (50g) butter and light brown sugar together until creamy. Spread this over the base and a quarter up the sides of an 8" (20cm) round cake tin. Place the pineapple rings on top, popping a glace cherry in the centre of each (round side down).
Put the cake ingredients into a bow with 2 tblsp of the pineapple syrup and beat to a soft consistency. Spoon this over the top of the pineapple and level the surface.
Bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 35 minutes, then leave to stand for 5 minutes before turning out onto a plate. Serve warm with either cream, creme fraiche, or a dollop of ice-cream.

Whether for picnics, packed lunches or to add to a salad supper, Scotch Eggs are always popular, but as many of us have given up deep-frying anything (due to cutting down on fats), we tend to do without or buy them ready-made.
Here is a super recipe for Scotch Eggs that can be baked in the oven instead of frying. Follow a cheffy tip and after shaping the sausage meat coating round the egg, then rolling in the crumbs, wrap each tightly in clingfilm to mould the coating even closer and more evenly, then chill for at least 10 minutes before baking.
Baked Scotch Eggs: serves 4
4 hard-boiled eggs, shelled
11 oz (300g) pork sausagemeat
1 tblsp finely chopped parsley
2 tsp dried mixed herbs
salt and pepper
1 egg white, lightly beaten
2 oz (50g) dried breadcrumbs
Put the sausagemeat, herbs and egg white into a bowl and mix well together well. Add seasoning to taste, then divide into four equal amounts. Form each portion into a flat circle then place an egg on the top of each, folding the sausage mixture up and around to cover each egg completely, then roll in the breadcrumbs and chill for 15 minutes (see above tip).
Place the eggs on a baking sheet and bake for 20 - 25 minutes until golden brown. Leave to cool completely before serving.

Not sure if I've given this recipe before, but it is worth repeating. Use the strongest flavoured Cheddar you can find when using for cooking, as many of the 'own brand mild Cheddar' has virtually no taste at all (at least I don't think it has), so pointless in using it. It doesn't HAVE to be Cheddar, myself find Red Leicester has a great flavour, as does Double Gloucester. Blue cheese is probably a bit too strong for this recipe, but please try to use cheeses that have flavour as you need this to balance out the Marmite.
If you don't care for Marmite, you could add crumbled crispy fried bacon instead, or even crispy fried onions.
Cheese and Marmite Scones: makes 8
5 oz (150g) self-raising flour
5 oz (150g) wholemeal flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 oz (50g) butter, chilled and diced
3 oz (75g) mature Cheddar (see above) grated
1 egg
2 tsp Marmite
2 tblsp Greek yogurt
3 tbls milk
Sift together the flours with the baking powder, then rub in the butter with fingertips until like fine breadcrumbs (this can be done using a food processor). Add half the cheese, then make a well in the centre.
Whisk together the egg, Marmite, yogurt, and milk and pour this into the well. Using a knife, mix together to make a soft - but not sticky - dough. If too wet add a little more s.r.flour, if too dry add a little more milk.
Turn the dough onto flour surface then roll out to 2cm thick (just under 1"). Stamp out 4 scones, then gather and re roll trimming and repeat until all dough has been used.
Place scones on a baking sheet, brush with milk and scatter the remaining cheese on top. Bake for 10 - 12 minutes at 200C, 400F, gas 4 until golden. Cool on a wire rack. Best eaten whilst still slightly warm, split and spread with a little butter.

Final recipe is a way to use up puff pastry, the last bit of wafer thin ham, and oddments of Cheddar. Tomato puree/ketchup could be used instead of the pasta sauce.
If wishing to use the pastry 'trimmings' rather than as bought in a pack, then make sure you place these on top of each other so that the pastry still remains in 'layers', as if gathered together any old how, it will puff up into strange shapes when cooked. Not that that really matter in this instance as the end result will taste just as good, but if the pastry is kept 'layered', the 'pinwheels' will look more attractive.
Pizza Pinwheels: makes 6
6 oz (175g) puff pastry
3 tblsp tomato pasta-type sauce
2 oz (50g) wafer-thin ham
2 oz (50g) mature Cheddar cheese, grated
milk or beaten egg for brushing
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
Roll pastry out to 8" x 12" (20 x 30cm). Spread a layer of the sauce over, leaving a narrow border all round. Place ham on top, then scatter over the cheese.
Starting at the narrow end, roll pastry up as tightly as possible the chill for 15 minutes (it helps to wrap the roll in clingfilm to hold together whilst in the fridge).
Using a very sharp knife, cut the roll into six sliced (if wrapped in the film, this can stay there whilst cutting, but remove from each when ready to go into the oven..
Lay the slices on a non-stick baking tray, as each is cut, then brush each lightly with milk or beaten egg and sprinkle with the herbs.
Bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 12 - 15 minutes until puffed up and golden brown. Leave to cool for 5 or so minutes before serving. Best eaten warm.

Was planning to make another Singapore Noodles for tonight's supper as I really fancy this myself, but B has wandered in requesting 'ham, egg and chips', so either I'll make the noodle dish for myself, or have something else and wait until B fancies it At least all I have to do is put the oven chips in the oven, then B can fry the egg/s himself, the ham already sliced in the fridge. If I have a salad and the last of the quiche, plus another mini-pork pie then that should make it easier for me.

Have to say this weather I don't feel much like cooking anything, although do have a few things on my 'today's list' I intended doing, and probably (hopefully) will. Certainly must make another loaf of bread as we have just about run out.
Was inspired (watching Superscrimpers) to use up the last of the watercress, and maybe also use some other herbs, to make home-made pesto. Didn't realise this would keep for up to a month in the fridge, and as it can be frozen, could fill ice-cube trays with some of it, so that there will always be a supply during the colder months.

Ice-cube trays are really useful. Rarely do I use them to make ice-cubes, although perhaps during this warmer weather (if we get it), some ice would be good to add to our cold drinks.
My trays are normally used for freezing tomato puree, concentrated stock, lemon juice (with or without zest), egg whites, red or white wine, port, chopped fresh herbs (held together with a little water), almost anything in small quantities that has a use - but needed later. Once frozen the contents are removed from the trays and bagged up. Always label as so many things when frozen look exactly the same (lemon juice, egg whites, chicken stock, white wine) as I have found to my cost. Nothing like thawing out lemon juice to make lemon curd and finding it is chicken stock. Mind you, adding lemon juice when it should be stock has sometimes improved the flavour of a savoury dish. .

The skies look a bit lighter, but still no sign of any blue, so have to wait and see what happens later today. If it clears around lunch-time might go out and have a scoot. Certainly over the next few weeks - weather permitting - there won't be much on TV other than Olympics to make we want to sit indoors, and as I don't wish to spend all day in the kitchen (or even at the comp), will take the opportunity of 'flying my own nest', even if only for a short distance now and again.

With another weekend about to land on us, let us hope the weather hold out enough for us all to enjoy our free time. If you have a moment or two spare, then please drop me a line as I love hearing from all of you.
As ever, I'll be back again tomorrow, so hope to meet up with you then. TTFN.