Friday, August 31, 2012

Wartime Rations

Due to unexpected 'rearrangement' of today (leaving house early), this will be a short blog and comments will be replied to next time I write, but just time to give you a short list of most of the foods on ration during World War II.

The list below relates to April 1945 and are per person PER WEEK unless otherwise stated.
bacon OR ham: 4 oz
sugar: 8 oz
loose tea: (no T bags then) 2 oz
meat: 1/- (bought about 1 lb of cheap/toughest)
cheese: 1 oz (vegetarians allowed an extra 3 oz)
marmalade: 8 oz (per month)
....or 1lb jam OR 1 lb sugar.
lard: 2 oz
sweets: 8 oz (per month)
eggs: 1 per week (sometimes only 1 per fortnight)
....or 1 packet dried egg per month
milk: 3 pints per week
milk powder (= 8 pints): one tin every 8 weeks

At the moment have not yet found details of other 'basics' such as margarine, butter, bread, fish....but do have them somewhere and will let you know later. The above gives a good idea of how little each person had to eat - and do remember this is for a WEEK, not a day!!! It was somewhat easier to make a meal when cooking for a large family (the cook having control of all the ration books when everyone lived at home).

Vegetables were not on ration, but very hard to come by but the longer the war lasted the more people had learned how to 'dig for victory' and grow their own, so had more of these to supplement the increasingly meagre rations above.

Not sure about some other foods not mentioned, will have to look them up, but canned and dried foods were available on a 'points' system. A set number of points allowed per person each month, and these were printed in a book to be cut out and kept by the grocer. Foods in short supply were higher in points, and when there was plenty of stock or the Ministry of Food wanted to clear stocks that people didn't prefer to buy, these were then changed to less points. In those days, the more food that could be bought the better, it didn't pay to be fussy about what was eaten.

Soap was allocated 4 'coupons' each month. One coupon = 1 x 4oz bar hard soap, or 1 x 3oz bar toilet soap. OR 1 coupon for 3 oz soap flakes, or 6 0z soap powder.

Central heating was banned during summer months. Most people didn't have central heating anyway and had to rely on coal fires for winter heating. Coal was rationed to 15 cwts per household in London and the South and 30 cwts for the rest of the country.

Only a small amount of water (think it was 5 inches) was allowed when filling the bath, most people painted a line round the bath so they didn't exceed that. Even though people could 'cheat' and use more water (no-one likely to peek and see), everyone 'did their bit' and stuck to the rules. Not sure whether - in those days - it was suggested two people could bathe at the same time, but am sure the same water would be used for more than one child.
Rain water was usually saved for washing hair, and probably also for washing clothes as it was 'soft water' and used less soap.

Sorry for the short blog today but am sure the above will give plenty of 'food for thought', and do hope that many readers will take the time to put a one week's rations onto a tray and take a good look. Some may even like to have a go at living on just these (plus some seasonal fruit and veg) for one week.

With any luck should be back at normal time tomorrow when I hope for more comments re the above, and also will reply to those that have not yet been answered. See you then.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Now and Then...

With the expected rise in food prices am not quite sure how to deal with this. Should we eat less meat, and other carbos that don't contain wheat products, or should I stock up now to keep us going through the next 12 months? As far as meat is concerned think I will 'bulk buy' now, especially chicken (as this is expected to rise in price due to cost of chicken feed also rising).

Your query Cheesepare (and good to have you back with us again), re the wartime rations v living on £1 a day (at today's prices). Think even though during wartime food was minimal, it was 'eked' out by a lot of D.I.Y and we did seem to have three meals a day (but never any snacks inbetween). For one thing everyone who had even a small garden would 'dig for victory' even uprooting front lawns to grow veggies as -although these were not 'on ration' -they were very hard to obtain as farms had to grow what the government told them to: wheat, potatoes, etc, and not a lot else. Onions were so scarce that one large onion would be given as first prize in a raffle, and whoever won was often offered a lot of money for it!!!

Although in those days everything eaten was 'organic', when it came to the 'manufactured' the quality was pretty poor. Only one type of bread - the 'National Loaf' was on sale and that was really grey in colour, not at all like the white bread we can buy today, it didn't even taste nice. Cheese was mainly 'mouse-trap', and only about an inch cube of that allowed per person per week. Meat was sold by price, not weight and think this was about 1/6p worth per person a week (not sure what the equivalent is in today's money), this being about 1lb for the week if it was a cheaper cut, and perhaps one small chop or tiny steak (and only this) if a more expensive cut. Obviously the cheaper cuts that needed longer cooking were the one's sought after, but the butcher himself would be rationed, and it was always the case of first come, first served and if people didn't start queueing early enough (queues at meat and fish shops could be 100's yards long), then only scrag end would be left, and only that if lucky. Unless of course the butcher had favourite customers' (reasons why are best left unmentioned) where a pack of meat or sausages would be hidden under the counter to be given 'later' in return for who knows what!

Goodness knows what went into making sausages, probably a lot of rusk (dried bread) as they used to explode when fried, this is where the name 'bangers' came from. My mother was convinced she bought some made from rodents when she found a rats tooth in one. Offal was off ration, but again in short supply, but practically all of the animal that could be eaten, was. Even bits we wouldn't think about touching today.

Believe that horsemeat was also sold to be eaten by humans (this always has been eaten and probably still is in France). Fish was in very short supply as all the fishermen went to war, and the bigger boats were used for other purposes. People who lived around the coast were the luckiest as they could go out in their small boats to catch fish, but with petrol being rationed, it was almost impossible to get fresh fish brought to the centre of the country. Some was 'imported' like whale meat and something that tasted awful called 'snoek' (perhaps the same thing). My dad occasionally used to go to a lake or river to try and catch some fresh fish. Even that was scarce as I expect most of the fish had been caught by others.

The RNLI shop is not a 'charity shop' as we know it Les. They sell new products (Christmas cards, jars of preserves and pickles, pens, toys, jigsaws, some books, the usual things visitors buy at seaside resorts. All profits go to the RNLI who don't get any funding other than donations from the public, fund-raising and what profits they make at their shops. There are two RNLI shops in Morecambe, housed where the lifeboat is kept, the one B works in has the more advanced type of lifeboat, and it is surprising how often this is called out to rescue people who are walking on the sands and caught by the very speedy incoming tide (comes in faster than walking pace, fascinating to watch).
The RNLI 'sailors' are people who work in normal jobs, they have little gadgets they wear so that this lets them know when they are needed urgently to man the lifeboat/s, and then they drop down tools and race off to the boat station and usually there within a very few minutes.

When we used to holiday in Sheringham a 'maroon' or 'cannon' was set off to let the local fisherman (who used to man the lifeboat) know they were needed like NOW! We would see them running, cycling along the front to the lifeboat and then watch it being launched. Perhaps this is still done, or maybe the lifeboat men now also wear these new 'bleepers'.

Hope you manage to make the Halloumi successfully Sarina, let us know how you get on. The Indian 'paneer' is made in a similar way, this time using (I think) lemon juice and yogurt.
In all honesty, the easiest way to make any soft cheese is just drain yogurt through kitchen paper (J cloths work well) or muslin for a few hours. The longer it drains the thicker the 'soft cheese' becomes.
Have myself thought it would be worth draining a fruit flavoured yogurt so that this could then be used as the base for a sweet dish, such as cheesecake.

It was good to meet up with you the other day Eileen, and pleased your hospital trip went well. Did you get the results then, or having to wait for them? I was delighted with the dried (and also crispy) onions you brought as a gift for me. Thank you so much. What was even better was that I was able to offer some of my jam, marmalade et al from my larder shelves in return for your favour, so hope you have already 'had a taste'. This is something we could all consider doing - 'bartering'. So often, if we live alone it seems not worth making anything in bulk (biscuits etc), even just one cake, but if we know someone who will 'share' what they make, they both can benefit.
For that matter it doesn't have to be home-made. At one time I used to take a friend (who had no car) to the supermarket with me and we would 'share' loads of things. We would choose the largest cauliflower (all sold at the same price), the largest lettuce, stick of celery etc, then when home divide it in two. We would then pay half price to one who paid in full for it. My spare BOGOF (maybe a bag of potatoes) would be given to my friend, and my friend would give me her different BOGOF (worth roughly about the same in price, but the price didn't really matter). We would end up with much the same amount of food as originally wanted, but this ended up working out at far lower price. Also we were never left with 'having too much' of anything. We would even split bulk packs of sugar, or the cheaper (offer) 4-(or 6)packs of (say) canned tomatoes, or tuna etc. Even packs of biscuits could be halved.
Sounds a bit OTT I suppose, but this way we managed to afford a few (shared) 'treats' that we probably would never have bought when shopping alone.

Although this is still 'officially' summer, it often doesn't feel like it. Apparently this is the worst (and wettest) summer we have had for over 100 years. Yesterday was a bit odd weatherwise. It was fairly sunny in the morning, then suddenly changed at mid-day when we had quite a bit thunderstorm, then the sun came back.
Last night it seemed to rain solidly, but awoke to blue skies and sunshine, and now we are again covered with rain-bearing clouds. Still very windy.

Decided yesterday to make a casserole for B's supper, not really the right dish for 'summer' but using pre-cooked meat thawed from the freezer, it was just a matter of cooking some carrots and potatoes, then frying some onion in a pan, adding the meat, gravy and the veg, then letting it simmer over very low heat until B was ready for his supper.
Couldn't find any cooked beef (other than already make up into chilli con carne, spag.bol meat sauce etc), so thawed out some cooked chunks of venison.
Once in the pan with the (above mentioned veggies) threw on top some finely shredded white cabbage (it needed using up), so it would steam once the lid was on. This worked well and as I seemed to have made a lot, decided to eat some before B returned home and really loved it. Certainly a casserole (or stew) is real 'comfort food', and it certainly gave me a feeling of inner warmth. After B had eaten his he said it was really lovely. Perhaps because of the venison as this does have a deeper and richer flavour than beef.

Had added Bisto Best gravy granules to the venison 'stock' (had frozen the cooked meat in some its own cooking liquid), and this thickened it beautifully, but discovered when I went to serve myself, this had 'unthickened' itself, and remembered this usually happens when 'gravy and sauce thickening' has been used. Cornflour always does this - fine when used to thicken for about 15 minutes, but after than breaks down to 'thin' again. Ordinary plain flour tends to hold up better, but worth remembering that if wishing to thicken a gravy (especially when using anything cornflour based), best done later than earlier.

Today have to defrost our small chest freezer. It shouldn't have needed doing, but B discovered a tub of ice-cream I'd hidden in there (he is not supposed to even go in the chest freezer - used to keep only 'back-up' stock - but so afraid he's missing something he keeps snooping). Trouble is, when he opens the drawer the ice-cream is kept in he doesn't push it back evenly and one end sticks out a bit, this then prevents the door shutting as tightly as it should. Over the past few days, and unbeknown to me, he has been helping himself to the 'back-up' ice-cream, and each time obviously didn't push the drawer back as I discovered yesterday when it was noticed, although I didn't know at the time B had even found the ice-cream, let alone eaten most of it.
Do other wives/mothers have partners/children who feel that all food bought is for their personal use and just help themselves without even bothering to ask if they may?
My B's excuse when I keep discovering many empty jars and containers on shelves in fridge and freezer is "well I've left you some haven't I?", as if one teaspoon is considered a portion. Perhaps I should buy a tub of ice-cream and eat it myself just leaving one spoonful in a corner for B.

There really is no need for me to constantly grumble, all I have to do is divide foods we both enjoy, then mark my portion (more a third than half) with 'mustn't touch'. But then I've always been brought up with the belief that 'share and share alike' is how we should live. 'Crumbs from my master's table' seems to be more the case now.
My B does like to have 'the best' (suppose most of us do if truth be told) and will squeeze every tomato in a dish to find the one that suits him best (bruising the rest as he goes), he will reach over to the other side of a huge plate of cream cakes (when invited out) to take the largest (again I was taught it is better mannered to take the cake nearest to me whether I wanted it or not) , and when it comes to me making a bowl of mixed fresh fruit salad and I ask B to leave some for me, find he has taken all the best fruits, leaving me with mostly apple and - if lucky - half a strawberry! As I said, there is a solution. I just don't like to have to use it.

One cannot blame anyone for doing something they have been allowed to do most of their adult life, and with B there is an excuse why he does this. He - being the youngest of a very large family, mostly hungry boys - always ended up with 'the leavings' after his siblings had taken the best. Being wartime too didn't help although have to say the more ration books the better as with today, food goes much further when cooking for a large family than small amounts when cooking for just one or two. In B's case his grandparents also lived in one room in the same (small) house, and during the war there were at least four children (two were old enough to go to war), as well as his parent living there - that made eight. Ten in total.
Imagine what that would have been like. No bathroom, an outside loo, bathing had to be done in a tin bath in front of the fire with behind a clothes horse draped with towels for modesty. Definitely B deserves all the luxuries he has now, and that includes ice-cream. I was just being thoughtless when I had my 'moan'. I'll make him a specially nice supper tonight to make up for it.

Have thought long and hard about having a 'veggie box' delivered and now that I've seen an ad by Riverford with an offer on their 'trial box', think I'll have a go. At one time this company didn't deliver in the area we live, but on checking now discover they do. As I'll be getting £12.85p of organic veggies for £5.99p, definitely worth trying. If I like what is delivered, then maybe will continue to order. As ever, all purchases depend on whether I can afford it or not.
Normally with a bit of juggling with other 'edibles', usually find it is possible to have what I want, when I want it, although 'juggling' is an ongoing thing these days, almost turning into an 'art form'. But it makes cooking a lot more interesting.

The iron pills have certainly given me a new lease of life, no longer do I feel tired, and don't feel quite so chilly either when sitting in the living room. Have also gained a bit more appetite (although not sure if that is a good thing, as don't wish to pile the pounds back on again), but at least much improved from this time last week.

Have quite a bit to do today, so will take my leave and hope you all manage to enjoy your day, especially those of you who are on holiday and managing to avoid the rain. Often envy the people who live in the larger continents as they seem to have much more settled and warm/hot weather during their summers. But on seeing the hurricane 'Isaac' heading towards New Orleans again, perhaps we are better off living on a small island, despite us having worse summers and quite a lot of rain. It could be so much worse. Hope you miss the worst of the hurricane Lisa. Let us know. TTFN.

I will shortly be checking out what food was allocated to each person during the war, and then list them on this site so we can compare 'then and now' prices. Also I suggest everyone put their weeks rations on a tray (and they would probably fit on one small tray) and just see how minimal they were. Not a bad idea to try and live on these for a week as well. Although B certainly wouldn't wish to do this, I might do as another good way to help me lose weight.

You requested a photo of my 'windowsill mixed salad leaves' CP, and have unearthed a photo taken a few weeks ago. It shows a mixture of leaves, some are quite spicy (like watercress), others fairly sweet. I particularly like the various different shaped leaves, they do make the salad look attractive.

Regarding 'pepping up' coleslaw. Agree that it can be a bit bland, and although finely shredded white cabbage, carrots and onions make the basic 'slaw', you could try adding apples, crushed walnuts, finely sliced celery, and perhaps red cabbage instead of the white. I like Eileen's suggestion of folding in some pesto, and this led me to thinking perhaps a bit of mango chutney might give the mayo a 'lift'. Or perhaps tartare sauce or even horseradish (mustard or curry paste).

When I used to buy little pots (four to a container) of assorted 'dips', often used some of them as a salad dressing. So almost any dip you enjoy could (I suppose) be used as the 'binder' for 'slaw'. Maybe folding the veggies into a Thousand Island (or Marie Rose) dip/dressing would be good, you could always add a few chopped prawns as well.

I'm very fond of Peppadew, and one chopped finely would also add a bit of 'bite' to coleslaw, so hope the above have given you some ideas.

As to the 'yeasty' flavour/aroma coming from home-made cheese, not sure whether this means it is past its best and should be binned. Certainly anything that has turned 'yeasty' has begun to ferment, so better to be safe than sorry.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Where Will it End?.

Big headlines on the front page of our newspaper yesterday. Cost of many foods going up due to the severe drought in America causing shortages of wheat, corn, soya etc. Over in the UK we have the opposite - shortages due to the excessive rain we have been having. Add to that the rise in fuel prices, looks like we will have to tighten our belts even further.

But will it be THAT more difficult to keep within our budgets? Considering the vast amount of food on the supermarket shelves, many of them not affected by rise in wholesale prices, then we should be able to alter our meals to suit our purse.

By just cutting out what many of us eat as 'comfort food', the wheat-based biscuits and cakes, sweet and savoury pastry etc, we then not only save money but cut out the unnecessary calories. Doing ourselves a healthy favour in fact. So this particular cloud does have a silver lining. We just have to break some familiar habits and realise that meat pies don't need a crust to make them edible, 'pie' contents are what others would serve as a meat casserole, so taste quite as good (some say even better) served on their own, without pastry. Anyway if we also serve potatoes, why double up on the carbos?

When we bake our own bread we then have and advantage as we can slice it to the thickness we wish rather than having bought slices that are now usually too thick to make a decent sarnie. As today most bought (medium sliced) bread is sold in thicker slices than it used to be we use it up faster and therefore have to buy it more often. How the commercial bakers must be rubbing their hands with glee at their clever ploy.

As my Beloved said, if someone 'royal' had had an accident, that would have taken front page and rising food prices pushed into a corner on an inner page of a newspaper. So we should not become too concerned when newsprint wants to add more doom and gloom to our 'foodie' lives. They just haven't anything more interesting to write about.

Personally I think it would be an excellent idea if - for one week a year - everyone had to live on wartime rations, then perhaps we'd be very much more likely to be grateful for what we can buy now, even the cheapest products (but not junk food) rather than complain because we can't always afford to eat only what we like best. The memories I have of food rationing (and I am old enough to remember) is that we hardly ever ate any meals during that time that we enjoyed, we just ate what was able to be made to keep us alive and - strangely - this was just enough to keep us healthy, so who needs more?. Also it was not only during the war that food was rationed, we had to put up with it until the early 50's, over 12 years of shortages. Let's hope the 'Wartime Farm' programme gives the younger generation (by that I mean anyone under the age of 60!) an idea of how we used to live.

So we should never let ourselves feel we are in for a winter of discontent when it comes to eating. We still have plenty of cheaper foods that will make excellent meals, even if we have to cut down on the meat (because this will rise in price due to animal fodder also becoming more expensive). There are plenty of vegetarian dishes that are absolutely gorgeous, so again I could say 'who needs meat'. (As I write this, B has just brought me a cup of coffee and requested a meal with meat for his supper, preferably beef! It might be a good idea to stock up my freezer with more meat before the price goes up even more, at least enough to last B through the winter).

Last night was hoping to make a fish chowder for B's supper, but he said he'd rather have fish risotto. Well, it is a good dish when made correctly, and although I have to spend a good 20 minutes or so continually stirring the contents in the pan, as I sit down on a chair by the hob, it is not really a chore. As I was adding some white wine to the rice (from a bottle B had opened for himself) I also poured myself a glass to sip whilst the risotto cooked. Cook's perks don't they call it?

As 'Downton Abbey' is having a repeat on ITV3 each weekday, really am enjoying watching it again. It is fascinating to see how much 'hierarchy' there is below stairs, as there is 'upstairs'. Often more so. Everyone employed has their own place in the household 'scheme of things', and woe betide if they try to step up the ladder before they are entitled to.
This means I'm missing Celebrity Masterchef, but suppose I could catch this up on iPlayer, but then don't find 'celebrity' cooks as interesting as those from the general public who enter this competition.

The only bit of Food Network watched yesterday was late at night when 'Hook, Line and Dinner' was being shown. Not normally of interest to me, but happened to join it when a man was showing his version of 'slaw' (coleslaw to you and me). Actually it sounded quite tasty, but pretty unhealthy. Starts of with half a jar of mayo, then a small amount of vinegar to thin it down (so far so good), THEN about half a pint of sugar to sweeten, plus about a quarter of a pint of salt!!! When mixed together, finely shredded white cabbage, carrots and onions were stirred in, not enough veggies in my opinion as there still seemed a lot more mayo-mix than there should be, but as the presenter said "this tastes wonderful". Oh yes, this 'slaw' (and plenty of it) was served with a piece of fried rock-fish (the presenter said he called this 'bass'), and some sort of hot chunky tomato sauce.

Two comments today, not sure if one was from a regular reader who forgot to give her known-to-us name, or a new reader (if so welcome) but it came from cyclingininthesixthdecade who lives in the north east and fortunately (yesterday) the weather good enough for having a cycle with her OH and son. She mentions her son 'comfort eating', and how easy it is to fall into this habit when out of work and life seems at a low ebb. Have discovered that (home-popped) popcorn makes a very good low-cal munch, and even if drizzled with a little butter and sugar is far lower in calories than a bar of chocolate or bag of crisps. Myself like to toss popcorn in a little melted butter to which has been added some Thai Sweet Chilli Sauce. Think I'll make a big panful today so that I can snack on it without feeling guilty.

Thank you Les for your quote. One thing that I forgot to mention to Lisa yesterday is that in this country we are not allowed to discriminate in anyway when it comes to personal beliefs (religion, politics etc), ethnic origins, or even our appearances (height, weight, colour of skin, and also what sex we are), we are not even allowed to call someone from another country by a name that is different to their proper one (like we used to call American's 'Yanks' presumable a short form of 'Yankee' whatever that means, and we are now not allowed to call a person from Pakistan by the shortened version, even if this is more 'friendly'.

Do our Liverpudlians object to being called 'Scousers', and those from Birmingham 'Brummies'? Am sure they don't. There is far more 'togetherness' when a population begins to use 'nick-names' for each other whether cultural or regional. The Aussies (oops perhaps I shouldn't shorten their name either) still call us 'Poms' and we don't mind at all. Far too much 'political correctness' has entered our lives, and hardly any of it for the better.

Probably am stepping on dangerous ground when it comes to talking about politics and religion. We all have our own beliefs, so just accept whatever I say to be just my thoughts and - as usual - probably very old-fashioned, out of date and maybe I should just keep my mouth shut.

Perhaps safer if I confined my thoughts to food and only food. At least most of my day is spent thinking about 'the edibles', if not always 'doing the action'.
Yesterday was prepared to have a go at making some mozzarella but as it takes a little longer than other soft cheeses to make, decided to leave this for another day, instead made some 'fresh white', that is much simpler, ending up a bit like a fairly solid 'creme fraiche'.

Lisa recently mentioned using cottage cheese, so here is a recipe how to make our own. As with any home-made soft cheeses, always best kept chilled and eaten within a few days, and always use really clean containers and utensils to prevent unpleasant bacteria getting a foot through this particular door ('good bacteria' is formed when we make these cheeses and help to prevent the formation of 'the bad', but only for a short time, hence the need to give it a short shelf life).
Cottage Cheese:
1 litre whole milk
120g live natural yogurt
3 drops rennet mixed with 1 tsp boiled water
2 tsp cream or yogurt (opt)
Put the milk in very clean pan over medium heat and when it reaches 25C turn out the heat.
Stir in the yogurt and rennet, mixing well, then cover and leave in a warm place until a curd has formed, then leave at room temperature overnight.
Next day replace the pan over medium heat, cutting the curds through into 1 - 2cm cubes.
When the temperature reaches 45C, lower the heat to the minimum, then gently stir the curds for 20 or so minutes without breaking them. As the curd become warmer it firms up and begins to sink to the bottom of the pan.
When the curds have the consistency you like, pour into a colander lined with scalded muslin, again taking care not to break up the curds. When drained mix in the cream or yogurt (if using) and store in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Halloumi is a cheese that is made without the need of rennet, so could be a good one for those who wish to 'have a go' at cheese-making. Have not yet made this myself, but if following the recipe it should work. Milk that has not been homogenised is the right one to use, if we have to settle for the other, then adding a little cream to the milk then helps the curds to form.

Halloumi can be made with either full fat, semi- or skimmed milk. It's high melting point and firm texture make it ideal for frying and grilling, so a suitable cheese to cook/serve with salads and other veggies.
Halloumi cheese:
1 litre milk (see above)
30ml cider or white wine vinegar
pinch salt
Put the milk in a clean (pref stainless steel) pan over medium-high heat and warm up until it reaches 95C. Add the vinegar then turn off the heat. After a few minutes curd will start to form on the surface. This should not be disturbed as the whey will eventually clear as the curd continues to form.
Skim off the solids and place in a colander lined with scalded muslin (placed over a bowl to catch the drips). Sprinkle over a little salt, then remove and place in a cheese mould (a sterilised yogurt carton pierced with holes around the sides and base) and press down gently. Stand the mould on two slats of wood (also sterilised) that have been placed on a clean tray, then leave to drain.
When ready, transfer the cheese to an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to 3 days.
To cook Halloumi: heat a not-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Cut the cheese into slices and oil both sides, add seasoning if you wish. Place slices on the hot pan and let them brown quickly on both sides, then serve.

Weather was fairly sunny over most of the country yesterday, but this morning woke to persistent rain and quite a strong breeze, fortunately the skies have cleared a bit and the sun is now shining. Good for B who is working at the RNLI shop this morning, and it is only when the weather is fine that they get the customers they need.

Must now take my leave and start thinking about B's supper. Will probably make it easy on myself and make a beef casserole, hopefully using meat from the freezer that has already been cooked as that will save me some time. Enjoy your day and TTFN.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

One Thing Leads To Another

Am certainly feeling much better since taking the iron tablets (and still taking one a day), and am sure that lack of iron was the reason for my tiredness and lack of motivation. Even got interested in cooking again although yesterday's meal for B was mainly cold ham, sausages, and salad (lettuce, radishes, tomatoes, and beetroot). Decided to cook some small potatoes (a recent purchase from Morrison's where it was a big bag of spuds very much reduced in price), and served hot with the salad would at least have some 'warmth' to the meal.

Decided to crush the small and unpeeled spuds roughly with my potato masher, first tossing them in some melted butter and then sprinkling over plenty of Cajun spice seasoning. When crushed, fried them off in some of the fat that had come from oven-roasting the sausage (this gave the spuds even more flavour). Had a taste and felt it was lacking something, realised it was salt so ground a few grains of rock salt over the spuds and that really did make a difference.

Earlier in the day had watched yet another of the Barefoot Contessa's cookery spots, this time she was a bit more smiley, probably due to the several younger men who were visiting her (know how she felt as been there, done that), and don't think she uttered her favourite word ("perfect") more than twice.
As yesterday the food programmes were 'back to back', was able to watch another of the B.C's and this time she was cooking just a handful of thin spaghetti in boiling water, to which she adde salt. But not just a teaspoonful as I would have done, she added TWO big tablespoons of salt to the water saying pasta needed this much to absorb the flavour.

Certainly adding salt to the water really does make a difference to the taste of pasta, and then having noticed how much difference salt also made to the spuds when a little was added, began to wonder whether we are not doing ourselves any favours by not using any salt (as advised) when we cook. Practically all our UK cooks add salt to food when cooking, and they are very particular that 'seasoning' is done correctly to bring out the optimum flavour of the ingredients used.
Only when fish is cooked do the chefs sometimes say "no need to add salt as the fish is already salty". This then made me think of that very healthy nation: Japan, where everyone eats loads of fish each and every day. The Japanese must then take in quite an amount of salt and it doesn't seem to do them any harm. So am pretty sure the nutritionists and the medical profession will shortly do another U turn and say that it's OK to season our meals with salt, as long as we don't overdo it.
It is known that cutting out salt does help to lower our blood pressure, but maybe this is just the easiest way to do this. There are other ways - such as drinking beetroot juice. But then we come into the realms of expense I suppose. Cutting out is cheap, having to buy something to get the same effect is not.

Now to your comments. Normally I do the 'mise en place' for B as you suggest Les, but this is doing most of the work for him, and not really the best way to learn. When he does know where ingredients are kept, then let him use what he wants of these himself. It's when he puts them back in the wrong place (fridge instead of freezer, or on shelf instead of in the fridge) that problems occur. I don't want to have to 'nanny' his every move, and if I wasn't here he'd have to manage by himself, so the sooner he learns how to, the better. Just in case I do take that holiday, although knowing B he will either fetch a take-away or go out to a cafe/restaurant, or get his daughter or someone else to invite him for a meal. Anything rather than do things for himself.

It is true that I seem always to find excuses not to go out for a scoot on Norris. Think probably I find the slow walking pace of the scooter far too slow for me. I've always been used to having my own car and driving for miles exploring the areas in which I live/lived, and just being able to scoot the few miles that I can see anyway even when standing still, doesn't give me any real pleasure at all. If I want fresh air and sunlight I can as easily get that sitting in the garden looking at the plants and flowers.
On the rare occasions that I do go 'out for a scoot', it is almost always just down as far as the local shopping parade, and then only to 'window shop', or maybe buy more fresh eggs, or some meat and cheese. Morecambe 'life' (by this I mean shops on the prom and where most of the tourists congregate, is a good three miles away from where we live, accessible by scooter of course, but unless the weather is very warm and wind free, scooting along the prom can be bitterly cold or blow sand in my eyes. Excuses again I suppose. I just miss having my own car so very much.
B likes to drive, and goes out most days, but prefers to be alone, and know he doesn't want to bother taking me, anyway he usually goes birdwatching, and this is nothing I'm interested in.

When it comes to giving 'cookery lessons' for B Campfire, it wouldn't work. B feels he needs to be the 'alpha male' and when he knows I can do something better than he can, he normally won't do it as well. A favourite expression of his is "I won't be told", and teaching B 'how to' comes to much the same thing. He is quite happy to come and ask where certain ingredients are, or if he wants a recipe to be explained more clearly, but it would put him off altogether if I explained what should be done, step by step. In any case he can never remember more than the last thing told him, and always has to rely on the written word. Suppose I could write out recipe for him that he could easily understand, but so far haven't done this more than once or twice.

Two comments both from an 'Anonymous', but at least not ones that push their own sites, so probably these have appeared under yesterday's posting.
When it comes to those thawed peas that were thrown in the bin, suppose I could have cooked them and turned them into 'mushy peas' then frozen them, but as B was cooking his meal on the hob, no way could I cook them then, anyway was not in the mood to sort that little problem out, and felt that chucking them away (there were only a few left in the bag) would have more impact on B than if I had made use of them.

Apparently there are two more Bank Holidays this year (said by one of the Anons), but for the life of me can't think which ones they could be. Unless of course we count Christmas Day and Boxing Day. I was thinking more about the Bank Holidays that appear during the year, Spring Bank Holiday, May Day, August Bank Holiday etc...

Watched a truly memorable programme yesterday - this being the 'Edinburgh Tattoo'. Some amazing drum playing. The amount of organization/choreography that went into it, how on earth do they remember what to do?
Although probably not seen in the US, am sure Canada would have the above programme able to be viewed as I believe a lot of Canadians have Scottish ancestry. So hope you were able to see it Margie.
It does sound as though Canadian politics are different to ours, more perhaps to do with the way the elections are done and the part the citizens play in this.

Am sorry that your life has been turned a bit upside down by your 'Thing' Lisa, and from what you say this sounds as though this may have to do with American politics. I cannot believe that the party that people choose to vote for would make any difference to their personal lives and friendships. Here in the UK we seem to approach this differently. Some people are more interested in others and join a party as a 'member', and possibly do have occasional discussions with others trying to change them to vote their way, but we always respect each others views and 'live and let live' and there is no animosity between people whoever they vote for.
Normally, no-one is interested who votes for whom, normally this is a private matter and we don't even need to say if we don't wish to, and even when we vote (many people don't bother) often we make our mind up at the last minute.
With this country it probably doesn't matter who we vote for, all parties seem to be as bad as each other in the way they run the country. Each blaming the previous party when things go from bad to worse. We have a sort of coalition at the moment to try and get the country back on its feet, but that hasn't helped one jot, thing have never been so bad for yonks. What we need is a strong leader/Prime Minister. The only ones in my living memory have been Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher. Not always likes (esp M.T mainly because she was a woman), but boy, did they get things done.

In the same way as politics, few people know what religion their close neighbours follow (and many don't follow any religion), and normally don't even care as long as it is not 'in your face' as some can be.
Think there is more 'unpleasantness' between folk due to what I call 'fringe' religions (such as Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormans..) as for some reason these seems to upset people more than the traditional ones. Even people with no religion of their own often give the 'cold shoulder' (or worse) to people who are near neighbours and of a particular sect/cult. Is that the same in America? Somehow would not have thought so as the US is known to be quite a religious nation, and would expect all variations to be respected, whether Christian or otherwise.

The American elections are very much more 'show biz' style than we have here. For one thing money seems to play a big part, as does 'celebrity status'. Also sometimes seems that a bit of underhand work to clinch those few extra votes when needed. From what was printed in our papers at that time, it did imply that having a brother who was Governor of Florida helped George 'Dubya' to get those extra votes he wasn't entitled to that meant he won the election.

Here most of our politicians (certainly in recent years) have been just 'normal' citizens that formally had normal jobs and dedicated themselves to one particular party. voted in through local elections to town councils etc before moving further up the ladder. Or at least that is the way it seems to me. Politicians here we do not expect to be wealthy, in fact we hope not as they are then more able to understand problems at grass roots level.

My Beloved was talking to an American the other day who happened to mention the US elections. Apparently the current President is not much liked as he 'is wanting to do too much for the poorer people', especially when it comes helping them with things like medical insurance. American money being used to help others in need sounds a good idea to me, but obviously not to the citizens who want this money to move more in their direction, maybe so they pay less taxes or something. Sometimes have a feeling that when it comes to politics and voting anywhere in the world these days it is always 'I'll vote for the person who will give me the most, and don't care about anyone else".
Considering I'm not the slightest bit interested in politics, am surprised I've even managed to drum up a few sentences to give my thoughts on the above.

Due to late start (having hair done etc), am winding up now and hopefully having a go at making some cheese this afternoon. More about that tomorrow. Enjoy your day.

Monday, August 27, 2012

If it Isn't One Thing, It's Another...

Yesterday went from bad to worse. Nothing that would normally bother me, but the mood I was in...!!! B fitted a new light under one of the kitchen cupboards (over a unit), our kitchen is so dark that we need them on when working, but he fixed it the wrong way hanging down instead of sideways on, so I can see it every time I turn to look and it hurts my eyes (almost got a migraine yesterday because of this). B says he's not altering it because it means he would have to unscrew six screws then fit it all back again. So stuck with it, or leave it switched off which is what I might do as then perhaps B will change it.

Our daughter came round with some samples of two cakes she had been making, but as I was still trying to cut out carbos, managed to keep to just a sliver of each. B asked me if I'd had any and I said only a bit of each so far, but this didn't stop him eating all what was left ("well, thought you said you'd some" was his excuse).
Despite yesterday being first rainy then sunny, I ended up huddled under two quilts cuddling a hot water bottle again, AND drinking a mug of hot soup. Just couldn't get warm. Didn't take any iron pills until evening and should have taken them earlier as by then felt so exhausted went to bed as soon as taking the tablets. Do feel as have more energy this morning, but my 'hives' have reappeared (I either get these weals on my arms or my face swells up. At least the red lumps on my arms can be hidden although more 'itchy'). This is probably due to stress, not quite sure why I feel stressed but I do. Having learned of some family news yesterday didn't help. Nothing to be concerned about, more to do with other members of the family having rocked the boat in the past and it has never uprighted itself.
Daughter also wanted to use or computer as hers was in for repair, and she then messed around with the settings and it was only by luck that I discovered - as she was leaving through the back door - that I couldn't get our comp to work properly, so managed to call her back to reset the comp as it was originally.
This happens so often, others use our comp, set it to their own needs then never bother to change it back to our settings, so now I always try to remember to check everything myself before they leave to make sure it is as it should be, otherwise I wouldn't know how to change it back, not being as computer literate as they seem to be.

Also B has now decided it is good fun to make his own meals, and so made his supper again yesterday, and strangely this is not working to my advantage. Firstly am now feeling 'not needed anymore', and am now missing having just one person to cook for. Also, when I went to make my salad for my own meal, found a soggy bag of defrosted peas in the fridge that B had taken out the day before from the freezer (to add some to his meal he was making) and then he put the bag back in the fridge instead of the freezer! Had to chuck the peas away.

It's OK B making his own meals, but at this rate he's going to cost me a fortune. Yesterday he opened a bottle of curry sauce when the recipe said curry 'paste', then put the bottle back on the shelf in the larder. If he had asked me, I would have told him there was a bottle of curry paste already opened in the fridge, and now I have to use up (or freeze) the opened bottle of curry sauce. The more he does for himself the more problems and money wasting seem to be happening. Suppose this is all part of the learning curve, and B should learn to cook as I may not always be here. The cost of (wasted) food is of no interest to B, he just likes 'playing' at cooking, and knowing him, within a few days he will be bored with it. Let us hope so as if I can't cook for B, then what point is there me being here anyway?

Am seriously thinking about taking a holiday Haven't had one for must be nearly 20 years, and although retiring to live in a holiday resort some might think this is a permanent holiday, perhaps it is more a change of scene I need, and also 'my own space' which I now don't get anymore as B has stopped taking his month long holidays on the Tall Ships and I never get any real time to myself any more. Half-days don't count. It is bliss when he is away for more than one night. Mind you, do begin to miss him after a couple of weeks of his absence, but then all the nicer when he does return.

Some time back I wrote about the highs and lows, swings and roundabouts of life. Obviously I'm having a 'downer' at the moment, but the good thing is the only way now will be 'up'. So am sure that very soon I'll be feeling bright-eyed and bushy tailed again. If the rain would stop and the sun would shine for several days without clouding over then this would help.

Was VERY pleased to see that a new series of 'the farm' will shortly be on TV. We have already had the Victorian Farm, then the Edwardian Farm, and now it will be Wartime Farm. Yippee! Can't wait as am sure I will get a big feeling of nostalgia, having lived through those times, and will enjoy watching the meals made in the farm kitchen although possibly wild herbage and fruits, wild rabbits, game birds etc would end up eaten. People who lived in towns were not able to supplement their rations with these 'freebies' in the same way.

Thanks to Karen Lizzie, Catriona and Jane for their comments. I will be checking out what dried onions are on sale next time I go to the supermarkets. Silly really me even bothering about them, it's only because these are used so much by cooks on the US Food Network channel that I am now inspired to try them. If I can go umpteen years of cooking life without needing them, don't suppose I really need them now. 'Fresh' onions are always available and normally would use these when cooking, so probably makes sense to keep doing so.

Watched only a little of the Food Network yesterday (mainly because I had nodded off in my chair), but did see a lady demonstrate to the Barefoot Contessa how to make a 'Sticky Toffee Date Cake', extremely similar to our Sticky Toffee Pudding, but she baked the mixture in two shallow sponge tins, then - after turning them out - she stabbed the cake all over with a cocktail stick and then poured the caramel sauce over the two cakes and let it soak in. The B.C. cut a wedge from hers and ate it straight away, so as the cake was still warm, and so was the sauce, think it is perhaps to be eaten as a 'pudding'.

Normally I don't 'invent' many new recipes, but having discovered several tins of coconut milk in the larder (plus a few packets of coconut cream sachets), and lots of desiccated coconut, think it might be a good idea to try making a rice pudding using coconut milk with (or without) added milk, and maybe even include some desiccated coconut. Custard made with coconut milk would be 'interesting', and this then leads me to consider using this custard to make ice-cream. And maybe coconut milk will also make good pancakes.
Am sure there are many, many ingredients in our store cupboards that are never used to their full potential. We tend to use them 'as per recipe' and never think of looking outside that particular box.

Heinz beans are introducing a new variety of canned beans, this time five different beans in the one can. Not sure if in the usual tomato sauce, but could be interesting. Said to be good to use when making chilli con carne but at over 80p a can for these beans ,think I'll stick to using Tesco's Value red beans at 18p a can when making chilli.

In a cookery booklet that came with a recent cookery mag, noticed a recipe for a 'Roly Poly' bred and butter pudding. Just loved the idea as it gives a different presentation to a traditional dish. Am giving this recipe with my adaptation (original recipe ingredient given in brackets). This is a good pud to make for those who bake their own bread, or for anyone who can buy an unsliced loaf at reduced price because it is on the way to becoming stale.
Roly-Poly Pudding...: serves 8
3 oz (75g) butter, really softened
12 oz (350g) Nutella (or raspberry jam)
1 large unsliced white loaf
4 large eggs
14 fl oz (400ml) whipping (or double) cream
14 fl oz (400ml) milk
3 oz (75g) caster sugar (plus extra for topping)
Remove crusts from the bread to make a rectangular block (whizz the crusts and any leftover bread in a food processor to make crumbs, then freeze for later use).
Cut the loaf along its length into several thick slices, then place a sheet of clingfilm or greaseproof paper on a work surface (to protect surface from the butter), and butter one side of each slice of bread. Turn the bread over then spread the unbuttered side with the Nutella (or jam). Roll each slice up from the narrow end to make small chunky 'Swill rolls', then cut each in half. Place these cut side up in a buttered deep 2 litre baking dish.
Put the eggs, cream and milk into a bowl and whisk together, then whisk in the sugar. Carefully pour this over the rolls of bread, allowing it to soak in bit by bit (you may need to pour in stages). Leave to stand at room temp for at least 30 mins to allow the bread to soak up as much liquid as it can hold (I prefer to leave it standing as long as possible - pref half a day before cooking).
When ready to bake, scatter a little more caster sugar on top (opt) and bake at 160C, 325F, gas 3 for one to one and a half hours or until the top is golden and the custard has set. Cool for five or so minutes before serving.

As the only way is up, then perhaps I should think about starting to climb this particular ladder again. Certainly the iron pills (another taken this morning) have given me a feeling of more energy, so that's good. Not sure whether I will spend the day pampering myself (this means curling up in my chair with another 'hottie'), or get back to doing more baking. Have to wait and see.

Norma the Hair will be coming tomorrow instead of Wednesday (as that day she is off on her cruise to the Black Sea), and won't be coming for the following two weeks. If I wake early enough tomorrow will write and publish my blog before she arrives. If not it will be nearer lunchtime before it appears on your screens.

Today being a Bank Holiday (is this the last one of this year?) do hope everyone will take the chance to enjoy their leisure time, either by relaxing or making good use of it. Will really try and motivate myself to make use of my 'free' time instead of wasting it. At my time of life full advantage should be taken of every minute as who knows how many I have left?

B has always slept more hours a day than most people, 12 hours of sleep each night being normal for him, and this doesn't include the several minutes each day he nods off in his chair. As I said to him the other day, "that's four hours of life you are losing each day, and added up this comes to twenty eight hours, which is nearly two waking days a week that you have lost". Over his lifetime (80 years) he must have spent nearly a quarter of his life asleep when he could have been awake. Twenty years of life experience lost!

When we think about it, sleep is strange anyway. Each night millions of people lying unconscious in their rooms for hours on end, before stirring and coming back to life again. We even have whole rooms set aside just for sleeping, rooms wasted when they could be put to better use. Think the Japanese idea of unrolling a mattress on the floor when ready to sleep, then rolling it up again and putting it away after makes more sense of their space. They then really only need one room for living/sleeping.
In Leeds we had four bedrooms, one was used for a study, the other two were rarely used. A great waste of space when you think of it.

Opposite our home in Leeds was two detached houses (one behind the other) where two Indian families lived (an elderly mother and father lived in one house with one son and his wife and their several children, in the other house another son, wife and their children. We could see right into one of the upper rooms (it had no curtains), and could see a pile of mattresses almost reaching the ceiling. Seemed that all the children from both houses used to sleep in the one room on the mattresses that would then be placed on the floor (to be stacked up again after they woke). Sort of makes sense and it certainly wasn't as bad as it sounds, the family all seemed well adjusted, fairly wealthy, believe had their own business, and just lived a different (more ethnic) way of life with certainly a lot of 'togetherness' when it came to sleeping and eating. Good to know their old folk were looked after and not left to their own resources. ;Examples that we could follow to our own advantage. Nowadays families seem to drift apart rather than staying close together.

Really must prod myself into being more active and 'useful'. Doesn't do anyone any good to sit and mope. If it was fine I would probably take myself off for a scoot on Norris to blow the cobwebs out of my brain, but of course it is raining!!! If I was younger would think of emigrating to a warmer, sunnier climate. England never used to be this bad (weatherwise) when I was younger. We almost always managed to book holidays in advance knowing the weather would be good. Now we never know from one day to the next what it will be like.

One good thing - when the rain is forecast as being 'patchy', then because we live on a relatively small island, it is easy enough to drive a few miles (say 20 or so) and find part of the country that is bathed in sun for a few hours, then probably have to move on (or back) to miss the rain that catches up with us. Trouble is, petrol is expensive and it is cheaper to choose a spot then stay put. But whatever, stay at home or chase the sun - do have a good day. TTFN.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Comfort Eating

A shorter blog today as am not in a good mood! Yesterday didn't do anything that I'd planned, as felt really tired, so rested most of the day. Woke late today and still feel tired, so probably need to take some iron pills to give me a boost.

No sailing yesterday due to high winds, so B arrived home clutching a pile of shopping. I had asked him to bring me a pack of the new Walker's Stars (star shaped crisps) as they were much lower in fat than their usual ones. If I liked them then would probably change. But, being B, he brought a six-pack of Star Sweet Chilli flavoured crisps, and a six-pack of Star salt and vinegar. Have to say one taste of the salt and vinegar and I didn't like them, as strangely they tasted greasier than the 'normal' ones. The Sweet Chilli were better, but in the end gave them all to B. He also brought me a big bar of chocolate. I was fed up as he brought in other things, the total cost being around £9 (expecting me to pay), the other purchases were things he felt he needed (not wanted), but these I already had anyway (or about to make). The chocolate I did eat to comfort me, then felt guilty as I was trying to cut calories that day. Fortunately today my weight has not risen, but then I haven't lost any either as hoped to do.

As B had also brought in two loaves of bread (Morrison's doing two big toasting loaves for £1 total), have to admit that WAS a good purchase, as these work out cheaper than home-made and I hadn't yet begun baking the bread as planned. One loaf has been put in the freezer.
As B had brought himself some fresh cooked prawns (we have plenty frozen in the freezer), he said he'd use these for his supper, but although he found a good recipe, he decided to alter it and just heat the prawns with some 2 minute microwave rice, leaving out all the other - much tastier - ingredients. He'll learn that it isn't always advisable to make short cuts if you are looking to eat a tasty meal.

Couldn't quite understand Les's comment on not altering recipes seen on TV as a 'meatloaf could end up like a burger'. Didn't think I had done that when giving the meat loaf recipe as this was not from a TV prog. but adapted from one printed. I always 'adapt' by either adjusting quantities to make a dish cheaper, or including different ingredients than those given, aiming to add to the flavour not decrease it without more expense. Hope I'm experienced enough to know what can be altered and what should stay the same. No point in giving any recipes if they are the same as those to be found elsewhere.

Dave is the shorter one of the two Hairy Bikers Campfire. Si is the one with more hair. Believe Si has three sons, know the chubby one you are referring to, he has very red hair. Possibly Si will get all his family eating more healthily.

A new name to this site, so welcome to Karen Lizzie who has given me good info regarding where to buy dried onions. Thanks for that. Have never heard of 'dry fired salad onions', but will look out for them. We don't seem to have any Asian supermarkets/shops in Morecambe and there is supposed to be one in Lancaster, but when we drove down the road it should be, all we could see were ordinary houses. There is a Thai mini-supermarket I've seen in Lancaster, so one day will browse round there. Am sure they will sell dried shrimps - these being something that could well be worth having as I love eating shrimps and prawns, and once soaked the dried might be quite good when making various Oriental dishes.

One thing about bad weather Jane, if we have it now the chances are it will change for the better over the following days, so let's hope you get some sun during your holiday in Scarborough. Am sure that even if you eat loads of 'naughties' while away, you will burn off the calories walking around and just enjoying yourself. Always worked for me.
Am pretty sure Morrison's (and even Tesco) sell dried onions if not onion powder, I've just never looked when in the store (or on their website). It's only very recently, seeing the constant use of onion power in the US cookery progs that I realise how useful it could be, so now want to want to try using it myself.

What began as a sunny day with lots of blue sky has now turned into yet another gloomy day with rain bearing clouds having obscured the sun and blue, and this has made me feel fed up even more. Wish I could pull myself out of this 'slough of despond', and hopefully a couple of days on iron pills will do the trick. It's worked before.

Believe next weekend is another sailing club 'gathering', so hopefully another 'bakeathon' that certainly will perk me up. Perhaps this is the problem, I love cooking (for others) SO much that these last months when cooking for the club has really lifted my spirits, but on weeks when there is no need, I then feel a bit lost and 'useless'.

Gill, when she phoned me today, said many people this year are feeling more weary than usual, and we think this is because of the bad weather we have had, no real 'summer' to speak of, and this added to the recession, the promise of increasing fuel prices and also food prices these next few months, nothing really to look forward to.

Yet 'coping in adversity' is normally something I enjoy doing, so perhaps I can swing the depression round to making life a bit more fun for not just me, but for everyone who reads this blog. We can always start thinking now about Christmas, hunting the charity shops, car boots, and jumble sales for gifts (or materials) that we KNOW someone would really like, rather than spend loads more on something that we THINK they would like (and probably they wouldn't). Do know that myself would much rather have something I can use (even if it cost only pennies)rather than something that would end up pushed to the back of a cupboard.
When more thought is given to seeking out and buying the perfect gift (or even better, making one), even if it costs very little, the time taken counts, and the recipient can feel the love and care that has gone into this, which is worth far more than any gift just purchased over the counter that may cost £££s.

As an example two gifts once given have come to mind. One being a cheap stamp album, some stamp hinges and two packs of used stamps (bought from a local post office), given to my young grandson for his birthday. I know my daughter thought I was being extremely mean, but it worked out as I hoped it would. Grandson just loved sticking the stamps into his album, we could look up the different countries of origin in an atlas, and he collected more stamps and eventually got his 'stamp collectors' badge at 'Cubs'. He kept on collecting stamps for several years I believe.
Another gift was a paper knife bought for 10p at a car-boot sale. This was for a gift for a good friend who collected paper knives, and this being particularly pretty, she was thrilled to bits with it. She didn't know the cost of course, but that wouldn't have mattered anyway, the gift was exactly what she wanted. And that's what matters most.

Time is getting on, and so far have not got back to my 'happy bunny' feeling that I wish to feel at the start of every day. Think it is better to sign off now and maybe try and do something that will be interesting to write about tomorrow. You may like to log on again and find out. If so, see you then.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

No Need to Criticise.

Watching cookery programmes usually ends up with me feeling I want something to eat, not necessarily what has been demonstrate, just FOOD! Doesn't help my diet.
Yesterday B watched some of the Food Network progs with me and both of us were salivating at the enormous portions of foods served in the diners. Far too much for our English appetites, but certainly the US do cook some wonderful sauces to go with their even more wonderful meat. Can only assume that meat in the US (and prices charged in diners) is far less than over here. Or possibly the wages in America are much higher than ours.

'Guy' whateverhisname was at a diner yesterday assembling his own assortment of foods to go with his burger-in-a-bun. He opted for some bacon (along with a lot else), and he did something really clever, weaving the rashers of bacon basket-fashion to make a square that was fried, and so it ended up really crispy and held together. Perfect size to fit between our square sliced bread. Will definitely have to try that one.

Earlier in the day was watching another Sunny Anderson show, and although I do like the way she works, am finding her chatter a bit too fast. Also (another moan from me), she says 'good to go' far too often, I gave up counting after she'd said it 12 times in less than half an hour.
Was trying to think the expressions we would use to mean the same thing, probably say 'this is ready', or 'ready now to serve', or 'that's done, we can now set it aside'....

Think that I'm more likely to pick up on things 'to criticise' when not particularly interested in what's happening. B is the same, he is always saying 'I'm sure he wears a wig' (be is sensitive about hair as he has very little and very envious of older men who still have plenty), or 'did you see that woman walking behind the presenter, odd shoes she was wearing'....

Many many years ago (to my shame) I even counted the times Delia Smith said 'um'..or 'er.' between words, think that was about 36 times in a half-hour. But this was when she was younger and no doubt doesn't hesitate any more. Maybe she still does at times, but I've got past the waiting for it, and far more interested in what she is doing.
At the present time am now watching Nigella to see how many times she does her 'flirty eyes' to the camera when she is cooking.

Must be old age that is making me so critical and irritable. As I said yesterday, live and let live
Am sure I repeat myself far too much when writing my blog, so who am I to criticise. Have just remembered how - when I first met my B - he kept telling me off for saying 'you see' so often. Think eventually I managed to stop that habit, but how easy it is for us to do (and say) things we are not always aware of and that often annoy others.

Late starting the blog this morning due to going to bed late, and then rising late. Also the comp was very slow starting up, sometimes it does this, not sure why. A dreary day today, no obvious rain when looking out of the window, but there is a steady drizzle. More bad weather to come over this weekend, but then it would wouldn't it, being a Bank Holiday.

Do hope you have got your change in domestic arrangements sorted Lisa, also your daughter is not being too upset by the 'kerfuffle'. Her new terms course at college (all food related) sound really good. Am sure she will enjoy that.
If 'onion powder' is the residue left after packing dried onions then it should be pretty easy for me to whizz some dried in the processor to make my own powder if I need any.
By the way, noticed in our TV supplement that the US channel 'Hulu' (think it is called) will be shortly showing our 'Land Girls' series. Do hope you manage to watch it Lisa. It is very 'English' both in scenery, homes, and the clothes worn during the war years, also the way of life then (I am old enough to remember), which is - in some rural areas - not that much different now. One of my favourite series.

Yes Christine I've tried (many years ago) folding in onion soup mix into yogurt and creme fraiche, and it does make a very good dip. Will have to see if there is dried onion soup mix still sold.
As I've only just had the dried onion powder brought to my attention (courtesy of the Food Network), haven't yet checked with Tesco or Morrison's to see if they sell dried onions. Thanks Eileen for telling us about Whitworth's manufacturing these (and also dried veg), will take a look next time am in a supermarket.

Most supermarkets used to sell packets of pizza mix Campfire, so am sure they are still on sale, probably on the shelves where they stock the pastry mix, cake mixes, scone mixes etc. But as you say, bread mix (with a little added oil) is just about the same thing.
Dave (of the Hairy Bikers) lives on Roa Island, near Barrow in Furness. B drove me there once and it is a lovely place to visit, very small with a causeway leading to it. Was able to see the house where Dave lives (it's been on TV several times), but didn't like to knock on the door to see if he was at home.

A welcome to Shayna, and her mention of Tesco onion 'granules' has made me think it's worth checking out their website to see if they still stock them. Of course I could check supermarket sites when wishing to find out who stocks what, but for some reason prefer to 'discuss' my needs with my readers. Give me a feeling of 'togetherness' I suppose.
Hope you stay with this site Shayna, it can sometimes be boring, but on the other hand sometimes (I hope) quite interesting.

Well done Jane for working through your well-stocked storecupboard. Like many of us, we usually find - given enough thought - we can keep serving meals without much need to top up with fresh milk, egg, and salad veggies, and - at a pinch - UHT milk and mixed salad leaves and herbs grown on the window sill can see us through our salad needs. All we need are eggs, and if we keep chickens, then even the eggs are provided.
Mind you, even though I do have UHT milk in the larder, prefer to stock up with fresh milk, and also salad veggies (plus some fruits such as bananas). Ideally we aim to store foods that have a long-shelf life, then live off these for as long as possible, spending just a little money (maybe once every two weeks) just 'topping up' the fresh. It is incredible how much money can be saved doing just that.
Is it next week you are on holiday Jane, but whenever, do hope you have a lovely time and the weather is kind to you.

Having recently given a recipe for a type of meat loaf (baked in a shallow 'tray-bake' tin), today am giving another version, this time made with minced pork (or could use minced chicken or a mixture of both), cooked the more traditional way - in a loaf tin.
If time is short on the day of eating, the meatloaf can be made the day before, put into the tin - minus the topping, covered then chilled to cook later. The topping can also be made earlier, but placed over the meatloaf just before the end of cooking time).
Herby Pork Meatloaf: serves 4
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 rashers smoked streaky bacon, chopped
1 lb (500g pack) minced pork (see above)
4 oz (100g) fresh breadcrumbs
1 egg, beaten
pinch salt
2 tblsp tomato puree
1 tblsp dried thyme (or mixed dried herbs)
2 rashers smoked streaky bacon
1 oz (25g) breadcrumbs
2 oz (50g) grated cheddar cheese
Fry the onion in the oil for about 4 minutes or until softened then put into a bowl. Add the bacon, minced pork, breadcrumbs, egg, salt, tomato puree and herbs. Mix well then press firmly into a 1lb (450g) loaf tin. Bake uncovered at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for one hour.
To make the topping, dry fry the bacon until crisp then remove from pan. To the bacon fat n the pan add the breadcrumbs for a couple or so minutes until golden. Put crumbs into a dish with the cheese, then crush the bacon into crumbs and add that too.
Five minutes before the end of the cooking time for the meatloaf, sprinkle the topping over the surface and continue cooking for a further 5 minutes or so, until the cheese has melted and is bubbling.
Leave to stand for 10 minutes before running knife between the meatloaf and sides of the tin, then either slice into four whilst still in the tin or upturn onto a plate, then upturn again onto another plate so the topping is seen to be where it should be. At the top!
Slice and serve hot with salad and new potatoes.

My Beloved thoroughly enjoyed himself yesterday cooking his supper almost from scratch. All I needed to do was thaw out the chicken breast for him, slice it in half lengthways (to make sure he cooked it through thoroughly), then put most of the remaining ingredients ready in little dishes for him to use as required. The missing ones (bacon, oil) he knew where they were.
Once made he brought it to me to sample. I thought it tasted a bit salty, he said that was probably the bacon. I asked how much he used (the recipe said 6 rashers - to feed four), and he said he'd used four rashers (he only needed one and a half but he likes bacon). He made quite a good job of it although I'd have liked a little more liquid (sauce). The recipe said 'simmer' for 15 minutes, but 'simmer' to B mean boiling, so the liquid had reduced more than it should.

The above meal was certainly very tasty and am sure B will now be cooking for himself more often. Already he has marked several recipes he wants to try, unfortunately most of them use ingredients I don't normally have (hoisin sauce, fish sauce, spring onions...), but there are several recipes that don't need spending extra. Suppose B could always be asked to buy his own ingredients if necessary. Might give him a better idea of how much food costs these days as am sure he doesn't really that one meal made by me for him alone cost over £6!

Beloved tends to believe that if home-cooked food is cheaper than the prices charged in restaurants then he is having a good deal, but even then often too expensive for me to keep feeding him so (financially) generously. However, because my own meals are frugal (mainly due to dieting), somehow manage to feed B in the way he has been accustomed without going over my budget.

My own supper yesterday was very enjoyable. Decided to make a salad buy shredding up the last of one iceberg lettuce in the fridge (have another not yet started), adding the end of a cucumber (ditto) also chopped, plus a bit of finely chopped onion (left over from B's supper), then folding this together with the creme fraiche/tartare sauce 'dip' made the day previously (some of this dip was used for B's supper replacing the creme fraiche needed - he didn't notice the added tartare sauce).
Then thawed out some cooked frozen prawns and placed those on the salad, finally drizzling over some Thai Sweet Chilli Sauce. A salad full of flavour, and will be making that again. Maybe today.

Yesterday sliced the gammon that had been cooked and chilled overnight in the fridge. This one was absolutely gorgeous. Some seem better than others. Normally I buy gammon (when on offer) from Tesco, the ham cooked a couple of days ago came from Morrison's, slightly more expensive, but only by £1, so will buy gammon from there again As ever - using the slicing machine - got loads of slices from the ham, packed in 4's, so will freeze most of them, leaving a couple of packs for B to make sarnies with (or have with salad).

As it's Saturday - traditionally a day for baking - might make some cakes (that will store) , and probably also a few scones for B to eat later this evening. He is out helping novice sailors late this afternoon (weather permitting - so far we haven't had the high winds forecast but there is still time).

Am still attempting to sort out (aka 'stocktake') the contents of my larder and also fridge and freezers. Have enough jam and marmalade to last B more than a year, so that's one job well done. What is needed is to try and use up many of the dry ingredients that have been on the shelves for over a year (we've only been here 3 years so nothing is THAT old as we brought very little with us).
Also want to have a go at making some mozzarella and maybe another soft cheese (using the Lakeland book). It'll be absolutely brilliant if I can make rather than buy the various soft cheeses that I use (curd cheese, mozzarella, feta, halloumi...) and almost certainly should save a considerable amount of money. All it takes is a little time, and this mostly 'left to get on with it by itself'.

The rain is now falling more heavily, and it is so dark that I can barely see to read my notes. I've know winter days to be brighter. Think I'll take my leave now and move into a room where I can't see the weather, and for once this means lack of windows in the kitchen can today prove to be an advantage.

As ever, whatever the weather, do hope all readers have a pleasant Bank Holiday weekend, and hope that some of you can find a few minutes to have a read, send a comment or two.... Will be back tomorrow and hope to see you then.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Likes and Dislikes

Well, the Hairy Bikers certainly managed that 2.5 stone weight loss they set to achieve in three months, and how good they looked at the end. Have to say their diet wouldn't work for me as they still seemed to eat loads, but then they did do a lot more exercise (cycling and walking etc) so expect that helped more than what they ate.

In one programme they showed how to cut down fat by using a pizza base mix to make a meat pie instead of using puff pastry. This is almost the same type of 'dough' we use when making a 'cobbler' topping for a casserole (similar to scone mix), but instead of cutting it into 'cobbles' (scone shapes), the H.B's used the pizza dough to cover the pie completely as we would do with pastry. Do we really need pastry anyway? Personally I'd just prefer to eat the filling (only more of it).
But then many people (esp men) do like a 'proper' meat pie with a crusty (pref puff) pastry top. As with any dish, we all have our favourites, our likes and dislikes, so we have to try to suit our palates even when dieting, or we never get to enjoy our meals. Perhaps that is what helps with many diets, allowing us only food we are not really fond of, so we end up not eating as much of that just because, so the weight drops off even faster. Must try that approach. Starting with celery.

Agree with you Eden V.M.. the Barefoot Contessa does come across rather bland. Initially I really enjoyed watching her as she seemed very relaxing compared to some of the more frenzied US cooks, also the dishes she cooks also more in the English style than the over-rich mountains of food normally served. Having now watched her several times she does seem to repeat her favourite expressions, and am rapidly going off her.
All the US cooks seem to use a horrendous amount of salt in their dishes, and considering the health implications, cannot understand why they still do this. Whereas we add a bare 'pinch' of salt (and often leave it out altogether), it is common to see a US cook add a tablespoonful, and often more.
Mind you, whatever the implications, a pinch of salt really does help to improve flavour, and certainly when cooking pasta this should be in well-salted water. It isn't as though the pasta absorbs all the salt, most stays in the water, but try cooking the same pasta in two pans, one with salt the other without and you really will notice the difference in taste.

Not sure about onion powder being the same as onion salt Margie as when I've seen it used in the 'Diners, Drive-in, Dives.' prog, they add about a pint of onion powder THEN throw in what looks like nearly the same amount of salt.
At one time in the UK we could buy packs of dried onions to add to casseroles and the like. Anyone know if these are still for sale for then I could grind up the onions to make my own powder? "Why buy powder if you can use the dried onions as-is?" I hear you ask. Well, onion powder stirred into yogurt or creme fraiche, then left to stand for an hour or two (covered and chilled), would then turn it into a well flavoured dip. Tried this once using dried onions and it did work well, but I didn't care for the pieces of onion. Powder would give flavour without the 'bits'.

Made a couple of dips yesterday for my supper, ending up with too much so ate only one, kept the other for today/tomorrow. Divided a tub of creme fraiche in half, and to one added a good spoonful of Korma paste and ditto mango chutney. Blended together these make a very good 'curry dip' which I ate with quarted raw chestnut mushrooms.
To the second I added almost equal quantities of tartare sauce, this ended up a bit bland (the tartare sauce would make a good dip on its own), so today may use that to coat some fish or chicken before crumbing (instead of dipping in egg), or thin it down with a little water and use as a salad dressing.

For some reason B wasn't bothered about supper yesterday. He knew I was making a Treacle Tart, so he said he'd have that, then get himself something else if he wanted anything. Think he is trying to lose a few lbs weight himself, but don't think Treacle Tart is the right thing to eat, especially as he ate half of it last night (baked in a 9"/23cm fairly deep tin).
Also made some cheese straws with the scraps of left-over pastry, these were intended for me to much along with my dip, but when B saw me making them he said he'd like some, I said there might not be enough for two but then he put on his sad puppy-eyed look and so of course I relented and said he could have them all "as I really shouldn't be eating them anyway as I'm trying to lose weight". Am a fool to myself when it comes to B.

At least this morning found my weight has dropped by three pounds since yesterday, so possibly my cuppa soup for lunch, and dip 'n mushrooms for supper did the trick. The cheesestraws might have made a difference in the wrong direction so well done B for being greedy.

Yesterday cooked a gammon to replace the two cooked the other day (which the club ended up having), and today must cook some (brown) bread. Probably cook a chicken dish for supper as B hasn't had any chicken for seemingly days (if not weeks). At one time I used to write down what was made each day so that B had a good balance with no two consecutive days eating the same meat, also try to give at least two servings of fish a week. Must start writing it down again.doing I suppose can look up my old lists and just copy them. B won't remember what he ate several months ago and am sure I jotted down any criticisms he made.

There is a new series on TV at the moment about Italian cookery 'like Mama used to make', and think this may be the one you mentioned Margie. Have only watched one so far - think this was on making different coloured gnocchi (for some reason gnocchi does not tempt me).

It is true the Italians seem to be a very healthy nation, often said to be due to the fact they use a lot of olive oil. But then have read that unlike our 'five a day' (fruit and veg), they normally eat at least 'twelve a day', so maybe that also has something to do with their good health.

Most Italian peasant food is cheap to make probably because (as in parts of France) much of this economy is due to the way the cook would go and gather wild herbage and fruits to make many of her dishes. In a warmer climate there is a lot more edible vegetation to gather than here in the UK, and also the Mediterranian countries tend to be more family orientated and the children - even now - still learn to cook at a very early age, and also learn what wild produce is fit to eat, and what isn't. Certainly in rural areas.
Here I doubt anyone is taught what herbage and fungi growing wild in the UK are edible, and only those really interested are the ones who now bother to find out.

Pasta in Italy was normally made at home, a;hough now more do go and buy it ready 'dried', but this is always the best quality and type for the purpose. Over here we are not so selective.
According to the dish being made we do need the right kind/shape of pasta to coat or hold the sauce served with it. Here in the UK we like to plonk pasta onto a plate then spoon the (spa.bol meat) sauce on top. In Italy the pasta is added to the sauce and folded together so all pieces of pasta get coated with the sauce, and this then means they don't need to use quite as much sauce. A good way to save money on the meat!

Pasta that has a shape that will 'hold' sauce is also good to use when serving with a looser sauce than that of (say) spag. bol meat sauce. So for this we should choose the 'spiral' pasta, or the 'shell-shaped'.
Although there are hundreds of pasta shapes favoured by the Italians, many are very similar, and serve the same purpose in a dish, so we don't really need to even remember names as most pasta is packed in transparent wrapping, so we can see which shape suits the dish we are making, and if it isn't quite the right one, am sure no British person would even realise this.

Myself tend to keep only a few shapes. Spaghetti, pasta penne, lasagne sheets, and fusilli (spiral shaped), also macaroni. Sometimes I buy the 'bows', and do have some orzo (Greek pasta that looks like rice). Cannelloni I sometimes buy but tend to use (softened) lasagne sheets to form tubes (wrapped around a 'sausage' of filling.
Myself would like to extend the range to include 'shells' and tiny pasta shapes to use for soups, but as B ALWAYS prefers to chop his pasta up before eating - even his spaghetti he cuts into inch lengths (never having mastered the art of winding the pasta round a fork to put it into his mouth) - well, not much point in being fussy about the pasta used.

The above has now led me to suggest some easy Italian dishes that we could make. Maybe some of us are already familiar with them, but all recipes today seem to have some adaptation to the traditional, so worth taking a look at least to see if you feel inspired to have a go at these.

First is a risotto made with mushrooms. Wild mushrooms suggested, but ordinary button mushrooms can be used. Chestnut mushrooms are my favourite at the moment as they keep far longer in the fridge than do the normal white 'buttons', and they are also firmer with more flavour.
When risotto is made in the Goode kitchen, chicken stock (home-made of course) is always used, but vegetarian stock is an alternative. White wine really does add to the flavour, but if we have none, then we do without don't we?
Shallot or onion, interchangeable in my kitchen, blue cheese if at all possibly, otherwise use any strong cheese you have. Parmesan traditional for garnishing, but there again I dry off mature cheeses (Cheddar or Red Leicester) until almost rock hard then grate on the finest grater and these make a good substitute for the Parmesan.
Butter - well no good substitute for this as it is all to do with the flavour, but you could omit it and add a drizzle more oil (this time pref extra virgin olive) to take its place.
Mushroom Risotto: serves 4
2 tblsp olive oil
1 shallot or small onion, finely chopped
1 - 2 cloves garlic, crushed
7 oz (200g) risotto rice
1 sprig fresh thyme
2 'handfuls' mushrooms
1 glass white wine (about 350ml)
2 pints chicken or vegetable stock (boiling)
4 oz (100g) blue cheese, crumbled
2 oz (50g) butter, cut into cubes
salt and pepper
grated Parmesan cheese
Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the onion over medium heat for a few minutes until softened, then stir in the garlic and fry for a further minute. Add the rice and thyme and stir to coat with the oil. Raise the heat then gradually pour in the wine, stirring until absorbed by the rice. Add the mushrooms and a ladle of stock, and stir and bubble until the liquid has been absorbed, then continue adding a ladle of stock allowing it to be absorbed before the next ladleful is added. Stir continuously until the rice is tender (takes about 20 minutes), then stir in the blue cheese and butter. Add seasoning to taste. Serve with a scattering of Parmesan on top.

Next recipe uses 'orecchiette' pasta - worth seeking as being 'ear shaped' it holds a sauce well. Shell shaped pasta could be used instead. At a pinch use 'fusilli'.
If you don't have rocket leaves, use watercress, mixed salad leaves, or - if nothing else - just shredded iceberg.
Pasta Salad with Tuna and Red Onions: serves 4
1 red onion, finely sliced
zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 tblsp capers, rinsed and drained
2 tblsp olive oil
salt and pepper
7 oz (300g) orecchiette pasta (see above)
2 x 185g cans tuna, drained then flaked
4 oz (100g) rocket leaves (see above)
Put the onions, lemon zest and juice, capers and oil in a bowl and toss well together. Add seasoning to taste.
Cook the pasta as per packet instructions, then rinse under the cold water tap, draining well.
Toss the pasta with the onion and lemon 'dressing'. Add the tuna and toss again. Cover and leave in the fridge until ready to serve. Add the rocket (or other leaves) just before serving to prevent wilting.

Bucatini is pasta that looks like spaghetti but slightly thicker and hollow with a hole running through the centre of each length. If you can't find this, spaghetti makes a good substitute.
Bucatini amatricaiana: serves 4
1 large onion, grated
1 - 2 cloves garlic, crushed
4 rashers back bacon (fat removed) chopped
1 tblsp olive oil
dash Tabaso sauce
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
14 oz (400g) bucatini or spaghetti
handful fresh parsley, chopped
Fry the onion, bacon and garlic in the oil for a few minutes until softened. Stir in the Tabasco and canned tomatoes and simmer for 20 minutes.
While the above is cooking, cook the pasta as per packet instructions, then drain. Fold the sauce into the pasta and sprinkle on the parsley. Serve immediately.

To prove how similar, yet how different a dish can be, here is another version of the above.
Speedy Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce: serves 4
10 oz (300g) spaghetti
1 can plum tomatoes
4 tblsp olive oil
7 oz (200g) diced bacon
2 - 3 cloves garlic, crushed
salt and pepper
6 oz (175g) soft, rindless goat's cheese (opt)
handful basil leaves, shredded
1 tblsp chopped chives
Cook the pasta as per packet instructions. Drain the tomatoes and chop up (the plum tomatoes have more flavour than the canned already chopped).
Heat 1 tblsp of the oil in a frying pan and fry the bacon until beginning to crisp, then stir in the garlic, the tomatoes, the rest of the oil and seasoning to taste. Heat through to simmering (if you wish for a looser sauce, then add some of the drained juice from the tomatoes).
Drain the cooked pasta, add the pasta to the sauce and toss until coated. Serve with crumbled goat's cheese (if using) and a garnish of the herbs.

Although a slightly more expensive dish than I normally suggest making, this next is typically Italian. A more economical version would be to turn it into 'British, substituting very thinly sliced ham instead of the 'serrano or Parma', Wensleydale instead of the feta cheese, and home-grown mixed salad leaves (or even iceberg lettuce) instead of rocket. As to the sourdough bread, up to use which type of bread we choose. We could even use Irish soda bread.
Italian Salad with Crostini: serves 6
1 sourdough loaf
olive oil
18 slices serrano or Parma ham (see above)
7 oz (200g) feta cheese (see above)
40 black olives
handful rocket leaves
1 tblsp runny honey
Slice the bread into 12 thickish slices and brush each with a little olive oil. Grill in batches until the outsides are crisp but still soft inside.
Arrange the ham on a large platter, then break the feta into chunks and scatter these over the ham. Add the olives and rocket. When ready to serve, drizzle over a little olive oil and the honey. Serve with the 'crostini' on a separate plate for everyone to help themselves.

Final recipe today is for a spag. bol. meat sauce. We all have our own favourite ways of making this, and although this version is not traditional, it is the way I choose as it is both tasty and economical with the meat. Nowadays I make an even speedier version by using pre-cooked mince that has been slow cooked in my 'crock-pot', but this recipe makes it from scratch.
Depending upon whether the traditional recipe comes from the South, Middle or North of Italy, spag. bol meat sauce is made with mince beef, or a mixture of minced beef and minced pork, or just minced pork. So we could use either or both meats according to what we have.

Normally hope to add a glass of red wine to this dish when cooking, and it is even better if the meat is put into a bowl, the wine poured over and left to marinate overnight in the fridge before frying (cook any remaining meat juices/wine to the dish when you add the other liquids). One Italian chef on TV recommends pouring the oil over the meat and working it through with the fingers to help separate the grains then frying it off in a dry pan. Said to prevent the meat 'clumping' together when fried. This does seem to work.

When I haven't home-made beef stock, then add a crumbled stock cube with water to the pan. If for some reason the meat sauce ends up too runny/slack, then stir in a teaspoon or so of Bisto beef gravy granules, this gives even more meat flavour as well as helping to thicken. Adding a handful of porridge oats will also help thickening, and as oats contain protein this is another way to reduce the meat content when counting our pennies. Haven't yet tried making a spag.blo 'meat' sauce with just veg and oats, together with plenty of well flavoured beef stock. It might work, it might not, but certainly worth thinking about when it comes to making a chilli con carne as the heat of the dish, tends to hide the flavour of ingredients used. More to do with texture in the mouth I suppose. Really must give that one a try.
Shirley's Spag. Bol. Meat Sauce: serves 4
1 oz (50g) butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, finely chopped
2 ribs celery, finely sliced
1 tblsp tomato puree
4 oz (100g) minced beef
5 oz (150g) minced pork
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
5 fl oz (150ml) beef stock
good dash Worcestershire sauce
good dash HP sauce
salt and pepper
handful button mushrooms, sliced or roughly chopped
grated Parmesan
Put the butter in a saucepan over low heat, then add the onion, carrots and celery. Stir until coated with the butter, then put on a lid and leave to saute (fry and steam in their own juices) for about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, put the oil into a frying pan and add the beef and pork. Stir-fry until browned all over, then add the tomato puree and sauteed vegetables. Mix well to combine, then pour in the chopped tomatoes and beef stock, also stirring in the W. sauce and HP. Simmer, uncovered, over low heat until thickened. Fold in the mushrooms and cook for a few more minutes. Taste and add seasoning if necessary.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta as per packet instructions, then drain well and stir this into the meat sauce. Serve with grated Parmesan to sprinkle on top.

My Beloved has just come in with another mug of coffee for me (how kind), and says he'd like to have a go at making some of the recipes he's been reading that are in some very small booklets that I leave lying on my desk (he comes and sits here to play games on the comp but obviously reads my books too). He says if I gather the ingredients together then he will cook his own supper. Not supper for both of us (how mean) , but perhaps, knowing his lack of understanding of cooking procedures, perhaps better he practices on himself first.
Maybe today he will cook his own supper, that will leave me free to put my feet up and watch more Food Network.

Thankfully, yesterday managed to sort out all the plastic tubs, find lids to fit most of them, then B took the remainder off to the tip with other rubbish. The tubs are still in the corner 'carousel', but able to be fitted into two deep bowls on the bottom shelf, the rest of my (many) assorted sized mixing bowls, plus some small serving dishes, stored on the remaining lower shelf and all the upper shelf.
This has left space for me now to keep most of my baking tins together on an open shelf in the kitchen (the rest being stored in the cupboard under the cooking (cupboard door removed so tins now easily visible). How much easier now it will be to find what I want the moment I want it.

Time moves relentlessly by, so must now take my leave and get on making bread et al. Will be back as usual tomorrow and hope to see you then.