Sunday, September 30, 2012

Posh Nosh

No call from Gill today as she is visiting her son for a short holiday.  Even so, still have a lot of things I want to catch up on as yesterday felt so tired I spent most of the day sitting in my chair and nodding off, then went to bed early.  Today feel much more energetic so want to get on whilst the mood is with me.

You made some good purchases Jane, and with what you already have you should be able to keep going for months without having to buy very much more than just the usual top up of 'fresh' (milk, eggs etc.  You mentioned keeping butternut squash in your fridge, but if left as-is (not cut into), these keep really well on top of a shelf for months.  I keep one bought this spring in my onion basket and it is still perfectly usable. 
Your remark about eating well on a tight budget rather than eating the cheaper junk food is interesting for it is surprising how much 'junk food' is more expensive than the cheaper 'fresh'.  Even though the ingredients for these 'junkies' are cheap enough, they still charge us a lot more just for the  the convenience of not having to do any cooking at all.  So all who are prepared to roll up their sleeves and return to home-cooking will not only save a lot of money but eat far healthier and better meals than we are likely to ever buy over the counter.

When it comes to feeding your dog (once grown past eating puppy food), try - if you can - to avoid buying canned dog food as this is often more expensive than a can of human food.  Start as you mean to go on and buy and cook the dog cheaper meat, offal, offcuts, tripe etc that the butcher can provide for this very purpose.  You can also add any leftover veg, from your own meals etc to the dog's dinner. 
Many dog owners take advantage of the chicken carcases that butchers often give away and cook these to make stock for themselves and also remove the flesh to give the dog.  However you need to be very careful to make sure you have removed all the tiny bones that are often missed.

Strange to read your request for suggestions for a 'Royal Meal' Cheesepare, as only a few minutes previously I'd just sent an email giving a buffet menu for a 'posh nosh' that someone had requested.
Not sure though if you meant a buffet or a proper 'dinner'. 
My buffet menu gave a variety of choices: canapes (assorted pate toppings), blinis topped with caviare, cheese profiteroles, melon and Parma ham, smoked salmon and cucumber etc, Game Pie, a meat platter (ham cornets, beef rolls etc). More substantial would be Coronation Chicken, mixed leaf or Caesar salad..... Desserts suggested were Tarte au Citron, Millionaire's Shortbread, Strawberries set in Champagne jelly,  Chocolate cases filled with Rum Truffle....   Maybe even a selection of cheeses.
Certainly if to be served locally (Morecambe) then Morecambe Bay potted shrimps would HAVE to be on the menu.  Maybe as a starter, or the fish course, served with toasted artisan bread - baked at a famous Cumbrian bakery.  The main course I think could be salt-marsh lamb (also local to Morecambe),  perhaps followed by a selection of local cheeses with Bath Oliver biscuits, and dessert could be Cumberland Rum Nicky served with local cream? Or perhaps (if the season is right) a damson ice-cream (our region is famous for this fruit).
The content of a meal such as above may seem a bit 'ordinary' when written down, but how it is presented will lift it from the 'common folk' level to that fit to serve to any monarch, and generally food traditional to a region is always enjoyed.  I didn't include Lancashire Hot-Pot, but then who knows - if a very cold day, then this too might be really appreciated.
That's what I've come up with as 'first thoughts'.  Given more time I might come up with something a lot better (and probably would). 

Your suggestion to use liver and onions in a striking is a good one C.P., and mushrooms alone also make a good 'strog', especially when fried off in a little beef dripping with maybe a few beef gravy granules added to thicken and add beef flavour.
Also a good idea to add instant potato to yogurt as a way to avoid it splitting when being cooked. Some years ago I used 'pomme fecule' (potato flour) it worked in the same way as cornflour, so 'instant potato' then has the same effect.  This also worked better when thickening gravy when freezing a casserole etc, as normally the water in gravy freezes into crystals and then dissolves into just water once thawed and all the 'thickness' is lost.

Not a good day today, rain and wind back again and it does seem to be turning chillier.  It's now obvious how much rain we have had as the bark on the very thick trunk of our old apple tree has turned quite black as it has soaked up all the rain.  Normally the bark is cracked and a mixture of pale and darker grey and until this year it has never got wet enough to change colour.  Last week it was black all over after several days of heavy rain from all directions, then dried out.  Today it is jet black on the south side, and it is not very attractive to look at - quite ominous in fact. 
Doubt we could even walk across our lawn as it would probably 'squelch' with each step, leaving a puddle behind.  This is perhaps why a previous owner built a huge and deep fish pond across one corner of this garden, maybe a 'catchment' area for the surplus water to drain into.   B has since filled this with big stones/rocks then topped this off with gravel, but today even that looks a bit more than wet. 

At least a miserable day means I can make a delicious casserole to warm us up.  All I have to do now is decided which meat to use.  Lamb, chicken or beef.  Will have to go into the kitchen to take a look at what's in the freezer that I have the most of, and then make my decision.  On the other hand might make a curry (again could be beef, chicken or lamb).  Will first ask B which meal he prefers and then start the preparations.

I see Gordon Ramsay's Ultimate Cookery Series will still be on next week, and later in the evening there will be another prog with Gordon R. plus other 'professionals' (Kirstie Allsopp etc), something to do with showing/training people the way to run a hotel.  Sounds interesting.

Against my better judgement watched a repeat of the British 'Cup Cake Wars', and hated it even more than the first time.  What was more interesting was the following programme that showed the 'behind the scenes' (think Eileen mentioned in an earlier comment she had seen this when first shown), and to me this was familiar territory as it showed how much activity can go on that viewers never see.  The very first time I did TV (and I was scared out of my wits) took about 5 hours to film a ten-minute slot that was fitted into a programme called 'Indoors Outdoors'.   It is very difficult (even now) for me to appear 'natural' when I've been filmed about 6 times (from different angles) having to say the same thing in exactly the same way (and move my head, arms, hands and deal with the food exactly the same each time) just so they can edit the different shots together to make it look 'more interesting' when shown.  The times I would get screamed at 'you've now put the pepper mill back too far over to the left, we'll have to do the take again'.  No wonder I ended up a nervous wreck.
But you get used to it, and eventually I got quite 'professional', making few mistakes (if any) the first time round that I got known as 'one-take Shirley'. 

But have now reached my dead-line of 10.30 so will say my farewell for today.  Whatever the weather, do hop you all enjoy your day and - as ever - am looking forward to reading your comments and hope you will return again tomorrow.   See you then.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Weekend Chat...

Not a lot happening at the moment, most days are much the same although am trying to become a little more interested in 'what to make for supper' now that I have the 'fresh' that needs to be used up.
Yesterday B had a pave steak with a mixed salad for his supper.  Salad being spinach, rocket and watercress and shredded loose-leaf lettuce.  To add extra flavour mixed in some finely sliced red onion and two or three chopped Peppadew.  Instead of mayo (B doesn't like this), made a cheesy dressing by blending in the grated end of a bit of (old) Stilton that I found in the fridge, together with some creme fraiche and a bit of double cream.  B really liked that and it went well with the steak.

Myself had a big bowl of above salad, adding cucumber to mine (B doesn't like 'cukes') plus a few chunks of cooked ham, all bound with the above cheese dressing, and have to say it did taste good.
(The idea for the cheesy dressing was from Sunny Anderson's cookery yesterday - so watching the Food Network is giving me new ideas, each time I watch I learn a new way to make something (but not always the right way compared to how we do it in the UK).

Felt a bit sad yesterday after watching 'How we Won the War' (BBC 2 early evenings), as yesterday this episode covered the Midlands and I saw photos of Coventry taken after the Blitz.  It brought back memories of the day after when my dad took my mum and me into the devastation in the city and seeing it was like being back there again.  That afternoon my parents took in two families whose houses had been bombed flat, and they stayed with us for several days until they were able to travel and stay with relatives.  With no gas, electricity and no water (due to pipes being bombed) my mother had to cook for the lot (and no extra rations for the 'refugees') over a coal fire in our front room.  Think all she seemed to make was porridge, well that's all I can remember.

There have been several programmes on TV about the war years, and those (like Wartime Farm) show how difficult times were for people when rationing began.  Then  - as the war continued - quite a few rationed foods were decreased as supplies ran out.  After watching a prog yesterday about ships being hit/sunk, B said that at one point there was only 3 weeks food rations left, after that we would starve.  Luckily something occurred to prevent that disaster happening, but hearing things like that makes me realise (again and again) how very fortunate we are today to have the abundance of food in supermarkets etc.,  even though prices continue to rise.  

As Frugal Queen mentioned, a shortage of fats and eggs during the war made things difficult and this made me think of how it is today in the Goode kitchen for now rarely need to use a 'bought' fat/oil as always save all the fat that comes from the top of chilled stock (beef and chicken), the fat that leaches out of sausages when oven cooked, and last week got lots of fat when I 'roasted' the thick skin with its layer of fat that I removed from the gammon once it had been cooked (boiled). 
Nutritionists would say it is unhealthy saturated fat, but believe me - I just don't care because it's free and so far it hasn't done any harm to B's and my cholesterol (checked fairly regularly), so feel fairly comfortable using it.  But that's the way I look at it, doesn't mean it is the right thing to do. But am sure this was done in wartime and doubt that many folk developed health problems because of it.

When I extend a bought bread mix Campfire, I normally add half the weight of the pack (sometimes less, but no more).  My bread mixes are usually in 500g packs, so I weigh out 250g of strong bread flout and add it to 'readymix', there is normally enough yeast with (or already mixed in) the pack to raise extra flour without adding more.  The amount of extra water needed is half that shown for the 500g (if it is 300ml water, you would then need 300ml + 150ml + 450ml).  If using only a quarter more flour (175g)  you would need to add a quarter more water (75ml).  Most bread mixes use a little more water than I said, much depends on whether the mix is for brown bread or white,  but following the above suggestion it should be easy enough to work out how much to use.

Good to hear Sairy that your family are happy to accept 'hand-me-downs', and how much money this will save them during these hard times.   Myself love to have furniture around our home that belonged to my parents, again brings back memories, and would love to hope that some of it will be accepted by our children and grandchildren once we've popped our clogs.

Gordon Ramsay has been showing 'slow cooking' over a couple of days last week and this certainly showed how succulent and very tasty the cheaper cuts of meat can be when slow-roasted/braised.  Think this is my most favourite way of cooking the larger 'cuts',  and now it is very rare that I do a proper 'roast' at high temperature, for one thing the tender cuts are now far too expensive for me to even consider buying, and silverside and/or brisket will give as good a joint of 'roast beef' as the more costly topside.

Having recently given recipes that use desiccated coconut, have a couple of others to offer.  For the first, if we can 'forage' for the wild blackberries and freeze them they are wonderful when eaten out of season in (say) apple and blackberry pie, in fresh fruit salads, and even made into a jam/jelly to serve with game birds or venison (if we can afford those). Or make this 'traybake'.
With oats being an ingredient in both recipes, they end up as healthy snack to nibble or pack in a lunchbox.
Blackberry and Coconut Traybake: makes 12 squares
8 oz (225g) self-raising flour
2 oz (50g) porridge oats
10 oz (280g) soft brown sugar
8 oz (225g) butter, chilled and diced
3 oz (75g) desiccated coconut
2 eggs, beaten
12 oz (350g) fresh or frozen blackberries
Put the flour, oats, and sugar into a bowl and rub in the flour (using fingertips - don't process) until the butter has broken down to about pea-sized pieces.  Fold in the coconut then fill a tea-cup or mug with some of the mixture and set this aside.
Stir the eggs into the remaining mixture, then when well mixed tip this onto a greased and lined 9" (23cm) tin, levelling the surface, then scatter the blackberries on top, covering these with the dry mix that had been set aside.
Bake for one hour (or slightly more) at 180C, 350F, gas 4 until golden and cooked through.  Leave to cool in the tin , then cut into squares.

Nutty Coconut Oats with Chocolate: makes 12
8 oz (225g) porridge oats
1 oz (25g) desiccated coconut
5 oz (150g) butter
2 oz (50g) light muscovado sugar
5 tblsp golden syrup
5 oz (150g) chopped mixed nuts (almonds, peanuts, etc)
2 oz (50g) dried cranberries, cherries or other dried fruit
4 oz (100g) milk or dark chocolate
Put the oats and coconut into a bowl.  In a saucepan put the butter, sugar, and syrup and heat gently, stirring occasionally,  until the sugar has dissolved and the butter has melted, then remove from heat and add the oat mixture, the nuts and dried fruit, mixing everything well together.  Leave until cold then cut two-thirds of the chocolate into small chunks and fold this into the mixture.
Spoon or tip the mix into a greased and base-lined 9" (23cm) cake tin and spread to fill, levelling the surface.  Bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 25 - 30 minutes until pale golden.  Remove from oven and mark into squares whilst still warm, but leave to get completely cold before cutting all the way through.  Before removing from the tin, melt the remaining chocolate and drizzle this over the top of the bars and leave to set before removing squares from the tin.
These bars will keep for a good week in an airtight tin.

Because time has moved on a bit too rapidly, must now finish and get on with my chores (plenty of these waiting for me).  Hope you all have a good weekend and I'll be back again tomorrow.  See you then.


Friday, September 28, 2012

Always Something...

Watching 'Wartime Farm' yesterday again brought back memories of those 'austerity days', and how difficult it was to manage on the meagre rations allowed.  People who lived in rural areas could get a lot more 'free food' by foraging for herbage, fruits and fungi, and killing some wild-life to supplement their meat ration.  Even seen soapwort gathered as a substitute for soap was an advantage for the rural folk.  Townsfolk must have had it very hard.
My B remembers his family keeping chickens (mainly for eggs, eating only those old birds past laying) and also keeping rabbits in small hutches, again for meat - and this in a tiny back yard at the back of a row of terraced houses.  But both helped to eke out the ration.  People who kept hens were allowed a 'ration' of chicken feed to help out, and I've got a book, first published in wartime, that give many economical ways to feed chickens that would work just as well today.

Watching programmes such as the above should constantly remind me that life now is pretty easy compared to what it was in my youth.  So why do I keep finding something to moan about when I should be sitting back and being grateful for what we have now?   Like the lady in the above prog. I am always thankful for having a washing machine that can be loaded and then left to get on with it all by itself (except that our very old one now does need a nudge after about 5 minutes once started or it stays stuck on the first cycle).  Memories of having three children (the third born before the first was three years old), and the mountains of washing (think of all those nappies, terry towel and muslin, changed several times a day), all having to be done by hand in the sink, bath, or boiled in a large pan on top of the stove, the rinsing, the wringing out by hand, and the praying for good weather to hang out the washing on the line that went round three sides of our garden.  When the weather was bad the washing had to be dried indoors - and we had no central heating, just one coal fire (with a large brass-rimmed nursery fire-guard round it).  Yet somehow it all got done.

We all get depressed about the cost of things now, and rightly so, but perhaps a lot of it could be our fault.  Compared to life how it used to be - making things last, then handing things down to children when they got married so they didn't have to buy 'new', well who does that these days?  Everyone wants to start from scratch and it also has to be 'new' even though really good quality (and I do mean QUALITY) furniture, crockery, cutlery etc can be bought for very few pounds from auction houses, where the same things could cost £100s if bought 'new'. 

The other day B had been chatting to 'upstairs' and he said he'd take the rubbish they leave in 'their' shed (sited at the side of our back door) - as they don't have transport.  In the shed was a set of bookshelves and B asked if they didn't want it, could we have it?  They said we could have anything in the shed that we wanted (also in their garage). 
Yesterday B brought in the bookshelves and I was amazed.  These were large and well made with solid wood and also very heavy.  These have ended up in our bedroom - along with a set of drawers that someone else also didn't need, and now B can keep all his books tidily (he always reads in bed before going to sleep, one reason why I got to bed later as I fall asleep more rapidly in a dark room), and he can also keep all his clean laundry in the drawers instead of piling it up on top of the linen basket in the corner.  He has fitted wardrobes across the other end of the room, half for my use, and half for his, but he just can't be bothered to put his clothes in his drawers as this means he has to walk across the room to do so when he wants clean ones.  And yes, I know it is my job to put the laundry away on the correct shelves and in the drawers, but B still prefers his clean 'smalls' to be very close to hand when he gets up in the morning.

Dave, the upholstery man who B had been working with, phoned me yesterday (whilst I was blogging), and said he'd another bag of remnants for me.  B fetched them later that day and now I have a huge pile of the most wonderful quality furnishing fabric (many a 'plush' type) that I'm hoping to be able to use to recover a Victorian rocking chair, and also a 'pouffe' as the colours are perfect for our living room. Will also make cushion covers, and  'throws'.  The really thick/stiff fabric would make good bags.  Am sure our daughter will be able to use some of it.  The rest am not sure what to do with, but all far too good to throw away.

We have a welcome to give to Little Rosie, who has the same problem as I do - not understanding modern day music.  She is also concerned about the crop failures, but we have to think positive as in pre-war day we had to rely mostly on locally grown produce, nowadays we are fortunate to be able to import food from all over our globe.  So we won't do without, it could just cost us more. But not necessarily.

Before I move on to the next comment, must say a few words about B and myself as we are now both losing weight, slowly but surely, and only since I began having the veggie box delivery.  Is this a coincidence?  Think what is more likely is that as I'm now serving more veggies (the fresh HAVE to be used up rather than stored as otherwise it is not worth paying the extra for the quality), so meals are now more 'old fashioned', meat and two veg etc (or in the Goode kitchen more likely to be meat and four - or more - veg).  Far less pastry, pasta, rice, cakes and biscuits have been consumed by B, and in my case think it is the extra fibre that is doing the trick.

Having been told of B's weight loss yesterday, he then asked me not to bake 'treats' for him, as he is trying (successfully) to stop his incessant snacking after his main meal,  so that makes life a bit easier for me really.  Tonight he will have a pan-fried steak with salad (easy-peasy as he now likes to fry his own steak), and myself will make a gynormous salad for my own supper, maybe eating it with a bit of home-cooked ham.

Back to the comments.  Thanks to Catriona who has offered to download Graceland to me via my email, and thanks for the offer, but for many reasons I prefer not to give out my email address.  As I can normally listen to any music via one of the Internet sites, can always listed to what I want, when I want (which I have to say is rarely).
Not taking "No" for an answer certainly worked at your bank Catriona, and I think far too many of us give in a bit too easily these days as more and more we get fobbed off when we want some immediate action.  A threat to remove our funds to another bank (or patronise another supermarket/shop) usually works well when we feel we are not getting enough attention to our needs.

A welcome to Jackie, who finds life today is full of the 'annoyances' I wrote about yesterday. But as to being a guest blogger on your new site Jackie, thanks for that but maybe there could be a way I can just send what you need via your comment box, or by another route because as I said above, I don't give out my email address.

Sunny Anderson (Food Network) is becoming another 'annoyance'.  I quite like her speedy method of cooking and the food she prepares, but her constant and very fast 'chatter' is getting on my nerves.  Yet, having done TV myself and always told not to stay silent between 'activities' - always explaining what is being done, and why - can understand the need to keep talking, but best keep it to the culinaries and not squeeze in so many anecdotes.  By the end of her half-hour my head is whizzing round and I've just about forgotten how she put the meal together.

The Barefoot Gourmet (Ina Garten) is a good example of how a cookery demonstration should be, she is relaxed, casual, and if she can keep away from using the word 'perfect' so often, this is a series well worth watching.  She talks throughout but only just enough.  Possibly it is the production that make the difference, with Sunny we see everything done 'in the moment' and usually at a distance, with B.G. we often see close-ups of chopping etc (usually these are edited in), so words don't always need to be spoken over.

It does sound as though Vancouver was originally from the Netherlands Sairy, and came to England to help build the dykes in the Hunstanton 'Fen' area.   Were Dick Van Dyke's ancestors also from Holland (as we tend to call the Netherlands) I wonder?  He is one of the well-known film actors that I really admire as he seems to have a very stable family life (unlike most of the rest, although the 'Bridges' family (Lloyd, Beau and Jeff and siblings...) also close, and this I know as Lloyd was the uncle of my daughter's best friend (he married the friend's mother's sister).

Hope your family have good weather this weekend at Scarborough Jane, and also you manage to get a good day on your trip over next Monday, even though only for the day.

Now that the wind has brought down apples from the trees, we need to find a way to use up the 'fallings', and the first recipe today makes good use of these, but can also be used with ordinary 'bought' apples.  This is a perfect pudding for this time of year as it can launch the start of the more comforting desserts we need once the weather turns cold.

Eve's Pudding: serves 4
1 lb (450g) cooking apples (or use dessert fallings)
3 oz (75g) soft brown sugar
grated zest and juice of one small lemon
1 tblsp water
3 oz (75g) butter, softened
3 oz (75g) caster sugar
1 large egg, beaten
4 oz (100g) self-raising flour
approx 2 fl.oz (50ml) milk
Peel, core and slice apples and put into a greased 1.5pt (900ml) ovenproof dish.  Sprinkle the brown sugar on top, add the lemon zest, juice and water.
Put the butter and caster sugar into a bowl and cream together until light and fluffy, then beat in the egg.  Fold in the flour with enough milk to give a dropping consistency, then spoon this mixture over the apples.  Place in the oven and bake for 30 - 35 minutes at 180C, 350F, gas 4 or until the sponge topping is risen and golden.  Serve hot with cream or custard.

A quite economical dish made with apples is the 'Charlotte' as it can use up stale bread.  This classic dish has been served for many centuries I'm sure, and is due for a return to our table.  Am assuming a large loaf is the one used, and if already sliced, then you would need approx 10 slices.
Apple Charlotte: serves 4 - 6
half loaf white bread (see above)
2 lb (1kg) cooking apples, peeled, cored and sliced
4 oz (100g) white granulated or demerara sugar
1 lemon
1 tblsp water
half tsp ground cinnamon
4 oz (100g) butter, melted
1 tblsp caster sugar
Remove crusts from bread and if using an uncut loaf, cut into slices.
Put the prepared apples into a pan with the gran. sugar, zest and juice of the lemon, the cinnamon and water. Simmer until the apples are softened and just breaking up, then remove from heat and leave to cool.
Meanwhile, dip the bread slices in the melted butter and line a greased baking dish with some of the bread, cutting to fit if necessary, then fill with the cooked apples and the liquid in the pan, placing more bread on top.
Cover loosely with greased baking parchment (or foil) and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for half an hour.  Invert onto a plate (so the bottom then becomes the top) and sprinkle over the caster sugar. Serve hot with cream or custard.

One more apple recipe, this time more of a 'savoury' soup that is filling enough when served with a little grated cheese and chunky bread to make a hearty meal in its own right.  As parsnips can vary in size from thin to thick, myself would use the largest, then peel and remove core before using the flesh.
Apple and Parsnip Soup: serves 4
3 eating apples, peeled and cored
1 onion, chopped
4 parsnips (see above)
1 oz (25g) butter
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1.75 pints (1 ltr) vegetable stock
salt and pepper
4 fl oz (100ml) cream
2 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
Put the apples, onions and parsnips into a pan with the butter over low heat, then saute (sweat) for 10 minutes until softened and just beginning to change colour.  Stir in the garlic, fry for a further minute, then add the stock.  Add seasoning to taste, bring to the boil then reduce heat, cover and leave to simmer for 20 minutes.
Either transfer pan contents to a blender and whizz for a few seconds or use a stick blender and bring soup to a puree in the pan.  Either way the soup needs to end up in the pan to be reheated.
When ready, check seasoning, stir in the cream and serve in individual bowls, sprinkled with parsley.

Final recipe today is a great way to get children to eat veggies they often say they dislike, and although this version is based on carrots, it would also work with parsnips, and maybe include a few shredded Brussels sprouts?
Carrot Fritters: serves 4
1 lb 6 oz (600g) carrots, coarsely grated
1 onion, grated
4 oz (100g) Cheddar cheese, grated
1 tsp ground cumin
salt and pepper
3 tblsp flour
2 eggs, beaten
2 fl oz (50ml) single cream
7 fl oz (200m) milk
2 tblsp sunflower oil
Put the carrots, onion, cheese and cumin into a bowl, adding salt and pepper to taste.
In another bowl put the flour, then gradually beat in the eggs, cream and finally the milk.  Fold this into the carrot mixture. 
Heat a large frying pan, and when hot add the oil, then drop in large spoonfuls of the mixture and fry over medium heat for approx. 3 minutes on each side or until the fritters are golden brown.  Remove using a fish slice and drain on kitchen paper.  Keep warm whilst frying the rest of the mixture.

Since we've begun to use the central heating have discovered that once the rooms are warmed up early in the day, they do tend to keep their heat until bed-time, so we've now begun to have the heating on for just a couple of hours each morning, and then over-ride the timer so it doesn't come on later in the day.
That's probably been the problem with me - always sitting in a very cold room that just needed warming up a bit.  Our bad and wet summer has been partly to blame as the house seems to hold the damp cold, and this doesn't help.  A quick dry out and all is well again.

Perhaps we should have been aware of this dampish atmosphere as B discovered and industrial 'thingy' (name forgotten) that extracts damp air from rooms (de-humidifier has just come to mind). Unfortunately he got rid of it (sold it I think), but it was probably needed in the past when our apartment was left empty over many months.  It was empty a year before we moved in (and it still doesn't feel like home - will it ever?  How I wish we had stayed in Leeds, if Ernie comes up with a big win I'll probably move back there and B can either come with me or stay put).

You see, I'm almost having a moan again.  Other folk would be GLAD to live in a lovely home so close to the sea.  But shouldn't life - at least at the end of our days - be what we wish it to be and not what others want?  All through life I seem to have given up almost everything trying to raise my family in often the most difficult circumstances, yet it's all taken for granted.  'Get a life' seems the expression of today, well I've yet to get one.
And there you go - again not satisfied with my lot.  But then would I ever be?  Others will say I should make the most of what I have, and they would be right. If I can do that with food, why can't I do that with 'real life'?   Am fed up with feeling like the Lady of Shalott who sees nothing of life other than through a looking glass.  I don't even bother to look through the windows much any more, so really must do something about it.

Deary me, what am I moaning about?  All I need is to change my routine and find something else to do other than write my blog and cook for B.  Step into the outside world and see what that has to offer.  Have just about talked myself into have a scoot.  Let us see if the weather keeps fair enough for me to do so. 

But whatever the weather, my blog will again be written tomorrow, so hope to see you then.


Thursday, September 27, 2012


So much seems to annoy me these days, and whether it is the 'way the world is going' or just old age I don't know, but am getting more and more irritated each day.  Usually by what I see on TV because I rarely leave the house these days.

Last night was no exception, there was I watching 'Food Hospital' - an interesting programme giving food for thought - and nearly ended up throwing ping-pong balls at the screen as there were far too many 'nods and winks' (as TV directors call them). 
When I first did my TV prog, there was only one camera, so working with Zena Skinner (a well known cook at that time), they would first film me, then I'd have to do it all again with Zena, then they would film Zena alone without any input from me, she had not to say anything but looking interested, or nodding etc.  These would then be edited in to make it appear she was listening to what I was saying at the time.
Yesterday there was a lot of that, especially at the 'hospital', and although both presenters (male and female) did a lot of 'nods and winks', the female - nutritionist I think she was - looked quite false.  Spoilt the prog I felt, , B also remarked there seemed to be a lot of 'padding' to the series - this after he had twice seen the same shot of a tractor driving up a field.
So you see how easy it is for me to get irritated.

My major - and continuing - irritation at the moment is the constant repeat of the trailer for the British Cup Cake war.  If I hear that English (but now living in American for many years)  woman scream 'making cup cakes for the QUEEN!" and burning her fruit compote and screaming "I'll have to do it AGAIN!!!!!"  say it just once more, then I'll start screaming.  It is all so FALSE.

Thankfully Gordon Ramsays programme brings me back to earth, as does The Great British Bake-off. The latter too has its share of panic, such as dropped trays of cake, not to mention the man nearly cutting his finger off when he stuck it into a working Magimix!  But all done with the best possible taste and lack of noise.   Maybe a tear is wept when something has gone really wrong, but again a gentle sob with plenty of comfort from the other participants.  All very gentle, and maybe that is why we (as a nation) are known as 'a soft touch'.  I bet no other nation would take in asylum seekers etc then give those with a large family a large house to live in and then money (as benefits) to pay for everything they want.  It often seems that 'true Brits' (like those who are elderly and especially those who have fought for the country) are pushed to the end of the queue when it comes to entitlements.  

Obviously my day for moaning.  If the sun was shining maybe I'd feel better, but have woken to another wet day, and this doesn't bode well for the northern part of the country as the floods are getting worse.  Seeing (on TV) the York streets under deep water, and a few towns unable to reach from one side to the other as their bridges are also under water, and a high-rise block of flats expected to collapse due to the foundations being (presumably) loosened by the flood water, it all makes me wonder what will happen next. 

It is unlikely now that we will get any long dry spells between now and winter, and even if we did the sun wouldn't give enough heat to give drought conditions so the soil could then absorb winter rain/snow, so - if we continue to get rain - the probability is that field crops would be ruined, and although we do import many vegetables, obviously shortages would mean rising prices (again).

Since I've change to buying really fresh veg, this has really changed the way I cook. Previously, although I always bought plenty of 'fresh' fruit and veg, most of these have all had a longish 'shelf-life'.  Even salads such as tomatoes, iceberg lettuce, spring onions...can be kept for a week or so, as can oranges, lemons, apples.   Root vegetables, potatoes and onions also keep well for weeks, and my fresh 'greens' were either white cabbage or cauliflower - both keep well for several weeks in the fridge, the others (peas, string bean, Brussels sprouts, broccoli...) were frozen.   So have never had the 'urgency' to use up 'the fresh' as I now have to do with my now 'very fresh' as it has become obvious (by taste) that the soonest used the better. 

Each day I check what needs to be used up (and thankfully most of the short-term veg have been) so depending on what seasonal veg is offered next week may well be ordering a small box.  Or might wait a further week and order a larger one again (as it works out cheaper by amount/weight).

However, today am not giving recipes for main meals, instead am offering a couple of 'bakes' as have discovered I've a big bag of dessicated coconut in the larder, and think it's time I used some of it. The first does have carrots as an ingredient so there is a bit of a veggie theme with this one, cooked as a tray bake rather than - as normal - in a loaf tin.
Coconut Carrot Cake: makes about 15 slices
9 oz (250g) butter
10 oz (300g) light muscovado sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs
8 oz (225g) self-raising flour
2 oz (50g) dessicated coconut
8 oz (225g) carrots, grated
2 tsp mixed spice
3 oz (75g) dessicated coconut
1 oz (25g) light muscovado sugar
1 oz (25g) melted butter
Make the tray-bake by melting the butter in a pan, then leave to cool for a few minutes before adding the sugar, vanilla and the eggs, beating together with a wooden spoon until smooth.
Stir in the flour, coconut, carrots and spice and when well blended, tip into a greased and lined tray-bake tin approx 8" x 12" (20 x 30cm), level the surface and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for half an hour.
Meanwhile make the topping by mixing the coconut and sugar together then binding with the melted butter.  Remove the cake from the oven after the 30 minutes baking, then spread the topping over the surface and return to the oven to bake for 10 minutes until golden and the tray-bake cooked through. Cool in the tin then cut into slices.

Next recipe is a traditional Australian favourite and this cake, once cut into squares,  are then split and sandwiched together with vanilla cream before being iced.   Not the cheapest of cakes to make, but certainly one for special occasions.
Lamingtons: makes 16
6 large eggs
5 oz (150g) caster sugar
8 oz (225g) self raising flour
1 oz (25g) butter, melted
5 tblsp hot water
vanilla cream:
9 oz (250g) icing sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 oz (50g) butter, melted
2 tsp milk
10 oz (300g) icing sugar
4 tblsp cocoa powder
1 oz (25g) butter
4 fl oz (125ml) milk
5 oz (150g) dessicated coconut 
Make the cake batter by beating the eggs and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Fold in the flour, butter, and the hot water. Pour into a greased and lined 9" (23cm) square cake tin and bake for 25 minutes at 180C, 350F, gas 4 until firm.  Turn out onto a cake airer to cool.
Meanwhile, make the vanilla cream by putting all the ingredients into a bowl and beating together until thick and creamy.  Cut the cake into 16 squares, then slice each square horizontally and sandwich together with the vanilla cream.
Make the icing by sifting together the icing sugar and cocoa, then heat the milk and butter over low heat until the butter has melted (alternatively microwave on High for 1 minute), then stir this into the sugar mixture and spoon over each square to cover top and sides (if you stick a fork into each piece it can then be turned as you spoon over the icing). Sprinkle with the coconut and leave to set.

Final recipe today does not use coconut, but is another 'special' that - because made in one pan - is so easy to make yet luscious enough to serve to guests when they drop in for coffee.
Mocha Slices: makes 12
4 oz (100g) butter
8 oz (225g) dark brown soft sugar
1 tblsp instant coffee
3 tblsp boiling water
2 large eggs, beaten
2 tsp baking powder
5 oz (150g) plain flour
1 x 285ml pot creme fraiche or sour cream
10 oz (300g) white chocolate, roughly chopped
4 tsp caster sugar
cocoa powder for dusting
Make the cake by melting the butter in a large pan, then stir in the sugar and mix well. Remove from heat.  Dissolve the coffee in the boiling water, cool slightly then add this and the eggs to the butter/sugar in the pan.  Sift together the baking powder and flour and fold this into the mix.  When fully blended, pour into a greased and lined 12" x 9" (30 x 23cm) baking tin, then bake for 20 minutes at 180C, 350F, gas 4.  Leave to cool before turning out onto a board.
Meanwhile, make the topping by putting the creme fraiche/sour cream, the chocolate and sugar into a bowl and place over a pan of simmering water.  Leave for a few minutes for the chocolate to melt, then stir everything together.  Leave for 15 minutes before spreading it over the top of the cake.  Dust with cocoa powder, then leave to set.   Cut into 12 squares. 

Do you remember the other day I mentioned boiling some double cream (with a little sugar) as it had reached (and passed) its 'use-by' date?  This certainly was well worth doing as it prolonged its life by several days, and not only that, once boiled and poured into a jug - left uncovered in the fridge, it nearly 'set' on top, so was able to be served like 'clotted 'cream.  In any case it ended up much thicker in consistency throughout than it was before being boiled.  A good way to deal with cream that we know needs using up but we don't want to eat it today, tomorrow or the next day.

Really should do some baking today, and also have to think up something for supper. Yesterday B had a good chunk of pan-fried salmon with salad, and his 'pud' was also on the cool side being fresh fruit salad using what I had to hand (clementine, kiwi fruit, apple, grapes, strawberries...).

Thanks for letting us know about the veggies 'offers in Aldi, Eileen.  Pleased that you enjoyed that chocolate/banana B & B pudding.

Your mention of Vancouver Margie, reminded me that one of our daughters once took a job working as 'mother's help' on Vancouver Island. This then led to her taking similar work in the US and later led to her living there permanently.  Unfortunately she rarely keeps in touch (she has always liked to keep her personal life private), but when we do hear, she seems to be (now) settled.

Can't recall any Enid Blyton books with a Jack and Lucy in them, maybe ones that I missed.  Some of my favourites were 'Five on a Treasure Island', 'Willow Farm', 'Naughtiest Girl in the School', and  and 'Mallory Towers' (and other schools) series.
I remember Enid B writing a story on the lines of 'Pilgrims' Progress' and there was something sad in it (think it was about a dog dying) that caused me to end up in floods of tears, my mother was quite alarmed and nearly took the book away from me.   Music can often make me sad (and also happy), and always, ALWAYS when I hear Oldfield' 'Tubular Bells' (the original one), when it comes to one part, I start to cry, in fact when out with others and I hear the tune begin I warn them it will make me cry, and for some reason I can't stop myself.
This particular tune I see/feel as a story, starting off with birth, then through the toddler stage, teenage and then - the crescendo that makes me cry - a full burst of first love and joy that comes with it.
Other music that puts pictures into my mind is Holsts 'Planets' Suite.  And although not sure of the composer, hearing a selection of 'English Country Dances' feel that I'm actually there, in times past, dancing away and almost smelling the sweet country air, surrounded by fields of wild flowers, hay meadows etc. 

Am not fond of 'modern music', for one thing it's almost impossible to make out the words, and now all music seems far too loud, and any songs I like I prefer to be sung solo (although did like the Spice Girls when they first came on the scene).  I prefer a male singer who belts out the songs, my earliest favourite being Frankie Laine (and still like to listen to him).  Then Howard Keel, and - more recently - Tom Jones who I never liked as a 'person' when younger (although liked his voice) but he has so improved now he is older and allowed himself to go grey, so I'm his number one fan at the moment. 

One singer that I do like is Paul Simon, especially when he sings with his African accompaniment, not sure of the name but think they came from Soweto? Was the track called 'Graceland'? Did have a cassette of that but lent it to someone who - of course - never returned it.

Good for me as have managed to finish today's blog right on time (10.30am), this now gives me time to go into the kitchen to do some baking.  Hope you can join me tomorrow.  See you then.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

How I Wish.....

Late blog today due to Norma leaving later than usual - she was telling me all about her cruise up the Med to the Black Sea.  It sounded absolutely wonderful and now wish I could take such a trip.  Who knows, maybe I will.

Was watching a film last night with Clint Eastwood, set mainly in Arizona and there was some amazing scenery.  Got a very good idea of what the state was like in the 'outback', lots of sandy scrub and not a lot else, but some lovely mountains we could see from time to time. 
Here in Britain, even though our island is so small, many of us still haven't seen everything worth seeing in this country,  we tend to go to the tourist areas:  Cornwall, Lake District, Norfolk Broads, York, London, Stratford upon Avon, the Cotswolds etc, but miss many of the very pretty 'off the beaten track' villages in more rural areas, so suppose that many American citizens don't get to see all the  magnificent sights of their own country.

My mind was taken back to books, films, TV series etc that I was fond of reading/watching, all set in America, and when younger used to love the 'Pollyanna' books, also 'Anne of Green Gables' (but think that was set in Canada). 'Little Women' was another favourite, and 'What Katy Did (and did next)'.  Also had a book called 'Girl of the Limberlost' (or some such name) that I enjoyed.
Used to love watching (many times) 'Little House on the Prairie', and also 'The Waltons', and for me this WAS America, and perhaps in some areas it may still be a bit like that.  Do hope so.

Odd that most of my favourite tales were not written by British authors, other than - on course - Enid Blyton (must have read most of her books from a very early age up to teenage and beyond - still have a few of them).  Never did care much for 'Alice in Wonderland', 'Wind in the Willows', classics such as these never really inspired me though they did make good reading - I suppose. 

Also never could immerse myself in any of the Dicken's novels, did try but never managed more than about a handful of the many he wrote, and those with difficulty, although do love to watch the dramatised versions on TV, one of the best being 'Bleak House'.

Think Norma's cruise has made me feel a bit restless and thoughts of travelling to America and travelling across country on the Greyhound Buses or the Amtrack railway are tempting me.  Don't wish to see the major cities (not even Las Vegas), just the varied and wonderful scenery.

Anyway, must stop rambling as it will be noon in half an hour, so today will just reply to comments and then get on with the chores that await me.

Thanks to Julie and Jackie who tell me that 'arugula' is a type of rocket.  It does seem to be a popular salad leaf in the US.

As you say Alison, whatever fuel we use now it will almost certainly be costly, and the only way to 'feed' an open fire cheaply is to search for fallen wood, or maybe buy 'offcuts' from a wood merchant.
In Ireland (where our daughter lives) they mostly burn peat and this I think is fairly cheap compared to coal/wood. 

Think chickpeas are still one of the cheapest 'pulses ' (is it a pulse?) on sale, pearl barley (a grain) is also very cheap so we should try and use both as much as possible.  Your ideas for using chickpeas Cheesepare sound interesting. 
Will ask the butcher about a 'slipper joint' (us this sold raw, to be cooked at home for ham?).
Agree about leaving braising steak in the piece instead of cutting into cubes, as when on the plate it does look a lot like a much more expensive cut. 

Yesterday cooked a lamb fore-shank from raw (previously have bought cooked/frozen from Tesco that need cooking from frozen for just over an hour).  Put it in a roasting dish with half pint of red wine and water, then covered it and cooked for 1 hour at 140C, then reduced the heat to 100C and left it to cook for a further 3 hours.  Halfway through turned the shanks over so that the topside could sit in the wine 'gravy', and was pleased to see the underside had turned a lovely deep red colour (due to the wine). 
At the end of the cooking time the meat was just about falling from the bone, and all I had to do then was pour the cooking liquid (red wine/water/meat juices) into a pan and fast boil until thickened.

I had considered thickening the liquid with cornflour to make the gravy, but knew that would make it 'opaque' and probably more pink than deep red.  Then remembered that arrowroot would thicken without changing the colour and the gravy would appear clear instead of cloudy.  However, opted for the reduction method, this giving a much more intense flavour.  Worked well.

Beloved today will be eating the 'salmon en croute', and can prepare that in advance up the  point of popping it into the oven to bake.   This should give me a couple of hours to put my feet up as for some reason today am feeling very tired (again).  Have taken an iron pill, so hopefully will soon have more energy. 

After the atrocious weather we have been having, today is mainly blue sky with lots of sunshine, and not too strong a breeze, but it is turning colder, and now am putting the central heating on for an hour in the morning and three hours late afternoon, this warming up the house enough for it to stay warm until bedtime.  As long as the curtains are closed in the living room and also the doors, then the heat stays in for quite a while.

Having Norma back again after nearly a month has knocked my routine for six, so it could be that Wednesdays (hair day), will be more about replying to  comments and not a lot of time left for anything else.  Have to play it by ear.

Anyway, should be back again tomorrow with (hopefully) something more interesting to write about.  Hope to see you then.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Can Things Get Worse?

What dreadful weather we are having.  Yesterday, half the country (midlands upwards) had a month's rain in 24 hours leading to massive flooding, blocked roads, cancelled trains etc.  Floods worse than usual due to our wet summer, the ground was already sodden so the extra rain water was not able to be soaked up.  A lot more rain forecast today, so heaven help the lot of us.

The wind seems to have dropped although yesterday we had gales.  It seemed very cold so in the end I gave in and put the central heating on later in the afternoon, only for a few hours and believe me, within very few minutes the room warmed up and it was so, so comfortable.
I've sat down with pen and paper and worked out my finances, hoping to rob Peter (food) to pay Paul (rising fuel costs).  Given the choice of eating or keeping warm, at the moment I'd choose the latter but perhaps only because I have enough extra calories on my own body that I could live off for a while.

Anyway, it does seem, now that I've slowly built up a stock of 'dry goods', and with meat and fish in the freezer, and the occasional (but regular) delivery of that veggie box, it does seem that I'll now be able to spend less on food over a month than formally, and these savings should then offset the extra warmth if we need to have the central heating on for longer (in past years it would be the end of October before it was switched on, and off again mid-April - this year it was off for the summer a month later, and now seems it will be a month earlier it goes back on).  It's almost as though our seasons are changing, and autumn starts mid-summer, winter mid - autumn, spring late winter, and summer late spring, with the 'real' summer not really arriving at all - well at least not this year.

Took a look at the Westmorland Gazette yesterday to see what it had to say about the unmanned boats drifting off in Morecambe Bay (Cheesepare's comment yesterday), and this seemed to imply there were two dinghys floating in the Bay that had come adrift at Carnforth.  Both the same make (Fireball?), and perhaps two other boats that had slipped their moorings, not the two that capsized during B's club's sailing race, one of these was a 'Fireball' (if that is the correct name) the other being a 'Blaze'.
These were eventually recovered by the coastguards after a few days, and although they had drifted out to sea almost together, once in clear water the currents and winds separated them, one being found at Fleetwood (is that near Liverpool?) the other heading for Ireland. Towed back to the closest moorings their owners were notified and presumably have arranged to collect them.

Watched a bit of the Food Network yesterday, am now discovering most of them are repeats, but did see one I hadn't seen before (Sunny Anderson cooking 'salmon en croute' - only she didn't call it that), think I'll do that for B's supper tonight as spinach was an ingredient and want to use up what I have of it).   Sunny also made a side salad using a 'salad leaf' that I haven't heard of before, she called it 'arugala' (well, it sounded like that), and I couldn't make out from the close up whether it is a leaf we use under a different name, or one that doesn't reach our shores.  Maybe one of our Amercan readers can let us know.

Had to miss Nigella's new prog 'Nigelissima', due to B wanting to watch Corrie (well, if truth be told, so did I), but know I can pick it up later either on iPlayer, or watch the repeat that will probably be on Saturday morning.
Doubt anyone will be interested, but the Food Network keeps repeating the British 'episode' of the Cup Cake Wars, and see it will be on again this coming Saturday at 4.00pm.  I get this channel on Freeview 49 (but see it is sometimes advertised as Freeview 48 due perhaps to the recent prompting to retune - which I haven't yet done - but so far can still get it on 49). I'd be interested on what other readers (some have already said) think of the British 'winning' cupcakes.

As ever, still keen on Gordon Ramsays 'Ultimate Cookery Course', and am warming to the man.  Now he is alone, without anyone to yell obscene words to, he comes across as a really good teacher.  Yesterday was all about baking, and B wants me to make the chocolate cake that Gordon showed, so maybe that is something I'll be making today.

Yesterday made a bit pot of chunky vegetable soup using mainly organic veg, plus a couple or so non-organics that I wanted to use up.  Together the carrots, parsnips, celery, onions and potatoes made a really good potful, and once diced and sauteed in butter, added condensed (home-made) chicken stock and some water, then let it simmer until ready.  A slight error when seasoning.  I lifted the lid on the little pot of pepper to shake it through the holes in the lid, but lifted up the wrong side and the pepper fell out through a wide hole (the lid being divided), so overdid the pepper by LOADS.
However, this didn't do THAT much harm, just made the soup rather more warming that normal, and as it was a cold day, and I had some for lunch, found it hit the spot - so to speak.  B had a large bowlful for his supper, and I then finished off the last for my own meal.

With the soup B ate the wonderful pork 'crackling' that I'd made using the skin and fat that I'd removed from the gammon once it had been cooked (in water on the hob).  I scored the skin - this now being soft and moist from the cooking, rubbed in plenty of rock-salt and then put it into a small roasting dish, skin side up at 200C to see what happened.  Some hour or so later found loads of fat had melted from under the rind, so poured this into a small container to set (this then will be used later when frying), and as the skin still seemed soft, returned it to the oven to continue roasting. Eventually it was crispy both underneath and on the surface, in fact crispy right through, and even I was tempted to have a crunch. Normally I find crackling a bit too hard for my old teeth, but this time it was delightfully 'tender', almost like eating potato crisps, and was well pleased.  So another use for something we might normally throw way - not only do we get extra cooking fat, but also wonderful crackling.

B's pudding was a bit of a mish-mash.  I called it a 'Bread and Butter Pudding' - which it was in a way, but it ended up - when cold - a bit like a cake.
Found a bag of 'fresh' bread crusts in the fridge (meant to dry them off to grind down to make more dry breadcrumbs but had forgotten about them), so decided to break these up into little chunks and use instead of sliced bread.  Put them into a baking dish and poured a little melted butter over them.  Decided to give the pud a bit of an 'interesting' flavour, so dropped on a couple of good dollops of Nutella, and mixed that in a bit, then added a sliced ripe banana, then finished by pouring over a 'custard' made by adding hot double cream to a couple of beaten eggs.   After letting it stand for a while to allow the bread to soak up the 'custard', baked it in the oven for about half an hour at 160C, it had then risen up and almost 'souffled'.  Looked very good, but later it sank back into the dish.
B had some reheated in the microwave for his pud - with more cream of course, but I didn't ask him what it was like.  Am sure it was OK.

This morning the remaining B & B was on the kitchen table (I'd made enough for three helpings), so I cut myself a thin slice just to see how it tasted, and it was like very moist cake, but with such a wonderful flavour that I cut myself another slice, and then a third.  At least enough left for B to reheat for himself (unless I get to it first. Perhaps if I made him that chocolate cake today he will let me have the last of the B & B).

The cream used for the pudding was 'free' (brought back from the club by B as it had reached its use-by date, although yesterday it had past that, but still tasted 'fresh'). To be on the safe side, and because there was too much for me to use in one day, I boiled the cream using some of it to make the 'custard'.  The rest I may reboil today, adding chocolate and rum to make a 'ganache'.  Possibly use it to make something else as well, I cannot bear to throw it away even though it was free.

Managed to do a lot of clearing up yesterday, and with the heating on later, also got all the laundry dry (the damp cold air has prevented the washing on the airer in the conservatory to dry properly, especially as this is open to the kitchen, so any steam in there drifts over to the washing).  Am hoping now that we will be able to have a little more heat about the house (even if on for only a few hours it really does warm the house up, and once the large thick curtains are drawn, this keeps the heat in our living room. As good as double glazing once the windows are covered), from now on can dry the washing over or near the radiators then can put the airer into the cupboard until next year.
Problem with our extending airer, I usually end up getting in a mess tryng to lock the bottom rung into the notches and more often it collapses back with my fingers trapped between the rungs. Ouch! So will be very happy to have a few months without painful digits.

As I'm not ordering a veggie box for this week, am wondering what the heavy rainfall will do to the more 'leafy' crops.  Other vegetables (potatoes, onions etc) may also be affected.  So will have to wait until Saturday to find out what is in next weeks box.  

It is at this time of the year I would expect to be picking my autumn raspberries, but so far none to speak of, certainly none now as the branches look sodden and the leaves don't seem as luxurious as in previous years, so that's another crop that has bitten the dust (or maybe mud would be a better word).  Despite having several healthy- looking strawberry plants, only one had flowers and this didn't end up as fruit as it was too wet for them to ripen properly. 
At least can see a few pears hanging from our small tree, and B has brought in a bowl of apple 'fallings', with a few more apples still on the tree, so have to make the best of those.

It was so amusing yesterday (at least I thought so, B didn't).  I'd heard B come home, saw his car in the drive and knew he had gone into the garage, but being at the back end/working end of the kitchen was busying myself cooking and not able to see outside.  Suddenly thought I heard my mobile give a 'bleep' - and as I'd left it in the living room, this meant walking down a short a passage, across the lobby, to get to the living room (door nearly closed) wasn't sure it had rung but went to take a look. The mobile was flashing so thought I'd had a text.  It turned out I'd had a few 'voicemails' and discovered two were from B, the last a couple or so minutes earlier.   Took me a while to sort out how to listen to said messages (as hardly ever get any), but eventually reached the latest one from my Beloved. 
Turned out he was phoning me from our garage.  The wind had blown the door back down and the outside bolt had dropped into the slot below ground level so B couldn't get out.  He'd rung me several timesfor help, and I hadn't heard his call, and he had begun to panic.
Anyway, put on my plastic 'crocs' and went out in the pouring rain (no hat on but Norma the Hair will be coming tomorrow), lifted the bolt and the door and then B was set free.  Should have taken the opportunity to say "I'll set you free only if you first promise to treat me to a meal out!".

We are supposed to get severe winds again today according to the weather forcast but seeing the map on the TV, think we are in 'the eye of the storm' as we have little wind at the moment, but still getting the rain. It is SO dismal outside that I'm almost glad there are no windows in the kitchen to see our atrocious weather, but this does mean I now have to keep the kitchen ceiling lights on (we have loads of the little circles set in the ceiling), when I want to work at the table.  Expect this will add more to our fuel bill.   

Have to say that as long as I have enough 'savings' to cover the extra cost of fuel, then I'll not worry too much about any rise in fuel prices.  The government may increase our pensionable fuel supplements this November, but doubtful during the current recesssion.  Just as long as we get something extra, then am grateful.  We are all in the same boat, and those who have 'real' fireplaces that can burn smokeless fuel, logs etc, either as an open fire or in a closed stove will be the more fortunate ones.   We have so many books and papers we don't want or use, logs stored in an outhouse, and old clothes etc, not to mention meat bones, and anything else that would burn successfully, that I wish we could have an open fire again and use these for fuel. 
In fact there is an 'open' fireplace in this dining room, at the moment covered by a gas fire, believe this must have an open flue to get rid of fumes, and have seen a chimney on the roof top (the one chimney left on this large house - the rest being remove), so maybe it could be opened up again so we could heat the room with a 'real fire' again.

We used to have an open fire in Leeds and one of the things I enjoyed doing (don't know why) was clearing out the clinker and ashes each morning, ready to relight the fire.  Think, deep within me, there are ancient (maybe genetic) memories of being a serving girl and maybe also a cook as there are certain chores that I delight in doing (although only a few because - as you know - housework is not my strong point).

My quest for recipes using mainly vegetables never seems to cease these days.  Wonder why.
So for those who are like-minded, here are a few more that can make the most (or should that be 'make the best') of the veggies we have.

First recipe is a speedy alternative to the spag.bol. meat sauce and often accepted by children who otherwise refuse to eat the veggie served in the normal way.  To give this more of a 'meaty' flavour, I'd stir in some Bisto Best beef granules, or use a beef stock cube instead of the vegetable stock cube, but that's up to the cook.  If you wish to keep it purely vegetarian then just stay with the recipe as given.
Vegetarian Bolognese Sauce: serves 4
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tblsp olive or sunflower oil
3 carrots, finely diced
1 courgette, finely diced
4 mushrooms, chopped
5 oz (150g) red lentils
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
1 vegetable stock cube
1 tblsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tblsp tomato paste
salt and pepper to taste
water as necessary
Put the onion, garlic and oil into a pan and fry over low heat until just beginning to soften, then add the carrots, courgette and mushrooms and stir-fry for a further minute, then stir in the rest of the ingredients, adding just enough water to cover.  Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for one hour, but checking every 15 minutes, adding a little extra water if the mixture becomes too dry (the lentils will keep absorbing water).  Aim for a thickish 'bolognese sauce' texture at the end.  Check seasoning, and then serve with pasta or use as you would an ordinary spag.bol meat sauce.

One reader I know has bought carrots by the sack, and others too may have a 'glut' of this vegetable, and although there are many recices using this veg, here is one more unusual.
This semi-sweet bread eats really well with cheese, ham, or chicken salad, and possibly when toasted would be delicious spread with pate.
Carrot Bread: makes 1 x 1kg loaf (16 slices)
14 oz (400g) carrots
2 challots, grated
14 oz (400g) strong white bread flour
5 oz (150g) wholemeal flour
2 tsp salt
1 sachet easy-blend dried yeast
4 fl oz (125ml) milk
4 fl oz (125ml) warm water
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1 egg, beaten
Grate half the carrots as finely as possible. Dice the remaining carrots and boil these until soft, then drain well and mash to a puree.
Mix together the flours, salt and yeast. Mix together the milk and water, and add the pureed carrot and oil, then stir together and tip onto the dry flours etc., mixing together to form a dough, then turn this out onto a lightly floured surface an knead for about 10 minutes until smooth.
Place dough in an oile bowl and cover, then leave in a warm place for about an hour, or until doubled in volume.
Turn out dough onto a floured surface and knock back and flatten slightly, the sprinkle the grated carrot and shallot over the top, then fold over or roll up and knead and fold for 2 - 3 minutes to get the veggies spread evenly into the dough.
Shape dough into a round and place on an oiled baking sheet, cover lightly with clingfilm or a tea towel and leave for about 45 minutes to rise, then brush top of loaf with beaten egg and bake for 30 minutes at 200C, 400F, gas 6 or until the loaf is golden and the base sounds hollow when tapped.
Cool on a wire rack.

Some readers I believe make their own wine, and having discovered that carrots can make a very good 'wine' (sometimes called carrot 'whisky') feel that this might be well worth making.  Only problem is it takes a year to mature.  Can you wait that long? 
Carrot Wine: makes 6 x 75cl bottles
4.5lb (2 kg) carrots, grated
2 oz (50g) piece of fresh root ginger, grated
1 cinnamon stick
8 pints (4.5 ltrs) water
4.5lb (2kg) sugar
juice of 2 lemons
juice of 2 oranges
1 pack wine yeast
Put the carrots and ginger into a pan with the stick of cinnamon, and add the water.  Bring to the boil and cook for 20 minutes.  Strain through clean muslin into a spanking clean bucket or container.
Whilst still hot, add the sugar and fruit juices and stir until the sugar has dissolved.  Cool to blood heat, then add the yeast.  Cover with a cloth and leave to ferment for 24 hours, then pour through a funnel into a demijohn, fit on the air-trap, and leave until the fermentation stops - this could take 2 - 3 weeks. Add a campden tablet to the wine and allow the yeast to settle, then when clear, filter into bottles, cork and leave for a year to mature.
(Some bottles have screw caps, but any drink that is made using yeast may still have some left in causing it to continue to 'fizz' and build up pressure, causing a tightly capped bottle to explode, so always seal with corks).

Well, that's taken me to my 10.30 cut-off time, so will wend my way back into the kitchen to do more cooking. 
A reminder that with Norma arriving at 9.00am tomorrow, this may mean my blog will be later - unless I get up early enough to write (this is doubtful as a warmed-up bedroom makes for a very comfortable not-wanting-to-get-up feeling in the morning).

Do hope that readers are managing to escape the worst the rain has thrown at us, and look forward to hearing from as many as possible tomorrow.  Don't forget if you have any 'foodie gluts' then given them a mention so that I can hunt out useful recipes to use them up.  TTFN.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Never Enough Time

Housework is piling up on me again, with much tidying up of the conservatory and kitchen to be done, surprising how little I seem to do how much mess I can make, even though my new resolution is to tidy up as I go, but then given an empty space B does his best to clutter it up within minutes.  He has always said he doesn't like 'tidy', "clutter make the house feel more like home".  Well, at least, pandering to his wishes, this means I don't have to be houseproud, dusting and polishing every hour of the day, even so - there are limits. 

With winter almost putting a foot through the door - we have had no summer, and now the weather has turned to 'winter chill', seems we won't have much of a milk autumn either - so feel it is time to put the central heating on just now and again to start warming the house up.  I can work better when I feel warm.    Years ago I used to find I had loads more energy when the weather was frosty cold (not damp cold), and could almost feel the adrenalin working.  Nowadays just feel cold, and probably this is more to do with old age.  Can't do much about that other than wear an extra layer of clothing, and this alone prevents me working as I just HATE cooking, cleaning etc, wearing anything with long sleeves, always having to push them up if wearing a jersey etc.

This week will really have to push the boat out and get all the 'chores' done and out of the way, for am finding it depressing when only part of a job is done - usually added to by B who, as I said, likes 'clutter', so maybe when all surfaces are clear he might manage to curb his instincts and at least leave only enough for me to cope with (as long as I keep my own stuff put away first).

Although a lot of the country yesterday had bad weather, we in the North West had a lovely sunny day, but unfortunately there was no sailing as only a couple of boats turned up.  The forecast had led others to believe the winds would be too severe - and they weren't.  In fact - just perfect.  B was very fed up about that, but managed to find something to do at the boat yard before he returned for his supper.

Having watched Nigella cook pigs 'knuckles' recently (Food Network), ordered mini-pork shanks from D.R. believing they would (possibly) be the same cut, but they weren't, the piggy versions were the same as lamb shanks, so I cooked the piggy 'shanks' as I would do the lamb -  very, very slowly.
Well, these turned out superbly, and although small (B ate two), one would be enough for a pensioner with a slightly smaller appetite.  I had one and that was very adequate.  I'd cooked the shanks on a bed of onions (with a little water, then covered with foil and braised at 120C for 3 hours by which time they appeared to be done, but removed liquid and onions and put them back in the oven, uncovered, whilst I prepared the rest of the meal.
Cooked some small potatoes in a pan, halfway through covered with my 'petal' steamer holding string beans), in a frying pan fried some apple chunks (skin still left on) in a little butter to which I then added a dessertspoon of golden syrup.  When beginning to soften, removed the apples and replaced with two of the pork shanks so they would get a  sweeter 'crispy' surface on all sides (there was little fat on the surface of the meat, it had all been cooked away), then added the onions to also 'sweeten them up.  When plated up (meal put in the cooling oven to keep hot), then added a little of the cooking water (now pork flavoured stock) to the remaining butter and syrup in the pan to loosen it slightly (it had gone very thick), to make a sort of 'gravy', then poured this over the meat and drizzled it over the onions and spuds. 

When B came into the living room he said the meat just fell off the bones, it was so tender, and 'please can you cook it again'.   So a worth while purchase, and as these are much cheaper than lamb shanks and not as fatty either, will probably change to serving pork more often and less lamb.

Think today I'll try and use up most of the 'old' veggies I have in the fridge (bought some time ago from Tesco).  Although all do keep well enough chilled (cauliflower, white cabbage, iceberg lettuce, celery, carrots, parsnips, potatoes....) now that I'll be getting a regular and very fresh delivery of veg (as and when required) no need for me to take up freezer space just 'hoarding' what will keep.  Now it is a 'use up when received', and just keeping back a few spuds, carrots and onions, to keep me going in case of bad weather.  So far, celery has not appeared on the organic list, but maybe too early for that, but can always buy a head of celery elsewhere (an essential veg for me as used together with carrots and onions in many savoury dishes).

Might make a thick chunky veg soup for tonight, using some of that very rich meat 'stock' left after cooking the Beef Rib Trim.  Something like a minestrone comes to mind.  Also want to make that Tarte au Citron that I never got around to making yesterday.   More and more often these days I find I never seem to find time to 'get around to' making what I wanted to.   So this week is will be pull out all the stops and start organising my life better.

This may mean shorter blogs each day, for now - when starting later due to darker mornings and the urge to stay in a warm bed is too strong - sometimes don't finish my blog until nearly noon, and that's a morning wasted.  So my aim is to finish writing by 10.30 at the latest, (11.30is on Wednesday when Norma the Hair comes, although if I can write the blog and publish before she arrives, then all the better). 

Must now reply to comments before I do any more 'rambling'. 
There are plenty of 'seeds for flavour' sold at most good garden centres Les, and many companies are able to provide what are called 'heritage seeds', these being old varieties that are not now sold 'over the counter'.  No point in me buying any as have given up veggie gardening due to the poor crops due either to bad weather and/or poor soil, very little ground anyway, and millions of slugs.  The only 'food' now grown in our garden are soft fruits, apples and pears.  The conservatory supplying me with windowsill-grown mixed salad leaves, and herbs.

That programme you mentioned Sarina sounded interesting.  There is nothing like good, natural 'loam' to grow veggies in, with 'natural' fertiliser such as bone-meal, fish-meal, and animal manure.
In the old days, human excrement was used to manure the soil, but doubt anyone would use that these days, although it is well-known that hundreds of tomato plants grow 'wild' around the edges of the slurry ponds at a sewage works, all from the seeds that have passed through the human body and been excreted.  There are many seeds that respond better to this animal 'treatment', and we see the same thing happening with bird droppings - plants suddenly appearing at the foot of a fence etc.

Don't know if anyone watched 'Man Made Home' last night, this being a programme about a man who wanted to build his own 'shed' that he could live in (occasionally), but all made from the produce of the land he had bought, or other waste materials that could be recycled.  Well, that was the idea, and to some extent it worked.  Starting with trees in the wood on his land that he cut down (initially using a hand saw and axe but eventually needing to use a chain saw).  The building seems to rise dramatically in a couple or so months, but he did have help, although I was disappointed when I saw the roof being insulated with rolls of what didn't come from his land, and presumably wasn't 'waste' either.

When the man wanted to light his lamps using a 'recyclable' oil, he had to resort to getting some oil refined from sewage (that he collected in buckets from London sewers). Am sure there are better - and still natural substances that could be used such as tallow made from rendered down mutton fat, and candles made from beeswax.  And surely, if he allowed himself the use of a chain saw, and other mechanical implements, then he could fix a solar panel on his roof to give him some electricity, and maybe also rig up one of those wind propeller things on the roof that would also generate some power.   Perhaps he will do both in the next programme.

However, it was very good to see how it is possible to turn back the centuries and still end up making a home to live in using (mainly) our own resources and what other people throw away.  How much more enjoyable this could be than living the way most of us do now, for as the presenter said 'having all these modern conveniences and technology don't seem to make us any happier'.  So food for thought there.

Now to Cheesepare's request.  The ox liver pate I made suppose originated from a recipe, but now I tend to make all my pates in the same way, what you might call a 'cost-cutting' version. 
Began by soaking the ox-liver overnight in milk, this removes much of the over-strong flavour, and seems to tenderise it slightly.  This was then cut into chunks and fried with a little onion for a few minutes (not attempting to cook it right through.   The liver and onions were put into my food processor with a goodly lump of butter, a handful of fresh breadcrumbs, seasoning (to taste), a good dash of brandy, and one egg.  Proportions are guesswork (in the US they call this 'eyeball'), but as long as there is more liver by weight to each of the rest, it works OK.
Blitzed together, the 'puree' is then put into a small loaf tin (or any metal container), this then covered and stood in a water bath (bain marie), and cooked in the oven for one hour at 180C, gas 4.
The way to tell it is cooked is when it has shrunk away from the sides.

At this point it could be left to get cold and then sliced as a coarse pate, but I always run it through my mouli-mill along with more softened butter and seasoning (to taste), so that when chilled it will turn into a 'spreading pate', sometimes called 'parfait'.  Pot this up in small containers, smoothing the surface then pouring a little melted butter over the surface to seal.  This will keep chilled in the fridge for a week, but once the surface has been broken, best eaten within a few days.  Also freezes well.

In the past have added extra 'flavourings' such as adding juniper berries to the initial 'blitz', and nutmeg can also be used (but not at the same time). Orange zest adds another dimension, as does orange juice (instead of brandy - or use Cointreau?).  So more a matter of using the basics: chosen liver (ox liver or chicken livers) and (perhaps) onions, then adding what you will to bulk it out (breadcrumbs, butter, egg...) then add the flavour (brandy, orange zest, juniper, spices....).  It can be as simple or as complicated as you wish.  Not that it is, but the more you add the more complicated it would APPEAR to be when written up as a recipe, as all too often these days, any recipe that has more than five ingredients I don't wish to know about.

Some few weeks ago bought a couple of packs of radishes as they do keep well in the fridge. Both B and I enjoy them sliced and added to salads.  Home-grown and fresh radish leaves can also be eaten as 'salad leaves', but only use the young leaves as the older ones can be hairy and irritate the mouth, but can still be eaten if cooked like spinach.
Anyone who grows radishes may end up with a glut, and so here are two recipes that make the best of them before they grow too 'woody'.

This first is a dish that is an accompaniment to another curry (such as beef or chicken) and normally not served as a meal in its own right, although see no reason why it shouldn't make a 'light curry dish' for supper for one or two.
Radish Curry: serves 4
30 radishes, sliced thinly
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 tblsp sunflower oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 - 3 chillies, finely chopped
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp coriander seeds (or half tsp ground coriander)
half tsp mustard powder (or 1 tsp made mustard)
2 tomatoes, chopped
salt and pepper
Put the radishes and onion into a pan with the oil, and stir-fry over high heat for 3 minutes, add the garlic, chillies, turmeric, coriander and mustard, then stir-fry for a further minute.  Add the tomatoes and seasoning to taste, mix well then bring to the boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Serve as part of a meal with rice and curried beef or chicken.

Next dish has more of an Oriental flavour and could be served with rice or noodles. Best made with the larger radishes.  If using smaller ones, just halve them and double the quantity. If you haven't sesame oil, then use more of the sunflower.
Roasted Radishes the Eastern Way: serves 4
30 medium radishes, quartered
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1 tblsp sesame oll (see above)
2 tblsp soy sauce
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 tblsp toasted sesame seeds
Put the prepared radishes in a roasting dish, adding the oil and half the soy sauce.  Give the dish a toss so the radishes are coated in the oil/sauce then roast at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 20 -25 minutes, turning once.
Separate the onions into layers and stir into the radishes, then continue roasting for a further 5 - 10 minutes until the radishes are tender and the onion is golden.  Spoon into a warmed serving dish, drizzle over the remaining soy sauce, and sprinkle the sesame seeds on top.  Serve immediately. 

Well, that's got me just over my half-past ten deadline, so sticking to my new resolution, must now depart to start my 'chores', and hope to be meeting up with you same time tomorrow - see you then.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

;More Work for the Wicked!

When Gill didn't phone usual time this morning, checked my mobile (left in the other room) to discover a text from her.  She had gone on holiday last week (coach trip Mon to Fri) to Scarborough and half-way through got food poisoning.  Really poorly for several days,  but hopefully better to go to her son's (Ipswich) at the end of this coming week, so won't be speaking to her for two weeks now.  Probably may go back to writing to each other again by snail mail (Gill has a comp but not on the Internet so cannot email me).

This means I can start my blog earlier than expected today, .not that there is much to write about other than my personal 'Goode life' and that mostly about food, and have to say that the more veggies from the 'box' that are being eaten, the more both B and I realise that fresh food does have the flavours we remember, and myself - although finding my mums cooking a bit plain and boring (this mainly because we knew each day what we would be given - every Monday the same dish, Tuesday different to Monday but still the same each Tuesday (based on the weekend 'roast') and so on through the week.  But memories are no flooding back that the fresh produce (always seasonal and much of it home-grown) then had LOADS of flavour.  

For the last half century flavour has got less and less when it comes to fresh produce, sometimes disappearing altogether due entirely to the producers who (to suit supermarkets) now grow produce that LOOKS good and all like clones, but the flavour has been bred out.  Well, isn't that what food is about, flavour?

Yesterday B was at the club's 'training day', and do ready for a good meal on his return.  I'd packed up three containers of the slow-cooked Beef Rib Trim, leaving 6 'fingers' to use for the beef casserole he had chosen.  There was loads of really rich 'stock/thin gravy' left in the slow-cooker, some of that packed with the meat, some used for the casserole.  Still have one pint left, now chilled with a solid layer of beef fat on top (this 'dripping' will be removed and use for frying) and a thickish 'jelly' beneath full of 'snowflakes' of beef that will be decanted into small tubs and frozen.

Decided to cook some potatoes and carrots to add to the casserole so after washing and peeling the organic carrots, cutting them into fairly thick slices put the two veggies in the one pan to boil expecting to take the spud out first and leave the carrots to cook on.  Supermarket carrots nowadays seem to take ages to become tender - at least half an hour, but these organic carrots were tender almost before the spuds were.    Fried an onion in a little oil, then added the beef trim and some of its 'gravy', thickening it a little bit with Bisto Best granules, then added the carrots and spuds.  Turned off the heat, put on a lid and left it to reheat later. 
For the 'greens', shredded a bit of the 'pointed cabbage', and steamed this with a handful of the string beans, and both had loads of flavour.   B mentioned how well flavoured the carrots were (as well as the greens), so it's not just me that realises how much superior the produce in the veggie box is compared to that sold in the supermarkets.

Whether there is any difference in the vitamin content between organics and non-organically grown veggies is up for debate.  It is said there is no difference, but what DOES make a difference is the time between harvesting and the time the produce is eaten, the less time between the two the more vitamins left in the veggies, especially the leafy ones.  So supermarket 'organics' will still have less vitamins than those delivered in a veggie box (at least from my source) where they are harvested either early in the day of delivery or the day before.   Certainly the taste of said veggie box produce is way above any that I've eaten the last half century.

Even when growing a few of my own veggies, can't say that I've noticed much improvement in flavour, and this could be the variety grown.  So maybe the 'organic' veggies are the best of the flavoured bunch (who cares about the shape - but so far they have all looked pretty good).  My only gripe is that the organic tomatoes don't have the superb flavour of those my dad used to grow, but they are still better than those bought from the supermarket.

Yesterday also made some pots of (ox) liver pate as I discovered a pack of D.R. ox liver in the freezer (must have had it nearly 2 years - several packs were sent as the 'freebie' that come with some of their offers - this time the freebie was a pot of their 'special seasoning', and once I had a few freebie packs of beef fillet 'tails', perfect for making several Strogonoffs!).

Couldn't find one of the pots of the pate this morning (as wanted to freeze it), and B said he eaten one whole pot last night, spreading it on toast.  He loved it.  Still have another couple of pots left (plus one of chicken liver pate in the freezer) so that should give him a few 'meaty' snacks over the next few weeks.

Not sure what I'll be cooking today, maybe make B a dish of 'Singapore Noodles' (a favourite take-a-way) but this time made by me (using organic veg of course, and a chunk of already-cooked belly pork that will be refried in teryaki sauce).  Am hoping to make a 'tarte au citron' (lemon tart to you and me) as this will be refreshing and almost 'posh nosh' when given its French name.

B's club will be hosting a 'Gourmet Buffet evening' along with one of their 'do's' (end of October), and they are hoping I'll come up with suggestions.  The 'tarte au citron' would make a good dessert, and am thinking canapes as starters, with toppings such as Smoked Mackerel Pate, Liver Pate, Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese, Caviare (the cheap kind) on Blinis...., cubes of Spanish omelette/Frittata on sticks, then maybe platters of wedges of melon wrapped in Parma Ham, and/or slivers of Smoked Salmon with cucumber ribbons.  Bowls of green and red olives.  Maybe platters of cooked meats (roast beef, ham, turkey, chorizo, salami, tongue....), vol au vents, quiches.... and that's just a start. Haven't yet planned desserts (other than the lemon tart), but am aching to get started even if only writing lists on paper, as it won't be held for another month.  Have to wait to see what the committee choose as their final choice (and maybe provide some of it themselves).

Now then, because I seem to be obsessed with cooking just 'meat and two veg' these days (well more than two veg but you now what I mean - my supper yesterday was a giant coleslaw made with grated raw kohl rabi, carrot, shallot, cabbage, bell pepper, lettuce, apple, all bound with low-fat mayo and balsamic vinegar), this doesn't mean I'll be shoving rice and pasta to the back of my cupboard.

Myself am very fond of pasta dishes, and although tend to store the most commonly used varieties: spaghetti, penne, macaroni, lasagne sheets, do occasionally venture into the world of the 'fussili'(spirals) and the 'wheels' (self explanatory).
Different shapes and colours of pasta can make a meal look more interesting than when using the 'basic' shapes, and when an inexpensive dish looks more appetising, it can also look more expensive (useful when entertaining), so here are a few more varieties worth looking keeping in the larder, many come in different flavours and colours:
creste: an excellent all rounder, resembling macaroni with a fin along its back.
cannelloni: big pasta tubes that when stuffed and baked (under a sauce) makes a very satisfying main course.
farfalle: these look like bow ties and come in many colours and flavours.  A popular pasta used by many food stylists as they are very decorative.
farfalline: smaller version of the above, these mini-bows used  to give body to soups and stews.
torcetti: bigger than macaroni tubes that are ridged and twisted, look for the darkish brown mushroom flavour.
filini: these are thin pasta noodles (look like flat matchsticks), and great to use in soups as broths as they give body.
tagliatelle: large than above, these pasta ribbons are the basis of many dishes. Normally sold as spinach, egg and whotewheat. The mushroom tagliatelle is dark, tasty and very versatile.
pappardelle: wider ribbon noodles
conchiglie: pasta shells, sold in various sizes (some huge) each with a slightly different name but all beginning with 'conch'. A great pasta for serving with just a simple sauce and Parmesan.

When wearing my cost-cutting cap, would say that as far as I'm concerned, pasta is pasta is pasta, so no need to keep a wide variety in our cupboards.  The same goes for rice.  Long-grain can be used for most savoury dishes, but basmati is better with curries, and certainly the shorter Arborio (and similar) are necessary when cooking a risotto.  There is even a special rice for cooking Paella. Other than appearance and texture there would probably be no nutritional difference between varieties, but we cooks do like to be as authentic as possible when cooking 'the ethnics', and if the ingredients cost only a few pence more, then why not?  Rice stored correctly keeps for ever, and so does dried pasta (at least for a year or two - or more).
With the above in mind, here is my choice for today's recipes....

First recipe I've chosen as my supper as it will use up some of the spinach and mushrooms from the veggie box.  The rest of the ingredients I already have (the thyme will be home-grown but dried). My lasagne is dried, so this will be 'refreshed' in a frying pan of boiling water for a couple of minutes, then dropped into cold water to stop cooking, finally 'dried off' between clean kitchen towels.
Spinach and Mushroom Lasagne: serves 4
1 tblsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp thyme leaves (see above)
8 oz (225g) mushrooms, sliced
7 oz (200g) spinach,
300g tub low-fat cream cheese
4 tblsp grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
6 sheets fresh lasagne (see above)
Put the oil and garlic in a frying pan and cook for 1 minute, then add the thyme and mushrooms and cook for a few minutes until they are softening.  Stir in the spinach until the heat wilts the leave then remove pan from heat and stir in the cream cheese - this will begin to dissolve to make a 'sauce'. Add 1 tblsp of the Parmesan and seasoning to taste.
Put a quarter of the above mixture in the bottom of a medium sized baking dish, lay a couple of pasta sheets on top, then repeat the layers until all the pasta has been used and finishing with the last quarter of the spinach mixture.
Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan over the top and bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 35 minutes until the pasta is tender and the top golden.

Just because Spaghetti Carbonara is traditionally made using spaghetti pasta doesn't mean we can't make it using another pasta shape.  We could make this dish using the ribbon noodles (tagliatelle) and I often make it with pasta penne.  Use what we have.
Here is a slightly different version of the traditional dish, and lower in fat makes it slightly 'healthier' but with no loss of flavour. No reason why we can't include a few more 'extras' such as chopped red bell peppers or mushrooms to make it a more substantial dish.
Lower fat Spaghetti Carbonara: serves 4
2 oz (50g) grated Parmesan cheese
2 eggs
8 oz (225g) frozen peas
12 oz (350g) spaghetti (see above)
1 tblsp olive oil
4 oz (100g) lean back bacon, snipped into small pieces
2 cloves garlic, crushed or finely chopped
handful snipped chives
black pepper
Put the eggs into a bowl and beat.  Put the peas into another bowl and cover with boiling water, then set aside.
Cook the spaghetti as per pack instructions, and while this is cooking put the oil in a frying pan with the bacon and cook until the 'snippets' are turning crisp.  Stir in the garlic and cook for a further minute then add the drained peas and keep warm over low heat until the pasta is ready.
Drain pasta reserving some of its cooking water, then add the pasta to the pan of bacon/garlic/peas, stir most of the cheese into the eggs (leaving back a little for garnish) then pour this over the pasta and quickly stir with tongs or a fork so that everything is mixed together and gets coated with the egg mixture (the heat from the pasta will cook the egg). Add some pasta water to help create more of a 'sauce' in the pan.  Serve immediately with a sprinkle of Parmesan and chives on top, plus a grating of black pepper.

Have just been told from B that sailing today will start this afternoon (due to the tides) and so he is not sure what time he will be back for supper.  Although (so far) a sunny day, the weather is chilly and will be even colder when on the sea (or at least in the Bay), so will change B's supper from 'the Oriental' to a good old British casserole again, but not beef.  Maybe pork or chicken.  That can then sit happily keeping hot in a low oven (or on the hob) ready for B's return.

Only a week to go before October, and then maybe (just maybe) will start putting the central heating on for an hour in the morning and a couple of hours at night for even B is now having to wear a 'fleece' over his jumper when he settles down to sit and watch TV in the evenings (me still clutching a 'hottie' and covered by a crochet 'throw' and on top of that a thick patchwork quilt.   Am sure our living room (esp where I sit) is haunted because the room is very cold all year round whilst the rest of the house is warmer (but also gets more sun during the day and double glazed which the living room is not).
Incidentally, we are not allowed 'free' cavity house insulation, due to not owning all the house. The whole house has to be done, not just our half and 'upstairs' would have to pay for theirs.  As well as that much of the lower brickwork needs repointing before any insulation could be done, and B won't do that as it would cost too much.
Actually we don't really need insulation as on the east side of our house there is only one end of the conservatory and back door that isn't protected, plus a small strip over the bathroom window. The rest of that side of the house has brick sheds against it.  Our bedroom faces south and with the gas boiler in there, plus double glazed windows is never cold.  The dining room (where I am now) faces south and west and being wood panelled (also double glazed) tends to keep any heat in.
The kitchen has no outside walls other than those covered by the conservatory, so again usually warm.
The 'upstairs' tenants would be the ones who gain from any roof insulation.  Maybe they have it, maybe they don't, but not our problem.

Thanks to Catriona and Eileen for their comments re the British Cup-cake Wars (noticed tht was repeated yesterday at 4.30), think really the judges voted the way they did because they were not familiar to the way we like our flavours and also the way we display our food, ending up choosing the person and display that were more 'American'. 
Didn't get to see the 'behind scenes' episode of the 'Cup cake Wars' and wished I'd seen it, but good to know the 'left-over' cakes were able to be eaten, not wasted.

Hope you get another lap-top soon Jane, but hope you can catch up with at least some of my blogs via your mobile (or whatever it is you use). 

Watched 'Rain Man' late last night and found it a really good film.  Dustin Hoffman should have won an Oscar for his portrayal of the autistic brother.  Blow me if I didn't nod off at the end, so don't know how it finished, can anyone tell me?
Must go as want to watch repeat of British Bake Off.  Hope to meet up with you tomorrow. TTFN.