Friday, November 30, 2012

A Change Is As Good As a Rest.

As B was changing his library books yesterday, asked him if he'd bring me a book written by a cook (not a cook-book - but definitely NOT one by Heston B!).  Bless him, he brought one written by Clarissa Dickson Wright on the history of our nation's food (and sorry Les, I  can't remember  the full details, but am sure you can sure you could find it on the Internet if you really need to know).

So far am only part way through the second chapter, but the first was very much on the lines (but in much more detail) of what I said yesterday about how centuries ago people managed to exist on little fresh food through the winter months and did a lot of preserving meats/fish by smoking, salting, and also drying these and other foods.   An interesting history lesson about the lives of our people in those days, and not necessarily domestic. 

In some ways the book is a bit like 'Food of England' written by Dorothy Hartley, but Clarissa's book gives a lot more information about the domestic (and other) lives of the people in centuries past (the 'food history' in the book starts at the 12th century, but does mention our way of life before that), and in a way it does seem (even then) that not a lot of our way of eating changed until after World War II when - once rationing was over - more foods were imported and more convenience foods took the place of the 'fresh'.   So in 2013 when I am aiming to return to how my we used to cook (pre-war),  using mainly local (by this I mean not imported) foods, and traditional dishes, then this at least will make a change, and as they say - "a change is as good as a rest".

Of course in the old days, much of the nation lived in the country, where people were a lot more self sufficient and keeping hens, a pig, and growing their own veg were part of daily life, and remember reading in the early pages of the above book that recently it was said (I paraphrase) 'that we'd have to return to being self-sufficient again, and quite soon'  So obviously someone had the foresight to see what could happen (and now obviously is) in the near future.   Maybe caused by the recession - this alone is leading to many more problems than was first envisaged - or maybe more global food shortages caused by adverse weather conditions, let alone other nation's financial problems.

It's all very interesting, and have to say that maybe it is a good thing that we are now being forced to return to old ways, using (or learning) old skills.  Quoting another expression "every cloud has a silver lining" - but only if we recognise it, and put ourselves out to find ways of making use of it.

Had a reply from the Morecambe Food Sharing Bank today.  They obviously need food, but nothing that has an earlier date of March 2013 on it.  Pity that for quite a bit of food in my larder 'has' to be used before that.  As they are handing out food each week, would have thought that foods still within the use-by day at this moment in time would have been accepted.   We all know that canned foods last longer anyway, but suppose 'elf and safety' have had their say in the matter, and rules have to be kept.
At least they can accept home-cooked foods, but I'll be meeting them some time next week to have a discussion on whether I am able to help in any way re this, and they also give talks and instruction to many young mothers who have little cookery skills, so I might be able to give some hints and tips for them to pass on.

A thank you for your comments, most replying to each other, so no real need for me to 'butt in', other than ask Margie what the $12 lunch was that was brought in to work by a colleague.  It would be interesting to work out how much it would cost to make the same at home from scratch.

 Jane mentioned people who continually buy take-aways etc, and I expect there will always be people who just don't wish to learn how to cook or even cope with anything, they are so used to someone else doing/making everything for them.  And not always the fault of their parents not showing them how to cope, they probably didn't learn 'how to' either, for it was in the 50's and 60's that the government encouraged everyone to 'spend, spend, spend' purely to get the nation back on its feet after the war, that's a good two generations since then.  But at that time there  wasn't that much unemployment, and people earned a reasonable wage, and it felt good after so many years of austerity (a good 10 years of food rationing), to allow ourselves a bit of luxury and freedom from slaving over a hot stove.

Then came computer controlled machinery etc, taking over a 'man's job'.  This began the snowball of unemployment, and more and more folk took to using credit cards to pay for things the manufacturers brain-washed us into believing we needed.  We are still being brain-washed, particularly in the world of electrical gadgets (mobile phones, iPads etc), and even worse - convenience and junk foods.  They sell it, and - by clever advertising - make sure we are (subconsciously) tempted (dare I say 'controlled'?) to purchase what they sell.
Even B and I say " Ooh, I'd love one of those" when we see it advertised on TV, but being extremely miserly with our dosh, we don't do anything further.  We wouldn't even buy one to give as a gift to the other, just because we are older and wiser and realise that we don't really need it.   We'd rather buy something the other needs but would not buy for themselves.

Suppose I am overly frugal.  We used to have a record player (did they call these 'Hi-Fi's?) and so bought quite a lot of 45s and LPs to play on it (we still have some, but no player - maybe the records are now worth more than they cost to buy).  In later years realised that something like that (a DVD player in today's world) means that once we have it, then we have to continue buying DVD's to play on it (music or films).  And then we are again caught in the manufacturer's web.

We would be silly to avoid buying things just because we could use our own elbow grease 'for free'. Advancement in technology mainly helps us lighten our load, and as I've said so many times before, I give thanks every time I use our front-loading washing machine (having raised four children from babyhood until teenage without having a washing machine - now that IS hard labour).
At least domestic 'appliances' are - in the main - useful and time saving.  Watching TV - unfortunately - can be a waste of time, but have to admit I waste a lot of my time watching it, but allow myself the privilege because of my great age (and needing to put my feet up).  If only I was 30 years younger I'd be doing so much more of use (like digging up the garden to grow more foods etc., keep hens, bees....), and we'd be living in a much more 'productive' property, with more space to do things than where we have retired to now.  But that was then, and this is now and I have to make the best of things.  Or should I say 'most of things' - this meaning I should be growing more veg and fewer shrubs in our garden, and hopefully next year I will be. 

We had a very severe frost last night, our lawn is still white, and so are many of the roof tiles in the houses seen through the window, even some where the sun is shining on them.  So it must be very cold outside (and not a lot warmer inside it has to be said).  Snow is forecast for the north of the country (Scotland and the north of England) and the weather maps show it could reach down as far as Morecambe - unlikely as they say it never snows here (that's a laugh, the first two winters here and it snowed a LOT). But as I love to see snow fall, then at least I'll be a happy bunny.

Nearly everyone enjoys tomato soup, and Heinz is still one of the favourites (although I find the Crosse and Blackwell's Tomato and Basil tops that).   But if we have time to make our own, then it will - of course - be cheaper.  We can make it in bulk and freeze ready for an almost instant thaw 'n heat in the microwave (or pan on the hob).
As  'spicy' soups are even more warming than one without added 'heat', here is a cheap and really comforting soup to drink on very cold winter days (as well as any other time).

Carrot and Tomato Soup: serves 8
2 tblsp olive or sunflower oil
2 large onions, chopped
2 lb (1 kg) carrots, thinly sliced
2 tblsp mild-medium curry powder
1 x 400g chopped tomatoes
3 pints vegetable stock
salt and pepper
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and fry the onions for two minutes. Add the carrots, curry powder, tomatoes, and stock.  Bring to the boil, then reduce heat. Part cover with a lid and simmer for 15 - 20 minutes until the carrots are very tender.
Either puree the soup in a pan using a stick blender, or cool slightly then blitz in a liquidiser until smooth,, then return soup to the pan and gently reheat, add seasoning to taste, then serve immediately with crusty bread or croutons.

One more recipe before I leave you for today.  This is a fairly quick dessert to prepare although it will need time to chill.  Best made with fresh strawberries, I've found frozen ones almost as good bu probably best to puree the remaining strawberries and spoon over or around the dessert as a coulis, instead of placing on top as you would when using fresh strawberries.  Other other fresh berries or soft fruits could be used instead (alter the flavour of juice/booze as necessary). 
Use trifle sponges cut into fingers if you haven't the 'boudoir biscuits', or use home-made sponge (the crusty trimmings cut from around the edge of a Swiss roll are perfect for this dish, so when making this cake, don't eat/discard trimmings, freeze and save with others for the base of a trifle or for this recipe). 

A tip: make meringues using the 2 left-over egg whites, and worth mentioning that when at the Pampered Chef the other night, did eat a lovely meringue nest topped with a little lemon curd, then whipped cream and fresh berries.  It was gorgeous, and the meringue was perfect.  
At the Chinese meal we hosted the other night, one of the ladies there told me they were my meringues made some many weeks earlier, she'd frozen the surplus, and as they freeze perfectly (make sure they don't get crushed), they came out as good as new.  I was very impressed (even though they were mine).
At Morrison's the other day saw some packs of 8 meringue nests on sale for £1 (or buy 2 for £1.50). That makes them 12.5p each at full price, or just under 10p each when buying two packs.   As the home-made used 'free' egg whites and plus sugar, think I was able to make about 10 good sized 'nests' for around 10p.  That's 1p each!!!  Now that's what I call a SAVING!

Strawberry Refrigerator Cake: serves 4 - 6
5 fl oz (150ml) orange juice (or other - see above)
1 tblsp orange liqueur (see above)
2 tblsp icing sugar
14 oz (400g) strawberries
2 tblsp golden syrup
2 egg yolks
4 oz (100g) butter, softened
24 boudoir biscuits (sponge fingers)
7 fl oz (200ml) whipping cream
Mix together the orange juice, liqueur and icing sugar in a bowl.  Slice three-quarters (300g) of the strawberries, and add to the orange juice mixture.  Cover and leave to marinate for one hour (or thereabouts).
Meanwhile, heat the syrup until runny, but not hot (if necessary cool slightly) then whisk this into the egg yolks until the mixture is pale and creamy.
In another bowl, beat the butter until pale and creamy, then gradually beat in the syrup/egg mixture.
Drain the strawberries from the marinade (but reserve the liquid), then dip 8 sponge fingers into this marinade, arranging them side by side (touching) on a sheet of baking parchment placed on a shallow baking tray.
Using a spatula, cover the sponges evenly with half the butter and syrup mixture, then arrange half the strawberry slices on top.  Repeat layers, then top with the final 8 sponge fingers.  Cover and chill to set.  Serve, topped with whipped cream and decorate with remaining strawberry halves.

Late start means a late finish for which I apologise.  Sun is still shining, although no sign of the frost going.  Must go and get myself a hot mug of soup and go and snuggle up with my hottie in the living room to watch the lunchtime news and read a bit more of Clarissa's book.   Then will return to the kitchen and start preparing B's supper - probably a warming beef casserole (unless he has any other suggestions).  He will be out tonight at the club social, so I am free to watch what I like on TV (although may have an early night as still feel tired.  Have asked B to get me some more iron pills when he goes out this afternoon).

Hope you will be free to join me again tomorrow, usual time.  If so - 'see you then'.

Tomorrow is another weekend and the first day of December. 




Thursday, November 29, 2012

Now the Cold...

Late start to my blog today, and may be short - all due to the sudden severe drop in temperature.
Had a really aching left shoulder yesterday, it's been 'grumbling' for several weeks, think it must be arthritis setting in, but last night in bed it was really painful.  Also - even under the duvet - it took me quite a while to get warm.

Cosy enough under the covers, but have to stick my head out as I feel claustrophobic if I don't, so my nose was cold and - believe it or not - I could see my breath as it touched the very cold air.  My bed is very close (not quite under) a slightly open window, so that made the room chillier than it needs be, but B and I really can't live in any room that doesn't have an open window (only slightly open in winter).  We need to breathe in fresh air.  For a few moments it felt as though I'd gone back to the days of early marriage when we had no central heating and the most beautiful 'fern shaped' patterns of ice froze on our bedroom windows during the night.  Despite the intense cold yesterday night, the feeling of nostagia I got was very pleasant.

Eventually I went to sleep, then - when I got - up, ALL my joints were aching.  Luckily I had a spare walking stick by my bed, so was able to hobble out, or I might not even have been able to do that.  Aches more easier now I've taken an ibruprofen, but still there.  Have a feeling I won't be moving around much today unless the heating is put on again as the cold makes it much worse.

According to a headline in yesterday's paper "S city that drowned in the storm" almost did happen.  This was a small 'city' in Wales, that was almost completely submerged by the floods, photos were shown.  Men in rubber dinghies helping folk leave their homes through the upstairs windows - the downstairs being completely submerged.  Many other areas in the south and west also waist deep in water. 
At the moment the country is bathed in sunshine, but extremely cold with now the danger of slipping on the wet - now icy - surfaces, then more rain forecast next week PLUS snow!  They are now saying it will be the coldest winter for 100 years.   Well, as pretty ancient myself, do remember extremely cold winters, year after year when a child and teenager, so if it is going to be worse than these Heaven help us all.

We must make sure we have enough food in store to see us through the hard months ahead,  and enough warm clothes to wear to help keep us cosy.   When our kitchens are cold, then we would be wise to batch bake meals now to keep in the freezer so that they can be easily reheated in the microwave (or oven) so that we can spend less time preparing meals in a chilly room.  It crosses my mind that some people don't have a microwave or a freezer, so perhaps the canned soups/meals (chilli con carne etc) might have to take the place of the 'home-cooked'.  Does it really matter?  We must find the best way that suits us to keep warm and serve up satisfying meals without shivering whilst we prepare them.

Think the sauce that is used for many Chinese take-a-ways does contain MSG Jane, this almost certainly caused the odd effects you got after eating.   On of the guests at our dinner the other night was in the pharmaceutical profession, and he said he could never eat anything with MSG in it as he found it made him really 'high', and not in a good way.

Regarding benefits, and the difficulty in finding work these days, as you say Jane it does seem odd that people on benefits seem to be able to still enjoy a good life.  Yet there are others who desperately need the money through no fault of their own, and seem to have to wait for any help to be given.  Possibly they do have enough money to feed the family, but only if they have the skills to know how to, and unfortunately in this day and age, most of the skills have been lost.

I've seen programmes where a limited amount of money was available for a week's food, and yet a whole chicken dismissed as 'a luxury' when (I know) it could feed a family for a week with veg etc, for far less cost than a pack of chicken drumsticks, a couple of pizzas and a couple of bottles of Cola - which were deemed to be 'necessary'.  Again it's all a matter of having 'the knowledge', and councils should give free tuition on the best way to get the most (good) food for our money, and then what to make with it.

Yes Marjorie, B did do the washing up for me (bless), and managed to put most of it away (but not yet sure where he put it), but it did take him most of the day.  He had to come back into the living room to have a bit of a sit down between one load of dishes, then go and do some more, then back for another sit down.  It was about mid-afternoon when he completed the task (and I could have done the lot in half an hour).  For some reasons he always boils a kettle of water to put into the bowl to wash the pots (adding a bit of cold water) instead of running the hot tap.  He says it works out cheaper, but I don't think it does.  The hot tap is easier - and faster.

B got his own supper (putting the few bits that were left of the various Chinese meals together, and reheated them in the microwave).  He also stir-fried the last of the bean-sprouts (once they had been blanched in boiling water) then added the reheated 'oriental mixture', and stir-fried that as well.  Goodness knows what it ended up like, but he said it was lovely.  Saved me cooking anyway.   I just got myself some cheese and tomatoes and went back to sit with my feet up watching TV.

A welcome  to Oliver (or welcome back).  Not sure what the RSS feed is (I'm not at all computer literate), but it sounds a good idea to receivee the blog directly into your 'in-box'.  
As to using persimmons (aka Sharon fruit), so far I've only known them eaten raw, when they need to be fairly soft (aka very ripe).  Remove the leafy end, and then either suck the pulp into the mouth through the hole made by removing the stem end, or use a teaspoon.  Am not sure if the skins can also be eaten.  
As the soft, sweet pulp is very much like a fruit puree, no doubt this could be used in any way a fruit puree (or fruit 'coulis') can be - adding with other ingredients to make ice-cream, or spooned over ready-made ice-cream or panna cotta etc.  Another suggestion would be to use add the pulp when making a cheesecake, use it as a topping to the cheesecake.  The pulp could even be frozen as an ice lolly.

It must be very annoying when an oddly printed word (or number) has to have verification before adding a comment, especially when it cannot be 'translated' (Alison often having difficulty).  I believe the reason why we have these 'verifications'  is to prevent 'spam' being sent via the comment box, because these are normally computer-sent, no person actually involved, but as a computer is not set up to read 'funny words', then it can't send the spam (some relief in that).    I still get quite a lot of unwanted comments that blogger sifts out due to these promoting other blogs and not really anything to do with mine.  These do not appear in the comment box readers see, but I still receive them in my 'in-box' along with all the comments and emails.

An extremely heavy frost last night, so on higher ground it could have been a lot worse.  We either have to wear our 'wellies' or strap on 'ice-grips' to our walking shoes.  Maybe we'll soon be needing skis! 
Apart from flooding which is a real disaster when it affects property/homes, the rest of the weather we should be able to cope with.  Most problems these days seem to be to do with transport, whether by bus, car, rail, planes or even Shank's pony.  We have come to the point when it seems almost essential that we HAVE to leave the house each working day to go to school, go to work, go to the shops....or go and have a fun night out.  In the old days (a very long time ago), people would just stay indoors and keep warm the best way they could.  The menfolk probably did have to work, if not for money, at least to go out and find some food, although the housewife would have been canny enough to stock up as much as possible during the autumn to see the family through the winter.  No freezer in those days (but then no need to have a fridge either when the temperature was so low outside). Pork and other meats were hung over fires to smoke and dry out so that there was bacon to eat, other meats salted.  Some fish was dried/salted/smoked, fresh eggs in the summer dipped in wax or rubbed in butter (to keep them airtight) then stored in sawdust or bran to use during the winter. Fruits were dried or preserved, nuts also, grains stored, and plenty of root veggies and spuds stored correctly would also last the winter out.  Cider, beer and wine would have been made, as well as fruit 'vinegars', jars of honey and other preserves would line the shelves, and even today we ought to be able to manage on that little lot, strange though it may sound to our cosseted ears.

We should never fear the bad weather that may be forecast,  it's happened all before, and will happen again no doubt.  What we have to do is 'be prepared', and then sit it out.  When you consider what 'domestic life' must have been like for early man, especially those who lived in the norther regions of our globe during the colder months, then they must have been of strong stock or we - ourselves - would never have seen the light of day.  There 'survival' genes must still be in us somewhere.  Perhaps time we released some of them.

Again I'm generalising, as of course there will be people such as the old and/or infirm who cannot deal with bad weather, and who might not be able to afford extra heating or even able to build up stocks of food.  It's not that easy opening some tins, and very often I have to call B to help me open a jar lid.  But we should never believe that 'charity (always) begins at home', we should still be aware that there are others out there who could do with our help.
I also have to remember (constantly these days) that there are people out there who just don't have the money to pay for food (but am still finding it hard to understand how they have got to this stage).
If I could find a semi-derelict room, live there on benefits etc as do so many,this would mean I could personally experience the hardships that people have nowadays, and it would be a real challenge for me to try and find a way to cope more efficiently.  One thought is that others in the same situation might 'club together' and pool some of their (food) resources as it is far cheaper to feed several (per head) than it is to feed one.  But again, the knowledge of 'how to' needs to be there.

It is all too easy to explain how things should be done, the problem is how many of us really want to be told? We prefer to do things OUR way, not be 'nannied'.  Can well remember - in early marriage - myself absolutely HATING being told the right foods to eat by nutritionists and dietitians.  I wanted to eat and cook what I liked, not what they said I should.  Now, of course, I realise the sense in what they said, and try to pass on the message without preaching,  but again it is up to everyone to do what they please.  Perhaps that is the best way we can learn. As long as we do learn from our mistakes (took me a long time).

Oh dear, am already feeling I'm coming across as though wearing my 'school mistress' hat this morning.  It's all this gloom and doom about our weather, food poverty, rise in all the household utility charges, and goodness knows what else to come that seems to be depressing me at the moment.  So - a usual - I write what I feel, and what comes into my head at the time, when perhaps I should concentrate more on what YOU want to read/hear.  So to brighten the proceedings will give one recipe before I leave you for today.

This is a fairly speedy vegetarian dish to make, with plenty of room to substitute different ingredients if you haven't the given ones to hand.  Instead of spinach use kale, or any other dark green leafy veg. (you could even use chopped broccoli spears).  Wash the greens and 'wilt' them in the microwave for a few seconds before adding to the dish.
Instead of rice you could make this dish with quinoa (pronounced 'keen-wah'), or pearl barley, or couscous, but adjust the cooking time according to the grain used..
Young carrot strips could be used instead of the peppers, or as well as, and parsley instead of coriander.  Fresh tomatoes are best, but canned 'plum' toms could be used, in which case they wouldn't need roasting.  Hardly worth putting the oven on for just the peppers, so these could be 'roasted' under the grill.
The feta cheese could be any 'crumbly' cheese (even drained yogurt).
Not everyone has harissa paste, but as this is 'pepper spicy', then you could add paprika pepper to the dish, or a dash of chilli sauce (Tabasco etc).  Or even a dash of mild curry paste (or teaspoon of curry powder).  If you haven't any of these, then add plenty of ground black (or white) pepper to give that 'kick'.

Spinach and Pepper Pilaff: serves 4
2 yellow bell peppers, deseeded and chunky-chopped
3 tomatoes, halved (could use canned plum toms)
2 tblsp olive or sunflower oil
pinch sugar
salt and pepper
1 onion (pref red) finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed (opt)
12 oz (350g) basmati (or long-grain) rice
1 - 2 tsp harissa paste (to taste)
1.5 pints (900ml) hot vegetable stock
4 oz (100g) spinach leaves, wilted (see above)
handful coriander leaves, finely chopped
3 oz (75g) feta (or other similar) cheese, crumbled
Put the peppers and tomatoes in a roasting tin and drizzle with 1 tbls of the oil, then sprinkle with sugar, salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes at 200C, 400F, gas 6 until the veggies are slightly charred and tender.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a large frying pan and fry the onion for 3 minutes, then stir in the garlic, rice and harissa.  Stir/fry for one minute then add the hot stock and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 or so minutes until the rice is tender (quinoa may take less time, as will couscous, pearl barley will take considerably longer). If necessary add more stock (or hot water). 
Add the roasted peppers and tomatoes to the pan contents, then add the wilted spinach and the chopped herbs, folding them into the rice.  Taste and add more seasoning if necessary.  Sprinkle the feta on top then take the pan to the table and serve immediately.
Good eaten as-is or with warmed chapatis or pitta bread.

So that's it for today.  Must now hobble into the bedroom to make my bed.  Normally I throw back the duvet to air the mattress, then fold it back when about to sleep, but with yesterday's cold air chilling the bed, it felt like lying down in a tent set up in the Arctic, so think I'll replace the duvet this afternoon whilst the heating is on in the bedroom.  Maybe even take a 'hottie' to bed with me as well.

Then more work to do in the kitchen. Putting the rest of the pots and pans away, and then thinking about supper.  Will probably make a spicy chilli for supper (or hot beef casserole) as  B and I will both feel like having a warming substantial meal tonight.  B had suggested us both going out for a meal tonight at a local restaurant tonight, as a thank-you to me for making the meal for his sailing mates, but I've put that on hold as having to hobble out on a very cold night is not my idea of fun, and I like to enjoy the whole evening, not just having a meal cooked for me.  Also would be very afraid of slipping on icy ground as am not very steady on my feet. 

Hope I'm in a more positive frame of mind tomorrow, it's not like me to be feel pessimistic, usually the opposite, but have now to admit to myself that I'm turning into a grumpy old woman, whether I like it or not.  I will try to have more pleasant (and useful) thoughts about life in general.  There is still Christmas to look forward to, and am really, REALLY looking forward to my new challenge (starting in the New Year), where my aim is to go back to the 'good old days' of my youth when the Sunday roast had to last most of the rest of the week, eaten with season vegetables, and also seasonal puddings were served.  And not a lot else.  Who knows, even using quality meat and the organic veggies, this just MIGHT work out as cheap as chips.   We will have to wait and see.

Have a lovely day, and enjoy what we have, ignoring what we have not.  I'm now putting a smile (some might call it a grimace) on my face and go and control my kitchen, thinking good thoughts all the day (if I can - but this will probably last only as long as the sun is shining).  Please join me again tomorrow, so we can enjoy our 'virtual' coffee morning.  See you then.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Morning After....

It was quite a tiring day yesterday, but with B working again did at least have the house to myself so able to have a sit down in the living room between tasks to have a bit of a rest.  Slow and steady wins the race is just about right.

The meal went well (thanks to those who sent in comments re this), but think that a Chinese banquet is not the best thing to make when I have no woks and only a small(is) oven and hob (even though that has four rings).   Thing is with Chinese dishes, these are normally made fresh, the stir-fried from wok to table, and so much of the day was spent in preparation, then I had just half an hour to cook most of it:  Sweet and Sour mixed veggies; Beef in Black Bean sauce with string beans; Singapore noodles (with chicken, pork and prawns); Chicken Kung Po; Chicken Satay;  Spring Rolls, Prawn Toasts, and Sesame baked Kale (the Jamie Oliver dish that was absolutely wonderful). Oh yes, also had to make Egg Fried Rice, and also Steamed white rice (only I boiled that).

Of course there were short cuts that helped me make the above much easier to cook/assemble (like using ready made bottled sauces.... and have to admit I did buy the Spring Rolls, but they did have to be cooked (in the oven at the same time as the Chicken Satay, and the Kale while I was juggling everything else on the hob).

We use those table warmers heated by 'tea-lights' to keep the pre-heated bowls (filled with food) warm, and as I was able to buy new tea-lights that were half the depth of the old ones, was able place 3 - 5 more lights under the lid without them going out.  This helped to keep the dishes/food really hot.  Useful as we'd provided chopsticks, and this meant it took longer to work through a meal, so the food needed to be kept hot (we also had an electric hotplate on a trolley).

Dessert was a bowl of chilled 'Asian' fruits.  Slices of Cape Gooseberries and Kiwi fruit, orange segments, halved green grapes, and drained canned lychees.   I'd also picked up a reduced pack of Cape Gooseberries (aka Physalis) from Morrison's, so peeled back the dried 'petal's, to show the fruit and placed these round the side of the bowl.  
Was intending to make some almond flavoured ice-cream to serve with the fruit, but never found time to make it (what a surprise!), so ended up serving the fruit with a jug of double cream to pour over as desired. 
I'd also bought a reduced pack of fresh lychees, these were an interesting talking point as the guests hadn't seen these before.  Peeling back the skin they were surprised to see the fruit inside, especially the large stone inside.  Not sure if there are seeds inside this, or whether it can be treated like an avocado and a plant grown from the stone, but as I have several will experiment to see if I can get another 'indoor fruit' tree growing.    My lemon tree and avocado are really flourishing. The avocado needs repotting again. 

Thanks Eileen for telling us about the winter fuel payments.  It's almost worth reaching 80 to get the extra, although it seems a bit unfair that B should get £100 extra this year, but next year when I reach 80 I'll only get £50.  But as it's a 'shared' fuel payment - therefore shared heating - it seems fair enough.  We are lucky to get it at all.   Think we also get an extra 25p!!!!! with our state pension when we reach 80.  This is now not enough to buy one second-class postage stamp (or anything else for that matter - perhaps one apple?).

We were discussing MSG yesterday Lisa - it is usually an 'additive' with most Chinese meals (esp take-aways) as it enhances flavours.  Many people (myself included) find it makes them feel quite 'odd' after eating the meal.  So home-made is always best as we have control over what goes into the meals we make.

Good to hear from you again gillibob.  Does every reader wishing to send in a comment have to go through the 'funny spelling' thingy before blogger will accept it?  Believe that even to read the blog this has to be done, maybe I'm wrong.

The news re flooding yesterday was going from bad to worse.  Scenes of roads flooded with water so deep it reached halfway up the ground floor windows, and resident having to be rescued by boats.  The city of York flooded again (they are used to this happening, but worse this year I believe due to the saturated land surrounding the area). 
Think the worst of the rain is now over, with just the mopping up left to do - but this can only be done when the water subsides, and how long will that be as it has no-where to go?   The forecast now is very cold winds coming from the north, and with much lower temperatures, possibly snow in the north, frost elsewhere, and so instead of wading around, we could be skating around.

I should think an aerial view of much of the low-lying areas of this country would show England looking a lot like hundreds of small islands, surrounded by water, with any luck some connected by bridges (but even some of these have been washed away.

Yesterday felt very sad (and in a way quite guilty about my own store of food) when I watched the local news and saw the poverty that was in the west end of Morecambe.  Many residents there are now having to rely on food banks for their food, and as some have had their fuel cut off, there is way of cooking anything 'fresh'. 
A local church was appealing for food donations, and several supermarkets (Tesco this week I believe) are having a food donation area where customers can put into a designated trolley one or more food items they have just purchased.   Several tons of food are needed to provide food for the poor to help them through Christmas.

I'm hoping to be able to donate some of my stock to the above, and maybe help with the cooking if they run a 'soup kitchen'.   It is easy enough for me to explain how to feed a family on very little money when sitting in front of a computer, esp. with plenty of 'dry goods' to help make a start, but quite different when the cupboards are empty and rooms are cold and no cooker or fridge to use because the fuel payments haven't been made and the fuel has been cut off.  Also probably no money to buy food either.
Have always believed that people in situations like that were able to apply to receive benefits to cover the essentials, but obviously not.   Maybe I'll be able to learn a lot more about 'how the other half lives'.

B has said to leave all the washing up for him (and there is a LOT), but so far he hasn't made any movement into the kitchen, and I can do nothing until he does (not a spare inch of space to work on), so will either make a start myself, or go and sit in the living room and watch the Food Network (B dislikes the American cookery progs, so guaranteed to get him out of the room).

Will finish off with the sesame Kale recipe as it worked so well.  Think I left mine in the oven a tad too long as it was all crispy, not partly crisp as Jamie O's recipe.  Much like the crispy fried 'seaweed' served with Chinese meals (this is made from cabbage anyway), and Jamies' recipe was much more delicious.  The little bit left I sampled this morning, and it is still crisp.
I didn't weigh the kale used, but once shredded it completely filled a Swiss Roll tin

Crispy Sesame Kale:
a dozen or so kale leaves (see above)
1 tblsp olive oil
1 tblsp sesame oil
1 tblsp (or less) sesame seeds
Remove the stalk and most of the thick inner bit of stalk from the leaves, then lay the leaves on top of each other and roll up.  Using a sharp knife, shred the kale into thin strips (about quarter to half-inch width), then spread these over a baking tray (Swiss Roll size).  Drizzle the two oils over the top and sprinkle the sesame seeds on top.
Place in a hot oven (200C, 400F, gas 6 - or one mark lower) and bake for about 15 -20 minutes (turning once - but I forgot to do this). The kale will have shrunk, turned much darker, and be beautifully crisp.   Tip into a serving bowl.   It will stay crunchy, so can be prepared in advance and kept at room temperature.

That's it for today, and after having a bit of (much-needed) rest, I should be back to normal tomorrow. Hope you all have a good day, and - thankfully - with no more cooking for the club until their Christmas 'do' on the 22nd (and I won't have to do too much anyway), this means I'll be able to concentrate on our own meals a bit more.   Hope you will be able to join me again tomorrow for our 'virtual coffee morning together'.  If so - see you then.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Counting Down

My detailed plans now slightly awry as B informed me that he is today working at the upholstery shop (maybe also tomorrow), so that means I have to fit in those few extra chores that I was hoping B would do for me (which he would have done had he been here).  Regretfully, this means that I'm almost certainly not writing a blog tomorrow to allow myself those extra couple of hours.
If - for any reason - today's work is completed with time to spare, then just may managed to write a few words tomorrow - it all depends on what time I get up.

Today's blog also brief the the same reason, but at least have time to reply to a few of the comments.  Thanks also to those who have not had a mention.  All comments have been read and enjoyed. 

A welcome to Imogen, and hope to hear from her again.  It is always good to know that 'names we know' are still with us.  When a 'regular' suddenly stops sending in comments, then I fear they have moved on to pastures new(aka other blogs)
As you say Imogen, there are many people out there who cry poverty when it comes to feeding the family, but are still able to find the money to buy the ready-made for their work lunches.  Possibly they may think differently if they can read an article like Prue Leith's.  But possibly they read other newspapers, or maybe just don't want to cook.L

Hope you are managing to keep warm Kathryn.  Although it is recommended that we turning the central heating down a degree or two to help save the running costs, myself wonder whether it would then switch on more often during the cold weather to keep a room up to the chosen temperature.  Presumably not or they wouldn't tell us to do it.   (I can visualise Les's fingertips twitching ready to let us know exactly the right way to keep our rooms warm without the heating coming on too often).
A good way to keep a house warm (if there is no double glazing) is to keep curtains closed in as many rooms as possible, and also close all doors (we all know that anyway, but do we all do this?).  This keeps the warm air 'trapped', and the house becomes much cosier.  We draw our thick curtains (over the one huge window we have that is NOT double glazed) in our living room around 4.00pm at this time of the year, barely dusk (the heating having come on at 3.00pm) and as all our radiators are thermostatically controlled, very shortly after they tend to switch themselves off until ready to give another boost.  This doesn't seem to help much with our fuel bills, but we have had notice of the extra heating 'bonus' us pensioners get.  Not sure exactly what we should get as both B and I are paid independently (although both paid into 'my' housekeeping account).  My letter said I'd get £100.  B's said he'd get £200.  Does he get more now that he is 80, or has there been a mistake?   Have to wait and see what comes into the account.

You certainly got some great meat bargains at Morrison's Kathryn.  It does seem that mid-evening is the best time to shop there.   Unfortunately we are usually snuggled into our respective armchairs at that time ready to watch the 'soaps', and very little would drag B away from those.
However, when we went yesterday (10.30am), I did manage to pick up a few fresh fruits from the reduced counter.  Also a bag of sweet chestnuts.  Did not need much else, but it was fun scooting around much of the store, and it surprised me how many people were shopping that early on a Sunday, and all as if they had to do the shopping in the fastest time possible.  At the end of almost every aisle I kept having to stop as people wanted to rush past me with their trolleys rather than wait until I had turned in.

Have read that there have been floods in Cumbria Cheesepare, but hope we miss the gales that have been forecast for this area.  Not that it matters much to me as I'll be indoors most of the rest of this week.
As we drove along the prom yesterday morning, the tide was in and there were a few white horses on it, but with a very overcast sky (quite black over Cumbria), remarked to B that Morecambe Bay never does look like the sea as it always looks 'murky' and brown due to the sand always being stirred up with each incoming and outgoing tide.  My idea of 'sea' is water that looks blue or green.
I know that this is often reflection of a blue sky, but the best colour comes from clear water, and this is something that Morecambe Bay doesn't have.

You shouldn't feel that you are having a 'frugal' Christmas Jane.  It sounds as though you will be providing a feast for yourself, family and any guests that may be there.  How much we spend should never be the be all and end all of a celebration.  So much more has to do with the love and care we give to whatever we make (be it presents or things to eat), and that part is 'free'.  Also by playing games, doing jigsaws, or family entertainment such as 'charades' gives an even more festive feeling. We don't always need TV or computers to enjoy ourselves (we love doing jigsaws all year round).

The latest 'fashion' when giving gifts (and it is a very good idea) is to arrange with family and friends that everyone should spend no more than (say £5) on each present (or even £1 for that matter). It can then be a lot of fun during the run-up to Christmas (and preferably keep an eye open all year for the right bargains) choosing a gift for that amount.  Charity shops, jumble sales, car-boots etc all have what were once very expensive items (clothes, jewellery, books, ornaments, bric-a-brac...) on sale for (sometimes) a very few pence.   So canny shopping can prove to be very worthwhile when it comes to giving gifts.
Another new idea is to buy and give just one 'Secret Santa' gift.  Each member of the family is given  a piece of paper with a name of another family member on it.  The gift is bought for them, and - on the day - put into a pile with others, so everyone gets just one gift, but not knowing from whom.
This means - with only one gift that needs to be bought (instead of say 10?) - a bit more money could be spent than might otherwise, making the gift worthwhile.   It's not unknown for people to be given many gifts, and really not like any of them.  One special gift - just right for them - is perhaps a much better one to receive.

The mention of selling nail-polish and other toiletries (unwanted gifts etc) at low price, reminded me of something Alan Sugar said in one of his books.   When a young man, he and a couple of friends made up their own shampoo, conditioner etc (using the correct ingredients), also some cleaning products (ditto) and they used to take a stall in a market to sell them.  Even though these were much cheaper (but much the same) as the branded products, people didn't trust them.  So very few were sold. 
After several attempts, the two friends got bored with selling, and Alan Sugar also felt the same but gave it one more try on his own, this time - fed up with laying them out in neat rows - he threw the whole lot (toiletries and cleaning products) together in a huge pile on the stall and lo and behold, crowds of people came over to rummage through and pick out what they thought was the best bargain. 
It seems that we humans prefer to sort through a pile of things rather than just be able to take from a shelf.  Know that feeling myself.   I see a big basket in a supermarket full of assorted tins all mixed up (all at one price) and just HAVE to take a look to see what's there, and almost always take a few tins - even if I didn't really need them.

Have done the same thing at car-boots - when I see a box marked 'everything £1 (or 50p) then again HAVE to pick everything over to find out the best bargain, then take it.   It could be a tattered book, or a piece of material.  To me it seems a real bargain.  And who can resist these?
So anyone who has a lot of things they want to sell (that no-one seems interested in) then worth copying the above idea. then having a table at a car-boot.  You could end up selling the lot.

B has now left for work, so I really MUST get on and try and beat my own record for 'tidying up'. Also have to sort the food needed for tomorrow (I put them all together in the fridge - or on a tray in the kitchen), and also remove anything from the freezer that needs defrosting, and then (hopefully) will be on track.
As I said, I may not be writing a blog tomorrow, if I do it will be short.  You'll just have to wait and see.  But will be back Wednesday at normal time (Norma the Hair coming late Friday again this week - due to Christmas and her other clients have had to re-arrange the usual appointment time most weeks until New Year). 

With 450 flood warnings and 800 flood alerts given yesterday, and scenes shown on TV of what seem like miles of fields under water (with a few houses in there as well), and more rain forecast, this looks like being a very bleak time for many households.  Goodness knows how the farmers are coping.  Those of us who still manage to keep our homes dry should be very thankful.  We are all too eager to complain these days - and although during this recession do have plenty to complain about, we could be so very much worse off.  Be glad of what we have, not sorry for what we have not.  
Be with you again a.s.a.p.  Keep those comments coming, and keep well.  See you soon.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Tools of the Trade

Got on well with sorting out our dining room.  Now that some of the furniture has been moved around and other things 'put away', the room looks twice the size (and it is large anyway).  As it cries out for 'entertaining', the hope is we can host a lot more dinner parties next year.

The 'catering committee' have chosen a Chinese meal for their meal here on Tuesday evening.  This I will enjoy as it means I can serve several different dishes instead of a boring casserole (meat and two veg sort of thing).  It's just the timing that needs to be got right, so hope the guests turn up at the alloted hour.  In any case, B can give them a sherry before the meal and keep them amused whilst I sort things out in the kitchen.

Today will be going to Morrison's (10.00am to make sure of getting their scooter) to buy one or two Oriental sauces etc.  If I leave it to B to get them he will get confused, even I need to make sure they are the right ones.

We went to the club yesterday evening to see the demo by The Pampered Chef.  It was raining when we left home, and raining even heavier when we returned.  It rained all night, and think it is raining now, but has eased off a bit.  The clouds are scuttling across the sky - from the north-west which seems strange as the low pressure area is moving up the country from the south, but remembering the weather forecast, the little circle of depression is moving north and as it does turns anti-clockwise and so the left-hand side of this does spin round down from the north, so everything is as it should be in that respect.

Think there were over 80 flood alerts over part of the country yesterday, and with so much flooding and the ground already saturated, the rains last night will have caused even more chaos.   And - apparently - more to come.  We hear of cars being washed away, one had the driver still in it, and although rescued, sadly he died.
Our daughter drove down to Bristol a few days ago, and said the M6 (one of our major motorways) had only one lane open due to flooding.  She was lucky to get there and back without too many problems.   Many train services also disrupted due to water on the lines.  

Thankfully it is the weekend when fewer people have to travel to work, and let us hope that early next week transport at least will be back to nearly normal.   Who would believe that this spring people were praying for rain because we had a drought.

Of course we now hear our water rates will be increased - substantially.  Usually this is done when there is a water shortage and they have to pipe it from another part of the country.  Now we have too much water, so they are presumably charging us for removing that as well.  Probably though a lot of repairs have to be done to underground piping, and the charges also cover sewage as well as drinking water.  Does it really matter?  However much it costs to pay our utility bills, one thing is certain.  They will continue to rise.

The Pampered Chef demo was quite interesting, it could have been better if it had not been for the competition between two male club members, each assembling the same dish.  One of these 'chefs' continually talked loudly, often drowing out what the demonstrator was talking about.  Otherwise it was a pleasant evening.   Because the club was getting a percentage of the takings for throwing the party, I did buy quite a few things (that I really did want, and hadn't got), but everything sold was extremely expensive (Lakeland have much the same and far cheaper).  My most expensive purchase was a 'self-honing' knife (it sharpens itself when put back and then taken out of its scabbard) - this B chose for his own use to be my Christmas present to him.  When he's not looking I'm might use it too (well he uses all my knives).

The club had provided 'nibbles', and as there were fewer visitors than expected (due I think to the atrocious weather outside), more for us all to eat.  I ate quite a lot!  Several lovely soft bread 'baps' filled with ham, and also egg mayo.  Then had two helpings of the 'turkey' roll that the two male 'chefs' had prepared (these were baked in the club's oven before being served). Also salad of red and yellow peppers, 'frilly' lettuce, and mayo.  
Desserts were numerous - a zabaglione trifle (this I didn't have), scones, jam and cream (my scones that they had frozen, also my jam - but didn't have any of those either).  I did have a meringue nest filled with whipped cream and topped with fresh berries, and also a couple of hot mince pies.

Could have eaten more, but was absolutely 'pogged' as we say in Yorkshire and the Midlands.  Really did eat too much (for me), as nowadays eat much smaller helpings, bit it was SO good to eat food that someone else had prepared.    
I even had a gin and tonic, and later an orange juice.  Not like me to drink alcohol, but thought this time I'd allow myself to have a good time.  It was worth it.

Thanks for the recipe for the 'French Silk' Lisa, I hope to give this a try within the next few days, it sounds like a dessert that my B will absolutely love.

Was pleased to hear your 'freezer check' showed you had more of certain meats than you expected Alison, and proves that it is worthwhile listing what we have to make sure it all gets used up.  Not only that, when we know the different variety/cuts of meat we have, we then can balance them out, not serving the same dishes quite so often, but using the meats in different ways, and with serving vegetarian meals at least twice a week,  this helps to keep our 'meat budget' down.

Those of you who read the Daily Mail will yesterday have seen a double page feature on 'Feeding a Family on less than £50 a week.  This was overseen by Prue Leith, and the menus and costs for each day of the week were shown (family of two adults, two children).   There was also a shopping list showing all the foods bought to make these meals, the cost of these and also where they were bought.

Although I don't want to criticise (much!) such a splendid feature, the total of the foods I could not add up to the amount shown.  It came to several pounds more. Possibly not ALL of certain foods were used up, but the price was given for 10 small eggs (these worked out at just over 13p each), yet 24 were bought (so more expensive than the cost shown), and have to say that Tesco sell trays of 15 medium eggs that are around 10p each.  So money could have been saved there.
Also wondered why £1.80 was spent on buying a watermelon, when that amount of money could have bought more and different fruit and veg.  I would also have removed a few other items that seemed not that necessary, just to free up more money to buy 'better' foods.

Another problem was that to buy the foods listed at the cheapest price (the prices shown did not seem to always be the cheapest - but were supposed to be) this would mean we would need to shop in several supermarkets (Tesco, Lidl, Aldi, Morrison's et al) and also town markets.  Few people have the time to do this.

There was certainly one item mentioned in the menu (bread rolls) that were not on the shopping list, and suggestions of others (Parma ham) etc, also not on the list.
Was also puzzled about the 'lunch-boxes' as quite often these included foods that should be served hot - soup for instance.  Perhaps taken to school in a vacuum flask? 

Later this week (once our dinner party is over) I'm going to take a closer look at the £50 budget and try and work out exactly how much it really cost (the final total of foods served being just over £41 I think - so there must be some 'left-overs').  But that's just me being 'picky'.  The whole point of the feature was that we can all spend a lot less (than expected) and still eat well.  That's the message that has to come across, a few pence more or less doesn't really matter unless we have to scrape the barrel so clean that we need to give even more thought to what we buy and cook.
The lady who trialled these recipes with her family said she normally spent £130 a week on food, so the foods/meals in the above feature show that it is possible to spend a lot less and still eat (fairly) well..

Possibly yesterday's article can be read on the Daily Mail's website, so if you get a chance to take a look, I'd love to hear your opinion.   No doubt there will be letters sent to the paper from folk saying they can manage on a lot less, and all power to their elbow I say.

Back to the Goode life. Am not watching Superscrimpers at the moment as they all seem to be repeats.  Unfortunately not much there anyway to interest me.  Had to smile though when I saw a girl showing how to give finger nails the latest 'look', the nail varnish with glitter sprinkled over.
Would you believe when I was about 19 (1952!) I once painted my nails with green enamel and then sprayed them with gold glitter (used to spray on hair for special occasions)?  Just shows that my 'invention'  done 60 years ago (but never did it again), has now been thought up by others as 'something new and trendy'.    I feel a bit like Leonardo da Vinci who drew all sorts of things like planes and submarines before anyone ever thought to even try and see if they would work. 

Have to get ready now to write out my shopping list and then go with B to Morrison's, so again an early finish to my blog, but will be back again tomorrow, and hopefully the rest of this week as the Chinese meal is more a matter of preparation (and listing) than lengthy cooking. 

Do hope that none of you are having too many problems with the weather.  Let us hope it soon improves.  Less than a week now and it will be December.  Then another three weeks and the days will begin to lengthen again.  That at least is something to look forward to.   TTFN. 


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Getting On....

Still working my way through tidying the dining room.  It is the same with everyone - start clearing up and ending up with the job half done and what seems like more mess than ever?  At least have cleared a corner for the chair to be tucked away, and the butler's tray just (but only just) fit at the end of the long sideboard.  Same height so looks OK, and now hold most of my large cook books.j

Even discovered an electric socket in the corner where the b/tray once stood - perfect for a table lamp to be stood close to the chair - this can then be my personal 'reading ' corner, with - later - bookshelves close by.

This means today still have much to do.  The kitchen now just about sorted, no meal to make tonight as will be at a 'Pampered Chef' demo, where - as well as this - we will be able to sample foods cooked during the evening by two of the male members of the social club (in competition with each other).  B said there would be 'pie and peas', but apparently not so - we are just promised a mince pie.  At least for £2.50 a head (I thought it was £5), probably an evening worth going out for.

Forgive my short blog this morning as if I don't get on and finish this room, will then find myself having a panic attack as I still have to plan/prepare the meal for our Tuesday guests (and not sure yet what this will be - a choice has been given to the guests and I hope to hear tonight).

Just one query - what is the 'French Silk' pie you mentioned Lisa?  The name alone makes my mouth water. 
As you say, it is a pity that shops in the US didn't close for Thanksgiving, but do they all close at Christmas.  Here, Christmas is our 'family gathering' time, and still some stores open, and some obvious places that need too (hospitals. pubs, restaurants etc). Presumably motorway cafes also, but do know that many employers try to use staff on those day that have no family ties, or who do not wish to join their family at that time.
I remember when working as a bar-maid that I was asked to work on Christmas Day, and me with three very young children at that time.  At least managed to get the lunch-time spot free to cook and eat the family lunch together,  but then had to work in the evening (immediately the children had been put to bed - in those days children did not stay up late), and as there were very few customers, it wasn't even worth going to work at the pub that night.  The manager and wife could have coped happily on their own - but preferred to sit the other side of the counter and drink with their friends!! I was really upset about this.

One recipe today that fits in nicely withe my larder/fridge contents, and as several of the ingredients can be altered/substituted, a good dish to make from 'what we have'. 
This is a speedy meal to make (all of 10 minutes), and instead of pak choi, use another green 'crunchy' leaf vegetable, even Little Gem lettuce cooked briefly will work.  Use any mushrooms that you might have bought (fresh or canned) and any Chinese noodles (they don't have to be thick - but if not the 'soft' ones - sometimes called 'straight-to-wok', the pre-cook the dried Chinese dried noodles, draining well before adding to the pan).
Serve the meal as given or with prawn crackers or prawn toast, and if you wish to bulk it up, add some cooked chicken breast (or scraps from the carcase), or cooked (frozen) prawns (or both), adding them with the noodles and cooked until heated right through.

Noodles with Pak Choi: serves 4
1 tsp runny honey
1 tsp wholegrain mustard
good splash soy sauce
7 oz (200g) chestnut mushrooms, sliced
salt and pepper
300g pack thick 'straight-to-wok' noodles
7 oz (200g) pak choi, sliced lengthways
Heat a wok or large frying pan and add the honey, mustard, and soy sauce.  Cook/stir for a couple of minutes, then add the mushrooms and season to taste.   Stir-fry until the mushrooms are tender, then add the noodles and cook for 3 minutes, stirring gently to separate them, then add the pak choi and continue frying until wilted.  Serve immediately. 

That has to be it for today.  So far so good with our weather, but it seems the south west again is going to bear the brunt of more rain and gales - these should be arriving on our own doorstep later today, so looks like a bleak weekend ahead, with the promise of much colder weather next week.
But whatever the weather, do hope that all readers managed to find some pleasurable activity for this last weekend in November - is tomorrow 'Stir-up' Sunday (the traditional day for making Christmas Puddings)?
Hope you will join me for (hopefully) a longer chat tomorrow - if so, see you then. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Use It or Lose It

Despite the drought that much of our country had last spring, apparently - after a very wet summer, most of our land is now saturated and cannot absorb any more, so every time it rains more and more areas are becoming flooded as the water cannot soak away.  We are promised more rain over the weekend, and sure I heard a mention of high tides, this plus a couple of low pressure areas bringing gales makes me wonder how worse it can get.  But we Brits will soldier on...

Do hope the weather is not too bad when you take your trip to Scarborough Jane.  Regarding your fish in the freezer, why not have both - this AND then more when you are away.  Fish is good for us, so the more we eat the better.

When you mentioned your freezers Jane, presumably fairly well stocked, it made me think that perhaps we take to much advantage of their ability to store foods for months (years in fact although too long and the flavour gets lost), so we bulk-buy to freeze when the price is right - but then do we bother to eat it?  Many of us tend to store for that rainy day (no pun intended), and we should always remember that freezers have fairly substantial running costs (I call it 'rent a space') so anything bought at a lower than normal price, and kept frozen for over 6 months, taking the 'rental costs', this could well end up more expensive than when bought at the full price. 

This is not to say we shouldn't store food in our freezers for longer.  It's just a fact that we should consider, and plan to use frozen foods regularly instead of just keeping them.  We may think we do this anyway, but how many of us (myself included), decide to sort out or freezers and then discover foods/meals there that we had completely forgotten about.  Chest freezers are the worst for this as we seldom delve down into their depths, preferring to use items from the baskets that hang halfway down.  The 'treasures' below the basket we tend not to bother with too much.

At least my front-loading freezers make it easier to see what I have, but even then things get pushed under and behind others, so do need to have a sort-out two or three times a year, then use up what I can.  Unlike 'fresh' produce in the fridge, there is not the problem with 'use it or lose it', as frozen food doesn't go 'off', but really can alter for the worst (flavour and texture) when kept too long.

Despite my wish to complete my freezer/fridge 'stock-taking' yesterday, found myself in larder-land again, happily moving around some foods on the shelves, and - more importantly - building up a stack of shelving at the end of my kitchen table to hold baking ingredients because now I do more baking (for the social club) find I get fed up of having to continually get up from my chair to go and fetch something I'd forgotten about from the larder.

The 'shelving' I built up using four small drawers that used to fit into a kidney-shaped dressing  table. These I stood side-ways on against the wall at the end of the table with the top of the drawer now facing forward.  The four drawers made four shelves with space on the top to place something else. 
In the drawers I placed all my baking ingredients (other than flour/sugar - these are kept in large Tupperware containers still in the larder), and I now have all my raising agents, food colourings and extracts, spices, paper cake cases, flour sifter, and just about everything needed when baking.  Even my slim-line scales are tucked in, and also my own cook-book/diary where I write in all my favourite 'bakes' (saves me going to hunt out the different recipe books).

During the morning made a big pan of soup using the chicken stock made the day before, and adding diced carrot, parsnip, potato, carrot, onion, plus a good handful of pearl barley (and seasoning to taste).  When cooked I stirred in a sachet of chicken cuppa soup to help thicken it slightly and give a bit more 'chicken' flavour.    Have to say it was rather good.  I ate a big bowlful for my lunch and was going to have the remainder for my supper, but B said he wanted that, so then decided to make him an apple, pear, and dried fruit crumble (with a dash of cinnamon) - finding this so easy to make once I put the fruit in front of me on the table, for the spices were on the shelving at my side, as was a bowl of sugar.  The pears were in the organic box, and absolutely gorgeous as they were firm but tender and appeared to have no core.  As I was peeling the apples and pears I ate the peel from both (use it or lose it), and really enjoyed it.

So, instead of soup for my 'sups', decided to make myself a sort of macaroni cheese, but instead of macaroni, used up the last of the pasta 'wheels' that I had bought some time back.  Not sure why, but I've never really enjoyed eating this shape of pasta.  However, yesterday the meal was better as once the pasta was cooked and drained, I then added the end of a pack of 'garlic mushroom' sauce mix, this blended with milk, and then heated it to simmering until thickened.  Then folded in some of a bag of grated cheese I discovered in the freezer 'check'.  Spooning the lot into a dish, I sprinkled the remaining cheese on top and put it into the oven to bake alongside the fruit crumble. 
It took only about 10 minutes for the cheese to begin bubbling, so I removed my pasta supper, turned down the oven and left B's crumble in to carry on cooking - giving him responsibility to check when it was ready - he could also heat up the remaining soup for himself.  This he did.

The cheesy pasta dish tasted far better than expected, and as the 'wheels' had absorbed a little more of the garlic sauce as it cooked, even this pasta shape was more to my liking.  Certainly the garlic sauce gave the dish much more of a 'lift' than if a normal cheese sauce had been used.

Today am having a bit of a clear-out of our dining room, aiming to bring in a set of book shelves that at the moment is in a cupboard, and putting them under a small window as these take less space than a big butler's tray that is there at the moment.  Then perhaps our single chair/futon can be pushed into the corner instead of sticking out like a sore thumb into the room. 
The only reason I'd doing this is because next week we will be hosting a small dinner party, and I want the room to look nice (being dark-oak wall- panelled with a handsome carved mantel over a marble fireplace, it can look really lovely - when tidy).  Normally we just use it as a 'study' with books and paper (both mine and B's) stacked everywhere.

Of course I should keep our home tidy all the time.  Unfortunately have never been that 'house-proud' usually finding more interesting things to be doing than dusting and tidying.  In any case B doesn't like 'tidy', it makes him feel uncomfortable, and have to say I feel the same when visiting homes that are more like show houses than a real 'home'.   I've even visited homes (even friends) where anything I lay down (like a magazine I might have picked up) is immediately whisked away to be put 'back in its place', and - even worst - had a vacuum cleaner brought out to hoover up a couple of crumbs that fell on the carpet when I was eating a biscuit with my cup of coffee, and this while I was still eating the biscuit and drinking the coffee!!!  Perhaps not surprising that their young children preferred to come and play at our house with our offspring.  Or maybe it was their mothers that just wanted them to make a mess elsewhere.

An early start again today as really do need to get on and try and complete all the work I need to do before the weekend is over.  This time next week it will be the start of December and countdown to Christmas.   Despite the cold, it doesn't seem to feel much like winter, perhaps because we are still waiting for that summer that never arrived.  
With plenty of evergreen trees and bushes in ours and surrounding gardens, we have few trees that have lost their leaves, so when looking through the window in front of me as I write, the pampas, cordyline (or is it yucca?), the holly bushes and others not sure of are still the same as they have been all summer.  Only the lovely copper acer has now dropped its leaves, and the apple tree also but that is so large I can only see the trunk (due to a half-drawn blind pulled down over the very tall narrow window).   Next door has several different cone-carrying (fir?) trees, and a yellow variegated holly bush, and down the side and in the front garden we have several large hydrangeas and the flower heads stay on throughout most of the winter, although I may cut some to dry out then spray with gold and silver dust to make Christmas decorations.

Enough now or I'll carry on chatting until noon.  Story of my life - can't stop talking once I start, but must remember I have things that need to be done, so had better get on doing them. 
Hope you all enjoy your day and are not too troubled by the weather conditions.  With at least one of the major railways having their tracks under water (not to mentions roads close by), it could be that many people are forced to stay at home as they have no way of getting to work.  
After a night of heavy rain (and it WAS heavy), this morning looks very promising, with so far clear skies and sunlight.  But more bad weather is forecast from later tomorrow and lasting over the weekend, and beyond. 
So if you need to go shopping, our take a trip out, then tomorrow will probably be the best time.  TTFN.


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Shelf Life

Managed to sort out all the freezer drawers yesterday, but still the food on the freezer shelves to organise.  It's always useful having a sort-out as I firmly believed I was about out of chicken, but discovered more than one chicken breast tucked into many of the freezer drawers.  Now all the chicken is in one drawer, all the fish in another, beef and lamb ditto, and also pork.

The 'ready-cooked' (meats and meals) also need their own drawer, but have cleared one just for this purpose.  At the moment these are on freezer shelves in 'Boris', mixed up with bags of veg.  I don't even know what veg I have left, so the 'stock-take' is proving to be very necessary.

Beloved chose ham and (fried) eggs for his supper yesterday with a salad.  He was able to get that for himself once I had carved some slices from the gammon I cooked the day before.  He also finished off the last of the scones (with cream and jam) and also the last trifle (with more cream). 

Having found a bag of chicken wings in the freezer, thawed those out with a chicken thigh and put them in a pan with a leek, an onion, rib of celery, carrot and bay leaves, then left them to simmer to make a light chicken stock.   Some of this I had for supper (with the vegetables that were cooked with the chicken, plus the chicken flesh - a sort of 'broth' I suppose.  Very tasty.  
The remaining stock will be reboiled today with fresh, diced vegetables (as above but including parsnip and potato) to make a chunky soup for B's supper tonight.   I'll also bake some bread so can make mini-loaves to eat with the soup  (B can eat up the remaining 'minis' with some of the ham).

Today have to finish sorting the freezer (shelves) and then move to the other side of Boris and sort out the fridge.  The veggie drawer in there has been done, but need to collect up all the different cheeses that have been stuffed between 'things' on each shelf, and grate up the older, harder cheeses.  This can then be stored in the freezer.   

Thanks for your comments.  Took a look at Jamie's recipe for kale that you mentioned Susan G., and will be trying that today, probably for my own supper. 

Come on Les, do you need me to give every last detail of every programme I watch and every book I read?  If I like a book then I might say more about it.  Even you should be able to find Alan Sugar's book mentioned recently because I did give the title.  Did you want the publisher and ISBN number too?  Most libraries and book shops are able to tell you if they have the book if you just give the author and title.  Have a feeling you are one of those people who need to have every bit of information before proceeding further.  B is like that, he gets in quite a state if everything is not spelt out for him (especially when asked to bring something from the supermarket for me).  Probably this (again) is a man thing. 

Thankfully we women can usually manage to do almost anything without the need to know very much, and perhaps why many men think we are a bit dim.  They just don't understand the way our mind works, and the ability we have to multi-task at speed (although I would never try and cook AND watch TV at the same time, as good cooking needs concentration on the job in hand).
Nature probably has 'programmed' the sexes to be different, with the females (unfortunately) ending up doing most of the 'family chores'. After all, it doesn't take much effort for a man to pass on his genes (all of five minutes?), but it takes a woman 9 months to 'make' the baby (not to mention the trauma of giving birth - can you see a man coping with that?_), and then another 18 years to rear it whilst the father mainly sits on the sidelines.  
Until more recent years, the main job of the man was to be the 'breadwinner', putting a roof over the heads of his family, and earning enough money to clothe and feed them.  What more did he need to do?

Don't even send me a comment on the above Les, as I'm generalising again, I know not all men are like that, some do learn to cook and rear their children.  But you get my point. 
In any case I wasn't recommending Heston's book - just pointing out that the 's' and 't's were printed oddly (and having read more last night discovered the 'c' and 't's, and the 's' and 'p's are also joined together like Siamese twins.   But if that has intrigued you and you wish to take a look for your self,  here are the full details:  the title of the book is 'Heston's Fantastical Feasts', published by Bloomsbury, ISBN 978-1-4088-0860-3.

Incidentally, it is doubtful I'll be reading the above book, as it's more an explanation of how the food for the 'feasts' were thought up and assembled (recipes given), but I have no inclination at all to dip cock's testicles in syrup to make them look like jelly beans, or makes something that looks like pigs eyeballs.  The book seems more a way of Heston saying 'how clever am I'.  Perhaps a man is more likely to enjoy the book - as it leans more towards the scientific?  Certainly of no interest to one who cooks 'real meals'.
Let us hope my blog doesn't read like Heston's  when I enthuse about the food I've cooked and the money I've managed to save.  Please let me know when/if I go OTT.

Glad you mentioned about a recipe for scones using raising agents separately Alison.  Think this might be why they work better as the proportions of bicarb and cream of tartar are different than that in baking powder (made from the same). I will keep trying and when/if I eventually succeed then will let readers know.

Wanted to watch Clarissa Dickson Wright's final prog on our traditional English meals (BBC 4, 9.00pm last night), but B wanted to watch a film and from the tone of his voice would be grumpy if he couldn't see it, so I said I'd watch the repeat at 2.00pm (same channel) 'even though it means I'd have to stay up late AGAIN'.  He was happy with that, so I went into the kitchen to do more sorting, then came in here to answer some emails, and then went back into the living room to watch TV once the film had finished.  Unfortunately nodded off through most of the Clarissa programmes, so I might as well have gone to bed when the film was on.  It'll probably be repeated, but am sure I can pick it up on iPlayer (not that desperate).

The only way for me to get all the backlog of 'stock-taking' sorted is to make an early start again today, so although it is barely 9.00am, am now off to do just this, and with any luck should be able to spend a little more time 'having a chat' tomorrow.   Norma the Hair will be coming, but not until late afternoon, then shouldn't need her the following week, then back to early Wednesday's again.

Much of the country seems to be on 'amber' alert for flooding at the moment, with some areas on 'red' alert as more heavy rain is forecast. What is happening to our weather?  Almost everyday we see scenes on TV of people wading waist deep in water, their cars half-under water, homes knee deep in water. Fortunately, even though many rivers do burst their banks and the water floods the roads, many houses are on high enough ground to be spared.  Unfortunately, not enough.  It must be devastating to be flooded out more than once, and many people still have not managed to return to their homes after being flooded out last year.

Thankfully our house is on fairly high ground (at least we have to walk downhill to reach the prom). Even that does not mean we can't get flooded.  The ground our house sits on seems to hold the water and the lawn 'squelch' as we walk over them, also (occasionally) have seen puddles on the grass surface.  This could mean water lies just under our floorboards, and any more might mean it could then seep up through.  But cross that bridge when we come to it.

Hope - whatever the weather - you all manage to have an enjoyable and productive day, and will find time to join me again tomorrow.  TTFN.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Keep in Focus

Another early start this morning, and had to drag myself away from my 'stock-taking' to come and write today's blog (which will be short as I'm wanting to get back while I'm in the mood!).

Apart from checking what foods are in my larder/cupboards, it does help to focus my mind on using the 'dry goods' in the best way possible.  I've still got an unopened pack of yam flour that I'm not sure what to do with, but you know me - never throw anything out if it has a use.  It looks a lot like cornflour, so maybe it would work in the same way.  Anyone know?  (Yes, I know I could check on the Internet, but do like to give readers something to ponder over.  It 's the best way to learn more about food....).

Finding a pack of trifle sponges on the larder shelf, and a box of assorted jellies close by, decided to make B a couple of individual 'trifles'.  Melted a strawberry jelly in a little water (in the microwave), then added  half a wineglass of red wine (from the wine box in the cupboard that is supposed to be used for my cooking, but normally never get the chance as B helps himself to it!!!).  This improved the flavour enormously, so - after tearing up a couple of trifle sponges (one in each dish), poured over half the jelly, and put the dishes in the fridge to set.

Began sorting out the freezer drawers, and immediately found a box of frozen blackberries, so removed some of these to add to the trifle, then got distracted and forgot about 'stock-taking' freezer contents, and moved on to sorting out the fridge.
The veggie drawer need a good sort out, and as the veggie box has now been delivered have a good assortment of 'keeping' veggies, plus a bag of kale (this needs using within a few days or it will turn bitter).  Also had some organic fruit - lovely eating apples, pears, oranges, bananas and kiwi fruit. Of course the last three were imported fruits, but I was prepared to overlook this.

Shared the blackberries between the two bowls, and poured the remaining jelly on top.  When set B would eat them with some cream.
As there was a small bowl of whipped cream that B brought back from the 'social' on Sunday, I also made him half a dozen fruit scones so that he could eat them with jam and the cream.  One of the good thing about sorting the larder was that I found four more jars of home-made jam tucked behind the marmalade in there, and there was me thinking I'd run out and have to make more this week.  So that has saved me a chore (not that making jam is a chore....).

When putting the blackberries back in the freezer, noticed a home-made steak and kidney pie there, so brought that out for B's supper yesterday.  It wasn't actually a PIE.  Just the filling frozen in a small foil pie dish.  So decanted the steak and kidney, rolled out some saved short-crust pastry 'scraps', lined the pie dish, shoved the filling back inside, topped the pie with more pastry, then later baked it in the oven.  Served with some string beans (from the freezer), and tiny carrots (from a previous veggies box). Plus some lovely rich beef gravy (made from frozen stock and some 'Bisto').

Not sure what I'm doing wrong with the scones, but they don't seem to rise as high as I feel they should, even though they are fairly thick when cut into rounds.  Maybe they are too 'rich', and I should go back to making the (cheaper) Devonshire scones (sans fruit and egg) that used to look more like the real thing.   If I remember, they were much better when made (years ago) with a teaspoon of bicarb and a teaspoon of cream of tartar instead of using baking powder.   Will try that and let you know if there is an improvement.

Thanks for the recipe for the peppermint creams Jane.  It is similar to the one I published some decades ago (the one I was hoping to unearth).  Very easy to make, and when left overnight on a cake airer, the 'creams' end up with a dry surface, so don't stick together when bagged up).
Your mention of Fray Bentos meat pies took me back.  These I used to cook for B some fifty or so years ago and didn't realise they were still made.  Always saved the tins as they could be used again for home-made pies (sweet or savoury).

You sound busy Lisa, and can visualise you sitting there knitting socks/mittens etc, in between your making lovely meals for your family.  I'm only sorry you get plagued so often with migraine.  Is there nothing that you can take (or do) that will help to prevent these attacks?   When I used to have them (teenage and early adult years, they then disappeared), there was something that always used to trigger it off - one main thing was sunlight that was focused more intently through my specs. especially when at an angle, not directly (I'm very shortsighted).

Thanks Les for the details of the two TV progs. Had noticed these were on but might have forgotten had you not reminded me.  As a fan of both Steven Fry and Jo Brand, the programmes will be much enjoyed.
B went to the library again yesterday and brought me a book by Heston Bloomin'tall.  Lots of 'chat' followed by some recipes, so it could be a good read.  However, found the letter 'format' a bit annoying as for when the letters 's' and 't' fall side by side, they are printed with a little half-circle above them, connecting them up.   Yet, there are one or two words where the 's' and 't' are together where this is not done.  I began to read the first page and each time I came across the 'tied together' letters, it made me stop, and the 'flow' of reading was held up.   I'll probably get used to it, but why it was printed this way I'll never now.   Another of Heston's 'quirks'?

Yes, Margie, I suppose we do seem to sell a lot of sweets in this country.  There are whole aisles in the supermarkets full of many different varieties, and then when we come to the checkout, more stands with assorted sweets hanging in bags to tempt us whilst we wait in the queue.
Regarding obese children (and adults),  these are usually obese because they don't take much exercise (stuck in front of a comp or TV most of their spare time).  So unlikely you would see many walking around London (at least the main areas frequented by visitors to this country).
You were lucky in being served generous portions where you ate.  Certainly 'pub grub' is generous and not too costly (and London prices ARE much higher than in other areas of the country), and recently believe that the swing is to encourage more tourists, and as 'eateries' compete, what better way to gain more custom than to serve larger portions.

Having said that, have myself noticed that portions do seem more than adequate when we have (very occasionally) eaten out.  It's not so much that they are larger than normal, it's just the older we get the less food we seem to need.   Often 'the trade' can deceive us into believing we are served a 'good helping', when really the food is served on a smaller plate.   A good trick to use when dieting.

Oddly, the more 'upmarket' restaurants have this strange way of serving very small (but beautifull presented) portions on extremely large plates, so we end up thinking we don't get much for our money.  My B says I am never to serve his meals this way - he likes a real plateful (and his meals are served on small meat platters, not the normal dinner plates!).

Before I leave, must give a mention to a short article (torn out of yesterday's newspaper). I quote:
"Britons are increasingly relying on junk food as a result of the financial crisis, according to research.
Sales of tinned pies, pizzas and instant noodles are rising while the numbers eating fresh fruit and vegetables have fallen steadily.
Experts say families are more inclined to buy cheap, high-carbohydrate foo in the hope it will fill them up quickly.
Sales of fresh ready meals, including pizza, have increased by 25% in the past two years....and the number eating the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables has risen by 15% over the same period.  The average Briton now eats just 2.5 portions a day......Health is not seen as a priority when budgets are tight.
The research compared the food shopping habits of 30,000 households across all income levels over the past three years.  Official figures showed recently that food prices have risen by a third in five years."

This amazes me.  Not the fact that food prices have risen and that many families are finding it hard to cope, but that most of the 'junk food' and carbohydrates - that appear to be chosen in favour of the healthier foods- are in fact just as (if not) more expensive.  Take a look at bread.  The average price of a large loaf is now £1, a pizza would cost several £££s,  and instant (Pot?) noodles may be quick to heat, but don't give much nutritional value.  Put the cost of these 'carbos' together, and we could instead buy enough veggies, and maybe even some chicken, and make several good meals that would do us far more good.

Are we now becoming a nation that want's almost 'instant' food.  A ready-meal that can be quickly reheated in the microwave, ready-cooked pizzas, and then filling up on sandwiches?  These may seem cheap enough, but really they are not when compared to much the same thing but home-made with more thought to the content.

If I can find time this week will work out how much I've spent on the organic veggies boxes since I began ordering them, because once they started arriving a couple or so months ago, as during this time have only needed to order twice (one of these was food for the club social and paid for by them so can be discounted) the recent one was where I kept the price down to the minimum amount (to take advantage of a £13 voucher), then was also able to use a £5 voucher that I had (saving £18), but not only that, for as the prices were given as 'full price' on the statement (the total worked on these), because most were on 'offer' (or BOGOF), ended up with another £21 reduction in price for these, AND a further £1.25 'price match' refund as they had to replace an ordered item with another (that was much dearer).   That's around £40 off a minimum purchase of £50!!!), Did have to pay £3 delivery charge, but even so.....
As now ordering less from Tesco (compared to formally where I would send in an on-line order once a month), this means money saved.  The 'fresh' foods that needed 'topping' up (milk, cheese, etc), have been brought in by B from Morrison's, and have added up to not much more than £20 over the weeks.   Then we'll see if 'eating' healthily can prove to work out cheaper than filling a supermarket trolley with 'all sorts'.

To be fair, the meals over the past weeks have included foods from my larder and fridge/freezer, but as all these were bought 'on offer', they can be discounted as it is the average amount normally spent over each month that I am now basing my costing on.  Money in my 'food budget purse' stays in or goes out.  It all depends on what is bought with it.  Stored would have been bought months back, and used normally, replaced only when necessary.
Same with my frozen meats/fish.  Bought when on offer, and several times from money 'deliberately' saved by my 'efforts' - which in my book means 'almost free'.

You must be getting fed up with me constantly knocking the hammer on the 'economy door' that will lead the way to a life of fine dining, and even I cannot believe it should be possible, but so far it seems to be working.  I must be doing something right.  Perhaps 'home-cooking' everything is the secret, for it doesn't really make sense to pay extra for food when most of the cost of a ready-meal (or anything that has been has prepared by someone else) is not for the ingredients, but all the other things such as :  packaging, advertising, manufactures/supermarkets profits/overheads...  all are costed into everything we buy.  So why pay for something we can't eat (or even use - although some of the packaging is reusable so worth keeping)?

This is not to say I don't have feet of clay.  It never crosses my mind when chomping through a box of chocolates that I could make them cheaper myself.  The only thing is I do tend to save the box and internal plastic 'moulds' that held the chocs, just in case I can find a use for them again.  Perhaps this helps me feel less guilty.   I even carefully save the gold/silver sheets of wrapping that come round bars of chocolate (normally the dark 'cooking' chocolate) as this can also be used to wrap home-made sweets, Christmas tree decorations etc. 
If we are going to pay extra for something not edible, then let at least make use of it if we can.

With a mention of home-made soap in a comment, thought that the following might be of interest. Have made these myself using left-over scraps of soap (saved for the purpose) and they make good gifts. 
Use what scent or perfume you have, and here again I 'cheat' as we sometimes have an Avon catalogue pushed through our letterbox, often these contain a free sample of one of their perfumes.  I normally don't wear perfume, but always save them for things like 'soap', or when I make scented sachets.  The tiny plastic 'phials' that contain the perfume sample are saved (with the lid) to be placed in the doll's house kitchen as they are exactly the right size to make tiny 'spaghetti jars'.

When making this you could use rose oil instead of rose water, in which case use half a teaspoon of oil to 5 tblsp water.
 Perfumed Soap Balls:
7 oz (200g) scraps of leftover soap
2 fl oz ( 100m) rose water, heated
3 - 4 drops lavender oil or choice of perfume
extra rose water
Grate (or chop) the soap into a basin. Pour over the hot rose-water. stir together, then leave for 10 - 15 minutes for the mixture to set.  Give another good mix, then - using a wire whisk - beat in one drop of the lavender (or other) oil at a time.  Alternatively you could pour the soap mixture into a blender and add a drop of oil at a time).
Allow to cool before pouring into a small round container, then leave - undisturbed - for two or three days. 
Once the soap has begun to dry out and set more firmly, take spoonfuls of the mixture and roll in the palms of your hands into small balls.  Put on a cake airer (or similar) and place on a sunny windowsill (or in the winter in an airing cupboard or close to a radiator) to dry out.  Then - when almost dry - dampen hands with a little rose water, and roll the balls until they are shiny and smooth.

That's it for today.  Will I manage to 'stock-take' my frozen food.  Let us hope so.  Must chill the ham I baked last night (then left to cool in the liquid overnight).   B can eat some ham in sarnies (with watercress that needs using up).  For his main meal, not yet sure.  Depends what I unearth from my 'cold collection'.  If I ask him what he wants, he'll say 'chicken' (he hasn't had any of that for ages), and not even sure if I have much anyway.  

Stop rambling Shirley, and get on with your 'kitchen work'!!  Yes, miss, will do.....hope you will all be able to join me for more 'rambling' tomorrow.  See you then.