Friday, January 04, 2013

Reviewing the Situation...

Despite going to bed early, and waking refreshed, because I'd spent part of the night sleeping in a different position (on my back instead of on my right side) found I could barely walk for the pain in my back.  Luckily I keep a spare walking stick by my bed, so was able to - just - hobble out of the bedroom.

Despite the main part of the UK being dry (for once), the only little cloud to appear on the weather map had to be over Morecambe (it always is) so yesterday was dull and think we had rain (I've stopped looking out of windows , it's too depressing), and this morning is also heavily overcast.  Think it is a bit milder but then cold and damp seems worse than cold and frosty.  Also the damp makes my joints ache and possibly partly the cause of my bad back.   But enough of me, let's get on to replying to comments....

Your small crockpot Alison would be useful for making porridge overnight so that you have your breakfast all ready and waiting for you during the cold winter months.   There will be a vegetarian recipe given today, and depending upon the capacity of your smaller crockpot (you might make to make only half the recipe), you still might be able to use this. Otherwise use your larger one.

Reading the other day that home-made sausages don't always need casings prompted me to ask you Marjorie if you have ever made sausages (by this I mean sausage shaped, not 'patties') without casings?  Perhaps if the sausages were rolled in flour before being fried they would hold their shape?
Was a bit puzzled by your mention of a 'Food Saver', ( instead you wrapped your patties in freezer wrap/bags) .  Are 'food savers' a sort of vacuum wrap or perhaps plastic boxes?

The cold weather does not affect my bread dough Lisa as it is first made in the bread machine which starts warming it up, and then - when the dough has been knocked back and placed in loaf tins - the tin is either stood in warm water to keep it cosy, or placed on a shelf over the central heating radiators, so it gets enough warmth to let it continue rising.   Even if the tins are just  put on the kitchen table and covered and the dough left to rise (as I did yesterday when making a fresh batch of bread) it carries on happily rising.  
Made two white loaves yesterday using one pack of bread mix and extending it by adding more strong plain flour and water, ending with one large and one small loaf.  They rose beautifully, whilst the brown dough - made the day previously - still stubbornly refused to rise further than it already had (it has risen initially but certainly not doubled in bulk, and had not risen further).  I did bake the brown loaf in the oven with the other two loaves, the white bread rising even more once it hit the heat, the bread bread just sulked.   Maybe it will end up heavy like pumpernickel, so might be able to eat it with something. Otherwise will turn it into crumbs, then dry these out and blitz it down to powder to used for coating or as 'rusk' when making sausages.  I really cannot bear to throw it away.

The shelving over the floor furnace that you have Lisa would be a perfect place to put bread dough to keep it warm as it rises.  Have you tried that?   Warm shelves are very useful for cooks as they can also keep their mixing bowls there so when making cakes they help to warm up the ingredients (cakes like warm bowls, softend butter, warmish sugar and flour).  The ingredients for pastry always need to be kept chilled.

Going to be early jane, as you say, does help as it allows us to get up early and do many chores before we start the main work of the day.  Only don't think that little plan of mine is turning out as it should, due to my bad back today.  Even so, the long rest must have done me good.  Mentally, if not physically.

There was much talk about our weather on the news yesterday.  Apparently, for the time being this island (the UK) will continue to have more rain.  Although not yet proven, this change in our weather is almost certainly (they say) due to global warming, but unfortunately this doesn't mean we will have sunny and warmer weather, the way it works is we get more rain during the summer, and - perhaps - colder winters. So perhaps time for younger folk to think about emigrating? 

We see farmers walking their fields that are completely sodden, and thousands of ££££s of their crops just ruined because of all the rain we have had.  Even though we - fortunately - can import plenty of vegetables, this will undoubtedly mean there will still be shortages, and this in turn will put up the prices we are charged.   So it does make sense to grow as much as we can, mindful that we can also be victims of bad weather, so perhaps container growing (easier to cover if necessary), might make the difference between veggies standing with their roots in water and rotting away, and
home-grown veggies that we can eat.  Think there is some sense in using our windowsills, for then at least we can control the watering.
Having said all that, what's the betting we have a long hot summer with a return of the drought?  Life's like that!

Today sees the end of the first week of the 'Sunday Roast' challenge as the meals made with the left-over (beef) roast have now had their 'set' days for eating, and today B will be served fish, tomorrow egg and chips (maybe with a sausage or two), and the back to a differnet roast next Sunday.  That was the plan, and it could still be only that I'm having second thoughts.   Let me explain...

It was good cooking a 'proper' joint of beef and serving it in the old fashioned way: roast beef with Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes and vegetables....  but think that my B has got a bit fed up with having beef in various guises served on consecutive days since Sunday (other than Wednesday when he had Cauliflower Cheese).  Previously B always enjoyed eating a different meat every day (with the occasional fish dish or egg and chips when he asked for them), and didn't seem to miss not having a 'proper' roast (probably having forgotten as we haven't had a regular Sunday roast for the last 40 years or so)..  Myself also found cooking different meats (beef, lamb, pork, chicken, venison....) was far less boring than having to use the same meat (as leftovers) each day (even though sliced, diced, minced or curried...).

Another thing - still have at least a third of last Sunday's roast beef left to slice, or dice, or mince and then freeze to serve another week/month, although perhaps if cooking four, not two, it would have all been used up this week. 
Nothing else has been bought, so with the cost of the meat being £6.66p (other ingredients from stores), this makes it financially a low-budget week.  On the other hand, I could have used meat from the freezer (already paid for months ago) and therefore no money need have been spent at all this week. 

So we come to next week.  Do I buy a leg of lamb or a chicken?  Or do I use what I have in store already - this being another of my challenges "use only what I already have"?  Maybe, I could combine the two challenges - one week buying and cooking a roast, alternative weeks use what is in store. Or - as each roast should allow me some left-overs to freeze, there is no reason why these have to be eaten up during the week, just freeze away some and alternate meals with other meats taken from the freezer (from previous roasts).

This seems to be where technology works for us, as in my youth when the Sunday roast had to be eaten hot on Sunday then the leftovers HAD to be eaten up during the following week,  this was because there were no freezers in domestic kitchens.  Very few families had a fridge until well after the war had ended, and then only the more fortunate ones.   However much I like to think the old ways were best, perhaps in this instance going back to having a Sunday roast is a bit like having too much of a good thing.  A 'Sunday roast' is truly wonderful, but only on a Sunday. the rest of the week we'd rather eat something different.

Have decided to buy a big chicken for this coming 'Sunday roast', although even then may partly disect it, removing the legs and wings, and just leaving the breast on the bone to roast.  This way I will have two chicken thighs, two drumsticks and two wings to make into meals during the week.  Also will have the carcase for stock.  Myself feel that a casserole or curry made from scratch using raw meat always tastes better than whenmade with pre-cooked meat, and - these could also be cooked and frozen as 'ready-meals' to eat another week..

So - in a way my two challenges will still be on-going but (maybe, I haven't yet decided) with slight modifications that will allow me to serve a wider variety of dishes each week.  My Beloved will then enjoy his meals more I'm sure. He's been very good this last week but he sighs when he is told it will be a 'beef-based' dish again. I've begun to sigh too when I know I've got to find another 'interesting' way to cook the leftover meat.  Having to do that each week, is not something I'm really looking forward to, but if it has to be done....!

The main thing is my purse must remain shut once the 'roast' has been bought, and opened only for 'topping' up things like milk, butter, eggs, and maybe salads.  In my youth we didn't have salads during the winter, so no real reason why I should buy lettuce and tomatoes during this winter, but having gone back to eating some salad this week, pleased to report I've already lost 4lb of the stone gained, and this has to be due to 'eating my greens'.  It would be silly to stop, although I suppose there are other veggies I could eat instead.  Have to check on what is in the fridge before I decide.

The temptation is to order another veggie box from Riverford, but if I still have veggies in store, it makes sense to use these up first. Also by doing so my purse stays firmly shut.  Why spend if I don't need to? 
The good thing about a Riverford delivery is this means I don't have to go to the supermarket to buy my veggies, because then I just KNOW I'd buy other things as well, so in a way - although the organic veggies are dearer - over a month I would end up spending a lot less than if I allowed myself more freedom.  And still we would eat well.

Am enjoying the repeats of 'Great British Bake Off' shown late mornings.  Seems this programme ha caused a rise in sales of baking products.  The good thing about the prog. is it is not all about cakes or biscuits, the competitors make bread and other products made with dough, they make sweet and savouries with pastry, and - best of all - we see so many things going wrong, just like in our own kitchens, so we KNOW that every cook has his/her bad moments, and that makes us feel a lot better about our own efforts. 

In a recent repeat about 'Great British Food Revival' saw Gary Rhodes talking about tomatoes. We saw several commercial greenhouses growing these 'toms' and what was very obvious was the lack of leaves on the plants.  I have seen it recommended in gardening books/articles that we should remove some tomato leaves to allow the light to get at the fruit to aid ripening, but have never dared to remove many.  Seems that we could remove most of the leaves and it doesn't do any harm, at least once the fruit has begun to set.   Also removal of leaves means the plant wouldn't need quite as much water, although at the moment lack of water is something that we don't have to bother about!!!!  But leaf-removing is worth a thought once we begin to grow tomatoes again this year.

Due to my late start today (apologies for that) and time is moving on, will finish with the promised recipe, but before giving it should say that although many veggies are not happy cooked slowly, this applies mainly to those 'hard' ones like carrots.  Any vegetable that can be cooked to softness in a very few minutes, usually is OK in a slow cooker.  These are any of the onion variety (onions, shallots, leeks...) and any veg that also cooks to tender with a few minutes boiling or steaming, such as parsnips, squash.  Floury potatoes also can be cooked in a slow-cooker when sliced thinly, or finely diced.  Waxy potatoes are best cooked before adding to the pot. 
Green beans and peas also soften when cooked slowly, but the problem with these is they also lose their green colour, ending up as an unappetising shake of khaki, so best add (frozen/thawed) peas, beans at the last minute to allow to heat through rather than cook.  Or cook them separately.
In nearly every instance, vegetables are normally cooked on HIGH as they need this extra heat to become soft, although the onion family seem to soften well at a lower setting.

Goes without saying that we remove peel and seeds from the pumpkin/squash before dicing.  Some of the other ingredients we may not have, and no way would I suggest you trotting out to buy them. This dish may taste slightly different if we substitute one ingredient for another, or leave one out, but it still eat well.
If you haven't peanuts, then omit or stir in some crunchy peanut butter.  If you haven't Thai curry sauce then use a mild Indian Korma, or just add a tsp of curry powder when frying the onions.  The fish sauce adds a traditional flavour, but can be omitted.  Pumpkin seeds are for garnish. Sunflower seeds could be used instead.  But of COURSE we have pumpkin seeds - these are what we remove when preparing the veg. for this dish.  So whilst the curry is cooking, wash the pumpkin seeds and roast in the oven, then they will be ready for the garnish
.Pumpkin and Peanut Curry: serves 4
2 tblsp sunflower oil
2 - 4 cloves garlic, crushed
4 shallots, finely chopped
2 tblsp yellow (Thai) curry paste
1 tblsp grated fresh root ginger
1 lb (450g) pumpkin or butternut squash
8 oz (225g) sweet potatoes, diced
14 fl oz (400ml) vegetable stock
half pint (300ml) coconut milk
3 oz (75g) chestnut mushrooms, sliced
1 tblsp soy sauce
2 tblsp Thai fish sauce
3 oz (75g) peanuts, roasted and chopped
2 oz (50g) pumpkin seeds
Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the shallots and fry for about 10 minutes until softened, then stir in the garlic and fry for a further minute.  Add the curry paste to the pan and stir-fry for 30 seconds until fragrant, then tip this mixture into the crock-pot.
Add the ginger, diced pumpkin, and sweet potatoes.  Pour over the stock and 5 fl oz (150ml) of the coconut milk, and stir to combine.  Cover with the lid and cook on HIGH for one and a half hours.
Add the mushrooms, soy sauce, and Thai fish sauce (if using) and stir into the curry, finally adding the chopped peanuts and remaining coconut milk.  Cover and cook on HIGH for a further 3 hours or until the vegetables are very tender.
Ladle the curry into warmed serving bowls, garnish with the pumpkin seeds and serve immediately.

My beloved has chosen a Fish Risotto for his supper tonight, so must go and defrost some 'value' white fish fillet, smoked haddock, and some salmon.  These will be defrosted by late afternoon (but can always hurry this by putting them in a pan with water to cover, and then will poach the fish and use the water to flavour the rice).  Just need to slice an onion, measure out some chicken stock and white wine.  Estimate the amount of arborio rice needed, add a few frozen peas at the end and a bit of finely chopped fresh parsley, then supper is served.  There will - of course - be 20 minutes standing by the hob constantly stirring the rice and adding a ladle of stock every few minutes, but worth it for the end result.  Anyway I take my chair to the hob and sit down to stir (and between you and me also pour myself a small glass of the white wine to drink whilst 'working' - cook's perks!

By tomorrow will have made up my mind as to whether I will buy a chicken from the supermarket (cheaper) or scoot down to the butchers to buy a dearer (but free-range) bird.  Or not buy a bird at all and use chicken from the freezer.  What do you think I should do?  You have 24 hours from now to let me know.

Spellcheck not working (again!) and my comp now keeps sticking when I type, so occasionally miss out letters or two appear when one was asked for.  Blame the comp. not me.  I just can't be bothered to edit today, need to take a pill to ease my back before watching TV.  But looking forward to meeting you tomorrow.  See you then.