Thursday, February 07, 2013

For Better, For Worse...

Strange how hearing an expression then leads me on to thinking more about the words themselves.  "For Better, for Worse.." is part of the marriage ceremony, but it could apply to almost anything. Obviously my thoughts went directly onto food (can I think of anything else these days?) and began to wonder if 'the best of the worst' was the same as 'the worst of the best'.   Could be, but also there could be a huge gap between them.   Suppose it all depends upon what we mean by 'best' and 'worst'.   Supermarkets believe that a lot of their fresh produce (the 'best': bell peppers, cauliflowers, carrots, etc.....) should all look identical, completely missing the point that we buy food for eating and that means we want good flavour, and these rarely have any.  The 'worst' fresh produce they sell will be second grade mis-shapes, but as these often taste as good as (or even better) than 'grade one', it makes sense to buy these.  We do have to pay more for the 'organics' which truly do have a lot more flavour than the 'cloned', although nutritionally there is little or no difference between the two.

Yesterday was able to watch a bit more cookery on TV as B was out until mid-evening, then he took over the remote and from then on it was a football match until (thankfully) Coronation Street.
Did at least manage to see some of the Hairy Bikers, but sadly had to shake my head and almost wag a finger at them when they showed a 'gourmet style' meal of something (forgotten what) and said it cost ONLY £3 a portion.  Possibly much cheaper than if eaten when 'dining out', but as I could make a three-course meal to serve four for that money, then was not impressed.  This is supposed to be a series about 'budget cooking', so either I've lost the plot and £3 now is not a lot of money to spend on a dish, or those that make the programme are so young as not to realise there are meals that are cheap to make and STILL taste and look good enough to serve to guests.

Rick Stein's programme was a delight.  I was especially interested as it was mainly about the foods of Malaysia.  He did return to Malacca for a short time, again speaking to Chef Wan.  I learned that the term 'Nonya' (mentioned yesterday) stood for the 'fusion food' of Malay/China cooking. 
There was a visit to Langkawi island where it was said that 70% of the local fish were (in 'nurseries').  A beautiful island surrounded mainly by mangrove swamps which had been found very useful as the mangroves dissipated the energy from tsunamis.

In one place (think Georgetown?), Rick S. - with a Malaysian girl (and how very attractive all the Malaysians are) - went to the local fish market where they bought a head of a grouper.  Just the head, but it was BIG. With this they made Fish Head Curry, and have to say, once the fish head had been split lengthways, then into chunks, it was amazing how much flesh there was there to be eaten.  Rick S. even said he enjoyed eating the fish eyes as they were "like jellied eels".

It always surprises me how so many Asian countries serve 'street food'.  There are streets full of little tables, each with a cook behind, making one thing or another to be bought and eaten on the spot, or whilst walking away.  We saw a Mr Lum in Penang, probably the last man to make spring roll pancakes, and he was so skilled at it.
One of the stalls sold Rice Noodle pancakes filled wtih a sweet pork and prawn filling (Cantonese), and another sold fried Chicken Feet that Rick found was a bit 'full of bones'.
Not sure if 'elf and safety' cover 'street food' in non Western countries.  As most foods are cooked/fried to order, there is little chance of anything going 'off'.   But with all the rules and regs in this country (seems we can't do anything now without having to conform to one rule or another - and not just with food), maybe 'street food' is something that is never likely to be on the same scale as in Asia.  Pity about that.

Mentions of the favourite foods of Malaysia I have to give as they sound, and hope that Noor can understand my Anglicised pronunciation.  One such dish sounded like 'Hockey and Me' - this being a dish of soup, a dish of noodles, you picked up the noodles and dipped them into the soup, then - using chopsticks - piled them into a spoon to eat.  That's how it looked anyway.

There was Roti Chani, a breakfast dish, and Nassi Pandar - this being curried pigeon, normally eaten with the fingers as originally a 'workers lunch'.
The most favourite dish of the region was said to be Beef Rendang, and in one small eating house, run by two sisters, Amy and Florence, we were able to see them cooking Spicy Chicken.  They said that always the dishes should be cooked gently, and with patience as this brings out the fragrance of the spices used, and that today people seem to want to spend as little time as possible when cooking.  So that's 'food for thought'.  Slow-cooking then doesn't just save labour, it also improves the flavour of whatever we cook.

Although most of the time in Malaysia, the sun was shining in a deep blue sky, one one day the heavens opened, and REALLY opened, the rain just poured down.  But as Rick Stein said, it usually only lasts a short time, then the sun comes out again.  Also the rain is warm, so as the weather is hot, it must be like taking a rather pleasant shower when caught in the rain.  However, it did seem to be somewhat of a humid climate, and that's something we are not used to in the UK.  Rain we ARE getting used to, but our rain is cold and we can easily get chilled if we get wet.

Most of the Malaysian dishes seem to have fish as their main ingredient, although some have chicken, and as Rick S. said, when he then ate a 'burger after a week of Malaysian food, the 'burger made him feel 'stodgy', so obviously the traditional food of the country makes for healthy eating.

As a late start to due Norma being here, had better now reply to comments. 
Thanks Kathryn for letting me know that Morrison's sell palm sugar, will look out for some next time we go.  In your second comment you told us about some great meat bargains, I'll be looking out for some of these as well.

Have heard of 'savoury ducks' Shayna, but can't recall seeing a recipe for them, will see if I can find one in an old 'farmhouse cook book', hen can let you know.

Not sure whether it is regional or nationwide Granny G. but many people do eat cheese (usually Cheddar, but sometimes Wensleydale cheese) with a slice of heavy fruit cake.  Also (pref. Wensleydale) cheese with apple pie.
Many baked sweet dishes and/or desserts are made with cheese, but these usually are the creamier cheeses such as curd cheese, cream cheese, Ricotta, or Mascarpone.  

My 'profession', Christopher, before I began my TV 'career', was a housewife and mother.  Never went out to work once the children were born, other than for a year as an evening barmaid when funds were short.  Actually money always was short, and sometimes non-existent, which is how I learned to cope on very little.
To cut a long story very short, once having to go without money for a month (other than a very little child benefit - and it WAS a little in those days, and was used for pocket money anyway), then taught myself to cook everything (including bread, pasta, even making cream, butter and soft cheese - we had a daily milk delivery in those days).  Why I did it I'll never know, but I wrote down exactly what I made and how each cost to make.  Then - at the end of the month - realised how much cheaper it was to cook/make almost everything at home, rather than buy ready made.
Sent a suggestion to 'Practical Self-sufficiency' mag that they might like to write about 'suburban self-sufficiency', and they asked me to write an article about what I'd done.  So I did.  Months later the BBC got in touch with me (their researchers had read it), and asked me to be in an 'Indoor, Outdoor' programme.  The cook in that series being Zena Skinner.  I was just to be 'a housewife who can show how she cooks a low-cost meal - this ended up being 'Party Food for 20p a head'.  

There were so many request for the recipes that the Beeb asked me back to do another programme in the series, with the same reaction, so eventually I several more, and this then led to my own series 'The Goode Kitchen', and from there many appearances on 'Pebble Mill at One', 'Bazaar', and several others.  Since I gave up TV (found the travelling too stressful), did many years of local radio, and wrote countless articles for most of the well-known magazines (including the 'glossies').  Plus almost weekly demonstrations around the country.  All good fun, but now am semi-retired, give just a few demos/talks, a bit of cooking-for-charity, and, of course, keeping my cookery interest going with this blog.  And before anyone thinks this is 'profitable' work - it isn't.  Most of the time only claim expenses.  My Golden Years came with TV work and the books, but then the annual amount earned, as a weekly 'wage' would barely keep me in paperclips.  True cookery is a 'labour of love' rather than a 'good earner', although many TV chefs now seem to manage to make millions.  But what would I do with money?  My whole 'reason to be' is how to live WITHOUT, not have a life of luxury.  Why?  Because it's much more fun, a lot more challenging, and certainly not boring.

Good to know that in Canada the cost of living seems less than it is here in the UK Margie.  As with most places, some things will be expensive, others will be cheaper.
Think the Japanese must have a love of our Western literature as Haworth (Yorkshire) home of the Brontes, always was chosen as one of the Japanese visitors  'must visit' places. Whenever we went there, there often seemed more Japanese than locals.
Possibly Stratford on Avon (home of Shakespeare) would be also.

I too read that Delia Smith will be hanging up her apron Diana, so perhaps Mary Berry will now be Queen of the Cooks.  Prefer her to Delia anyway as she seems more 'approachable'. 

Unfortunately Sairy, we don't have Sky, (Christopher mentioned Youtube but not sure what that is) we have to rely on Freeview to watch TV (and can only get some of those channels), so being able to see repeats of old favourite TV progs is something we can't do.  Sometimes I look on the Sky listings in our TV supplement to see what is being shown, and think perhaps it's as well we can't receive them for I'd never be away from the screen.  It's taken me weeks to wean myself off the Food Network, and now watch that only occasionally.

With the late start, think I'll leave giving recipes until tomorrow and say my farewells for today.  Hope you will be able to join me again tomorrow, if so - see you then.  Enjoy your day.