Saturday, February 16, 2013

It's Always Worth It!

Late start again today due to our comp staying firmly fast asleep for what seemed like ages, then when I was checking emails and clicked on to one, it got 'stuck' so I had to switch off, reboot and wait all over again.  Even now blogger keeps coming up with 'an error has occured', and then the comp won't 'copy' what I'm writing, so have to wait several seconds before continuing.

At least this is the weekend, and always a busy time for most readers, so doubt anyone will be sorry this blog will be shorter than usual.  Perhaps the same tomorrow (due to Gill's phone call).  As today is 'baking day' (as well as doing other things), perhaps best I keep the weekends free of blogging.  Have to give a bit more thought about that.

B had a long day when filming on Thursday,  mostly re-takes of one scene (from various angles) but at least indoors this time', and it will be easier to notice him as he is the man playing the piano (or at least miming it) at a 'talent show' where a girl was also miming singing to a Doris Day song.
If B has got the info right (and he could be wrong), the film is about an Irish lady with a surname Noble, possibly first name Emma?  She has written several books on her life in Ireland and beyond. One of the leading actors in the film is the man who played Mr. Bates in Downton Abbey.  Fortunately he wasn't at the filming or my daughter would still be having the vapours.

Yesterday did another 'costing', this time comparing my home-made, very concentrated (jellied) chicken stock with that of similar Knorr stock.  As I had kept the tiny oval plastic mould that held the Knorr 'chicken jelly', and Granny G had said the Knorr tubs of stock were £1.50 for four (four to a pack), with very careful measurement discovered that four 'tubs' of water measured exactly 100ml.  My concentrated stock measured exactly 500ml. Thankfully, when it comes to costing, 'the metrics' are easy to work out, so I got five x £1.50's worth for just the cost of a very few vegetables to make the stock (which were then used to make soup with some of the stock anyway, so that cost can then be discounted).

If it works out that the home-made jellied stock compares with £7.50 of same amount bought, and the fresh chicken cost me £3, then another way of looking at it would be that making the stock myself instead of buying five packs of Knorr stock  (as some people would, but not necessarily all at the same time) I would still be saving £4.50p.  This means I could afford to buy TWO chickens and still end up with £1.50p 'savings'.  But with another chicken I could make more stock. Leading to more savings... and so ad infinitum.

Perhaps my 'costings' are turning out to be obsessive, but when I know it really does save a lot of money when I make something myself, am far more inclined to continue.  If the difference is only a penny or two, then am far more likely to buy rather than make and use the time saved on something more 'profitable'.

Not sure whether your oranges are the sweet or the bitter (Seville) type Pam, and if wishing to make marmalade always better to use bitter oranges otherwise the preserve will taste more like jam.  However, here is a fairly easy recipe that doesn't need pectin (the pips have that), and you could use the lemon peelin as well as the juice as this would make the marmalade slightly 'sharper' in flavour.  Remember the 'pints' are English (20 fl oz/600ml) as the American pint is less.
Orange Marmalade: makes about 5 lb
1 lb (450g) Seville or bitter oranges
3 pints water (see above)
3 lb (1.3 kg)
juice of 2 lemons (see above)
Cut or mince the oranges (and lemons after juice has been extracted - if using), removing the pips.  Tie the pips in a muslin bag.  Put the peel and pulp in a bowl (or the preserving pan) with the muslin bag of pips, and add the water.  Leave to stand overnight.  Next day, put into the preserving pan (if not already there) and bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer gently for about an hour and a half, until the peel is quite soft.  Then remove the muslin bag (squeeze the juice back into the pan) and stir in the sugar.  Stir until just about dissolved, then raise heat and bring rapidly to the boil, and fast-boil until setting point has been reached - this takes about 20 minutes.
Cool slightly then pot into sterilised jars and seal in the normal way.  Store in a cool place and eat within a year.

Your suggestion of having a small table-top oven for people who need to cook only small amounts could make sense Les.  But this from a man who appears to buy almost every type of cooking appliance on the market?  Surely you don't do this to save money, for even the cost of just buying (say) a slow cooker is only worth it if it ends up 'paying for itself'.

Myself would first try to find out how much MORE expensive it would be to slow-cook (at 'slow-cooker temperatures) in a conventional oven before I moved on to buying a slow-cooker. 
Mind you, if we didn't have a slow cooker (aka 'crock pot) I might have been tempted to buy one, but even thought we do have one, this was not bought.  Instead requested instead of payment for a feature in Good Housekeeping in the early '80's, and though used regularly, after all that time, it still works as well as it did when I first had it.  As it had been tested in the Good Housekeeping Institute, and passed with flying colours, then am not surprised it has lasted so long.

Nevertheless, would still be interested to find out how much more it would cost to slow-cook in a conventional oven set at the same temperature as a slow cooker for the same length of time.  If anyone can tell me, it would be Les. 
If there isn't too much difference in cost (presumably the oven would prove more expensive) then I would then hope to work out how many times I could 'oven-cook' for the cost of a slow-cooker.
Appreciate that most people don't bother with things like that, but when we have now to tighten our belts almost to the last notch, with the probablily of having to punch in more holes to tighten it further over the next months/years, then knowing can still do/make something without having to splash our cash, could make a world of difference.

The one thing that really can annoy me is when someone whinges "Oh, can't make that as I haven't a food processor/liquidiser/microwave/electric mixer...".  For centuries people have used God's own tools (hands) and our modern appliances just take some of the work load from our shoulders. Dare I ask "what's so wrong with work?" 

Readers know I do have several 'gadget/appliances, so hope they don't think I'm being hypocritical. Those that do, ready to wag their fingers at me, hope they realise I've just been fortunate.  The food processor was part of a 'legacy' when a home was divided up between relatives, we also got the washing machine the same way. Both appliance must now be well over 20 years old, but still working, although the washing machine needs a helping hand to move it through its cycles.

Because of my 'media' work, also fortunate in that our double oven in Leeds, the gas hob, microwave, and electric mixer were freely given to me various manufacturers, as these were 'seen' on TV and in magazines, so free publicity for them.  Cook's 'perks' if you like, but believe me, I worked hard enough for them.  The microwave 'died' after a few years, but we were given another (thrown out because it didn't work, but only needed a new fuse), and this is still working (although its internal light has gone out).  The only appliance bought recently has been an electric hand mixer, and this from B who bought it as my Christmas present after the other one 'blew'.  Although possible for me to whip/beat by hand, it takes a lot of time.  But even one of those rotary hand beaters we used in 'the old days' would have been almost as good as the 'electrics'.

As time is fast moving past noon, just time for one more recipe.  This uses halloumi cheese, the type of cheese that doesn't really 'melt', so good to slice and grill/griddle/barbecue.  The halloumi has a very long-shelf life compared to other cheeses, so well worth keeping some in the fridge.  Used in this recipe it stays in shape (part of the charm of the dish), but no reason why another hard cheese could not be used, in chunks or grated.
As these 'burgers are meatless, extra protein can be added by using half halloumi and half tofu (also chopped up).   The ground coriander is spicy, not at all the same flavour as fresh coriander, so an alternative spice to use could be cumin, or even paprika, curry powder, or chilli.
Halloumi Burgers: makes 8
12 oz (300g) carrots, grated
1 courgette, grated
1 onion, finely chopped
2 oz (50g) sweetcorn kernels (thawed if frozen)
9 oz (250g) halloumi, finely chopped  OR...
...4 oz/100g halloumi, and 5 oz/150 tofu (see above)
3 oz (75g) fresh breadcrumbs
1 egg
1 tblsp ground coriander
salt and pepper to taste
Put all the above into a large bowl and, using your hands, mix well together.  Form into 8 'burgers' and arrange on a greased baking sheet. Bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 20 - 25 minutes until golden brown.
A good way to serve is tuck each burger into a warmed, split, pitta bread.  Serve with salad.

That's it for today.  Now must sort out some meat to thaw and cook 'in bulk' in my slow cooker overnight. Well, if I have one, might as well use it.  The cooked meat will then be cooled and frozen with some of its 'stock'.  Using cooked meat when making a casserole will save a considerable amount of  casserole-cooking time, and not THAT much difference in flavour when the stock can also be included.  Chefs would beg to differ, but when it comes to the crunch, at this present time we have to consider not just how cheap we can buy ingredients, but how cheaply they can be cooked as well.   Perhaps we will soon see the return of the 'hay-box'?

The 'horsemeat' debacle is going from bad to worse, and feel this may just be the tip of the ice-berg. We now hear that pork has been included in dishes that are supposed to be made with beef (and only that meat), not that this should cause much concern, but there are many religions that ban the eating of pork.   It seems that making more profit is the sole aim of many food processors these days, and they turn a blind eye to correct labelling.   This could see a lemming-like swarm of people turning their backs on processed ready-meals, with a lot more meat bought from local butchers, and meals made at home.  Just as in the old days.   Let us hope this will happen.  We just have to wait and see.

Back with you again tomorrow, hoping to write and publish before Gill phones, otherwise it will be after, so another wait until noon to have a read.  As getting up at first late becomes earlier as the weeks pass by, then hopefully, after Easter my blogs will be finished before even B has woken up.
Enjoy the good weather we are supposed to be having,  at least here it is fine, almost tempting me to have a wander round the garden.  But still very cold, especially at night.  So be sure to keep warm. TTFN.