Sunday, February 17, 2013

Making it Work.

Thanks Cheesepare for sending the website details for the Barrow filming that B was involved with, and special thanks to Eileen for copying these out for me, especially as she has a poorly hand. I would have had difficulty finding the correct site (she knows me well) so was very grateful for her help,  and being able to print out the email and pass it on to B (at least I managed that bit successfully) he was also very pleased to be able to read this.  So thanks to both of you.

As to those Knorr stockpots that your sister likes CP,  I have tried these before (both beef and now chicken - the latter being a free sample with the Tesco order). In both instances found them far too salty, and probably tasting better than the dry stockcubes, still feel they are not a patch on good home-made stock.  Considering how cheaply we can make this, wonder why people bother to buy chicken stock at all (beef stock can take longer to make when we begin with roasting the beef bones, but find when slow-cooking beef in a crock pot the liquid makes a 'gravy/stock far better flavoured than any stock cube, jellied or granulated).

As to using OXO cubes to make a hot drink.  My preference has always been to use a Bovril cube, and believe I mentioned, many months/years ago on this blog, that when I used some Batchelors products on TV (OXO cubes being one of their many products but not the ones used at that time), when I was wined and dined by the Batchelor's rep (as a thank you), and told him I preferred using Bovril cubes instead of OXO because they had a better flavour, expecting him to throw a wobbly, but he actually agreed with me. 

As to the 'extra' work.  It was our daughter (now called D on this blog) who read ad that asked for extras in the Lancaster area, so she gave details to B who went to the venue for an interview.  When he was accepted, our D also went and she too got on the list.    Whilst doing the work, and talking to some of the other 'extras', D took some names of agencies, and is thinking of herself and her Dad applying for 'extra' work.  
The only problem with working for an agency is they take a percentage of the earnings, but possibly - as it is easier for them to supply people and saves the production team advertising - the pay for 'extra' work may be higher anyway, so the agency commission wouldn't make much difference, if at all.

Yesterday much of my 'chat' was to do with kitchen gadgets and appliances, and whether we really need to use them.  Certainly, they do help to lessen the work-load, and many do save a lot of time (this is something else we have to think about - "could we make good use of time saved?").
We all like to use any kitchen gadget/appliance that means less work (what would we do without washing machines?!!), especially those who have outside employment as then time for cooking can be very limited.

Ideally, when choosing an appliance, as long as it ends up paying for itself, then it will be a worthwhile buy.  By this I mean every time it is used, we end up with something that would have cost more if we had to buy it over the counter.  A good example is an electric food slicer.  Admittedly I bought mine when I used to do a lot of catering (especially on a voluntary basis).  I've never been very good at carving meat, certainly not thinly, so as I used to be asked to cook beef, lamb, ham, tongue, turkey.... having the machine made slicing the cooked meats a doddle AND got loads more slices than if carved by hand.  
After comparing the price per 100g (as bought ready-sliced from the supermarket/butcher), found that after carving three different joint (maybe just one a month for personal use) had saved more than the money it cost me to buy the slicer.   As I've had it over 10 years now, and every couple of months or so used to carve another joint, it must have saved me hundreds of pounds had I bought (as normally used to do) the smaller packs of sliced meat.
The machine is also good for cutting home-made bread into the thinner slices that I prefer for sarnies. 'Thin-sliced' bread does not seem to be sold any more, it is all 'medium' or 'toasting', or even 'extra thick'.  The thinner the slice, the less calories/carbos, and the more we get from the one loaf.

The bread-maker was another 'good buy', even though it is perfectly possible to make bread dough without using a machine.  As a large loaf can be made for 66p or less in the bread machine, again this soon pays for itself over the weeks/months. 

My one huge 'investment' (when short of money some 40 or so years ago and just learning to cook) was treating myself to a Kenwood Chef.  Not as expensive as it could have been as much thought went behind the purchase.  As it was purchased through a mail-order catalogue (might have been Freeman's...) only needed the money for the deposit.  Ever after it was something like paying £1 a week (maybe slightly more) until the balance was paid off.
All that was needed to do then was use the machine to make what I would normally have bought, and the savings made would go to paying the next instalment.   Well, it didn't take much effort to save £1.  Sometimes I could save £5, even in those days, so you could say that savings made 'deliberately' (more than would normally have been made), meant I ended up with a Kenwood Chef that cost me very little 'real' money at all.

The same approach worked when I bought myself a knitting machine.  All I had to do was buy 5/-  (25p) worth of wool (cheaper in those days than now), and knit by hand a lacy christening shawls.  With the first shawl sold, this paid for more wool, so then knitted three more shawls, then had enough to put down the deposit and buy more wool.  As soon as the machine arrived (very easy to use), knitted tank-tops on it with the wool I'd bought, sold these and each week earned far more money than the weekly payment, so soon paid off the balance.  After that, earned more money, and eventually sold the knitting machine to someone else.  Definitely worth it, as with four teenagers and B, a lot of knitwear was needed (real wool in those days, later used man-made fibres).  As a jumper could be knitted on the machine in one afternoon, that certainly saved me loads of time to do more cooking in the kitchen using the 'Chef'.   Almost a golden period of my 'superscrimping' life when I think about it, and perhaps why being so short of money taught me that we can still enjoy 'the best' without having to pay very much for it after all (someone will soon be wishing they could push me off my pedestal if I carry on blowing my own trumpet like this - but in truth just hoping to prove that with a little thought-before-we-purchase, and use what we've bought to our advantage, we can end up with more money in our pocket, not less).

A few recipes today that are a bit more unusual, and - of course - not expensive, beginning with a 'rosti'.  When cooked, this looks a bit like a thin 'burger' and could be eaten in a bap, with some salad, as we would a meat version, or omit the bun and make a bread-free 'sandwich' by serving some small, mixed salad leaves between a 'rosti' and a true 'burger, this meal best eaten with a knife and fork!

Raw beetroot can be used for this dish, or we could use the ready-cooked (vacuum packed beetroot often has a fairly long shelf-life, so worth keeping an unopened pack in the fridge).
The best potatoes to use for a 'rosti' are the moist, waxy varieties as they keep their shape better than the floury spuds (these make better 'mash'), so if you can choose Charlotte or Maris Peer, but if in doubt, go for those in season, and if they are not quite the right kind, they should still work.
If the frying pan has an oven-proof handle, then this can be put into the oven instead of transferring the rostis to a baking sheet.  Also, if cooked beetroot has been used instead of raw, then this should also reduce the cooking time slightly.

Beetroot Rostis: makes 4
2 large potatoes (about 7oz/200g each)
2 beetroot, peeled and grated
1 small onion or shallot, coarsely grated
salt and pepper
1 large egg, beaten
1 - 2 tblsp sunflower oil
Peel the potatoes, and coarsely grate them.  Add the grated beetroot, then squeeze out as much excess juice as you can (if using a clean tea-towel the beetroot juice will stain the cloth, but if soaked immediately after this should wash clean, otherwise use several layers of kitchen paper or a new J cloth.
When as much moisture as possible has been removed, stir in the onion and seasoning to taste. adding enough egg to bind everything together.  Shape into 4 thin rounds.
Heat a large frying pan, and when hot, pour in the oil.  Add the rostis and fry for 4 - 5 minutes on each side or until crisp and golden.  Then transfer to a pre-heated baking sheet and finishing cooking in the oven for 6 - 8 minutes at 200C, 400F, gas 6 or until cooked through.

Home-made chicken stock is often mentioned on this blog, and this next recipe is a 'two-n-one' as it not only makes a meal in its own right, it also makes plenty of stock as well.  A useful recipe for this time of the year as it uses 'seasonal' vegetables.  Having said that, the veggies are normally what we cooks keep in our veggie basket or fridge all the year round. We could include others (parsnips, potatoes, swede, leeks etc) at the second stage, when we add fresh veggies to some of the strained stock.   The vegetables that have been cooked with the chicken will have lost most of their flavour (this goes into the stock) but still contain fibre and can be blitzed with some of the stock and plenty of seasoning to make soup (which can then be frozen)..
Despite what the recipe would lead us to believe, myself believe (in fact KNOW) we needn't use all the cooked meat from the bird, so some could be saved to use in other recipes over the next day or two, or frozen for later use.
Before you start to make this, my suggestion would be to put the veggies into the pan and sit the bird on top of these, this gives more height to the bird and so more water can be added to bring to the level required.  Alternatively, completely cover the bird with water.  To make enough stock to keep, you should use at least 3 pints water.

Mustard Chicken with Winter Veggies:  serves 6
1 whole chicken (approx 1.8kg/4lbs)
2 onions
6 ribs celery
6 carrots
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh thyme (opt)
salt and pepper
3 small turnips (see above)
2 oz (50g) butter
4 oz (100g) bacon lardons
1 level tblsp plain flour
2 tblsp wholegrain mustard
3 tblsp creme fraiche
Put the chicken in a deep casserole with half an onion, 1 rib celery (halved), and 1 carrot (cut into chunks). Tuck in the bay leaves and thyme (if using), and add seasoning to taste. Add water to come about three-quarters of the way up the chicken (at least, then bring to the boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for one and a half hours.  Leave to cool for a few minutes, then remove the chicken to a shallow dish and drain the stock into a bowl.
Dice the remaining onion, celery, carrot and turnip,and set aside.  Remove the chicken meat from the bones and tear into pieces (but you needn't use all of it - see above). Heat the butter in a pan, add the onion and bacon and fry for 5 minutes.  Stir in the flour and cook for a further minute before adding one pint of the stock plus half a pint of water.  Simmer, uncovered for 25 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
Stir the mustard into this 'sauce', followed by the chicken, and finally the creme fraiche.  Stir together gently as it simmers.  Add extra seasoning if necessary, then serve.

It's turned out to be a beautiful day today, not a cloud in the sky.  Believe the temperature too is rising, albeit slightly.  Let us hope we get several days of this so the ground gets a chance to soak way excess water.

With the possibility of a visit from our youngest daughter shortly, this may mean I'll be taking at least one day (if not two) off from blogging, but will let you know as and when.  So, with time moving fast - as it always seems to do the older we get - will sign off for today and hope you will be joining me again tomorrow.  If so - see you then.