Friday, February 08, 2013

Out with the New, In with the Old...

Hoped to begin my blog a bit earlier, but - as ever - stayed in bed for an extra 10 minutes as I was so comfy, which lasted a good hour, in which time I had an almost nightmare (usual dream, lost my money, left my mobile phone behind, ended up in a foreign country....) which itself seemed to last a good couple of days.  Amazing how our brains can pack so much dream time in so very few minutes.

Lovely programme on TV last night about 'Heavy Horses' (with Martin Clunes, he is such a lovely man), followed by a prog. on artificial limbs (same time but was able to watch the latter an hour later via Freeview 13).  That was amazing, and have a feeling that in 100 years it will be possible to have a bionic body controlled by just a human head fitted on top.  That should solve a lot of health problems and maybe allow for a longer 'human' life? 

I've checked out recipes for 'Savoury Duck' after a query in a recent comment, and it seems as though this is the same dish as 'Faggots' a recipe I gave recently (can give it again if wished).  Faggots are normally eaten hot, then called 'savoury ducks' when left to get cold before being eaten.  Also 'googled' to see what came up, and it seems much as my book said although there are some variations in what part of a pig etc could be used. 

Thanks Les for giving me the Freeview channels.  There are a couple mentioned I can't get, even though I've re-set the 'box'.  Probably due to that new aerial (for mobiles etc) that they said would disrupt certain Freeview channels in this particular area.  There are only about half the Freeview channels listed in our TV supplement (from about 36 supposedly available), and although I know I could click on each one to see what it is, or even look it up on Google, find there are better things I can do with my time.  My Beloved and I say that there are already too many channels, and too many different things that we could be watching, and the more limited the choice the easier it is to make a decision.   Otherwise we'd be needing two TV sets so we can please ourselves what we watch, and that's hardly conducive to a family atmosphere. 
My belief is we all watch far too much TV anyway, leading to obesity and the time 'wasted' prevents us learning necessary skills that could stand us in good use in these times of recession. I speak from experience having learned most of my skills before TV entered my home, and kept a lot of my weight on from sitting for too many hours now in front of TV.  TV has become almost addictive as you have probably realised.  A habit I should try to break

A big thanks to Noor for her explanation of Malaysian food and cooking.  Rick Stein did mention that in that region a lot of the ingredients (spices etc) are used 'fresh', whereas here in the UK only available dried. Fresh turmeric (Chef Wan called it 'yellow ginger'), coconut, galangal, and chillis always used fresh, and as Rick S. said, 'they have a much better and stronger flavour when fresh'. 

Was pleased that my phonetic spelling of  Hokkien Mee: 'Hockey and Me',  was pretty accurate (well, at least by sound').    
Mozzarella cheese was not mentioned when at Langkawi Island, that particular part of the programme mainly about the fish.  Rick S. and his Malaysian 'helper' visited one of the fish farms where he was able to feed fish tidbits - they would rise out of the water to take them from between his fingers.  One such fish was a huge skate, and both men said the same thing: "what gentle eyes it has".

One thing you said Noor, did interest me greatly, it was the bit about how - in Malaysia - fish is always cooked/eaten on the bone as it has much more flavour than when filleted (or 'fillayed' as they say in the US - and, to be fair probably the correct French pronunciation). 
We say the same thing about our meat.  It has much more flavour when cooked on the bone, 'the nearer the bone, the sweeter the meat' as the saying goes.  We do eat many fish cooked whole, such as mackerel, herrings, trout... but often grumble about having to be careful to pick out the bones or they can get stuck in our throat, so often these can be bought ready filleted by the fishmonger (or in frozen packs).  
At one time remember my mother always cooking the larger fish (cod, haddock, salmon) as fish 'steaks', these being cut across the fish, each with a piece of backbone running through it.  In more recent years most fish is now filleted and sold off the bone and have to say I prefer them this way, but am now having second thoughts.  It makes sense to gain as much flavour as possible from the foods we buy.

With the larger joints of meat, they are certainly easier to carve when the bone has been removed, but even then we can get the best of both worlds by asking the butcher to remove the bone, and then replace it, tying the rest of the meat back round it.  After roasting, the bone is easily removed and the meat can then be easily carved.  Definitely worth doing it this way.

As Noor says, street food must be fresh and good to eat or the vendors would rapidly lose customers.  Perhaps in this country we have become a bit too used to eating 'street' food that although fit to eat (by 'elf and safety standards) is not as good as it could be.  Perhaps not yet enough competition? 
Seeing some of the Food Network progs on street food, it does seem that both in the US and in the UK (but here mainly in the London area), the 'fast food' is improving.  We have yet to wait for it to arrive up here in the northern part of the country.

With a request for soup recipes, there are so many, but it would help if an idea could be given as to the ingredients that could be used (especially when the request comes from another part of the world). 
Even so, have to admit to making what I think of as an absolutely gorgeous soup, and this using cans and packets (so am now doomed to be considered a failing cook because of this).  It started the day before yesterday when I was desperate for a speedy soup, but had no canned soup, and wanted something a bit more substantial than a cuppa soup (sorry, but these I do have).  So I emptied a can of chopped tomatoes into a saucepan, added a good squirt of tomato ketchup to give it a bit more 'body', and then added a sachet of (dry) chicken cuppa soup.  Rinsed out the tomato can with a little water (it's surprising how much tomato is left clinging to the insides, and we should never waste that), and when heated and well mixed together it made a wonderfully thick and satisfying and extremely well-flavoured soup.  I wanted more.

So yesterday made it again, this time adding plenty of black pepper and a few drops of hot chilli sauce to give it a bit more 'kick', and - all I can say is - that is going to be the only soup I want to drink for many a day to come.  Will be having it again today for lunch.  Not that many calories, yet filling and warming enough to last me through until suppertime (when I might be having it again).
This could be one soup worth making to take to work?

You feel the same as me about the Hairy Biker's new programme Travelling Ninjas, and even - as Les commented - it is much cheaper to make their version than to have the same dish when 'eating out' (or even buying it ready made from M & S),  this doesn't help us who are trying to save pennies, not spend them, even though we should occasionally 'treat ourselves'.  There are so many very inexpensive dishes that are very much on my 'treat list', that we could make instead (anyone remember that two foot high cone of cream-filled profiteroles -over 80 of them - that looked so impressive but cost only £5 to make?).  That's the sort of thing I mean - cheap ingredients, then go all out with the presentation (normally not costing anything as our 'creativity' is free).

A query from an Anonymous (please give a name so I can give a personal reply), requesting details, costings etc of my suggestion of a 3 course meal to feed for that cost only £3. 
Jane also sent a comment, believing that the £3 was just for the main course. But really did mean (when I said it) this was to cover the whole meal. 
Reminded me when I used to brag about being able to make a meal for four for £1 (it was cheaper in those days) and the TV producer came back with 'put your money where your mouth is'.  So of course had to prove I could do it.  And so I will this time.

As haven't time to work it all out today, will at least explain how I would start.  The first course would be as cheap as it could be - and this would almost certainly be soup.  The next thought would be the dessert, again as cheap as possible, possibly a steamed pudding?   The money left (more than half) would go on the main course - and this would probably have to be vegetarian, although eggs might be included as the 'protein part.

When I first learned how to 'cook from scratch' (this when the money had run out and I had no option but to use what food I already had), very soon found it worked out cheaper to serve three courses, instead of just two.  This because after eating the first course (soup), hunger had been appeased, so a smaller second course could be served, and especially when a 'hearty' pudding followed, after eating all that, everyone was completely 'satisfied', ;full up', 'pogged' (as my children called it), even though smaller portions than normal had been served. 

It was at that time that one of our daughters, after sitting through the second day of my 3 course meals, asked "why are we eating so much better meals", and the only reply I could make was "because I've been thinking more about how to make them".  This perhaps says a lot about the meals that I used to make prior to this time.  Like 'old-style', meat and two veg. boring.  You know what I mean.  I really wasn't much good at cooking.  Then.

Coloured lentils were mentioned by jane, and this awakened yet another memory of mine.  It was in war-time that my mother first became aware of green lentils (these may sometimes be called brown, I've never been sure). A 'fatter' whole lentil, sort of khaki coloured. 
At that time we lived in Leamington Spa, having left Coventry to get away from the continuing bombing (then both day AND night), and we took in a couple of refugees from Prague, a mother and son.  The father was I don't know where, but as they were Jewish, perhaps not a happy ending for him.
Mrs Teiner (not sure of the spelling but the name pronounced as 'tiner') often cooked for herself and son some of those green lentils (mentioned above), and she once gave some to my mother to taste.  Mum loved them and from then on used to cook them occasionally, but always with bacon (when lucky enough to have some - it was wartime remember).  Mrs. T - because of her faith - could not eat bacon, but it certainly improved the flavour of the lentils, a marriage made in heaven you could say.

Have heard of yellow lentils, used - in Indian cookery - to make dhal, but seeing photos of these, they look remarkably like what I call 'split peas'.  A yellow version of the split red lentils.  Peas are green, so perhaps 'split peas' ARE lentils.  Can anyone enlighten me?

When searching through my collection of 'old books', came across a booklet published by Heinz, promoting their Salad Cream.  The booklet was called "Heinz book of fruit-with-vegetables Salads", published in 1932, a year before I was born (kept by my mother and so passed on to me).

What was written as an introduction made me smile, so thought it worth giving the insight as to the way the cookery writers wrote then.
"Fruit-with Vegetable Salads served with Heinz Salad Cream are definitely the 1932 vogue.
Their delightful flavours - their audacious use of the unexpected - their colourful harmonies - their value to health, complexions and good looks - all these things and more combine to make them appeal irresistibly to the modern housewife....."

There are 18 recipes in the booklet, and safe to say that all are now pretty well known, made and eaten, during recent years.  Generally the fruits used are apple, banana, grapefruit, orange, and pineapple.  The 'vegetables' being mainly lettuce and cucumber.  Sometimes nuts are included (as in a what we now call a 'Waldorf'), the one difference today is that we make our fruit-and-veg-salads using mayonnaise instead of salad cream.
I give one that is one that I've not (yet) seen published in another book or mag, but it doesn't mean to say it isn't to be found somewhere.  In those days lettuce was 'soft', not the iceberg type, although am pretty sure the more bitter cos lettuce would be grown, so we could use Little Gem?
None of the recipes gave any indication of to the amounts of each ingredient used.  So the recipe is as published.

Cherry, Lettuce and Walnut Salad:
ripe cherries
lettuce hearts
chopped walnuts
crystallised ginger
Heinz Salad Cream
sprigs of watercress
Stone the cherries. Wash the lettuce, separate the leaves, dry them in a clean cloth or salad basket and arrange on salad plates.  Mix the cherries and chopped walnuts with the Salad Cream and arrange on lettuce leaves.
Sprinkle with a very little very finely chopped crystallised ginger, and decorate with watercress.

Old recipes are often worth reading as it seems that many details can be omitted as in those days a cook was experienced enough to know what she was doing.  Hence - with one recipe from the above booklet - "decorate the plate with foliage".  Cooks then would know this would mean 'edible greens'.  Youngsters today could think it meant anything - ivy leaves perhaps, and these would be poisonous.

Another book I have, published 1940 (so during food rationing) called 'Farmhouse Fare', at least showed how more substantial meals could be made if you had the makings (as many farmers did, but 'townies' didn't, unless their butcher could provide).
But it wasn't because of rationing these dishes came to the forefront, they had been made for probably centuries, and when reading these, it shows how much today we have turned against eating so many foods that are both nutritious and cheap, just because they don't sound very nice.  A bit like horsemeat I suppose.

Reading the recipes wonder how many of us today would be brave enough to make and eat the following:
braised sheep's tongue
savoury sheep's head
sheep's head broth
heart and kidney pudding
lamb tail pie
calves's head pie
pig's head pudding
pig's feet and parsley sauce
tripe with tomatoes
jugged pigeons
rook pie
and perhaps it would (financially) be worth our while if we did.  If anyone wants the recipe for one or t'other of the above, I'll gladly give it.

Reading through and old book of Scottish recipes came across one that uses smoked haddock.  There was a recent comment about this fish, and how expensive it has now become.  The one good thing about this fish is that even a small amount can add plenty of flavour to a dish, and if we can include some of the liquid (usually milk) that it has been poached in, we gain even more (so might be worth cooling and freezing any poaching liquid left to add to another dish when a bit short of fish)
So, if we use a lot less fish than in the original recipe, we can make a much cheaper but still tasty dish.  My version (given below) uses a smaller quantity of fish (originally 1 lb), but we can use more if we wish. 
The recipe does not give portions, but as served on 8 slices of toast and given as a 'snack' or 'high tea' dish, then we can assume it is to serve 8.
Smoked Haddock Scramble:
9 oz (250g) smoked haddock
milk for poaching
8 eggs
salt and pepper
2 oz (50g) butter
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
8 slices buttered toast
Put the fish into a pan and cover with milk.  Poach for 15 - 20 minutes then remove fish (reserve the milk), remove skin, any bones, and flake the flesh.
Beat the eggs together and season well.  Melt the butter in a saucepan, add 2 tblsp of the reserved milk, then the eggs and cook over a very low heat, stirring all the time, until the eggs are scrambled. Stir in the flaked fish and the W. sauce.  Serve on the buttered toast.

Yesterday spent some time sorting out the larder, stocks are decreasing fairly rapidly, and I now have quite a few empty spaces on my shelves.  Before I've always had the urge to refill as rapidly as possible, but this year am reluctant to do so.  Why?  Perhaps common sense has kicked in, and have come to realise that no longer do we need to keep ourselves well supplied in case of a natural disaster or war.  With the first it would almost certainly mean we would probably have to rapidly leave our house without time to take any food with us (so it could be lost), and war isn't appearing over the horizon at the moment.   So now feel that keeping six of everything (or mostly everything) should be quite enough, with less (like two of each) of the lesser used foods.  As long as there is one in use and two for back-up, then this should be quite enough.   

So my trip to Morrison's that I was intending to do has now been put back a week or two. B can get the 'top ups' (milk, eggs, oranges etc) that are needed and I'll carry on using what I already have. Maybe my restricted 'diet' has a bit to do with my 'U' turn, as most of the larder foods I now cannot allow myself to have (other than the canned fish, canned tomatoes...), and am making this excuse for not refilling my shelves again (sob, sob, no more Spam).  My Beloved's meals tend to be mainly made with 'the fresh' (vegetables, including the frozen, and his favourite meat and fish - also in the freezer).  Cakes, pies and puddings I do make for B, but as he is the only one that eats them, this does not reduce my 'dry goods' very rapidly.   Once I begin baking again for the Foodbank and B's social club, then my stock of flour/sugar etc will soon be depleted.  Until then, shopping can wait.

Time for me to sign off as must finish my larder 'stocktake' then move on to sorting out and using leftovers lurking in the fridge.  Can at least make myself a good pot of soup using up oddments of veggies with the chicken stock I made the other day.  Will make a change from the tomato soup twice a day mentioned above.  Tomato at lunch, chicken for supper perhaps?

Meanwhile must start to work on the £3 menu, and hope to get this completed within a very few days, maybe even today.  So anyone who is interested, watch this space!

Beloved will be off for the first filming on Sunday, believed to be at Ravenglass, and as they are providing breakfast for the cast/extras, this means a very early start (have to make their own way their, but details not yet given, so could change).  Apparently this will be a 'proper' film, to be shown in cinemas at the end of this year.  About a Russian lady who did something interesting in other countries, presumably around the 1950'60s.
Beloved was 'kitted out' with a dark suit, black brogues, a trilby hat, a shirt with a stiff collar fitted with collar studs, but no tie.  In those days all men wore ties, so B queried this and was told he was a 'village man' (who apparently didn't wear ties), so as all the other male extras were to wear ties, perhaps anyone who sees the film and sees the one man not wearing a tie, it will be my Beloved. Always supposing he doesn't end up on the cutting room floor.

Look at me, rambling on again when I was just about to sign off, so must do that now.  As ever, hope you enjoy the rest of your day (by the time you read this half of it at least will be over), and hope you will find time to join me again tomorrow, even though it is the start of a weekend and our then 'free' time is too precious to sit wasting it in front of a computer. So TTFN, and see you when.