Friday, February 15, 2013

What Would You Do?

Apologies for yesterday's short blog.  Recently I've had more 'cookery work' to deal with (albeit unpaid - aka 'voluntary') and this can take up several hours of my day once 'the bug has bit'.  If I have to start one thing, then leave off to do something else, nothing gets done properly. 
Today's blog consists mainly of replies to two days of your comments, and if you have commented twice will keep them together in the one 'head to head ' from me.

First jane.  Pleased you like the soup recipes, and as you mentioned previously you have a mainly liquid diet, wonder how you cope with the need for fibre?  More recipes for soup will be posted up as the days/weeks/months go by.

Thanks Granny G. for letting me know the price of the Knorr 'stock pots'.  At £1.50 for four, that makes our home-made version very much cheaper, as even when we have reduced it down to the consistency (when set) to the little Knorr pots, we still get loads.  With my recently made batch that I will be reducing down today, will work out how many little 'pots' it will make, then can work out the actual savings.

The elderflower 'champagne' recipe was correct Pam.  It will taste very sweet when first made (prior to bottling) but the longer it is kept the less sweet it becomes as the yeast from the flowers change the sugars to the 'bubbles' and kept in demi-john jars (with air-locks) for several weeks/months it would change to wine.  
The amount of 'fizz' that occurs during the first weeks after bottling (and continuing) is amazing, so it is very important, once the elderflower 'champagne' has been bottled up, after the first couple of weeks, to unscrew the caps enough to release the pressure, then screw caps back on and let the pressure build up again.  Do this every few days from then on, or after a week if the pressure hasn't built up enough.  This has to be done or glass bottles could explode and plastic bottles could split. It is always best to drink the lot by the end of six weeks, or it could get a bit 'boozy' (and not fit for children to drink).
(Incidentally, now have to put the name 'champagne' in quotes, as this name is one of those that can only be used by the makers of true champagne in a certain region of France I believe.  Like no-one can now call cheese 'Stilton' unless made in one of three counties in England.  
The name of the traditional 'elderflower champagne' drink is now normally called 'Elderade'.)

Myself find that spreading the topping on a pizza right to the edges may seem to be a good idea Marjorie, but once in the oven have found the filling, once bubbling, can then spill over the sides and make quite a mess of the oven shelves (if not baked on a tin), and bits fall to the oven floor as well. Having a little 'crust' around the edges of the pizza does give something for the fingers to grasp on.  Maybe it's just me, I don't like 'messy' eating with lots of finger licking, and I have yet to eat a pizza using a knife and fork.

You mention taking soups to work for your lunch Noor, but not sure whether you eat these hot or cold.  Here in our UK summer (what's that?), at least on warm days, we would always eat cold (chilled) soups, and as you say your climate will now be very hot, am assuming you would also wish to eat/drink cold soups.   Let me know then I'll have a better idea of what soup recipes to suggest.
Thanks for giving prices for the ingredients shown.  Our cans of chopped tomatoes seem much cheaper than yours (but much depends upon the size I suppose).  An average price for a 400g can would be around 45p, 'own-brand' can be cheaper.   You mention garlic, are you pricing that by the whole bulb, or just one of its cloves?   The size of the onion can make a difference in price, but possible the same as we pay, and a stalk (this I call 'rib') of celery also about the same (if you count how many there are on a 'head' of celery, although it is only the outer 'ribs' that are of a good size, the inner, sweeter, ones are very small.

If a Valentine's card is never signed, then how did your OH know it came from your dog, Travelling Ninjas?  It might have had more impact on your better half if you had sent the card to the dog.  Men really are very bad at remembering dates, at least once they have passed the first year of marriage.  They can only remember their own birthday (and constantly remind the members of the family in case they forget).  
Am I like most wives (or the female side of a partnership) in that I am always the one who remembers to send birthday greetings and Christmas cards?.  Also buy all the presents?  Men just sit back and do nothing.  Mostly now 'our' gifts are labelled 'from Mum and Dad', even though Dad has had no interest at all in what has been bought or given, just as long as he doesn't have to pay for anything he is happy.

Two comments from Les...  As to the comp.  Yes, this is what I do, switch it on and then go and do something else, although this may mean several trips back and forth into the room to move from one 'click' to the next.  Our comp is set up for three different 'log-ons'.  One for B, one for me, and another for me as a 'back-up'.  I can only read my emails on the latter, so this is what I have to do first,  then have to go to the main one of mine to get onto blogger, or 'word', and this then means a long wait while that too is 'waking up'.    Our son cleared the 'debris' from the comp not that long ago, and told me there was 'lots of room left', and our grandson feels that it could be the comp is just getting past its 'use by date'.  It is about 10 years old. 
There is a possibility that we may be able to get a second hand, much faster comp soon, but have to wait until this happens, otherwise will have to buy one.   As long as this still works, I can put up with having to wait.   Some days it is faster than others.  Today is a good day.  Perhaps because the weather has turned warmer? 

Your other comment Les was about little ovens sold by Aldi.  Your mention perhaps to do with the lack of cooking facilities relating to the Foodbank 'customers'.  It's not that they have no cookers, but have had their gas/electricity cut off as they can't pay their bills.  So this has to be considered when thinking up recipes using the food 'allocation'.

I'll be happy to give some recipes that might be useful for your local Foodbank Janet, and although these may not sound appetising to our readers (or at least not appetising enough to want to even make them), these have to be made ONLY from the foods allocated.  Even these can vary according to what has been donated.  Soups could come in a variety of flavours, canned meats could be minced meat, stewing steak, chicken, ham, spam, corned beef.  Vegetables could be either peas, carrots, green beans, red beans etc, new potatoes, sweetcorn....    Fish could be sardines, pilchards, tuna, salmon...
With recipes as a guide it would be hoped that the volunteer packers would be able to find the right flavours or types to suit the dish/es that could be made. 

So many ingredients and 'extras' that we take for granted (onions, eggs, cheese, salt, pepper, spices, sauces, oil/fats, even stock cubes and bread really can make such a difference to the flavour of a dish), but cannot be assumed to be available.  Some kitchens might have one or more of these, or perhaps there might be just a few pennies in hand to be able to buy them.  Many Foodbank customers may have none of these as they prefer to eat mainly 'ready-meals', so don't even know how to boil an egg.

As I've written up plenty of recipes on 'word' for the Foodbank Janet, I could forward these to your local Foodbank if they wish to see them, and if you could give me their address.  Otherwise I would put them up on this site, a few at a time.   A few have been given today.
It would be useful to know that the Morecambe 'allocation' is the same for all Foodbanks, as then re recipes could be used by all the 'customers', so the list of foods is given below (the allocation meant to feed a family for 3 days), everything has to be canned or in packets as no fresh food is given out:

Foodbank Allocation (Morecambe):
1 cereal; 4 soups; 4 baked beans/spaghetti sauce; 4 tomatoes/pasta sauce; 4 vegetables; 3 meat (or if vegetarian, 2 extra cans veg); 4 fish.
2 fruit; 2 rice pudding/custard; 1 sponge pudding; 1 biscuits; 1 kg sugar; 1.5 kg rice or pasta;
1 pkt instant mashed potatoes; 160 tea bags; 1 carton juice; 2 UHT milk/1 pkt milk powder.
Extra when available: 1 snack; 1 sauce; 1 chocolate; 1 jam.

The (nationally supplied?) suggestions for meals given out with the allocation are as follows (or as near as dammit):
Day 1:
breakfast: cereal/fruit juice/tea.
lunch: 2 x soup with half a pack of pasta. Cook pasta, heat soup and mix together.
dinner: Hash. Mix tinned meat with 2 cans beans, potatoes or veg.   Pudding: rice pudding, tinned fruit.

Day 2.
breakfast: cereal and tea.
lunch: corned beef, pasta with tomatoes and beans
dinner: tuna and pasta with vegetables.  Tinned fruit.

Day 3:
breakfast as above
lunch: as day 1
dinner: pasta with tomatoes and baked beans and vegetables.

Recipes are not really needed for the above as it seems to be just a matter of opening tins, heating content, and serving (or mixing) things together.  But always important when giving recipes that they are as easy to understand as possible.

Even the Day 1 pudding above could be improved if a can of (drained) fruit was placed in a heatproof dish, topped with rice pudding OR custard, then a thin layer of sugar spooned over the surface.  Place under a preheated grill and cook for a couple or so minutes until the sugar has begun to melt and bubble (caramelise).  Remove from heat, leave for a few minutes for the sugar to set, then you end up with a 'proper' (classic) dish. 
For families that have no heat, it would mean just eating the fruit with the cold rice pudding or custard.  Not unpleasant by any means.

Another simple dish would be to make Cottage Pie.
Empty a can of minced beef into a deepish dish, cover either with canned carrots that have been drained and mashed, or - if you wish - serve the carrots separately, and finish with a topping of mashed potato (made from instant).  Put into a pre-heated oven 180C, 350F, gas 4 and cook for about 20 minutes or until heated through and the potato is crusty and golden on top.
Alternatively, the meat and carrots can be heated on the hob, put into the dish then the freshly made mashed potatoes placed on top, to then be browned off under the grill.

A simple recipe for 'spag bol, would be:  cook half a bag of pasta (spaghetti or 'shapes') as per packet instructions. While it is cooking, empty a can of minced beef into a pan, add a can of chopped tomatoes, and a can of mixed vegetables, cut small if large, OR a can of carrots, chopped.  Heat through, then when the pasta is ready, drain the pasta and add to the vegetables and stir gently together so all the pasta is coated with the meat sauce.  To improve the dish further, if a spare onion, fry this and add to the beef.  Extra flavour can be given by adding a crumbled beef stock cube and a dash of HP (brown) sauce when heating the minced beef.  Any dried up oddments of cheese could be grated to sprinkle on top of each serving.  All these 'extras' are not necessary, but really can make a meal very appetising.

Was surprised that Fish Cakes were not shown on the Foodbank 'menu'.  So easy to make, especially if the canned fish (sardines or tuna...) are in oil as the oil can be drained off and used for frying the fish cakes.  Just mix equal quantities of flaked fish and mashed potato, then form into fish cakes (or even fish fingers) and fry in shallow oil.  If no oil, then place on baking sheet and heat in the oven (or under the grill) until golden. 

Here is a recipe that uses canned salmon, but tuna would work equally as well.  Whereas we might cook new potatoes from scratch, others could used canned new potatoes, drained and rinsed.  The tasty 'topping' does give a lot more added flavour and texture to this dish, but may have to be omitted as creme fraiche (or yogurt) and cheese may not be available. If this is the case, cover the dish when cooking, then drizzle oil from the can of fish over the top of the potatoes to help them brown.

Potato and Fish Grill: serves 4
1 lb (450g) new potatoes (or 1 - 2 cans)
4 oz (100g) frozen or canned and drained peas
1 x 200g canned salmon or tuna (pref in oil)
5 fl oz (150ml) creme fraiche or yogurt, see above
4 oz (100g) grated cheddar cheese, see above
If using fresh potatoes (skin can be left on), slice lengthways and boil for 7-10 minutes until almost tender.  If using frozen peas add these to the pan and cook for a further 2 - 3 minutes.
If using canned potatoes, empty into a pan, heat through then drain and slice lengthways. If using canned peas, drain and mix in with the drained potatoes.
Drain the fish, reserving the oil from the can, and flake the fish.  Fold this gently into the potatoes and peas and spoon into a heatproof dish.
If using creme fraiche, roughly spread this over the surface and scatter the cheese on top, then place under a preheated grill and cook for a few minutes until bubbling and golden.
Otherwise, arrange potato slices to cover the surface of the dish and brush these with the reserved oil, then finish off under the grill.

Here is a recipe intended to be eaten cold.  Although the macaroni (this could be any pasta shape) has first to be cooked, and mayonnaise is an ingredient, feel that a can of 'macaroni cheese' (if available) would work just as well, the 'cheese sauce' taking the place of the mayo). However, perhaps best not with pineapple, so this could be omitted and a can of (drained) peas could take the place of the fruit, the fruit then served as a dessert.
Pineapple and ham go well together, but canned peaches could be used.  This 'salad' could also work with canned chicken if ham was not available.   Thing is, when all the different 'components' are available (whether at the Foodbank or already in our kitchens), this is a dish that we can all make and enjoy.
Pineapple and Ham Salad:
1 large can pineapple chunks
12 oz (300g) cooked ham, unsliced
6 oz (175g) macaroni, or other pasta (see above)
mayonnaise (see above)
Drain the pineapple, and reserve the juice). Cut the ham into small chunks. Measure the pasta and put into a pan with 2 equal measures of liquid (this being the pineapple juice made up to the full amount with water). Boil the pasta until just tender, then drain.well. Rinse under cold water so it cools rapidly, again draining well, then mix with the pineapple, ham and just enough mayonnaise to bind.
If using canned (already cooked ) macaroni cheese, then empty into a bowl and fold in the ham, Omit pineapple and replace with a can of (drained) peas or mixed vegetables.

Final recipe is one I've just found in an old Quaker Oat booklet.  The company - at that time - made other things, and this uses their 'Quaker Quick Macaroni', but of course any macaroni, or pasta penne (or similar pasta shape) could be used.  A recipe perfect for the 'Foodbank'.
Savoury Stew:
4 oz (100g) 'quick' macaroni (or other pasta)
1 can stewed steak
1 can beef broth (soup)
Cook pasta as per packet instructions.  Empty the cans of stewed steak and beef broth together in one pan, and heat through.  Stir in the cooked pasta, and serve.

Let's hope that some of the suggestions above might come in useful. Have plenty more if needed. Perhaps readers could come up with more suggestions?

The 'horsemeat' situation worsens.  It could be that we've all been eating in over the past months (if not years) in some of the 'ready mades' we have bought and eaten.  Not that it bothers me much, nothing wrong with horsemeat, it's just the possiblity of drugs contaminating the meat.
One good thing, seems that many people are now returning to their local butcher to buy meat, preferring not to buy pre-packaged meat products from the supermarkets any more.  Once the loss of trust has gone, it is not easily regained (if at all).   Am sure certain 'eateries' that sell beefburgers will also see a drop in sales and customers.
If this particular cloud has a silver lining, it might be that supermarkets then try to regain our custom by reducing the price of their larger meat, and certainly their packs of minced beef.  We will have to wait and see.

Just about noon, so really have to sign off and get on with what I hoped to start at 11.00am. Am sure I can catch up.  Plenty still to tell you about B's 'extra' work done yesterday, hope I'll find time tomorrow.  See you then.