Wednesday, March 20, 2013

'For Research Purposes'

Due to an early arrival at Morrison's yesterday morning, was pleased to find there was not just one scooter available to use in the store, but TWO.  Think they must have purchased a second.  Was pleased about that as I knew I'd be spending quite a long time 'shopping' that morning   Did ask the assistant who gave me the scooter key if it was alright if I spent at least an hour in the store, and he said 'take as long as you like'.  Would you believe I was in there a few minutes short of two hours and STILL had only seen half (or even less) of what was on sale.

I began by looking at the fresh fish counter, in the hope I could get some fish trimmings 'for my cat' as I said to the assistant.  We don't have a cat, but as I was role-playing 'poor old lady who lives alone with only a cat for company' allowed myself to believe it wasn't a like, but part of the 'act' (being an Aries I normally find it impossible to tell an untruth).  Unfortunately the store doesn't give or sell their fish heads etc., but they did have some small cod offcuts that were displayed 'for only 60p (or was it 69p?).  Silly, silly me thought that was a bit expensive 'for a cat' and declined, but realised - as so often happens, being used to everything once priced by the lb - that this was the price per kg., and 30 - 35p per lb was a very good price indeed for fresh cod - perfect for using in a fish risotto, fish pie, fish cakes etc.   Next time will ask B to look out for them when he goes and bring me some back.  Can always freeze them to use later.

Despite aiming just to look and buy little but a few items I needed, managed to end up with the trolley basket almost full.  But even though early in the morning, there were good bargains.  Very few customers at that time, so I had the first pick.  So pleased to see a punned of yellow plums (Golden Gage's) on the reduced table at the end of the fresh fruit and veggie aisle.  So treated myself to those.  Other 'greens' reduced, but not needed.

As I mentioned in an earlier posting, so much now is packed and sold priced at a £1.  Some priced at £2.  Very few items seemed to have a 99p at the end of the price, although did notice some, perhaps because of these now being unusual.

When I reached the bakery section was able to buy a lovely and quite large unsliced loaf of white bread for 69p.  This worked out less that the cost of my very similar (but slightly smaller) home-made that would cost me 66p for bread mix, then have to add cost of milk AND fuel for cooking).
Further along the bread section also found a large white sliced toasting bread, also for 69p. So bought that.  Some will be frozen.

My reason for being in the store in the first place was to see what 'dry goods' were on sale that only needed water for mixing.  Plus what canned vegetables were on sale, and also canned meats/fish, and - for that matter - anything else that could be useful.   I went slowly up and down each aisle, reading the backs of packs - this took quite a bit of time, but was very pleased to see that there were cheese sauce mixes that only needed water to mix, not milk like most do.

Plenty of flavours of cuppa soups on sale,  also canned soups.  Couldn't find any dried milk powder, but an assistant said it was 'over there' with the long-life milks.  Of course it was on the very top shelf that I couldn't reach (because I've learnt that once I've lifted myself up off the seat of the scooter, the motor stops and it is very difficult to get it started again).  This 'top-shelf want's' happened more than once, so I asked another (able) customer it they could get the needed item/s from the shelf for me.  They all did very graciously and kindly, although have to say this did give me the feeling they felt I truly was a poor, old, disabled woman (that I suppose I really am, but hate to believe it).  Actually, I could have got off the scooter and reached for what I needed, but as said, the scooter would have then played silly beggars.

Driving the scooter is easy enough, although the one yesterday seemed very sensitive to the touch. I had only to twist the handle very slightly and it would zoom off faster.  Yesterday I was needing to reverse a few feet to look at something I'd just passed on the shelves, so set it going backward, but my walking stick that I put into the basket (stupidly with the hook part hanging out) hit a large wire basket thingy that was holding offers in front of the shelves, the hook of the stick wrapped round one of the down bits of wire and started moving the basket.  In my panic I twisted the scooter handle the wrong way and we reversed at great speed back down the aisle dragging the 'offer basket'. Thankfully there was no-one in the aisle to reverse into.  From then on took a bit more care.

Once or twice I needed to ask an assistant where certain items were, and always given help.  One man went with me for some distance to show me the canned meats (these again on top shelves over the freezers) so he came so that he could reach what I needed, then - when asking him if they sold dried vegetables, this was again some distance away and he also took me there and reached them down for me.  I was very grateful.

How strange it was that many of the things I needed were all on top shelves.  Wonder why?  Am still trying to work that out.  Is it because no-one else would normally use them?

Did buy some items that I would normally not use, such as canned meat balls, and hot dogs.  Actually I bought the hot dog sausages packed in a jar because I could use the jar again for storage (dry goods or preserves).  Cans normally are binned (but able to be recycled). 

Passing by the end of one aisle noticed that Nescafe Original were selling their large 300g jars for the price of their 200g (in other words, as the label said 50% extra free).  These large jars make perfect storage jars (as do the 200g) and always buy a couple (or three) when 'on offer', aiming never to pay full price again.  And never have done for years.

For once decided to treat myself, so bought a few packs of flavoured cheese - one a spicy 'Mexican' cheddar, another a Wensleydale with Cranberries, and a Stilton with Apricots for B.  Also bought myself a small assortment of dips, and also of hummus.  Somehow, surrounded by all that food, suddenly felt it was time I thought of my own (edible) pleasures for once.  B gets given them all the time, and this will continue, but 'blow my diet' I thought, and have to say, after eating far too much yesterday expected to have gained several pounds overnight, but surprisingly have lost 2 lbs!   Perhaps I should tread myself more often.

Also saw some individual packs of flavoured instant mashed potato, so allowed myself those 'for research purposes'.  These again on a top shelf, but with the help of a passing married couple, these were brought down for me.  Perhaps next time I should take my 'gripper' tool, a bit like a long walking stick that has 'grips' at one end, and a trigger at the other, so things at a distance can be reached and picked up.   I use it a lot in the sitting room, picking up an orange from the fruit basket that is on the table in the centre of the room, just out of reach.  Yes, I could get up and walk to get it, but why bother if I have the 'gripper'?  Maybe if I didn't have that, and didn't have a remote to switch the TV on and off, then maybe I'd get the extra exercise I really need.  How easy it is to fall into bad habits, often purely because of laziness.

Having gathered together quite a few foods that could (or should) end up in the Foodbank selections, all that remains is for me to put a few together to make interesting meals.  It shouldn't be that difficult, but what I am now realising is there is a world of difference between writing a recipe as most cooks would use, and one for a novice cook, who probably has never cooked before.  Ever.

For one thing, not everyone has all the necessary 'tools'.  Some people may not have scales, or - for that matter - tablespoons.  Am hoping that at least everyone has a standard size mug and a teaspoon, for surprisingly - at least with my Foodbank recipes - that is all the 'measuring' equipment that would be needed.  A sharp knife would be very useful, but as all canned foods are already cooked, and dry ingredients only need mixing, then a fork could do most of the work (mashing, beating, mixing....).

Finding the recipes that can be used has not been too difficult, writing them up 'the easy way' needs a bit more thought.  Making the end product taste good enough to eat may be the hardest part of all, but then, considering that many cheap 'ready-meals' taste really awful (at least to me), doubt that many folk would notice much difference between their home-prepared and the previously bought, and almost certainly find their own version taste even better.  Let us hope so.

Because small additions of herbs, spices, sauces etc can really 'lift' a dish, am hoping that the Foodbank would be able to buy from a wholesale store, some of those little sachets of these 'tracklements' that we see provided free on tables in cafes.  Little 'pillows' of HP sauce, Tomato ketchup, mustard, mint sauce, mayonnaise, salad cream, sometimes even pepper and salt....  These are normally packed in hundreds to a box, and have a good shelf life, so if only a mayo or salad cream, HP and /or ketchup was included with the 'allocation', a couple of different ones could make a HUGE difference to the flavour of dishes being made.  Will suggest this to the organisers next time I'm in touch with them.

Did notice small packs of what was called 'fish and chip curry sauce' on sale.  Bought a couple to give them a try, as on the pack there was a suggestion this sauce could be served with chicken (and rice) to make a curry.   Funny how some name can suddenly spark off a thought (as has happened ot me this very moment).  What came into my mind was "if the curry sauce can be served with fish and chips, then it should also work well served with fish cakes (made with mashed spuds and tuna)."
That's the way my (culinary) mind works, one thought leads to another, and then another....

A welcome to Sammy Kaye,  and good to have it confirmed that hot dog sausages heat well in water, so this makes them suitable to serve hot (either whole or chopped) with mashed potatoes or pasta.  Perfect for those who have no way of heating food other than using boiling water from a kettle.

Keep wanting to make a malt loaf myself TravellingNinjas, and although having already bought a jar of malt (from the local chemist/pharmacy), still haven't got around to it.   Really must find time to watch Paul Hollywood in iPlayer (although almost certainly his prog will be repeated at the weekend, or at least hope so).  Did see his 'Bread' book on sale in Morrison's for £10 (where his face on the cover is looking directly at you - shivers up my arms at the very thought  of it). Nearly bought the book, but as I have several books on bread-making, think I'll wait to see the whole of his series before I decide whether to buy or not.  Next week's episode is more up my street as it covers things like flat-breads, and I need to known how to make (properly) ready for the Indian meal I'm catering for in May.

As you say Pam, cuppa soups are really good to make an instant hot soup.  Yes, I know these are very much a convenience food, but can be extremely useful as a substitute for gravy or casserole 'mix'.  When diluted with half or even a third of the recommended 'cup' of water, the tomato cuppa soup makes a good sauce to go with pasta. 
I enjoy mixing cuppa soup flavours.  Chicken with tomato (I call this 'chicato' soup) go well together, as does Oxtail and Tomato. 
As mentioned the other week, my favourite 'soup' at the moment is a can of chopped or plum tomatoes (the plum toms have to then be roughly cut up with scissors), mixed with a squire of tomato ketchup and a sachet of chicken or tomato 'cuppa soup', plus plenty of ground black pepper (or even a dash of chilli sauce), makes me a WONDERFUL big bowl of soup that is 'chunky' enough to make a meal of it, especially if eaten with some crusty bread, although I normally don't eat the bread as it is one of those carbos I try to avoid.
Another 'instant' way to make a savoury 'not-quite-soup' drink is to blend a chicken, beef, or vegetable stock cube with boiling water.  Even better, a teaspoon of Bovril (from a jar) or Marmite. Although these make a 'clear' soup/drink, they are very warming and surprisingly satisfying.

Liked your idea of adding including whisky with the tea when soaking fruit for Bara Brith Margie. Rum or brandy could also be used.  Myself like to use up the flavoured 'floral' teas that someone once gave me. Can't now remember the name (although still have some) but they might be flavoured with ginger or some flower that would taste good when added to a cake/bread.  The herbal teas could possibly be used to flavour water used for making bread.  Have never tried this, but again this is a thought that has just come into my mind.

Did see several packs of instant custard powder (made with water) at the Foodbank Granny G, but good to know that Tesco sell cheap ones in their 'value range'.  Think I mentioned their 'value' strawberry whip was only 10p a sachet.  Morrison's have a similar own-brand but noticed this was priced at 15p.  Still cheap, but half as much again as Tesco's.
Certainly the Foodbank do provide foods that will make 'puddings/desserts' (canned fruits, rice pudding, custard...).

Another new name, so welcome to Marlene, and pleased to be able to give the WI recipe (as shown on Ade in Britain, as I have it with me, scribbled on the back of an envelope that I pushed into my apron pocket (tend to wear my apron all day so that I have a pocket ready to 'store' recipes I've just jotted down).  As I was not able to take down the time the tea-bread needed to cook, afraid you will have to play this one by ear (or smell/touch).  Actually, the temperature mentioned seemed a bit low, so perhaps the lady made a mistake and the 130 degrees mentioned were perhaps more the time taken to bake (like an hour and a half?).  I've noticed several times that Ade's demos bear little relation to the true weights and measures shown in the recipe.  Yesterday he beat a whole block of butter into relatively a little sugar (when the amount should have been the same, and not nearly as much butter anyway).  Unfortunately, although is recipes are shown on screen, they are written down as though by hand, with very pale printing, so unless right up close to the screen cannot be deciphered.  Believe the recipes can be found on the ITV website - slash -adeinbritain. 

The name (as given in Welsh, means 'Speckled Bread').  The amount made in the programme filled several small loaf tins, so perhaps best to use half quantities.
Bara Brith:
1.5lb (24oz/675g) dried mixed fruit
boiling tea
1 tablespoon black treacle
1 teaspoon mixed spice
2 eggs, beaten
8 oz (225g) brown sugar
1 lb (450g) self-raising flour
Put the dried mixed fruit in a bowl with the treacle and spice, just cover with boiling hot tea (no milk or sugar!), and leave overnight so that fruit will soak up most of the liquid.
Next day, add the remaining ingredients to the soaking fruit in the order given, and mix together well, then pour into greased (1lb) loaf tins and bake at 130C (??? see above), for uncertain time (also see above).
(Presumably there are other recipes for Bara Brith on Google search, and cooking temperature and timing would be much the same whatever variation.) 

Forgot to mention I'd bought a reduced pack of Cumberland sausages from Morrison's so B had some with egg and oven chips for his supper.  Wasn't sure if I had got any oven chips left, so would otherwise have made Toad-in-the-Hole.  Myself had some of the lovely cheese with some tomatoes, then later something else (forgotten what).  This morning ate the remaining cold sausages for my 'breakfast' (hoping to keep this to a protein day, even though I know sausages contain 'rusk', but just love sausages, hot or cold).

Today will be doing more 'experimenting', and have to say am finding this really enjoyable. Even though some of the results don't work as well as hoped, they are still edible, so I eat them anyway (for lunch or supper), as this is the best way to discover what needs to be added to improve the flavour.
Having bought a can of cheap meatballs (yes, I KNOW not the best quality meat and might even contain a bit of 'rather not find out', these are still fit to eat or they would not be on sale).  Am wanting to find out if they come with gravy, and if so, want to strain this off, add a packet of tomato cuppa soup to see if it would make a tasty sauce to serve with pasta and - of course - the meatballs.  The pasta and meatballs (with gravy) alone would make a meal, but adding cuppa soup this should 'lift' the dish and make it more tasty, and the more we enjoy eating our meals the happier we feel.  I like to think this is the right type of  'comfort eating'?

When I finally parked Morrison's scooter back in its place, saw that the other scooter had disappeared, also the big wheel chairs (to be pushed by someone else), so was pleased I'd been their early enough, and only hoped I hadn't overstayed my welcome.  Felt guilty that others may have wished to use the scooter during the last hour of the two spent there, but now that I know where most things are, next time my visit should be much shorter.  I'm not really interested in the frozen food section anyway, although I haven't yet checked out the foods displayed, and there are still other things (on high shelves over the freezers) still to be discovered.   Maybe best not to seek more as don't need them anyway.  But am SO tempted once I get into any supermarket, just aching to try 'new' things, even when I've got enough food in my larder/fridge/freezer to last we months anyway.
I can honestly say I've gone into a store just to buy milk, eggs etc, and come away with a trolley full AND forgotten to buy what I went in there to buy in the first place.  This I suppose is something the stores are hoping will happen with every customer.  And probably does.

Having to concentrate on using a very few basic foods (as provided by the Foodbank) has made me realise just how lucky the rest of us are having even a few more 'extras' we can add (such as herbs, spices, grated cheese, eggs, butter/marg, cooking oil....).  Now, when I put up a recipe on this site I feel almost guilty that there are many folk out there who won't have 'the makings'. Let us hope, that once everyone who starts to 'cook' their own meals (maybe more by assembly that proper 'cooking') this can lead to more interest in foods that are cheap and easy to cook, so decide to make meals rather than buy the more expensive 'readies'.  After all, if shortage of money is a problem (as it is with most of us these days), why spend money so that 'someone else' can do all the work, when we can so easily do it ourselves?  The more we can make ourselves, the more money we have left over, and the more treats we (hopefully) can then allow ourselves.

First recipe today is fairly adaptable as the fruit can be other canned fruit or lightly stewed fresh fruit such as apples, pears or plums.  Or use chopped no-soak apricots, and/or dried fruits such as sultanas (soaking raisins and sultanas overnight in orange juice or water with a dash of brandy/rum/orange liqueur will raise this inexpensive dish to a higher level).
Instead of ginger preserve, use orange marmalade with some chopped stem or crystallised ginger.
Ginger and Pear Bread and Butter Pudding: serves 4
6 slices slightly stale white bread, crusts removed
1 oz (25g) butter, softened
4 tblsp ginger preserve (see above)
1 can pears, drained, then diced (see above)
2 large eggs
half pint (10fl oz/300ml) milk
6 tblsp demerara sugar
Spread each slice of bread with the butter, then the preserve, then cut each slice diagonally corner to corner to make 4 triangles.  Arrange half the bread over the base of an ovenproof dish, scatter over the pear, then top with the remaining bread.
Beat together the eggs, milk and half the sugar.  Pour this over the bread and leave to soak for at least 30 minutes (preferably longer to allow the bread to soak up as much liquid as possible). If necessary, push the bread down (or cover and put a weight on top) to allow the top slices to also soak up the liquid. Sprinkle remaining sugar on top.
Bake for 30 minutes at 180C, 350F, gas 4, or until the pudding has risen and crusty on top.  If you prefer a more 'souffle' texture and a softer crust, stand the container in a bain marie, and cook at 170C, 325F, gas 3 for 45-60 minutes, or until risen and firm on top.
If you wish, this pudding can be cooked in the microwave, using a microproof bowl.  Use the same method of assembly as before, but leave the pudding to stand for just 15 minutes before cooking, pressing the top bread down to soak up the liquid. Don't put the remaining sugar on top before cooking.  Reserve this for later.  First cook the pudding on HIGH for 5 minutes, then leave to stand for 5 minutes before returning to the oven to cook on HIGH for a further 2 minutes.
Finish the pudding by covering with remaining sugar, then cook under a preheated hot grill until the sugar is bubbling and golden.  Best eaten warm.

Next recipe is one that will be adapted to add to the Foodbanks recipe booklet because it is made using canned fruit (could be a different fruit), bought 'fresh' custard (but could be canned or 'instant' made up with water), and biscuits.  Obviously this recipe is based on the flavour of ginger as this goes well with rhubarb, but no reason why a similar dessert could not be made using another sort of biscuit (I saw a pack of chocolate digestives added to the 'singles' box), as this is basically a mixture of 'crunch', 'custard', and 'fruit'.  Even as I write my thoughts have moved on to using crushed cornflakes or another cereal in place of the biscuits.  A very easy recipe to adapt, but still give the appearance of something a bit special.
Note that not all the custard would be used in this dish, so some left over that could be served the next day with another dessert.  Alternatively, if you wish to make larger servings, or you need to make a couple more, just make layers of custard, fruit, biscuits, finishing with custard and biscuits. This could also be made in one large bowl for everyone to help themselves.
If we have no fruit, but do have a jelly, then make up the jelly, and when set, chop up into chunks, then layer (as above) with custard and biscuits. 
Crunchy Fruit Trifles: serves 4
1 x 350g can rhubarb, drained
pinch ground ginger
1 x 500g tub fresh custard (see above)
4 ginger nut biscuits, roughly crushed
Mix the rhubarb and ground ginger together and divide between 4 serving glasses.  Spoon the custard on top (there will be some left over). Finish with a sprinkling of crushed biscuit.

Another way to serve cooked fruit (fresh or canned) is to mash this up, then fold into cooled custard to give a 'marble' effect. Normally called a 'fruit fool' when whipped cream is also folded in. Equal quantities of each.  Chilled evaporated milk when whipped makes a good cream alternative, and a small can beats up more easily than a larger amount.   However, if adding a topping of crushed biscuits, cream could be omitted from the 'fool'.

Making up a pack of jelly with two-thirds the recommended amount of water, then leaving it to cool (but not set), then beating up a can of chilled evaporated milk until thick, then beating in the almost- setting-but-not-quite jelly will make a big bowl of 'mousse'.  Our children remember me making this every Saturday to serve with our 'high tea', each week using a different flavoured jelly.  They just loved it.  Think a bowl of this was show on the front cover of 'The Goode Kitchen', where I'd added swirls of cream each with a chocolate leaf stuck in.

To make chocolate leaves you need to melt a little chocolate, then, holding the little stem drag rose leaves across the chocolate so the underside of the leaf is coated with chocolate, then leave to set firmly (these could be chilled in the fridge if in a hurry to serve).  Remove the leaf by holding the stem end and then peeling it away, this leaves an impression of the veins on the now 'topside' of the choccie leaf.
Not necessary to do this of course, you could decorate the top with just grated chocolate (goes well with orange jelly), or omit the choc altogether and just serve the 'mousse' as-is.

Despite my intention of making an early start, have allowed myself 'rambling time' again, so to make sure I have time for my 'tests' must now move on into the kitchen and roll up my sleeves and start working.  Tomorrow you will hear whether things have gone well, or not as the case may be.  By the weekend all tests should be complete and can then write up my recipes.  First I need to try and get the recipes typed to fit the correct size of paper (a standard A4 sheet, folded in half, to form two pages) so have to now work out how to do that.  Should be easy but not for me.  Will have to contact Steve to tell me how.

The forecast is for wintry weather (did I read -15C?) over the next few days.  Already parts of the UK have had deep snow.  But - as ever - not in Morecambe.  Sometimes it is as if M'cambe is in another country, where the 'sun don't (always) shine', but snow also never falls.  Personally, I'd rather have the two extremes, not having either can make life very boring.

Keep your comment coming, and if - because I've a lot on my mind at the moment - I've forgotten to reply to a query or give a requested recipe, please give me a nudge to remind me.  I always make memos so I don't forget, but sometimes do forget where I've put them.  My desk is piled high with cookbooks, notebooks, leaflets, in the same way as the above dessert - like 'layered'.  Now and again one pile topples over, so more things are mislaid. 
What is it they say "a tidy desk shows a tidy mind"?  No wonder my blogs are full of nothing much but rambles.  How messy is that?  At least hope enough useful info give to entice you all to keep returning.  Like tomorrow?  If so - looking forward to seeing you then.  Have a good day!