Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Gingering Things Up.

A good idea to mix together a cheaper mince with a more expensive Alison.  Chicken (or turkey) mince go well with pork mince, pork mince goes well with beef mince (in Italy a spag bol meat sauce is often made with both minced pork and beef).  We can always substitute almost any (cheaper) minced meat to one given in a recipe.  And by cheaper I don't mean the poorer quality, just meat that is normally cheaper than (say) beef.

Regarding the farmers keeping to their own time Alison, I didn't really mean ALL the time. Just when dealing with animals who presumably (like tiny babies) have got into a routine.  Once fed and watered, the farmer can then revert back to GMT or BST or whatever it is at the moment, and then he will be able to keep various 'appointments' away from the farm.

Wonder what happens in countries where there are several time zones (as in America)?  If people live close to the 'change over' line, then have to cross it for any reason such as visiting (say) neighbours, or catching a train or plane.  What happens if the time zone line runs through a town. Does the whole town stick to one time, or does the 'line' skirt round it?

The girl in The Goode Kitchen series, Pam, was called Jenny Day.  She was - at that time - a student, living in a small flat over an undertakers in Sheffield, and really didn't know much about cooking at all.  The producers were very keen on filming her riding 'her' bike through Roundhay Park to arrive at our house, and it took them ages to find the old-style bicycle, with a basket at the front, for her to ride.
Eventually they did, and the director liked it so much he bought if from the BBC and gave it to his wife to ride in London.  Whether she was so thrilled with it I don't know.  Do remember the director had bought - for his own use - a traditional old London taxi cab (taxi), instead of driving an 'proper' car.

After doing the above series, not sure what happened to Jenny, but eventually she must have finished her student days, because I met up with her again (accidentally) when at BBC Radio Sheffield studios where I was being interviewed on air.  She had begun to work there, and later heard she had got married and started a family.  
It was about 10 years ago that I had a call from a BBC radio station down south, was it Radio Sussex or Surrey, perhaps both as the station covered two counties.  Anyway, they asked me if I was the Shirley Goode of the above series, so I said I was, it turned out that Jenny was now one of their presenters, and they wanted to give her a surprise, so they phoned me back when she was on air, and she was asked if she remember the above series, and the presenter (me), and she (thankfully) said "oh yes, she was a lovely lady, so kind".  Then they told her I was on line waiting to speak to her, and she was so thrilled, she actually burst into tears (on air) when she heard my voice and we had a lovely long chat. 

We give a welcome to Tess who is asking for a recipe for gingerbread.  Not sure what type of gingerbread you mean Tess, it could be the firmer 'biscuit' type, or the thicker 'cake'.  Also many people call golden syrup 'treacle',  but the recipes I give will say golden syrup when that it to be used, and when it says 'treacle' this means the black treacle.  As these are a sugar product, their shelf life is years (and years, and years).  All that will happen is that it may get thicker or begin to crystallise (once the tin has been opened) and to bring it back to normal, just put stand the tin in hot water to 'melt' it back again.

The best way to measure syrup or treacle is to first oil the spoon, then the 'sticky stuff' easily slides off. Another way is to stand the spoon in boiling water, give it a shake then measure out the syrups, this also helps them to slide from the spoon.
To help anyone use up the last bits of syrup or treacle, am today giving several recipes for different gingerbreads, cakes, biscuits, and 'bars'.

The first recipe is a traditional one using fine oatmeal.  Myself would blitz some porridge oats in my blender or food processor to turn it into a finer 'flour'.  How coarse or fine depends on personal choice.  Coarse oats give a chewier texture, fine oat 'flour' then it ends up more like a cake.
Buttermilk is something we don't use often, so instead we could dilute some natural yogurt with milk (half and half) which ends up much the same thing.  When using sour milk/yogurt in a recipe always use bicarb. soda and not baking powder, as the bicarb works better.
Orkney Gingerbread:
6 oz (175g) fine oatmeal (see above)
6 oz (175g) plain flour
2 oz (25g) butter
2 tblsp treacle (you could use g.syrup)
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp bicarb. of soda (see above)
1 egg, well beaten
5 fl oz (150ml) sour milk, or buttermilk (see above)
Sift the flour, ginger, and bicarb. into a bowl. Add the oatmeal and mix well. Rub in the butter until like crumbs.  Heat the treacle until runny, and add to the 'dry', mixing well.  Stir in the beaten egg and the sour milk .  Fold together until well mixed, then pour into a greased loaf tn and bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for one to one and a half hours or until well risen and the top feels firm when pressed.

Next is the recipe that I normally use.  This contains no oats, and no 'treacle' just golden syrup, although sometimes I add half treacle and half syrup if I wish for a darker gingerbread.
Shirley's Gingerbread:
12 oz (350g) golden syrup
5 oz (150g) margarine
9 oz (250g) plain flour, sifted
half tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground ginger
half tsp mixed spice
1 large egg
half pint (300ml) milk
Put the syrup in a pan with the margarine and heat until melted.  Meanwhile, sift the dry ingredients together into a bowl, then mix in the melted (but not too hot) syrup and marg.  Beat together the egg and milk and then - a little at a time - beat this into the cake batter.  The mixture will be very runny, so don't panic.
Pour into a greased and base-lined 7" x 11" x 1.5" (18 x 28 x 4cm) cake tin and bake fro 50 minutes at 180C, 350F, gas 4 or until cooked.  Cool for 5 - 10 minutes before turning out onto a cake airer.  Cut into squares or fingers (or whatever shape you like) and store in an air tight tin.
(Myself tend to bake this in a lightweight foil 'Swiss Roll tin', then leave in the tin to get cold, overwrap in clingfilm, then foil, and leave to 'mature' for a couple or so days before cutting and eating. 

Next recipe is for 'breakfast bars'.  The sort you eat on the run when you haven't time to sit down and eat your muesli.  These make good 'munch bars' to include in a work or school lunch-box.
As ever, you can vary the ingredients, use different seeds, and different nuts.  Or leave some out an replace with dried raisins, sultanas, chopped dates or no-soak apricots.
'On the Run' Oat Bars: makes 12
4 oz (100g) butter
3 tblsp golden syrup
3 oz (75g) demerara sugar
5 oz (150g) porridge oats
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 oz (50g) desiccated coconut
2 tblsp sunflower or pumpkin seeds, crushed
1 tblsp sesame seeds
4 oz (100g) chopped hazelnuts
Put the butter, syrup, and sugar into a large pan and heat until melted. Stir in the oats, cinnamon, coconut, nuts, and seeds (or whatever you are using), mix well, then pour into a greased (preferably buttered) 9" (23cm) square baking tin. 
Bake for 30 - 35 minutes at 170C, 325F, gas 3.  Leave to cool for 5 minutes before cutting through into squares or oblongs. Leave in the tin to get cold, then store in an airtight container where they will keep well for at least a week.

Next recipe is another where we could substitute one dried fruit for another.  As with the above recipe, these keep well for up to a week in an airtight tin, and make a more healthy addition to a lunch-box or to eat as a 'snack' when at home.
Bumper Oat Cookies:  makes 18
6 oz (175g) butter
6 oz (175g) demerara sugar
4 oz (100g) golden syrup
3 oz (75g) plain flour
half tsp bicarb. soda
9 oz (250g) porridge oats
1 tsp ground cinnamon
6 oz (175g) no-soak apricots, chopped
4 oz (100g) stem ginger, chopped
2 tblsp boiling water
1 egg, beaten
Put the butter, sugar, and syrup into a large pan over medium heat, and cook until the butter has melted.  Stir in the flour, bicarb, oats, cinnamon, apricots, stem ginger, and boiling water, mix together, then finally, mix in the egg.   Leave until cool enough to handle.
Using wetted hands, shape the mixture into 18 large balls, placing each - well spaced apart - on several baking sheets lined with baking parchment (you will need to bake the cookies in batches).
Flatten each ball - still leaving space for them to spread - and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 15-20 minutes.  These then end up soft and chewy.
If you wish for a crisper cookie (more like a biscuit), reduce heat after 12 minutes to 160C (gas 3) and bake for a further 8 - 10 minutes.
Allow cookies to cool on the tray for a few minutes before removing to a cake airer. Store in an airtight tin (between layers of baking parchment) where they will keep well for up to a week.

Final recipe today is the one we would use to make gingerbread men, although perfectly suitable to roll out and cut into rounds, fingers, squares, oblongs or whatever shape you want if you wish to make ordinary 'biscuits'.  Use double the amount if wishing to make gingerbread men for a children's party.  Use the amount shown for family biscuits. 
Gingerbread Men:
8 oz (225g) plain flour
1 oz (25g) soft brown sugar
1 oz (25g) black treacle OR golden syrup
1 tsp ground ginger
half tsp bicarb. soda
1 oz (25g) butter
1 small egg yolk
Put the treacle (or syrup) into a pan with the sugar and spices and heat until lukewarm.  Stir in the butter, a bit at a time, until completely melted, then stir in the bicarb.  Sift the flour into a large bowl, then pour in the mixture from the saucepan, plus the beaten egg.  Stir well until the mixture gathers together and comes away from the side of the bowl.
Turn out onto a floured board and knead gently for a minute or two, then wrap in foil or greaseproof and chill in the fridge.
Roll out thinly on a floured board, and using a gingerbread man cutter, cut out the shapes (or use a scone cutter to cut out biscuits).  Lay on greased baking sheets and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 20 - 30 minutes or until firm.   Leave on the baking sheets until cool.  Then store in an airtight tin.
If making gingerbread men, push currants into the uncooked dough as 'eyes' before baking, then decorate with icing after cooking and when completely cold.  

A tip when making biscuits.  If we leave them in the oven until crisp, they could then end up too crisp once cooled down.  Always best to remove from oven when just baked, even if very slightly soft, as - when left to cool on the hot tin - they will carry on cooking for a few moments more, and so less danger of them burning.  If they are still too soft, return them to the oven for a few more minutes to continue cooking. 
Once cooled, always store crisp biscuits in airtight tins, as when left uncovered (like overnight), at room temperature, they will absorb moisture from the air and become softer.  Sometimes this can be useful (as I've found when I've overcooked some biscuits).

Apparently we had a lot of snow down south yesterday, with a wind-chill of -7 being recorded.  Here in Morecambe, on the north-west coast, the weather is still staying fair, again looks like being a day full of sunshine, and as well as containers full of crocuses, see that the snowdrops are in full bloom in the shady border of our back garden.  These do give the feeling that Spring is not that far away.  Officially this should start on the 21st of this month (?), just over a week away, so hope the season stays true to itself.   Believe Easter is towards the end of March this year, earlier than usual (but I could be wrong - can never work out the dates for this 'moveable feast'). Also the clocks should be put forward an hour sometime soon.  This year, the next few weeks look like being a busy (cook's) time.   

Before I sign off must give a mention to 'gnocchi'.  Myself have tried to make this using potatoes, and can't say I enjoyed the gnocchi that much.   However, after seeing Nigella fry some (bought) gnocchi in a large frying pan, to serves as baby 'roasties', thought that looked rather appetising, so bought a pack of ready-made gnocchi (from Tesco).  It had a shelf-life of a few weeks and, as yesterday was serving B a 'Cold Meat Platter' with salad, thought I'd add some fried gnocchi to go with it.  Frying enough for both B and myself (well I had to try them for 'research purposes'), was very agreeably surprised for. B loved them, and I found the crispy outside and the soft centre to each gnocchi was just to my 'taste'.   The remainder of the pack has been put into the fridge and I'll probably fry and eat them all myself later this week.

Tomorrow is Norma the Hair day, so won't be writing this blog until after she has left, so expect to publish nearer noon (or maybe a little later).  At least today got up early enough to complete before 10.00am, hopefully giving me time to do many chores that should have been done yesterday, but were 'put off' because I found something more interesting to do (like reading, watching TV...).   Have to admit that I'm more a waste of space than anything else, although I do have an excuse (I suppose).  When younger, my parents (who started married life on a shoestring) through sheer hard work, built up a small business and so then were able to employ a 'daily'.  My mother herself came from a family that had a couple of maids (common enough in those days), so she never needed to learn how to clean her house, although she did.  I remember her scrubbing everything each day during the war so that if the house was bombed 'it would be a clean house' that was flattened.  So as I grew up never having the need to clean, (even though my mother pleaded with me to keep my room tidy, left long enough she would end up doing it) other than my one chore which was to regularly polish the red tiled floor of our large square hall (using red floor polish), and I hated doing that, it took ages. so never got into the routine of doing housework, although when we had our own home, and children, I did attempt to keep it as tidy (and of course clean) as our three small children (later adding another one) would allow.  Most of my days seemed to be doing nothing but washing nappies, bedlinen, clothes, as having no washing machine an no mangle, and no central heating, it was a never-ending job.  Didn't have time to leave my own things lying around as I do today.  B, working away from home during the week, also didn't leave his clutter around (as he does today), so only the children's toys to tidy up. 
Hated housework then, and hate it even more now. It would be so much easier if B didn't persist in throwing all his stuff on the floor, all round the chair he sits, and also the sofa (another favourite sitting place).  He seems quite horrified to come into a tidy room and immediately makes as much mess as possible.  He say it is only then 'it feels like home'.  Makes life easier for me if I agree with him.

But when the sun is shining, this really shows up the dust lying around, so had better roll up my sleeves, be a good girl, and get on with housework whether I want to or not.  Maybe tomorrow I'll be able to say 'job done'. You'll just have to wait and see.  TTFN.