Saturday, March 09, 2013

Weekend Starts Here...

Had a long lie-in this morning, mainly because the longer I stay in bed, the more weight is lost.  True, believe it or not.  Due mainly to loss of water, rather than fat I'm sorry to say, but this morning showed a 3lb loss over the last 24 hours, when I expected it to be only 1 or 2.  So no need for me to write out another 'weight recorder', I'll just 'cook the books' and change today's 'target weight' up a bit and with any luck hope next week I'll have reached what it should be.

You are absolutely right Granny G, those Oreo's are exactly like dog biscuits.  When I was about nine I had a school friend who couldn't keep her hands off our dog's biscuits and would take handfuls and eat them.  Perhaps she was lacking in some vitamins or minerals! 
That time I'd run out of money and had to start making meals (and all foods including pasta etc) from scratch, I also had to make our dog's biscuits (fortunately I did have some canned dog food in the cupboard, and with the off-cuts kindly given me by my friendly butcher, the dog didn't starve during that time).  Reading the ingredients on the pack of doggie biccies, the black ones seemed to be the ones that contained charcoal, so I crumbled a stick of (artist's) charcoal that I had and put it into some of the biscuit mix.  Crumbled an Oxo cube into others, and think calcium tablets also.  Anyway, the dog seemed pleased and ate the lot (although rationed to a few each day rather than given a bowlful to help herself).

Understand now about the 'robot' thing Chris.  Do these appear each time you log on to this site, or only when you wish to send a comment?  Believe that each time you switch off and try again, the name to copy changes, so perhaps it's a matter of being lucky enough to get one you can understand.  Have any readers a solution to this problem, or an alternative way of being able to send comments?

Was pleased to read your comment on US v UK food Pamespecially as you have experienced living in both countries, so can view the picture from both sides of the fence so to speak.  
I remember, when visiting our daughter (approx 20 years ago) we passed an 'English' shop that sold imported British foods, and they WERE horrendously expensive (due, apparently, to the duty that had to be paid on them which added a great deal to the price). 
Before our trip our daughter asked us to bring a few English edibles with us, requesting Marmite, Smarties, Cadbury's chocolate, Tea-bags, even a tea-pot!  She also wanted Heinz Salad Cream, and I was surprised to find this wasn't sold in the US, at least not at that time.  Everyone in America seemed to use mayonnaise, this - I noticed - sold in many different 'flavours'.

'Cookies' in the UK are not really a 'biscuit'.  Our 'biscuits' are usually round, fairly thin and flat and always hard and crunchy throughout (unless sandwiched together like 'custard creams', and 'bourbon biscuits'). The sort you would dunk in your coffee to soften before you ate them (or is that a US habit?). Ginger snaps/biscuits, Rich Tea biscuits, even 'digestives' come under that category.
'Cookies' ARE sold here but always seem to be a fatter type of biscuit, not quite as dense and more crumbly, possibly 'Hob Nobs' are what might now be called a 'cookie'.  So in cookbooks/mags we will see recipes for both biscuits AND cookies, and there is a noticeable difference between the two.

Interesting to hear how you noticed such a difference when you visited the UK Pam. So many small local shops have disappeared to be replaced by pizza parlours, and small ethnic restaurants.  Larger supermarkets scattered around (and sometimes in the centre of) towns, and the variety of foods/ingredients on sale has almost doubled with so many from other countries.  In some ways this is no bad thing as we can now make 'ethnic' meals at home and have to say that many are far more enjoyable that some of the old fashioned British meals we used to eat (where the vegetables were always boiled to an inch of their lives).

One of the more enjoyable aspects of this infiltration of global cuisine is the rise in the Indian restaurants in the UK (mainly run by Pakistanis and not Indians) where many serve sublime food.  I could eat a different curry every day for a month and be a really happy bunny. 
Unfortunately I don't make curries often enough at home as they require a lot of spices that need to be fresh, and some amount of work if the 'full Monty' is to be served, so resort to the better quality curry sauces on sale (Patak's, Sharwoods etc) of which there is a great variety, then supply the rest of the ingredients 'from fresh' myself, and although I buy poppadums (to fry myself) and nann breads, I do make the bajis/pakoras, the samosas and chapatis, the Raita and the mango chutney, and also prepare all the 'sides': the bowls of nuts, coconut, sliced tomato and onion, sliced banana, halved hard-boiled eggs, and (bought) lime pickle, and of course rice (basmati, pilau....). So hope I'm allowed the time-saver of using the ready-made sauce (my favourites being: dopiaza, passanda, madras, tikka masala, jalfrezi, butter chicken, rogan josh, korma....and others whose names I have forgotten for the moment).

Every day I hunt through numerous new and old cookbooks and mags to find another cost-cutting dish, and more often than not find the newer publications show dishes that to me are not cheap at all.  B says the cost of anything now is relative to the amount of money earned, so as my mindset still seems to be stuck in the times when £100 a week earned was almost a fortune (and the food budget considerably less of course), my idea of the cost of a 'budget meal' comes into the pennies rather than the £££s.
With todays pension money being far less than the average amount earned, I still have to count my pennies, and thankfully there are recipes to be found that really don't cost that much to make. Whether anyone would wish to make and eat them is another matter, but as I certainly would, then hope you will too.

Here is an example.  A pancake-plus that can be made from ingredients most of us have, and as we have the chance to adapt some of these and use something similar, then we should - as ever - use what we've got, and the fresh foods that need using up should be first past the post.
Serve these pancakes with a tomato salsa and bread for a light lunch (or even breakfast or supper), and with new potatoes (or other cooked veggies) to make a more filling main meal.
The list of ingredients seems lengthy, but the first 8 make the salsa, the remainder makes the pancakes.
Vegetable Pancakes with Tomato Salsa: makes 10
2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 small red onion, finely chopped
half a red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
dash Tabasco sauce
1 tblsp sherry or dash of red wine vinegar
6 tblsp olive oil
1 tsp soft, light brown sugar
8 oz (225g) spinach, finely chopped
1 small leek (or 1-2 shallots) finely chopped
small handful of coriander or parsley, chopped
2 large eggs
salt and pepper
freshly grated nutmeg
2 oz (50g) plain flour, sifted
2 tblsp water
1 oz (25g) grated Parmesan cheese
First make the salsa by putting the prepared tomatoes, onion, bell pepper, garlic, Tabasco, sherry, oil and sugar into a bowl and toss together.  Cover and chill for a couple of hours (longer if you wish).
Make the pancakes by putting the chopped spinach, leek and herbs into a bowl and beat in the eggs, adding seasoning and nutmeg to taste.  Blend in the flour and water (you may need an extra tblsp water if the mixture is too thick).  Leave to stand for 20 minutes.
Heat a lightly oiled frying pan and spoon on tablespoons of the batter, leaving room to spread slightly.  You will probably be able to cook 3 - 4 at once.  Cook for a couple or so minutes until golden underneath, then using a fish slice, turn the pancakes over and cook for a couple or so more minutes on the other side.
Drain on kitchen paper and keep warm while the remaining mixture is cooked.  Sprinkle with the Parmesan and serve with the salsa.

As many of us are shying away from manufactured beefburgers, yet discovering when we make our own using the best quality meat (because this makes the best burgers) the cost is more than we can afford (which says a lot about what goes into the cheaper burgers on sale), and although we can make these patties using the best minced steak (because with this recipe doesn't use much meat)we why not make them the traditional way using minced lamb. 
This Malaysian dish - called  'shami kebab' , would normally be served as a delicious appetiser, or eaten as a snack in a bap with tomato ketchup (as we would eat a burger). Or - and there is always an 'or', we could serve them with a side salad as a main meal (suggestions at the end of recipe).  Take your pick.
Lentil and Lamb Patties: serves 4
5 oz (150g) lentils (can be red, yellow, brown or green)
2 tblsp sunflower oil  plus extra for frying
2 onions, finely chopped
2 - 3 cloves garlic, crushed
3 green chillis, seeded and finely chopped
1 oz (25g) fresh root ginger, grated
8 oz (225g) lean minced lamb
4 eggs
2 tsp mild curry powder (or to taste)
1 tsp turmeric
salt and pepper
Rinse lentils and put into a pan with plenty of water.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the lentils have softened but still have a bit of bite to them (this could take 20 - 40 minutes depending upon type of lentil used).  Drain well, then set aside.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the onions until softened, then stir in the garlic and ginger.  When beginning to colour, add the lamb and lentils and fry for five minutes, then add the curry powder and turmeric.  Add seasoning to taste the raise heat and cook until all the moisture has evaporated, stirring occasionally to help it on its way.  Remove from heat and leave until cool enough to handle.
Beat one of the eggs and stir this into the meat mixture, then - using damp hands - take small portions and roll into balls about the size of a plum.  Flatten each ball with the palm of the hand to form thick, flat patties.
Beat the remaining eggs together in a bowl.  Heat enough oil in a frying pan to allow for shallow frying,  Dip each patty into the egg and when all dipped, place in the oil and fry for 3 - 4 minutes on each side, until golden. 
Serve hot, with a chutney or salsa and lemon wedges, or between chunks of bread with tomato ketchup (like a burger), or for something more filling, split a baguette in half lengthways, and tuck the patties between layers of lettuce, mint, yogurt and a spicy chutney or chilli sauce.

One of the most economical soups we can make using 'fresh' vegetables is Potato Soup.  A good one to make at this time of the year when so many potatoes are beginning to sprout.  If the sprouts are tiny and the spuds still firm, the potatoes can still be used (discard any that have turned green).
Not only is this soup excellent as-is, but it can be used as a base for many other soups.  Use a floury potato for this soup such as Golden Wonder, King Edwards etc...
Potato Soup: serves 8
2 oz (50g) butter
2 large onions, finely chopped
1.25 lbs (675g) potatoes, peeled and diced
salt and pepper
3 pints (1.75ltrs) hot chicken stock
milk if necessary
chopped chives (opt)
Melt the butter in a large pan and add the onions, tossing them in the butter until well coated.  Cover pan and cook over a very low heat for about 10 minutes or until softened.
Add the potatoes and mix these well into the buttered onions, add seasoning to taste, then cover and cook, without colouring, over a slightly higher heat for 10 minutes, then add most of the stock, bring to the boil and simmer for 25 minutes or until the potatoes and onions are tender.  Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly before pureeing the soup - in batches - in a blender or food processor.
Reheat over low heat, adding extra seasoning if required.  If the soup is too thick, add some or all of the remaining stock and a little milk if necessary to get the consistency you are looking for.
Serve the soup very hot with warm 'rustic' bread (such a soda bread).  Garnish with chopped chives (opt).

That's it for today.  Apparently we will be getting another cold spell of weather and we won't be having the hot weather that we had last year that began around this time.  But at least the weather is staying fairly seasonal at the moment, which gives us some hope that perhaps we'll also have a warm dry summer at the time when it should be.  We are - like Pandora - left with only the hope.

But whatever, we can still find something to enjoy, and hope you all do this coming weekend.  Will be back tomorrow (maybe later as Gill phones me at 9.00 and if not written and published by then, always write my blog after her call).  TTFN.