Saturday, April 06, 2013

Cooking the Books...

Managed to get quite a lot of Foodbank recipes written up yesterday, and plenty of hints and tips.  Too many to be included in the booklet, but will probably send them all then 'those who choose' can decided what to leave out (or they might be able to scan then print using a smaller font leaving room to include more.   Myself find that slightly larger letters make for easier reading, and not because I am old.   We used to have a full set of Dickens' books, but the print was so small that I found that I didn't enjoy reading the books (so I didn't bother), yet - when being lent one of the books in a more 'normal' print, had no problem with that.

It is the same with cookbooks.  Gave up reading one of Heston B's books because some of the letters/characters had 'curly bit' joining one letter to another, and found this most annoying and downright 'offputting', so gave up reading after the first four pages.

Another lovely day has dawned.  We must have had about two weeks now of high pressure, giving us cloudless skies and - of course - lots of sunshine.  Previous years and it would have been warm as well.  Can remember wandering, as a young child, round our garden in early April, the spring flowers all blooming and warm enough to play outside without a coat.   Here the temperature is still very cold, barely above freezing in the day-time.  Expected to warm up a bit next week, but also become more cloudy.  Can't have everything I suppose, anything is better than weeks and months of heavy rain.

Can't remember too much about when we lived in Warwickshire, TravellingNinjas, not many people had cars (although my dad did), but do remember that before the war we would sometimes have a picnic at a area close to Coventry called 'Yarningale Common'.  All I can remember is that it was a wooded area that I used to enjoy exploring.
We did visit Stratford-on-Avon - probably after the war as we went to watch one of Shakespeare's plays at the theatre there.  Also remembering visiting Kenilworth Castle, and many times visited Warwick Castle, there used to be a HUGE marble (sort of) vase in a type of glass 'summer-house' in the castle grounds. . 

Myself have fond memories of Warwickshire, remembering the beautiful countryside, the architecture, the weeping willows along the river banks.  Wish I could live there again, but found Leicestershire (my second home) almost as pleasant, especially when the first house that B and I owned was on a very new estate on the edge of - what was then - a small village called Oadby, where the main road was the original A1, but a new bypass had been built to take away the heavy traffic.

Oadby has now had so many new houses built that it is now a small town, but when we moved it was still in its 'village' style, with thatched cottages and even a 'highway's cottage' (that was pulled down to build a small 'shopping complex'.  The pub where I used to work as barmaid (in the evenings), used to be a coaching inn.  A wonderful place, lots of history, but after we left to move to Leeds, this was also pulled down and a new pub built in its place.  Apparently, very little of the original village is now left.

Both the above counties are mainly farmland, any hills being nothing much more than mounds, so it was a bit of a shock when we moved to Yorkshire, and the hills there seemed like mountains to me. But the hills and dales of Yorkshire, very beautiful in their own way, and I grew to love this country.  Lancashire is not as 'mountainous' as Yorkshire, but still fairly hilly, a cross between Yorks. and the Midlands. 

Good to hear from you Cheesepare, was only thinking of you yesterday as you are the only reader who seems to have stayed with me since this blog was started.  Am always puzzled why some readers - who write very regularly, suddenly stop.  My concern is that either they are ill, or I've said something to upset them.  Maybe the only reason is that - for some reason - blogger won't accept their comments (some readers have had problems with this).  My 'hits' each day/week continue to rise (albeit slowly), so maybe 'old friends' are still 'out there', and - even if they can't reply - I (and am sure all reader) still remember and wish them well.

Regarding your queries CP,  those tiny scooters you mentioned I have seen, but having used a small (non-folding one) in a store, find them exceedingly uncomfortable, and even only after a short 'scoot', cramp my knees so they very soon 'seize up', painful when I sit, even more painful when getting up and walking about.  As a large - and tall (almost six foot when younger, shrunk a bit now due to age), I need to sit on something more suitable to suit my size - both my width, and even more important, allow me room to stretch my legs forward.

Yes, have tried making pastry in the food processor.  Still end up with 'breeze blocks' after baking. Perhaps I should try making it 'into the lump' then allowing it to rest and chill before doing anything else.  Have always been a bit heavy-handed with the rolling pin, and do know this can cause pastry to end up 'tough', but somehow the bought pastry doesn't seem to mind how much I bash it around, it always ends up tender.

The Foodbank has to rely on the food that people donate, and although they often have both canned new potatoes and the dried instant, only one of these would be handed out with each 'allocation'. It's just the luck of the draw as to what type (or flavour) of the allocated food is taken from the shelf by the volunteer 'packer'. 
The interesting thing about the canned potatoes is that they can be used in the same way as 'ordinary' cooked potatoes.  I've tried roasting them, chopping and frying, and mashing the canned spuds.  Certainly (after heating first) they mash perfectly, you wouldn't know any difference between those and 'real' mashed potatoes.  Chopped and fried (as in a Hash) also very good.  When 'roasted' some tended to explode, and although slightly crisp on the outside, the 'innards' tended to be very soft.  My least favourite way of 'cooking' them.

Also good to hear from you Library Spy (as long time 'no see'). From what you say, it seems that Callaloo is well suited to our climate, needs little (if any) attention, so one very well worth thinking about growing.  Appreciate very much you letting us know about this 'new' (to us) vegetable, for there are not many veggies that seem to cope with the weather we have been having lately. 
The Sutton catalogue sells Callaloo seeds for £1.85 pack, and worth growing in a 'floral' garden as well as a 'kitchen' garden or allotment as: "extremely versatile in the kitchen, and decorative in your garden".  Still time to buy the seeds as sowing is May onwards, and harvesting can begin 'after around 6 weeks, snipping off fresh new growth.  Use like spinach'.  
From what LS says, it appears to be self seeding, so once in the garden, always in the garden.  Almost free food for life.  How good is that?

Continuing the saga of our soaps, must mention to Pam (who has sent a query), that 'Alfie and Kat' are still in EastEnders, but - at the moment - separated.  'Alfie' now living with 'Roxy' at the pub.  Barbara Windsor left the series some months ago, but they 'visit' her now and again, so her character (Peggy) is still mentioned.  In about a week, 'Sharon' is due to marry 'Jack Branning', but have a feeling this won't happen as Phil still seems able to pull her strings (and have heard that 'Jack' is leaving the series anyway).   Don't know if you remember the two Mitchell sisters, 'Roxy' and 'Ronnie'? 'Ronnie' married 'Jack' had a baby that died, swapped babies, ended up going to prison. They got divorced, but 'Ronnie' is just about to be released, so maybe she and 'Jack' will drive off into the sunset, leaving 'Phil' to pick up 'Sharon's' pieces.
'Ian Beale' is still in the series, very much so.  He has had several wives, his children now all grown up (youngest son still at school), his daughter 'Lucy' now owns the 'chippie', and also the 'caff' due to Ian having a nervous breakdown after his bride-to-be left him at the altar so to speak.

Good to hear Pam, that you are able to watch some of my favourite programmes, 'Call the Midwife' being one of the most popular in the UK.  Watching this, a lot of pleasure comes from the memories it brings back of those times - the style of hair and clothes worn, the type of prams pushed, exactly as it was when I was first married (seeing these it makes me feel young again).
With Doc Martin, as well as being a great fan of the actor Martin Clunes, we have the chance to see the lovely Cornish villages and countryside.  Exactly as I remember them. Nothing ever seems to change in Cornwall.

Have watched Wallender and have to admit I did enjoy it, firstly because the same series was shown (with different actors) in its original language (subtitled), so being able to watch AND understand what was said, made the series very enjoyable, especially as I am also a fan of Kenneth Branagh.  Myself don't think I noticed our 'regional' accents, perhaps because I've lived in Yorkshire (and now Lancashire', these are familiar to me, and not so noticeable as they would be to others. 

When we lived in Leicestershire, although I was not aware of having any accent myself (people thought I came from 'down south'), when we moved to Yorkshire, many people recognised a bit of a 'Midland' accent.  It was usually the way I pronounced 'road'.  In Yorkshire this word would sound like 'rue-ad',  in the Midlands it would be as 'rowed'. 

After living more than 40 years 'up north' I've now stopped saying the long 'a' and castle is not 'car-sul' anymore, but now said as  'cassle', (and auntie is not 'arn-tee' but now 'anti'.  Garage is not 'ga-raage' but now 'garridge'.  'Bath' is not 'baarth' and 'path' is not 'paarth', but pronounced as spelt).
We have so many different regional accents in the UK that some of them can be quite difficult to understand.  We used to have to ask our Scottish (born in Perth) daughter-in-law to 'translate' for us when 'Ralph C Nesbitt' was on (he had a very strong Glasgow accent), as we couldn't understand a word he said.  And that is true.

We used to have a long-playing record of all the accents in the USA, each state sounding very different from the next, and presumably there would be also be regional differences within a state, much as in Yorkshire where each town has its own way of speaking.
It was noticeable how many US accents are similar to some of our English accents, especially those in the south-west, and - for obvious reasons perhaps - the Irish (republic) accents are almost identical to some in parts of the US.

Although not very well up on Canadian history, have always believed that it was 'settled' by the French and the Scots, so puzzled why the accent is so very similar to American, as would have expected a strong French or Scottish accent to be part of the Canadian speech.    Maybe Margie will be able to shed some light on this.

What began as a cookery blog, seems now to be turning into more of a history, geography, and TV extravaganza.  Perhaps that is what is putting some readers off.  They want to hear more about cost-cutting-cookery, and here am I writing about anything but...  So perhaps had better get back to what I hope I know!

Was able to watch a repeat of 'The Horse Banquet' (on BBC3) yesterday evening.  Had seen it before, but worth watching again.  That 'lamb curry' that had been checked for the meat it contained (no lamb, or any other recognisable meat) remains an issue, and it crossed my mind that it might have been camel?  People do eat that meat in the Arabian countries I believe.  Let us hope we are eventually be told what meat WAS used in that particular 'ready-meal'.

The best recipes - or at least the ones we prefer -  use ingredients we already have, but my choice of foods to keep in the larder/fridge/freezer, may not always be the same as everyone else.   However, this next recipe MUST be pretty close to 'our basics' (and if no creme fraiche, we could use sour cream, or Greek yogurt? - or just use milk and add an extra egg yolk).  Use home-made pastry instead of bought (saves money no doubt), and omit the garlic if not a garlic lover. Use a different herb (or herbs) if you haven't the one specified.   Use plain (English or Dijon) mustard if you have no whole-grain, and of course sunflower (or vegetable oil) if you have no olive oil.  Almost very ingredient in every recipe has 'something similar' that could be used instead.

Although this is called a 'tart', this is much the same as a savoury 'flan' or 'quiche', and makes a substantial (aka 'filling') meal, delicious served hot or cold with salads.
Onion and Potato Tart: serves 4
1 x 375g pack ready-rolled shortcrust pastry
2 tblsp olive oil
1 lb (450g) onions, thinly sliced
1 - 2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 tblsp fresh thyme leaves OR...
...1 tblsp dried thyme leaves
1lb 10oz (750g) floury potatoes
2 eggs
1 x 200ml tub creme fraiche
2 tblsp wholegrain mustard
salt and pepper
Line the base and sides of a Swiss roll tin (approx: 9" x 13"/23 x 33cm), then place in the fridge to chill.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan and  fry the onions for about 10 minutes until just beginning to caramelise. Stir in the garlic and most (but not all) of the thyme, and cook for a further 2 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.
Meanwhile, thickly slice the peeled potatoes, and boil in salted water for 5 minutes, then drain well.
Remove the pastry-lined tin from the fridge, and spread half the onion mixture over the base pastry, then arrange the potato slices on top, then scatter the remaining onions over the potatoes.
Beat the eggs, creme fraiche, and mustard together, adding plenty of seasoning, then pour this over the vegetables.  Sprinkle the remaining thyme on top, then bake at 220C, 425F, gas 7 for 20 minutes, or until the filling has set and golden in colour.   Serve hot or cold, with salad.

Some months ago did give a recipe for Chocolate Fondants, but am giving a similar one again as this is a pudding well worth making as - because it is a perfect pud to serve when entertaining (or even to the family), once assembled, it will stand happily in the fridge for some hours before being cooked, and can also be frozen (still uncooked).
Although this recipe does not state this, most chefs suggest the containers are 'double-greased' before being filled (first brushed with melted butter, then chilled, then greased again, this time with softened butter and dusted with cocoa) as this makes the puds easier to turn out.
You could substitute ground walnuts or ground almonds if you have no pecans.  Or leave the nuts out altogether and add an extra tablespoon of flour to compensate.
Chocolate Pecan Fondants: makes 2
2 oz (50g) butter (plus extra for greasing0
cocoa powder
5 oz (150g) dark chocolate (ordinary plain is OK)
1 egg, beaten
2 tblsp plain flour
2 tblsp toasted pecan nuts, very finely chopped
1 tblsp caster sugar
pinch of salt
Grease well (see above) 2 individual pudding basins (about 200ml capacity), dusting each generously with cocoa powder.
Break the chocolate into chunks and put with the butter into a bowl and place over simmering water, and leave until softened, then stir to mix together until smooth.  Gradually stir in the egg, then the flour, nuts, sugar, and salt, and beat gently until everything is well mixed, but still runny.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pudding basins.  These can be baked immediately, or left to chill in the fridge for up to a day ahead.   Can also be frozen (just defrost before cooking, or cook from  frozen allowing 5 minutes longer cooking time).
Bake in the oven at 220C, 425F, gas 7 for 15 minutes, then turn out onto saucers or small tea plates. The fondants should be cooked (like sponge cake) on the outside, but remain runny (like melted chocolate) in the centre.  Serve hot with ice-cream or whipped cream. 

As still have a considerable amount of work to do on the Foodbank booklet, need to spend the rest of the morning sorting that out (and maybe also tomorrow). It is now 10.00am (notice that blogger, although using UK times, have forgotten about adding on an hour, so published time will be wrong for the next six months) so will sign off for today, and back again tomorrow (maybe having to wait until after Gill's call, so publishing nearer noon - unless I rise early, which is unlikely), either way, will be hoping you can join me tomorrow for our usual 'chat'.  Keep those comments coming, as love to hear from you, one and all.  TTFN.