Saturday, April 27, 2013

If Only I Was Younger...!

If it wasn't that I love the countryside, traditions, and heritage of the UK, and I was 50 years younger, I'd seriously think of emigrating to either Oz, or Canada.  Am very taken with the Maori culture but with the possibility of earthquakes in New Zealand think I'd prefer to settle on more stable ground where the weather is probably also as expected.  Yesterday, early evening we had a fall of snow, and that's here in Morecambe, "where snow never falls!"  What was worse, I even missed seeing it fall as by then we had drawn the curtains, B only discovered it when he opened the back door at 9.00pm to drive off to his 'social'.

But it's not so much the weather that is making me wish I lived elsewhere, it is the direction our country seems to be moving as a nation.  On the (local) news yesterday heard that Booths' (a very reputable and regional supermarket) had withdrawn packets of nuts from its shelves as the packaging did not contain the words "may contain nuts".  This seems to point to us becoming a nation of morons.

An almost full page in the newspaper yesterday about a woman (I won't even call her a 'lady') who hurt her back when at her place of work and was suing the company for £1m.  Seems she had dropped an ear-ring on the floor and it rolled under a display unit and she couldn't reach it, so tried to move the heavy unit herself so she could retrieve the ear-ring and by doing so, hurt her back.  Apparently she believes that it was their fault for having such heavy units, and not her fault for not asking some-else to move it for her (or hook out the piece of jewellery with a stick or something).  The trial will be in November, and as B says, "even if she doesn't win, it's all money for the lawyers".  Which is true.   It was then I said to B, "she hasn't a cat's hell in winning, and if she does, then I'm emigrating"!  Thing is that now even a burglar can claim compensation from the owner of the house if he's been hurt when there, either accidentally or hit by the owner.

I see there is a new ad on TV now about claiming against 'accidents'.  We are used to thr ads that urge us to contact them if we have slipped, fallen, done anything to hurt ourselves when out and about, but this one is to do with just medical claims.  It doesn't seem to matter how long in the past but we can now claim if we feel we have had bad treatment from a doctor, dentist, optician, chiropodist, or whoever.  Believe me, there are several things that have happened to me that might well be good cause to complain, and - let us say - if it turns out that my cocktail of medication is causing my allergy, then would I be able to get compensation for that?  Not that I would claim anyway.  But some people might.

There is another ad for (I think) Colgate toothpaste that makes me cringe each time I see it.  On the final shot the word 'their' is spelt 'thier'.  The first time I saw the ad the word stood out like a sore thumb, and now the last few seconds seems to have been reduced to 'no time at all left to read it' so possibly the mistake has been noticed, but too expensive to have the ad changed, so just hope no-one will notice. But I still do.

While in the kitchen yesterday put on the radio (am I glad I bought that, it really does help to keep me company), Radio 4 as usual, and they were discussing the rise (and fall) of the US cupcakes.  Apparently there are now so many cupcake outlets in American that these cakes have become less popular than formerly, and probably also because the price is so high.  £2 a cup-cake was mentioned (surely they meant 2 dollars - unless the currency was converted to UK pounds), with £5 a cake for the more 'gourmet' style. 
However, over in the UK cup-cakes (US style with as much whipped topping as there is cake beneath)  are now also becoming popular, but not I believe quite as expensive or high with the topping as they are not easy to eat in the hand.   An American lady said the best way to eat the US cup-cakes was with a fork, but she preferred to often they slice the bottom off the cup-cakes, place this on the top and eat it like a sandwich.  The mind boggles.

When watching part of 'DC Cupcakes' the other morning (one I hadn't seen before but didn't have time to watch it to the end), the sisters were complaining they didn't now have time to ice all the cupcakes themselves, each cake being iced with their 'signature swirl' before any decoration was put on top.  Do me a favour, all it was was a 'swirl of icing, nothing clever about that and I doubt any customer would even notice the shape once the 'pretties'  had been laid on.or pushed into it.
However, several minutes of the programme was taken over by showing how three of their  'interns' (thought interns worked only in hospitals, but apparently not) being shown how to pipe the 'signature swirl', and two making a mess of it (although to me their swirls looked pretty perfect).  One did manage to do it 'correctly' after icing only three or four cakes (goodness me, how clever was that?) so was allowed to take over some of the icing from then which would allow the sisters to go out and drag up more trade (in order to make more TV programmes presumably).

My final 'Saturday moan' is very 'of this moment'.  I switched on the comp this morning, went to my email 'inbox' and a lot of fresh mail came in (some of which were your comments), then a box came up saying there was a fault.  I clicked that box off, and clicked on the 'incoming mail' to see what would happen, and then a lot more mail came in, but it was the same mail as before, everything had been put up twice.  I checked everything just to make sure as some people do write twice, but on a different subject, this time, however, mail was just duplicated.  Not really a problem, would rather have a lot of emails than none.

Watched a bit of the Barefoot Contessa yesterday, she does serve big helpings just for herself and her Geoffrey (or is it Jeffrey?).  Can't remember much of what she was cooking, but did see her serve something on a bed of 'arugula', which one reader told me was what we call 'rocket', but the arugula the B.C. used seemed nothing like rocket, to me it looked exactly like Corn Salad, sometimes called Lamb's Lettuce.  She also used salad leaves that she called 'Mescalin' (not sure if that is the name she used, but something similar), and that was what we call 'mixed salad leaves'.

And yes, have to admit, watched 'Bitchin' Kitchen' again last night.  It really is the strangest cookery programme I've ever seen, but do enjoy seeing the 'action'.  The girl (Nadia somebody) grows on me, and now I'm even eagerly waiting to see one of her three male 'helpers', the one called Hans!!!  What is cooked is of little importance.  The presentation is just so 'different'.

Being in the UK, we have to stick to tried, tested, and sometimes boring cookery progs, and although could be worse, it was the Hairy Bikers, and Masterchef that also caught my eye yesterday.  The H.Bs. talked about (and made some) food eaten at meals that celebrated a certain religion. Unfortunately I was only able to watch half the prog. as B wanted to watch Corrie.  B remembered how, each year, I used to  save one of my home-made Hot Cross Buns, and eventually had a big basket full of them (we lived in Leeds 40 years and I think there was a bun for at least 30 of them).  Although they dried very hard, none went mouldy.  The legend goes that these have curative properties and can help heal certain illnesses, but never put them to the test.

The H.B's began by showing a traditional festive feast made by an Ethopian lady, celebrating Christmas.  "Oh, it's a Muslim meal" said B when he joined me in front of the TV.  "Doubt, it" I replied, "seeing it's a meal celebrating the birth of Christ".   Just shows how we tend to believe that everyone from a certain area of the globe has only one faith.

 Managed to get a bit more cooking done yesterday.  B had fetched me some filo pastry from Morrison's (Tesco apparently don't sell it), so now have two packs of that in the freezer ready to make samosas.  Diced lots of carrots and onions, cooked those until tender, throwing in some frozen peas at the last minute, then drained those well ready to add some diced (this time canned) new potatoes. This mixture, when spiced, will make the filling for the samosas, and these will be completed today, frozen, ready to thaw/fry on the day.

Also made a small amount of 'kulfi'.  I say 'small amount', and if it was ordinary ice-cream it would probably be enough to serve four people, but as it is so rich, feel that one tablespoon per person would be more than enough.  The amount made gave over 14 tablespoons, and as I hadn't added the chopped pistachio nuts (too expensive to use for a 'trial'), perhaps if serving with (say) another dessert, perhaps three lots would be enough.

Kulfi is so simple to make.  It really is.  I just took one can of condensed milk, and slightly more (by weight) of double cream.  Stirred a teaspoon of Rose Syrup into the condensed milk, then whipped the double cream until beginning to thicken,  added the condensed milk and carried on whipping until it was thick.  Spooned this into a container, covered and froze it.  Put one small portion in a separate dish 'to sample'.
This morning, got the 'sample' from the freezer and there were no ice crystals in the kulfi at all.  It was very smooth, and VERY rich.  Can understand now why the kulfi served in Indian restaurants is in small portions,  I used to think they were just being mean, but now see they are being wise. 

My Indian cookbook gives a different (and possibly not so rich) recipe for 'kulfi'.  This weekend will give that a try as well to see how it turns out. 

Thanks for letting me know about the chapatis Noor,  again it surprises me how much they cost when bought ready-made, as the ingredients are only wholewheat flour, water (and maybe oil). They are almost identical to the Mexican 'tortillas' (that are made with either white wheat flour or corn meal). I will make a few chapatis this weekend, freeze some, chill some, then after a few days check, thaw, reheat and see how they turn out.  This will then give me plenty of time to decide what is the best way to deal with them/

A welcome to maman. Can understand you not wishing to buy poor quality meats/vegs for your children, and if it is possible for you to shop in a supermarket towards the end of their day, you could find some quality meats/fish/vegetables reduced in price.  Morrison's certainly do this, although appreciate the time for this shopping could be too close to the toddler's bedtime.  Myself have found that an early-morning shop also has good bargains.

Quality meat always seems to have much more flavour than the cheaper meat, and the cheapest cuts of all have the most flavour.  By cheapest cuts I don't mean 'cheap meat', just the least tender meat that needs long slow cooking.  If you have a freezer maman, then you could cook the cheaper cuts very slowly (this also makes a lovely rich meaty 'stock') and freeze in quantities that suit your purpose. 
Making meals just for one is always a bit of a chore.  I rarely cook a meal just for myself, but oddly find this no problem when cooking one meal just for my Beloved.  Perhaps we women are 'programmed' to care more for others than for ourselves. 
My friend Gill lives on her own, she loves food, so - when out with friends - is a 'lady that lunches' so often doesn't need to cook herself a proper meal for supper, but still makes herself a big pot of her favourite chilli-con-carne that she freezes in individual portions to reheat when she feels like eating a 'proper meal' when at home.

Myself have begun to do something similar.  I bulk-cook minced beef with onions, then pack this away in individual containers to freeze.  Can then - using this meat (with other ingredients) - make myself (or B) a chilli con carne, spag bol, or cottage pie, in less than 10 minutes.

Maybe it is the time it takes that puts off some people cooking for themselves.  Certainly this seems the case with me.  I'd rather make myself a 'cuppa soup' than make a soup from scratch, although sometimes do make a big pan of vegetable soup with home-made chicken stock, then chill the surplus (or freeze it), and keep eating it.  It is nice.

There are some ingredients that will cook quite rapidly, so when wanting to make myself a hot meal I would choose to use 'quick-cook' pasta (takes about 4 - 5 minutes to cook), and also pre-soak rice for several hours in cold water (1 measure rice to 1.5 measures water), then bring it to the boil where it should be tender in about 4 - 5 minutes. 

Stir-fried vegetables (maybe with cooked meat added) take very little time to cook once the veggies have been prepared, and Tesco's 11p packs of 'chicken flavoured' Chinese noodles take only a couple of minutes to heat through and add to the dish.  

Another dish I'm likely to 'cook' for myself (mainly because it is so speedy), is the type of omelette called a 'tortilla'.  What it is is just putting some cooked and diced left-over veg (potatoes, carrots etc) a finely chopped raw onion, and some peas,  maybe diced red bell pepper.... then frying these off in a very little oil.  Pour over a couple (or three) beaten eggs (season this well with a little sale and plenty of pepper), shake the pan so the egg settles between the veg, and leave to cook on the hob until the top has almost set, finish off by popping under the grill to seal the surface, then slide onto a plate, eat and enjoy.

When the 'I can't be bothered to cook' comes over me but I still want to eat something hot, I'll either cook a jacket potato in the microwave then eat this with some baked beans or scrambled egg (or both) or pop a plateful of oven chips into the oven to cook and eat with perhaps sausages (cooked in the same oven but for a slightly longer time).

Recently (and mainly because I'm trying to avoid eating carbos - when I do I lose at least 1lb a day) I've been making myself salads.  The easy way.  Just chopping a chunk off an iceberg lettuce, then shredding this, mixing it with some chopped cucumber, tomato, banana (opt), bell-pepper (opt), and then adding a little (diluted with oil or milk) mayo or salad cream, tossing the salad in this dressing, then sprinkling over some grated cheese (a little cheese when grated goes a long way).  Tossed again, and with plenty of seasoning, every mouthful is full of flavour.  Sometimes - instead of cheese - I add a tin of (drained and flaked) tuna.  Takes only minutes to assemble (who cares what it looks like) and a big bowlful is not that many calories, but takes time to eat, so makes a satisfying meal.

A welcome also to Shaynaby.  How olives got their black colour (squid ink) came from a reputable source (chef's book on food), but perhaps this is only one of several ways of colouring the olives. Have to say that ferrous gluco... sounds worse than the 'ink', so think I'll just enjoy eating olives 'au naturel', not that I like them much anyway.

Wish I was able to include photos on this site Pam, but until the problem is sorted, everyone will have to just wait.  It might be the sailing club put photos on their own website (they did of the 'gourmet meal' I made for them on their Casino evening, even though they did call me Sheila!).  If they do I will give the www. details for you to take a look.

Am very glad we don't have mailboxes at the end of our gardens. What happens when people live in apartments, do they have a set of communal mail-boxes at the front entrance?
At least here, in the UK, we get our mail delivered to the door, either through the letterbox or the postman rings the bell if the envelopes/packages are too large to be pushed through.
We also have our newspapers delivered - again pushed through the letterbox.  I would hate to have to go outside to pick up the cling-wrapped newspaper that some newsboy has flung onto our front lawn as seems to happen in the US.  Maybe it makes more sense in the US as most homes seem to have unfenced front gardens, here in the UK we like to have visible 'boundaries', either brick walls, solid fences, or hedges.
It saddened me when we moved here and I discovered there was no doorstep delivery of milk.  In Leeds we had a daily (well at least five days) of milk, and as well as milk the milkman would also leave me weekly deliveries of cheese, butter, eggs, cream, yogurts, even potatoes and soft drinks on days specified by me (just use to tuck a note into the top of the empty and rinsed out milk bottle as to what was required the next day).  Milk came in bottles, these always were expected to be cleaned and they were put out on the doorstep for the milkman to collect the following day, replaced by the milk etc, ordered.
My milkman used to deliver very early in the day (about 4 or 5am) left on a shady doorstep, so everything still chilled by the time I got up (5 or 6am in summer), so went straight into the fridge.
Now I have to buy the milk from the supermarket (and the rest), and although this is far cheaper than when home-delivered, I'd still like to go back to finding milk (and the rest) on my doorstep each morning. 

A slightly earlier finish today, but being Saturday (my baking day) as well as the samosas (must remember to get the pastry to room temperature before I make a start), B has requested me to make him some 'tea-cakes'.  He is fretting because the ones he buys (for himself) are not spicy enough.  So need to do some experimenting with these.  My weekend starts now!

A chill wind blows no good they say, and the wind will be chilly this weekend as the warm air moves back down to the continent.  But we Brits are made of strong stuff and am sure we will cope.  Just as long as we enjoy our 'free' time.  Not necessarily 'relaxing' time, but at least 'free' to do with it what we will.   Enjoy your day.
Gill is on yet another of her regular 'holiday's this weekend, so won't have to wait for her call before I begin my blog, so hope to be back usual time.  See you then?  Do hope so.