Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Morning After...

Firstly, let me thank you (all) for your good wishes for my 80th!  And apologies for not replying personally, but each and everyone has added to the warm glow in my heart. Now almost hot enough to burst into flames!

A few new names that I wish to welcome, readers who have not yet commented before (although maybe they have and I've forgotten.  At my age I now can't even remember the name of our next door neighbour until they have gone back indoors and its then too late). So a big welcome to  Sheridan (Queensland) who's name I know is new to this page, and also to Tina, Sara, and buttercup (although these might be 'welcome back'?).  Rather than ignore new 'commenteers' I'd rather welcome/welcome back names that may not be that new after all.  I really should start making a list of all who write in, then I won't make the mistake of making anyone feel they haven't been remembered.

Thanks to Eileen who called in yesterday (on her way to the doctor's), especially as she was feeling very rough, and did look poorly.  Do hope you soon feel better Eileen, we all wish you well.

Thanks Sairy for writing in about your solar panels.  Maybe these need some really hot sun to 'make' enough electricity to heat up water for a bath/central heating etc.  But then in hot weather, who wants a hot bath?  Most of us would prefer to then have a tepid/cool shower. 
With the weather we had last (and earlier this) year, doubt solar panels in the UK would have had much 'activity',  do any other readers have them, and if so how much money have they saved?

One thing we rarely have here in the UK is high humidity Pam. Certainly not at the level that you seem to get in the US, and when/if we do get it, this doesn't usually coincide with very high temperatures.  We don't get very high temperatures normally anyway.  Although once or twice we have had a very hot day (usually in the south and around London) where it might have gone into the 90F for a couple of days.   In coastal areas the temperatures are always a few degrees lower due to the sea-breezes cooling things down, and we have a lot of coast!

It crossed my mind that the temperature of your swimming pool Pam is only very slightly higher than the 'water-baths' (aka sous-vide) the chefs use to very-slow-cook their vacuum-packed meats and fish where these are 'cooked' in the 'bath' for at least 7 hours (and could be a lot longer).  So, in hot weather, don't stay in the swimming bath too long or you might end up cooking yourself!

Many years ago I used to escape to the bathroom (to get away from the family) and spend hours soaking in a hot bath, usually reading a book (or three).  Maybe even taking my supper up there and eating that too.  I'd got really good at being about to hook the plug chain between the toes of one foot, raise the plug slightly to let the cooling water out, then turn the hot tap on with the toes of my other foot so hot water would pour in to the bath.   Having a 'bubble bath' also worked as the bubbles floating on top of the water worked as insulation, so the water beneath didn't cool so rapidly.   Considering how long I stayed in the bath (long enough for my skin to wrinkle!) it's a wonder I didn't end up 'cooked'.

It was good to hear that you still have that Woman's Own cookery supplement buttercup. Is there any recipe in that you found worth me giving again on this page?  At the back of my memory is another I also wrote for Woman's Own, this time a few pages on something like 'a meal for four for £1.50 (or some such price), but don't think I ever kept that.  When I first began writing for mags and newspapers etc, used to keep every one, but after several months (I wrote regularly for at least 10 years), the novelty ran out, and I didn't bother keeping them any more.  Wish now I had.

Am feeling a bit fragile this morning, after having a very pleasant day yesterday, and then 'eating out' last night where I ate far too much and ended up with indigestion.  So have a bit of the 'morning after' feeling at the moment and the thought of food doesn't appeal at all.  Think today I'll just settle for a liquid diet (coffee and soup).
Considering the amount I ate yesterday (including some chocolate that my daughter gave to me, AND a slice of the birthday cake she made - that was GORGEOUS!!), expected to have gained 6 lbs overnight.  But when weighing myself this morning was 1lb less than the same time yesterday.  Cannot understand how this can be, but am not complaining!

Returning to recipes on the above-mentioned supplement, have noticed a couple worth repeating. The first is a 'cheap and cheerful' version of Brawn.  Brawn is meat set in jelly, and something my mother often made.  I've made it myself using half a pig's head, but as not everyone would wish to do this (good though it is), am hoping this easy method you will find worth trying as it uses up left-over cooked chicken, beef or lamb (so most of the cooking has already been done).  Eaten with salad, jacket potato and pickles this is a 'retro' dish that has been brought up to date.
When making, use a flavoured stock according to the meat used.  The stock could (and preferably should) be home-made, but could also be made using a stock cube.
Although not mentioned in the original publication (as given today), see no reason why cooked ham couldn't be also used, on its own or mixed with some left-over cooked chicken. 
If using cooked lamb, my suggestion (now) would be to include chopped fresh mint (or even bottled mint sauce) instead of the given herbs.

Jellied Meat Mould: serves 6
10 fl oz (300ml) chicken or beef stock (see above)
1 x 15g (half oz) sachet of gelatine
8 oz (225g) cold meat, chopped (fat removed)
pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tblsp chopped fresh parsley and thyme OR...
...1 tsp dried mixed herbs
salt and pepper to taste
Put the stock into a bowl.  Dissolve the gelatine in 2 tblsp water in a bowl placed over simmering water, then set aside to cool.  Meanwhile mix the meat with the remaining ingredients and pack into a 1 pt (600ml) mould. Mix the gelatine into the stock and pour this over the meat, giving the bowl a shake to get rid of any trapped air, then cover and place in a cold place/fridge to set. When ready to serve, upturn out of the mould on to a serving plate.

Second recipe is a fish dish that has been given a luxury flavour without the cost.  When first published, cod steaks were reasonable enough in price, but today I would suggest using a cheaper 'white fish'.  Fish 'steaks' used to come from fish that had been cut 'across' the fish (right through the backbone), whereas today, most fish seems to be filleted and much thinner, but if possible, buy the thicker and 'chunkier' white fish to make this dish (mainly for appearance, whatever the shape it will end up tasting the same).
Almost Crab Casserole: serves 4
4 cod fillets or steaks (see above)
pinch mixed herbs (see above)
1 x 198g can crab meat, flaked
2 oz (50g) mushrooms, chopped
1 egg, beaten
1 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
dash Tabasco sauce
1 tblsp dried breadcrumbs
1 tblsp melted butter
Place the fish in a greased baking dish.  Mix together remaining ingredients EXCEPT the breadcrumbs and butter. Spread this mixture over the top of the fish.  Top with the breadcrumbs and butter, then bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 30 minutes (thin fillets of fish will take a little less cooking time than the thicker 'steaks').

Final recipe today, again from the 'supplement' is for a chutney.  An easy one to make as most of us should have the ingredients already in our larders, so can be made any time of the year, and a good one to make in (say) November, ready to include in those 'Christmas Hampers of Home-cooked Goodies' that many readers give to family and friends.
As with many of my 'older' recipes, feel there is now room for improvement, so this time round would feel inclined to add some freshly grated root ginger to give a more spicy flavour to the chutney.
Apricot Chutney: makes 2lb (900g)
8 oz (225g) no-need-to-soak apricots
half pint (300ml) water
6 oz (175g) raisins
10 oz (300g) soft brown sugar
8 fl.oz (250ml) white vinegar
1 tsp ready-made mustard
6 whole cloves
Put the apricots in a pan with the water and raisins.  Leave to soak for 30 minutes (longer if you wish), then add the rest of the ingredients.  Place over a low heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved.  Bring to the boil and simmer, uncovered, for about one hour or until the chutney has thickened.  Pour into hot sterilised jars, cover and seal.  Store in a cool, dark place.

Final recipe uses up the bits most people throw away, and I make no apologies for this as many of us really don't use the 'stumpy' bits, and these often have as much (often more) flavour than the 'edible' parts.  So - when you do have the root end and outer leaves of lettuce, and a celery 'stump', use these to make this soup.  Although peas (fresh or frozen) are included, no reason why pea-pods couldn't take their place. 
Once blended and strained all the flavour is still there and you couldn't wish for a creamier, better tasting soup, of a type you might find served at a top restaurant, because good chefs know the potential of every bit of food, and can ALWAYS make good dishes from what domestic cooks often discard (for one thing these boost profits), something we should consider (always) doing in our own kitchen - "spend less and eat better".

Green Soup: serves 4
1 pint (600ml) measure lettuce (see above)
half pint (300g) measure celery (see above)
1 oz (25g) butter
2 oz (50g) peas (see above)
1.5 pts (900ml) chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste
Wash, dry and shred the lettuce (grate the core), and do the same with the celery, then put into a large saucepan with the butter and heat gently until the butter has melted and the veggies have softened, then add the peas.  Stir in the chicken stock, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes or until all the veggies are really soft.  Cool slightly, then whizz to a puree in a blender or food processor, then (optional) strain through a sieve.  Return to pan, add seasoning to taste, bring back to the simmer and serve, piping hot, with crusty bread.

That's it for today as time for me to go and pay my respects to the late Baroness Thatcher, along with most of the rest of the nation.  I'm praying that there will be no disturbances of any kind caused by those who are hell bent to disrupt anything given the chance. 
Our thoughts and sympathies go out to those in Boston who have very recently suffered from exploding bombs placed by the (so far) unknown.  This has brought back memories of the terrorist attack when several bombs were set off in the London Underground (trains - and also on one bus in a street) when very many people were killed, and several injured.   In that instance, the terrorists deliberately had the bombs strapped to themselves (or carried in their bags) so they were also killed, believing (due to brainwashing) that by doing so this sacrifice meant they would get a direct route to their heaven where a handful of virgins would be waiting for them.   If this 'end result' is so eagerly awaited you would expect their 'leaders' to have been the first to martyr themselves.  

On to more mundane things.  Was able to be back home in time to watch the last part of '...Sewing Bee', and have to say that 'Superscrimpers Challenge' is giving more 'tuition' on how to 'make do and mend' than  the '...Sewing Bee'
On a recent 'S...Challenge', they were showing how to vamp up shoes, and - so often happens - another memory was awakened in my mind.   In earlier days (of marriage) I used to make a lot of my own clothes, and loved shoes (even though I could only afford a few pairs).  I once made a patterned skirt (tiny floral print), and got an old pair of stiletto shoes that had seen better days, and cut out the remnants of the skirt material to cover the shoes, sticking it on with glue.  The shoes really did look good (at least I thought so).

Suddenly realised (yesterday) that it wasn't as though I had just begun to be 80, I'd already been living it for a year.  We don't begin to be one year old the minute we are born, we celebrate this at the end of the first year of our life, then begin to live the second, and this continues, so I'm now really beginning the start of my 81st year.  If I'd realised that earlier, I wouldn't have felt so fed up about reaching the 'O'.   But who cares, it's only numbers, it's how we feel inside that matters, and I don't feel a day older than I did yesterday, or even last week, and in fact feel several years younger than I did when we first moved here (mainly due to losing weight I suppose).  Every cloud....!

Hope you will all be able to join me again tomorrow, when I will be back either having a moan, or (for once) being nice about something or somebody.  You'll have to wait and see.  TTFN.