Thursday, April 18, 2013

Number Crunching...

A massive thanks to Frugal Queen for giving details of my site recently as am sure this is the reason why, over the past couple of days, I've had many more comments sent in than usual, and my daily 'hits' have increased tenfold. 

So - to begin today - a welcome to Sylvia, Auchenshugglegranny, Carol, Silver Bunny, Jo, Mandy, Nikki, Jeanne M, Heather, Karen, Anona, Cathy, Quinn, astitch, and hajjandumrah (who may only be promoting his/her own site, but am giving him/her the benefit of the doubt). 
Many of the above were just sending birthday wishes (for which I thank you) , one or two with comments that I will shortly be replying to.
Am hoping new readers will continue with a daily 'read', and am here to answer any queries you may have, or to give a recipe that you might be seeking. 

A thanks also to regular readers who sent birthday wishes, and a welcome back to Noor, you have been missed.  Have to say I'm beginning to quite enjoy being 80 if it is bringing my blog so much attention.  Let us hope I can stay worthy of it.
Incidentally, Margie (re your comment re 'old as we feel',) yesterday watched a snippet of a prog. where David Frost was interviewing Joan Bakewell, who has also just reached 80, and don't I wish I looked as good as she does.
Joan said something very true, age is just a number, and however old we are, we still stay young 'inside' as the spirit doesn't age.  This does seem right.  I can bring back memories of much younger years and feel just the same 'inside' as I did then.  So from now on I'm going to stay 21!

A comment from an Anonymous (who may be a regular reader but forgot to leave a name), mentioning the 25p weekly increase the State has now given me because of my great age.  Not enough even to buy a postage stamp, but then if I think 'monthly', that means £1 to 'do things with', and as that would buy a packet of mixed salad leaves (99p),  a few of these seeds sown every few weeks, and grown on the windowsill, could keep me in 'salads' for several months.  A saving of at LEAST £10 (compared to store prices for the fresh leaves), and that's just using the first month's pension increase, another 11 months to go and who knows how much money the 25p increase could be made to turn into.  Another challenge perhaps?

In a way this 'number crunching' shows how easy it is to feel that something is what it is not.  Take the 'cost' of Baroness Thatcher's funeral, said to be £10m.  Maybe that IS what it cost, but only on paper, because - as I said - most of that cost would be what would normally have been paid to the soldiers, police, street cleaners.... a their normal daily wage. 

Recently there has been much written about (also TV interviews) with a woman who had 11 children (may more, can't remember), who lived on benefits, but the council were having to build a house especially to house her large family, and yet she seemed able to afford to buy a pony for her daughter. 
How much, I wonder, does this woman (and many others like her) cost the state?  This could also run into millions if we work out how much she would have to pay 'privately' for the hospitals, when doctors and when she had each of her children,  plus the cost of district nurses to visit her after, and also social services to visit her over the years to make sure her children were being cared for.  There would be the added cost of prescriptions if there was illness in the family, paying for schooling, also the cost of buying/renting a house, yet all (or most) of these are (by way of benefits) would be provided by the state.  
The argument (by the mother) would be that "well, the doctors are there anyway, so are the nurses, the social workers, the teachers, they are already paid a salary, and they look after a lot of other people, not just me".   Exactly.  This is their normal daily work, and paid to do this, so if it entails lining streets instead of marching in a parade ground, or sweeping up litter around St. Paul's instead of in the Underground, the state doesn't have to pay them more.  However, just to keep account of who does what, an accountant will always work how much it would cost if paid for privately.

We have all seen figures 'crunched', like it costs £71,000 if we hired people to do all the work a wife and mother does (to do the washing, ironing, cleaning, shopping, cooking, child-minding, car-driving back and forth to school, oh yes -  the cooking!  And a whole lot more in some instances - decorating, gardening, baby-sitting), everything a wife does, but gets no money for it.

Then again we see figures, again in many thousands. as to how much it costs to rear each child to school-leaving age.  Add university fees on top of that....!   How easy it is to estimate how much things should cost, would cost, will cost, when most of the time the total is way off the mark, and far much higher than in 'real life'.  

Perhaps an easier explanation would be to say 'think food'.  We see a recipe that says 'only £1.30 a portion'.  Sounds good, and although the ingredients would add up to this amount, this only because of the cost of the amounts used.  Starting from scratch, if needing one egg we'd probably have to buy half a dozen (eggs are not sold singly), and to use 2oz (50g) flour, we'd have to buy a whole bag of flour, the same with butter, have to buy a whole pack even when we only need 2 oz  .  OK, we still have ingredients left, part packs, 5 surplus eggs etc, and these can later be used 'for free' (?), but when an accountant  'number crunches' he wouldn't be looking at 'parts', he'd only be interested in how much the whole lot is worth. So nothing is really as expensive as it seems when common sense sorts the 'real' cost from the 'estimated total'. 

You mentioned 'cross bread' Anona, and this rings a bell in my mind, but can't remember when (or even if) there was a recipe called that.  If you can remind me when/where it was, then maybe I can look it up and give it again on this site.
You are right about the '....Sewing Bee', they don't give much tuition, but then it is a competitive programme, much the same as '.....Bake Off' where they also don't demonstrate how to make anything, only suggest 'how to'. 
Many, MANY years ago there used to be a lady on TV who had her own sewing series, and she was really good. One worth repeating, but don't suppose they ever will.  Styles change, and not just clothes but presenters too.  Today it's all Claudia Winkleman look-alikes.

Do hope your daughter will soon feel better jane, as with all comments, I've jotted down notes as I read each, and written 'b meal' in brackets against your name and now can't remember what that was supposed to mean, so am sorry I haven't given the reply I intended to re this.  

One or two 'commenteers' have mentioned my 'birthday meal'.  My Beloved, our daughter and myself went to an Italian restaurant in Lancaster where we each chose a starter, main course, and dessert.  If two meals were chosen from one section, then we got a free bottle of wine, so B and D chose their main course from that.  I went for a pasta dish called 'Rigatoni Mamma Mia', which was very good, but extremely rich being pasta with Italian sausage (tiny meatballs), covered with a sauce made with creme fraiche and mustard.  With plenty of added grated Parmesan and a good grinding of pepper from one of those mile-high pepper mills Italian restaurants always have, it was almost too much for me, but I managed to eat it all (then suffered afterwards).
My starter was just a bowl of olives with some sliced, plain bread, not sure what the others had.
B chose a dish of assorted ice-creams for his pud, D had a Sticky Toffee Pud with cream, and I chose a 'light orange-flavoured sponge' with ice-cream or cream.  Chose the ice-cream with the sponge, expecting it to be just a wedge of cake, but it was a hot steamed pudding, and that filled me up even more.  Not to mention slices of rich fruit (birthday) cake that our daughter had made and taken to the restaurant.   No wonder I ended up with indigestion!

Giving another recipe today from the Woman's Own' supplement, as it is another good one to 'use up what we have'.  I'm including the 'verbals' printed with the recipe as this shows how my mind worked in those days, but when reading 'old' recipes of mine (such as those from the supplement) can see there is drastically room for improvement.   However, this one I'll leave as-is.
Chinese Pork-Stir Fry: serves 4
'Although this delicious dish uses cooked pork, it's equally good with any cooked meat.  The wider the selection of vegetables you use the better.  The dish uses small amounts of each, so aim for a variety of colours.  Always remember that eye appeal is important'.
1 lb (450g) total weight of vegetables...
...onion, carrot, celery, green beans,red peppers..
,,,mushrooms etc.
2 tblsp sunflower oil
8 oz (225g) cooked roast pork, cut into strips
1 - 2 oz (25-50g) salted peanuts
1 tsp five-spice powder
8 fl oz (250ml) water
1 tblsp soy sauce
1 tblsp cornflour
1 teaspoon runny honey
Prepare the vegetables by shedding or cutting into thin strips. Heat the oil in a large pan and when hot stir in the pork, followed by the onion, carrot, and celery.  Stir-fry for 2 minutes.  Add the remainder of the vegetables and cook for 1 min.  Add the peanuts and sprinkle the five-spice powder ove.  Cook for 3 minutes.
Blend together the water, soy sauce, cornflour and honey and stir into the pan.  Cook until the sauce has thickened, stirring constantly so that all the ingredients are coated with the sauce.  Serve with your favourite rice.

If I was writing the above recipe again I'd include a tablespoon of tomato ketchup with the 'sauce' ingredients, but of course it is 'optional' and am sure the original recipe was good enough to stand on its own.

Another recipe from the same page of the supplement was always a favourite with my family and a really good way to make a small amount of fruit go a lot further (as you will see from the 'verbals').
Beignets Surprise: serves 4
'Because the fritter is delicious on its own, not every piece needs to have a fruit filling - hence the 'surprise'.  It's an ideal way to make a small amount of fruit go far.
4 oz (100g) plain flour
1 dessp. sunflower oil
half pint (300ml) water
1 egg white
2 oz (50g) icing sugar
half tsp ground cinnamon
2 apples or bananas, or both
oil for deep frying
warm syrup to serve (optional)
Put the flour into a large basin and stir in the oil, adding enough water to make a smooth thick batter (for special occasions, substitute a little of the water with beer, wine or brandy)..  Cover and leave to stand for one hour. 
When ready to use, beat the egg white stiffly and fold into the batter.  Sift the icing sugar with the cinnamon and place in a shallow bowl.  Peel the fruit and cut into slices, then coat with the batter and deep fry a few at a time in hot oil.  Turn once or twice until golden on all sides, then remove and drain on kitchen paper.  Toss in the flavoured sugar.
Repeat until all the fruit and any remaining batter is used up.  Serve hot, on its own or with warmed syrup.

Final recipe comes from the 'Spring' pages of the supplement, but of course can be made at any time of the year.  Always a good idea to plan making this when cooking another dish that would use pearl barley (could be soup) because - unlike the traditional recipe that needs only the water the barley was cooked in then says "throw away the barley after straining"- I never throw it away.  'Use, not lose' is my motto.
Lemon Barley Water: makes 1 pint (600ml)
3 oz (75g) pearl barley
3 large lemons
4 oz (100g) caster sugar
Put barley into a pan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, drain well and return barley to the pan adding 1.5pts (900ml) fresh water.  Bring to the boil, cover, and simmer for 1 hour. 
Peel the lemons, then remove all the pith from the peel.  Squeeze out the juice and reserve. 
Strain the barley liquid into a clean saucepan and add the sugar. Heat gently until the sugar has dissolved, then remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice and peel, and leave to cool.
When cold, strain the liquid into a sterilised screw-top bottle and refrigerate.  Dilute to drink.

There was no 'use-by' time given with the above recipe, but would suggest using it up within a week (but it could also be frozen, and - diluted slightly - would make a refreshing 'iced-lolly').

The wind was really bad last night, thought the roof was going to blow off, but not really too concerned as we own only the ground floor of this house (although it could be we share the cost of roof repairs).
Although we had rain during the night, the clouds soon got blown away and we again have plenty of blue sky and sunshine, but still a very strong wind.  Hate the wind as it makes a mess of my hair, and so does wearing a scarf, so as shortly am having to go out, you could say I'm caught between a rock and a hard place.  But as B said, "Who's going to bother to look at you?"  Sadly, this is true. Now if I was 60 years younger!!!

Do hope that many of my new readers will return tomorrow to read 'wot I've dun today'.  Even if I haven't done anything of interest, at least I can give some useful and very cost-cutting recipes. Like to think these would be worth coming back for.   So hope to see you then.  TTFN.