Tuesday, April 02, 2013

One Thing Leads To Another...

Have to make this a short blog again due to a late start due to both a good night's sleep (due to lavender spray on my pillow) and BST.  

Yesterday, decided to have a bit of a clear out of the larder, made space for new deliveries (today) as now seem to have more empty space on my shelves than food (maybe I'm exaggerating a bit).  Food ordered mainly canned tomatoes (I use one can a day to make my lunchtime soup), and a couple of 5kg bags of granulated sugar (ready to make marmalade to raise funds for the sailing club).  Plus some celery and onions, both very necessary as when diced and cooked with carrots these form part of the 'Holy Trinity' for cooks. 
A few things I always use (and needed to replace) were on offer - quick cook pasta etc (long-shelf life) and also Marmite. Needed eggs, so as I use a lot of these ordered a tray of 15 (9p each!!) a tray of 18 (slightly dearer) and a dozen free-range (30p each), the latter for B who often enjoys eating a couple of soft-boiled eggs.

Normally, I hard-boil eggs by placing them in a pan of cold water, bringing it to the boil, then reducing heat and simmering for 7 - 8 minutes.  Then, immediately plunge the eggs into cold water, changing this when it warms up, and cracking the shells when moving the eggs into the colder water.
Once cool, remove shells the 'easy' ways.  Have mentioned this before but worth a reminder.
Gently remove a little of the cracked shell with finger tips (finger nails), making sure the membrane under the shell is also removed, then carefully slide the pointed end of a teaspoon under the shell and membrane and slide the spoon round the egg white.  The spoon is the perfect shape for this and within a very few seconds half the shell is eased off (falls off), the same with the base part.  Leaving perfect eggs with no cracks in the white.

But there is more I can now add to the above.  Although the time above meant the eggs had perfect yellow yolks with no green colouring between the yolk and white (as can happen when boiled for too long), when kept overnight, the green colouring did appear.  So recently have been boiling the eggs for no longer than 6 minutes, cooling only enough to be able to handle them without saying 'ouch', then carefully cracking the shell and removing with the spoon.  The whites were slightly less firm but still perfectly cooked, and the yolks cooked with just the slightest bit of darker colour in the centre (this being the way most chefs prefer them to be).  When left, the eggs carry on cooking due to their own heat, and when left for 24 hours the yolks are completely cooked in the centre BUT with no green.  So I've learned something new.  Only hard-boil for 6 minutes, then remove shells and use or leave to eat the following day.

Had 8 lemons in a basket on the kitchen table, left too long so the peel was beginning to harden (have other lemons, each wrapped in clingfilm and stored in the fridge where they keeps for weeks), my fault for not wrapping the ones on the table as had intended to use them, but you know me and my intentions...
Anyway, decided to use them all yesterday, so sat and grated the zest and squeezed out the juice from the 'must use up' lemons, and made three pots of lemon curd (in the microwave), this used u all the eggs I had, but did save three whites.  These whites I then whisked up with caster sugar and made 2 dozen meringues that I dried out in the oven set at 'low' (50C). 

As my caster sugar tub was then empty, fetched a 2kg bag from the larder to refill, discovering this was almost rock hard.  Not sure why this happens, must be moisture in the air.  Not difficult to break it up by shoving my thin-bladed filleting knife back and forth into the pack, then tipped the lot into the tub to break up the chunks later.
Was reminded of how my mother used to buy huge blocks of kitchen salt (about the size of a 5kg bag of sugar), and always gave me the job of sitting at the table with her 'special knife' (a steel bladed one) and shave the knife down the salt block to turn it into crystals (a bit like shaving away at those big blocks of lamb on the spit in those Donner kebab places).  It took me HOURS (or it felt like it) to turn the block into crystals - and I must have been no more than 6.
I still have that little 'salt-shaving' knife.  The blade ground down to barely more than an inch long due to the constant 'shaving', and the bone handle also pitted.  Not fit to use now, but I keep it in loving memory of times past.

The reason why my mother needed so much salt was that in those times certain vegetables were 'pickled' in salt (esp green beans), and much salt was needed to sprinkle on steps and paths once the snow had been cleared to prevent ice forming.

Last year, for B's 80th birthday present, had ordered some 'special' meats for him from D.R. Most of these have now been eaten over the past year, but he still had the Chateaubriand in the freezer, and although the b/b date on it read 2014, thought it was time to use it.  Trouble was, it was too large for just one, and I really didn't want any of it.  An extremely expensive cut of beef, we decided to thaw it slightly, then I would cut it into three, wrap and replace two pieces, and B would have the third for his supper.
As so happened, managed to cut it into four, the fourth bit cut into thin strips to cook either in a Strogonoff or a Stir-fry, and B had one quarter for his supper - this I put between a couple of sheets of clingfilm and bashed to thinness.  Fried 3 minutes either side, with 3 minutes resting time, and it was - as B said "perfect'. Just as well, for the price of the whole Chateaubriand (bought when reduced in price) was not much different to the amount I would normally spend on a whole week's meals for B and me.  It makes far more sense to spend a LOT less buying cheaper cuts and cooking them for longer.  Myself (and many chefs also) feel these have much more flavour anyway.

Notice that Alison is slow-cooking her joint of beef.  Not sure whether it is a new idea, but as once we had 'mashed potatoes', now we 'squash 'em' and called them 'crushed potatoes'.  Slow cooked meat that 'fell from the bones', now we called 'pulled beef (or pork)'.  Good name really as the meat can be pulled away with fingers or forks in shreds.  See these 'shreds' being used all the time in the Food Network 'three D's'.
Do hope the paint used for the kitchen has no smell Alison, as I remember days when B used to paint woodwork with gloss paint and the smell would make me physically sick.  The smell of emulsion paint I could stand, but any other....!!!

Here in the UK Pam, we do recycle our foil, it has to go into special bins to be taken to the tip where it is recycled.  We have to separate a lot of our rubbish:  milk cartons, plastics, metal cans, foil, glass, cardboard, paper, even 'compostable' foods. All houses now seem to have at least 5 different bins/boxes to sort these into, and then place in the street on certain days (and not all on the same day) for collection.

Am glad we don't have a video cam in our kitchen Granny G, for I'd hate everyone to see the untidy mess I get into when cooking.  Yesterday I tried to keep things more in order, and realised that there is an awful lot of washing up to do during each 'cooking' day.  No sooner is the sink clear, than another lot of pots are ready to clean, so first have to put the last lot away that have been drying off in the rack on the draining board, wash up the next lot, leave to dry, carry on with a bit more work, then another lot ready to wash. 
Incidentally, I rarely dry washed pots/utensils with a cloth, having learned that tea-towels can harbour germs and much the best way is to rinse the washed pots in very hot water then leave them to drain dry.  This takes only a very few minutes.  Some do need a final drying with a cloth, but a clean cloth (I must have about 20 tea-towels, all regularly washed). 

Apart from the washing up, it takes time to put everything away.  All the clean cutlery is put into a bowl then carried to the other side of the kitchen to be placed in a many sectioned drawer so all the forks, knives, various sized spoons, are all kept separate.  In other houses I've lived in, there has always been a cutlery drawer close to the sink, but not here. 
Larger utensils such as metal serving spoons (plain and perforated), balloon whisks, fish slices, wooden spoons, scissors, spatulas etc are placed - handle down - into three large old stone pots placed either side of the gas hob, ready for use.  Also have another stone pot holding larger items: meat basher, potato 'ricer', micro-planes, sieves...

In Leeds we hung a ladder (once used with bunk beds)) from the ceiling and on this placed large 'things' (preserving pans etc), and around the sides, hung on butchers hooks were things like sieves, food-mills, everything 'useful', so always to hand.  From the wooden pelmet, over the sink, hung several different sized frying pans, and a colander.  There is nowhere here we can hang anything.  The ceiling being studded with tiny lights, and we don't have wooden beams to screw hooks into.  The walls beneath the wooden wall cupboards are tiled with not really enough room to hang anything beneath due to this space already taken by the toaster, bread bin, electric kettle, and the stone jars containing my 'utensils'.
At least, the cupboard over the sink is higher than the rest (to allow room so we don't bang our heads when washing up), and have been able to screw four cup-hooks to the under back of the cupboard and from this hang two Pyrex glass pint jugs and two ditto half pint jugs. 
From the handles of two wall cupboards I have hung the hooked ends of two soup ladles, one large, one smaller, but these can fall off if the door is opened 'roughly' (by B, not me, I take more care).

Could hang things from the under shelves in the larder I suppose, but what's the point? I need things close to hand, where (as in Leeds) I can just reach out and unhook them without the need to even look where they were (because they were always put back in the right place - at least by me!).  Seems I waste so much time in the kitchen here getting up to fetch things, and suppose it would make sense for me to decide what I need FIRST, then gather the lot together before I make a start, but often decide to make 'something different' on the spur of the moment, then have to fetch other ingredients, utensils (without putting the first lot away).  This lengthy explanation to show why it is best not to have a video camera in our kitchen.

Just managed to catch the very end of Paul Hollywood's 'Bread' prog. yesterday evening, and said to B "he's turning out to be 'the thinking woman's crumpet'." Well, this sort of fitted, considering his trade.  Am able to watch repeats of each episode the following weekend (or on iPlayer), but have still to see the first episode.
Tonight sees the start of a new series on 'home-sewing'.  Am looking forward to that, and - at the moment - we seem to have two lots of 'Superscrimpers' to watch.  The lunch-time one is Superscrimper's Challenge, where it seems that each time the same people are given different challenges (cooking, shopping for clothes etc). I shouldn't be mean, but Mrs Moneypenny is beginning to grate on me a bit, as are her 'helpers'.  They all seem so calm and 'able to cope', whereas I'd love to see them start being a little less 'helpful' and more 'tearing of their hair' when people waste so much money (but only as an 'aside', and not to the people they are 'helping').

Rarely watch any of the Superscrimpers now as 'been there, done that' (and does that make me sound either patronising or a 'goody-goody'?).  What I want is to learn something NEW, and this rarely happens, as I suppose there is nothing really new when it comes to money-saving as 'in my day' this was the normal way of life (and for centuries before).  So the older we are, the more we already know. 

You know how I feel about modern technology.  Well, nearly fell into the trap of finding it could be useful when talking to B yesterday (we don't talk often, but when we do it usually about something useful). Several times we wanted to find out the meaning of certain words (or geological or historical events), so up B would get from his chair and fetch his dictionary, or go into the dining room where he keeps a massive atlas that has to rest on a special 'book rack' he built as it is too heavy to carry around.  Or maybe go and check out facts in another book he keeps elsewhere (we have books in at least three rooms and some in a couple of 'lobbies').
It crossed my mind that if B had one of these 'top of the range' mobile phones, or those new things I've seen on TV - look like a small screen, are they called 'I-pads?), he could have used one of these and found all the answers without leaving his chair.  But then there is the other side of the coin, so to speak - at least by moving around, this is 'exercising' his body as well as his brain.  The way evolution works (and can work more rapidly than we expect), in a thousand years we could all end up having mostly lost the use of our legs, and with extra long fingers so we can more easily press the buttons, keys, and do anything else that controls our 'electrics'. 
We would hardly need to move from our beds, what with the 'remotes' even now able to control the opening and closing of curtains and shutters, switching ovens and central heating on and off, also (I have heard) fridges being able to let us know when we are running short of something.  Soon the fridges themselves will be able to place an order through to a supermarket to replace said items.
We have vacuum cleaners (and lawn mowers) that when placed on the floor will move back and forth and do all the necessary (even put themselves away) while we are still sitting and snoozing with our feet up).
If we are not careful, we will carry on inventing such gizmos that will eventually do everything we do, with enough intelligence to start thinking for themselves, and decide that we humans are not really necessary anymore. 
When you come to think of it - our bodies are really nothing more than just a perfect 'machine', and so perhaps we too, if not a 'robot', could be a form of 'android', set on this earth by 'aliens' to keep reproducing and 'subdue the earth', ready for them to come down and take over the place we have made comfortable for them. Only we haven't been 'programmed' quite right, so getting things wrong.

Watching many travel programmes on TV, am continually amazed how beautiful our planet is.  We really don't appreciate what we have.  Maybe, in the UK we are more fortunate as we live in a temperate climate, and our countryside is varied and very pretty.  We have almost everything other countries have, blessed with mountains, lakes, farmland, moors, almost deserts, and ski resorts, and (now) monsoons, but all on a very small scale.  Plenty of wild-life, but none of them dangerous. 
Britain (and for that matter the world) is as close to Paradise as I would hope for.
So why was it yesterday - after seeing holiday ads on TV - said to B "I'd give anything for a holiday abroad, just to be able to sit in the sun".  But then have a feeling that much of the blue skies we see in these ads is superimposed.  It can't ALWAYS be as blue and cloudless as that. 

Have to say, watching Guy Fierri's 'three D's', wherever he is, the sun is always shining, and he travels the length and breadth of the US. Does he only choose to travel when the weather is good?  Or does the USA have a lot more good and sunny weather than we do?

Was watching some of the film 'The Big Country' a couple of days ago.  The initial locations were in an area where the countryside was as flat as a pancake, and looked as though it was like that for hundreds of miles.  Later, the story-line moved to an area (close to the flatlands in the story) where there were big gorges, and high mountains.  Not sure what region of the US this was filmed, and as so often happens after films on TV, no credits were shown (these usually mentioned locations).  Does anyone know where the above film was shot.  I thought it could be Texas (the flat bit), but not sure if Texas has mountains and gorges, thought that could be Arizona.  Most probably the film makers used different locations in different states and 'pretended' these were just a few miles apart.

Good heavens, is that the time.  Tesco is due to deliver shortly, so had better take my leave.  Will be back again tomorrow, hope to see you then.