Saturday, April 13, 2013

Weekend Starts Here...

Silly me, stayed up to watch a film last night, fell asleep and didn't wake until, then went to bed and woke just before 9.00am.  Well, I was having very interesting dreams (explaining to the owner of a very large country house how to reduce his costs, then discovering a lot of monkey's had managed to discover England and were now breeding rapidly in the wild!!). 

But now I'm here, sitting comfortably, ready for my chat.  Yesterday was fun, our daughter came round early afternoon and told me about a new cook-ware shop that had opened in Morecambe, so we both went there to see what they had.  I was able to order a conical sieve, one that I'd been wanting/needing for AGES, also a wide 'palette knife' that had a dropped blade (as seen used on "British Bake Off and Food Network) much easier to lift food from baking trays than a flat spatula. Feel that shop might well become my second home as it is within easy reach of my scooter (up Queen Street, on the left at corner of side street if you are reading this Eileen).

After the early rain, yesterday turned out to be another lovely day, and driving down the prom the sea was as flat as a pancake and it felt (at least in the car) incredibly warm (relative to what we have had these past months).  All of the 'tourist's shops are now open (amusement arcades etc), and although not a lot of people walking around (being a weekday) am sure that today the front will be packed with people as yet again a lovely day.  It is tomorrow we expect very high winds and rain to arrive.

As ever, thanks for comments.  Glad you are feeling a bit better Dottiebird.  Myself found that I was fine until I ate something, then it started all over again, even though all I'd eaten was toast.  Had to have a good 24 hours without eating anything, but drinking plenty of cooled, boiled water before I was able to get back to almost normal, although still didn't eat much more than toast for the next few days, helped down with a mug of Marmite.

Like you say, all the youngsters seem to do today is text, text, text, and considering the ease it is to get young children to part with (parent's) thousands of £££s when playing comp. games, am sure that there are many mobiles that send very tempting messages, and perhaps even dangerous ones.  At one time they used to flash pictures (lasting mini-seconds) onto cinema and TV programmes (think this was called 'subliminal' something), and do remember the last episode of 'The Young Ones' had these.  My husband didn't notice any of them, but I saw several.   This type of 'advertising' (or whatever) was banned on TV, but it could still happen with ipods etc. 

I forgive you Christopher for using an ipod to read my blog. At least you are making good use of yours when you do this!!  It is true that a lot of the recent mobiles and ipods (although not sure what the latter is), do have access to the Internet, and a lot of useful information can be gained via these.   The same info that can be gained from books, but so much quicker.  Speed seems to be the essence of today.

Am sure I've used soya flour in the past Kathryn, and have seen it included (with other flour) in bread recipes today.  Soya beans are one of the very few vegetables (perhaps the only one) that has 'complete' amino acids, so don't need to be served with a different type as a catalyst to aid the body to absorb vegetable protein. 
Myself am a great fan of TVP (textured vegetable protein), that I used often to stretch a small amount of meat when making a dish.  The 'Beanfeast' range is an example of how this veg. protein can make a really good meatless meal, and still make us believe that 'real meat' has been included.

Do hope the dressage goes well Kathryn, are you not competing on Dolly this weekend?  If the weather holds out, it should make a lovely day.  Unfortunately it is the western side of the country that is due for the rain, but even so, might just not reach the area where the gymkhana is being held.
Do let us know how things went.

For some reason I've never checked whether flour is the same amount when measured in ounces/g and then in mls, Rachel.  But am sure there is not a lot of difference.  In any case, there are so many different recipes for Yorkshire Pudding, some use more eggs, or more milk, less flour (in proportion) that as long as it is made with eggs, milk, flour, it seems that most work well enough.
Have not seen Paul H. making salsa, but - as you say - this dish is a very good way to get the family to eat vegetables.   Have seen other cooks doing clever things with vegetables where very picky children will eat them when otherwise they wouldn't.  Blitzing red and/or yellow peppers to make a colourful 'sauce' for instance.  Cooking carrots in orange juice, maybe with a bit of sugar added to caramelise, also gets the children eating them.   Haven't yet heard of ways to make Brussels sprouts 'interesting', although myself had have had some success by telling small children, they are 'the fairies cabbages', and also shredding - then steaming lightly - as they then become 'anonymous'.

Sorry to hear about forthcoming redundancy Sarina.  Thing is to make any 'belt-tightening' an enjoyable challenge.  Challenges should always be fun to do, and when it comes to cutting costs, especially with food, it is more 'thinking outside the box' that works best.

Regarding helping your son and his family.  You haven't said whether they live locally, but if so why not 'shop together', share 'bogofs', buy the large vegetables (cauliflower, cabbage....), divide them then have half each.  Turn the family into a 'catering business' and buy certain foods in bulk (sacks of carrots etc). 
If living too far away to do this, then maybe your own cost-cutting will help your family to do much the same.  Quite honestly, we can all live very frugally, but still have an extremely good life.
There are many cuts in expenditure that we can make that may not have (yet) crossed our mind. Use a cycle instead of a car for short distances, and if the newsagent is within cycling/walking distance of home, go to the shop to buy the paper instead of it being delivered, as delivery costs can be quite high.  There is a double bonus with this suggestion, saves both money and we get the extra exercise (that most of us all need).

If you have a land line AND mobile, use the land line for making calls (much cheaper).  OR cancel the land line altogether and just use the mobile, with texting being cheaper than dialling to make a call.  Stop 'chatting' to local friends on phones, and arrange to meet them face to face for a change. Cheaper to invite them round for coffee than meet in a coffee bar.

Regarding Vesta curries/chow mein Pam. These were one of the first 'convenience meals' to arrive on the grocer's shelves (even before supermarkets).  If I remember, there were probably two packets in the box containing a Vesta meal, these would contain rice (or noodles) in one of the packs, and dried vegetables (with perhapsTVP) in the other. Not sure if the flavouring (sauce) was included 'dry' or in another sachet.  The idea was to add water to the contents and then follow the cooking instructions (mainly boiling until soft enough to eat), then plate up.

Almost certainly your mouldy marmalade Pam, would be due to not using enough sugar or the jars/lids not being sterilised properly.  But as you also said the preserve was 'runny', this does sound as though - even with the right amount of sugar - it had not been boiled long enough to give a 'set'.   Also the traditional fruit to use when making marmalade is the bitter Seville orange, and the more common 'sweet' oranges probably don't contain as much pectin (setting agent), so would need added lemon juice.
One thing about mould growing on top of jams and marmalade is that this grows only on the surface, and once all has been removed the rest of the preserve is safe to eat.  But it could keep happening, so best to remove the mould, then empty the contents into a pan and reboil to a higher temperature, to 'setting point', then repot in hot sterilised jars, and - if possible - cover the top of the preserve with a waxed circle of paper (waxed side down), these being sold to use with home-made preserves.  The paper keeps out the air, and although some recipes suggest leaving the contents to get cold before sealing (placing on the lids), I always put the lids on immediately after filling the jars (as close to the top as possible), then check after the jars are cooled and tighten them further if necessary.
Quite often, and because I usually do screw them fairly tight once the jars are filled,  even if in a room close by (but with doors open) I hear the lids 'popping' (down, not up) as the air inside each jar cools and causes a vacuum which pulls the centre of the lid down and makes the contents 'air-tight'.  This is a good sign, and if you hear that, then you should get no mould forming with future preserves. 

Have to admit that more than once I've made mixed fruit jam (containing quite a lot of high pectin fruit), brought it to 'setting' temperature, bottled the jam and then found it hadn't set firmly enough to my satisfaction, so emptied the jars back into the jam pan, re-washed and sterilised the jars/lids, and boiled the jam several degrees past what should have worked, and then it was OK.
The best way to test for a set is to dip a wooden spoon into the boiling jam, lift it high up over the pan and watch it drip back.  When the last drips are reluctant to fall and the very last drip just hangs from the spoon, the the jam/marmalade will be at 'setting point'.  With the above jam 'fail to set' jam, I relied on the temperature and not the above tried and tested method.  Just goes to show that old ways work best.  Sometimes.

Yesterday my daughter brought me in a book(let) from M & S (think it was free).  This was advertising the many different buffet/party foods they could supply, as well as celebration cakes.  It would be well worth all home-cooks getting one of these booklets, as it gives inspirations as to what WE can make at home, and shows the considerable difference between what it would cost US to make and what M & S charge.  Haven't the book with me (it's in the living room as I write), but can remember on the very first page seeing a platter of '14' assorted sandwiches priced at £9.  And that's not 14 'rounds', no - the sarnies have each been cut diagonally - from corner to corner - to make four four triangles (crusts also removed), and the platter contains 14 of these 'triangles' (there was a photo, I counted, so it's true). To me, the 14 is really three and a half proper sarnies (before cutting and what do they do with the remaining half sarnie?), and obviously their profit margin is on the very high side. 
Further in the book there is a (cooked?) fillet steak that works out at about £8 a helping.  As B said, his mouth watering as he looked at every page "there are people that can afford these".  Probably true, but I like to believe that ALL readers of this blog could serve up the same, and just as good quality and appearance (just copy the photos), for a very low cost.  I get a warm glow when I know this can happen, so even readers who choose or have, by necessity, to be mega-thrifty can still make/provide  a feast from a pauper's pay. 

The very first programme I did ("Indoors, Outdoors") was to demonstrate 'Party food for 20p a head".  Today it would cost more, but not necessarily a LOT more.  It's what we do with what we've got, and as nutrition does not have priority at a buffet, much is to do with making simple and cheap food look attractive, which then makes it appealing/appetising. 

Perhaps, now we are getting warmer weather, we should forego the hearty meals (even these don't need to cost a lot) and serve lighter dishes to the family, similar to the Spanish 'tapas'.  Grow our own 'mixed salad leaves' in garden or on windowsill, serve a variety of dips with crudites, and our meals can turn out to be a very healthy 'box of delights' that we can take time to eat (and after 20 minutes munching we will feel full even if we haven't eaten that many calories).

There are quite a few things lurking in the larder and also in the fridge/veggie basket that we would normally buy for cooking, but not be aware of their potential.  I've successfully sprouted an assortment of dried beans (these can then be planted in the garden to harvest and dry for winter use), dried peas grow easily and provide us with those very expensive-to-buy 'pea shoots', the seeds inside bell peppers (certainly the red ones) - when sown - will grow into plants and provide us with our own home-grown peppers.   As I believe tomato pips will do also.

Bought potatoes that have begun to sprout can be planted and provide us with many more spuds later in the year, and although we are not supposed to plant these (should always buy proper 'seed' potatoes), as long as they are grown in sacks or containers, and not planted directly into the ground, they should be find, as no virus or whatever these might pass on would not then be spread to contaminate further ground crops.

Time has caught up with me, and as Saturday is always a busy (kitchen) day, really must take my leave, but will be back again tomorrow, maybe a bit later as first have to wait for Gill's hour-long phone call before I begin blogging.  Hope you all enjoy your weekend and look forward to hearing what you've done with it.  TTFN.