Wednesday, May 01, 2013

No End to It?

It was such a lovely day yesterday that I made time to go and sit on the garden bench for half an hour.  It was so warm sitting in the sun, but a cool breeze kept blowing on and off so that sent me back indoors.  However, it was really good to be outdoors again, and - as ever - I had a good think whilst out there, surround by nature.

Our Earth does its own recycling, and eventually everything we see at this moment in time was 'something else' far too long to us even to contemplate.  Who knows, perhaps we are breathing in the same air as did the Pharaohs?  The dust that keeps taking the shine off my furniture may have been some of the ashes of a dear departed whose remains were thrown into the wind?  We are all part of one whole but with a 'life force' added, and together with 'intelligence', this shows that the Earth (or even the universe) has to be more than just chemicals and minerals...maybe it, itself, has 'a reason to be', and living creatures are the way it can keep bringing itself to life, eternally.

It's been some months since I had thoughts such as above, so perhaps the sunshine had something to do with it, or the way the pear tree was now beginning to blossom and the redcurrant bush is loaded with fruit-to-be.  There were cracks in the path close to where I was sitting, and each crack had some green shoots growing in them, many were in flower, they looked like white Allysum, and maybe they were as we had pots holding them close by last year.  The seed, once dried, could have blown all over the place.  Ain't nature wonderful?

However, had today decided that although I'm obviously part of Nature's great scheme of things, I only one grain of sand, so the thing to do is get on with my life and wait for that nudge that pushes me in the right direction (we all get those nudges, and am sure that there is something 'out there' that does pull our strings occasionally, otherwise why are we here in the first place?).  So will now stop fantasising and get on with my normal 'food chat'.

Yesterday was reading a book about different types of food, and was very interested to see that there are many varieties of cheese made with goats and/or ewes milk that would be suitable for those who are lactose intolerant, so perhaps a good way to get Daisy to get that necessary calcium Mandy. Some that were traditionally made with the above milk sometimes now do have cows milk added, so important always to read the label.
If you would like me to give you a list of suitable cheeses made in this country (or imported) I'll be happy to do so.

Thanks for your hints and tips Kathryn.  Your mention of darning socks takes me back, and for some reason I got great satisfaction from darning a hole in a sock heel.  I've still got a couple of those wooden 'mushrooms' that I used for the purpose.
Not sure where I got the idea, but I began to darn through and over the heels of socks that were still sound, even new ones, because although the darn itself may wear through, the sock beneath would still be in one piece, so by darning before the main socks fell into holes made them last a lot longer.

Brings back memories of how B's shirts would fray at the collars and wrists, so I'd carefully unpick them, turn them around so the frayed side was inside, and then stitch them up again.  Does anyone still do that these days?  In the same way used to stitch 'sides to middle' when sheets wore out in the centre.

A good idea about buying the cheapest brands of foods Kathryn,, then moving up a brand,  but sometimes the cheapest can be as tasty as the more expensive.  Myself have found at least one of Tesco's cheaper brands (not under their own label) tastes as good as the top brands, but of course it is always a matter of taste, what one would like, another would not.
Occasionally I add a dash of Tabasco sauce to a can of baked beans to add a bit of 'heat', and recently have discovered Tabasco with chipotle, and this is absolutely gorgeous, I just love the smoky flavour.  It reminds me very much of chorizo sausage, and am thinking of adding it to sausage meat to make my own 'chorizo', and I add a dash (or three) to my mid-day lunch of tomato soup.

When all our children (teenagers) were still living at home, they all preferred the best known branded products, so when I was forced to buy cheaper foods had to cheat a bit (lot actually).  I'd buy the best, and also a cheaper version of the same thing (cornflakes, baked beans, coffee etc), then start by mixing a little of the cheaper with a lot of the more expensive, but always keeping it in the 'quality'  box/jar.  No one noticed the difference when eating, so next time would add more of the cheaper and a little less of the other, until they ended up with about 2/3rds cheap and one third expensive, and still no-one seemed to notice.  They did, however, seem to be aware that 'something isn't right' if they ate only the cheaper stuff.

Milk  made with dried milk powder was not liked, but I discovered that by mixing half of this (when reconstituted) with half of 'real milk', then replacing it back into the milk bottle, then into the fridge, again no-one noticed.  It is as if when seeing the 'original package', we believe the contents are what they should be.   But it worked, and probably would still do.

My family used to enjoy eating chocolate digestive biscuits (esp my Beloved), and these are much more expensive because there is VAT on the chocolate coated ones, and no VAT on the plain.  So I always bought plain (own-brand are cheapest), and then spread melted chocolate on the back of each.  These seemed perfectly satisfactory, for if they hadn't been, B would soon have let me know.

The mention of washing clothes at the lowest temperature setting does work.  I do this all the time. However, many of you will remember how I'd recently been having problems with our very old washing machine, as the 'cycle' had stuck and I had to keep moving the knob around myself.  I'd been doing this for two years before the door lock then broke so couldn't use the machine at all.  A few weeks ago it was repaired and was told the reason the machine wouldn't work on its cycle was because the heating thermostats had broken, and the water was not being heated.  Seems I'd been washing the laundry for two years in just cold water!!  But it still seemed to work, everything came out clean and white, smelling sweetly.  

I'd always liked those 'butcher-style' aprons Janet, and had bought a length of that material so I could make my own (the ready-made being a bit too narrow for my girth).  I still have the aprons and still wear them.  Am pretty sure I have a length of that material left, so as I prefer an apron to have pockets, must think about cutting it up to sew a pocket on each apron.  After all these years, the fabric is as strong as it started out to be, and considering the constant washing of said aprons, that's pretty good in this day and age.

'Sloppy' pronunciation also irritates me Anona, although myself feel that regional accents is not always a bad thing .  It's when the missing 't' in a word (listen to Fiz in Corrie and it is very noticeable), and the added 'h' or 'k' (as mentioned yesterday) that seems to grate.  Yet myself quite like to hear the 'Brummy' (Birmingham) accents, and also the London (East End), and B hates both.  I dislike the 'Scouse' (Liverpool) and B likes to hear it.  
Unfortunately, it is how we speak that can sometimes make quite a difference to how we get on in life, and remember - many years ago - when we used to see the most beautiful girls on TV think they were wonderful - until they opened their mouth!  If the voice didn't match the appearance, then the whole 'picture' was ruined.  Lorraine Chase was one of the few who got away with it THEN, nowadays it seems that the opposite applies, many young 'celebs' today are those who look good and speak badly.

Perhaps we all modify our speech as we grow older.  Certainly the Queen has lowered her voice, and watching a programme of her early life, was surprised to hear how high-pitched her voice was then, but also (shuddering as I remember) in 1951 (was it?) we went to London where there was a great exhibitions (something called a Skylon I remember), and my friend and I were able to have a record cut with our voices on.  Took mine home for my mother, and kept it for some years before it got lost, but do remember my voice sounded exactly like the young Queen's, very high, and very 'posh'. How different I sound now.  Although I've always thought I have no regional accent, apparently I do have a slight Midlands one, but can still talk 'posh' when I need to (which is never thank goodness).

Did know about the 'slider bar' when watching BBC TV repeats on the comp. Pam, but although looking for it with that radio broadcast the other day, there appeared to be no bar, so it was either listen to it all, or switch off.  Suppose I could have left it on and returned to it later, but not sure when the bit about the Foodbank started (the Morecambe bit I did know, but there was more about others in the area), and anyway I'd probably be in the middle of doing something else and forget.
Are you able to get repeats of BBC progs in America?

Moving on...
Cauliflower cheese makes quite a good supper dish, especially if some Stilton (or other blue cheese) is included.  My Beloved loves his with plenty of cheese, so when the cauliflower is cooked, I mix some grated cheese in with this (the heat melts the cheese), then add more grated cheese to the already cheese-flavoured sauce mix I use, and THEN sprinkle grated cheese on top to heat through, bubble up and turn a lovely golden brown.

There are other ways to serve cauliflower and cheese, and this next recipe is a good one for this time of year when - if we are really lucky - we may have good enough weather to have a barbecue. But whether we cook these fritters on the barbie, or in a frying pan, leftovers can be eaten the next day for breakfast, brunch or lunch (or whenever) as they can be reheated gently in a low oven.
Cauliflowers differ in sizes, and for this recipe you need to use around 12 oz (350g), store any surplus in the fridge to use for another dish.

Cauliflower and Cheese Fritters: serves 6
12 oz (350g) cauliflower, core removed
4 oz (100g) plain flour
salt and pepper
4 eggs, beaten
4 oz (100g) feta cheese, crumbled
5 oz (150g) mozzarella cheese, grated
zest of 1 lemon
2 tblsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
olive oil
Roughly chop the cauliflower and put into a pan of boiling water and cook for exactly 3 minutes, then immediately drain, putting the cauli back into the pan over a very low heat to allow it to dry out a bit.
Meanwhile, put the flour into a bowl with plenty of seasoning, then gradually whisk in the eggs to make a smooth batter. Fold in the cheeses, lemon zest and the parsley, finally the cauliflower.
Cook the fritters using a sturdy baking tray (for the barbie) or frying pan (on the hob).  Heat the tray/pan and wipe with olive oil then spoon on the fritter batter to form 4"(10cm) circles (make larger if you wish).  Fry for 3 - 5 minutes until golden beneath and the batter has just begun to set on top, then flip over, pressing down to squash any bits of cauli so that the (now) bottom cooks evenly. Cook for a further 3 - 5 minutes, then when golden, place on a parchment or foil-lined plate/tray and keep warm whilst the rest of the fritters are being cooked.   Eat warm with a spicy relish.

Although this next recipe is not a relish, this is a lovely chutney that is made what what I call 'store-cupboard' ingredients.  We could use freshly squeezed orange juice, or the more concentrated juice we get in those cartons.

Apricot and Ginger Chutney: serves 8
1 tsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
6 oz (175g) dried apricots, chopped
2 oz (50g) sultanas
1 tsp grated fresh root ginger
5 fl oz (150ml) orange juice
1 tblsp cider vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
2 tblsp light brown sugar
Put the oil in a small saucepan and fry the onion for 5 minutes or until softened, adding the garlic towards the end.  Hold back the sugar, but add the rest of the ingredients, bring to the to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes until the apricots have turned pulpy and most of the liquid has been absorbed.  Stir in the sugar, and continue cooking for a couple or so more minutes until the chutney is sticky.  Then leave to cool before serving.
No 'use-by' details were given, so best to assume this won't keep as long as normal chutney.  However, it should keep for several days when kept chilled in the fridge.

Sorting out the freezers yesterday (but not yet completed) brought to light some packs of minced meat that had not had a label attached (when will I learn?), and - blow me - could not work out whether it was beef or lamb.  However, I later found another bag in another freezer drawer holding more packs of what looked like the same, but thankfully this was marked 'minced lamb', so decided - as the first batch had already been thawed - to cook this in the slow cooker,with plenty of onions, and see what it then tasted like.  Yes, it was lamb!
Today will cook the rest of the minced lamb and then put the two cooked/cooled batches together and blitz in the food processor with breadcrumbs, spices, eggs, and then make meatballs/koftas. These can then be frozen, to be - on the day - fried then thoroughly reheated in the oven with curry sauce to be served as part of the Indian feast.

Was able to watch all of Masterchef last night, and how lovely the Italian way of life seems to be. Not least the way that the weather is good enough for families to eat outdoors both during the day and evenings.
Good to see what I call 'peasant' food being made and served, and although the chefs moved on to cook at a '3 Michelin star' restaurant, still feel that the 'rustic' meals made previously in a 'home-kitchen' (then eaten outdoors) looked far more appetising.  Want to have a go at making gnocchi myself (when I have time!).

Have still plenty of kitchen work to do,  so will take my leave of you today, and - if the sun still shines this afternoon - hope to grab another half-hour outdoors, this time doing a bit of tidying up of the garden, ready for planting out the summer bedding.  Can't believe that today is the first of May.  Another month and we'll be approaching 'mid-summer'.  All I hope for is warm and dry weather this year.  We are due for it. 
As always, do hope you all manage to enjoy your life today (or at least some of it, life would be pretty boring if it was good all the time, for then we wouldn't appreciate it, would we?).  Please join me again tomorrow (slightly later as it will be 'hair day'), so hope to see you then.