Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Tortoise and the Hare...

Slow and steady wins the race it is said.  Certainly this seems to be working for me this week as each day I manage to accomplish quite a lot without needing to rush, although have a feeling that Friday will see the beginning of more action and Saturday will certainly speed up.

Yesterday put my head down and really had a good clear out of the unit tops.  Normally these are full anyway with 'necessary' gadgets such as bread bins, cereal containers, toasters, several stone jars full of cooking utensils, electric kettle, corner racks to store plates and bowls, mug racks....  and no real length to work at as the hob comes in the middle of one length, the sink/drainer taking up much of the other.   Up to a couple of days ago, empty clean glass jars/lids tended to fill up some of the space (as no-where to put them), but as most of my glass jar 'collection' has now been taken to the bottle bank (lids gone into the 'metal/can' bin), and moving a few things from one side of the hob to the other, it's surprising how much space has suddenly appeared.   Not that it is 'working space' as things are still lined up at the back, but at least 'tidy'.  And what a difference THAT makes.

Today I'm going to move a set of wooden shelves (that B once made) into the kitchen.  At the moment these are in front of the gas boiler this itself being behind sliding wardrobe doors (the boiler being in our bedroom for some reason, as is the stop-cock for the water.  Why they didn't use that room for the kitchen when adapting this house into two apartments I don't know, especially as the bathroom is next to what is now our kitchen (this could then have been a bedroom).   Anyway, the shelves are of little use in the bedroom, and am hoping they will fit under the end of our kitchen table so that I have room to put my cookery books (normally piled onto a chair), and other things that are best kept together. 

As I got on so well yesterday, decided to have a sit-down and make some little 'flags' that will show the names of the different side dishes that will be on the 'help-yourself' table.  B says people would like to know what things are, myself would think they were obvious, but it's not a bad idea, so as I'd already got a bag of plain white adhesive labels (useful size for jam jars but have patterned ones for those), peeled two labels from the backing paper and laid a cocktail stick close to one end, and stuck them together.  Cut a notch in the far end (to make them look more attractive), and later will write (best writing of course) the names of the various dishes.   
The backing sheets I have kept as the side the labels were stuck to is shiny and I think would be suitable to use when piping royal icing flowers and decorations as they should then be easy to remove once set.  Could also use the shiny side to drizzle/pipe on melted chocolate when making decorations.

Incidentally, although have never seen this mentioned, and certainly never read about it, the easiest way to remove fragile decorations (esp choc) without them breaking is to first pipe these on paper (wax or baking parchment etc lying on a flat surface such as a table or unit top) and allow to set. then begin sliding the paper to the edge of the table/unit,  and - holding the edge of the paper with one hand (the other hand controlling the paper at the other end to keep it firm/level) - pull the paper about an inch past the table top then pull it down at right angles.  As you pull, the decorations come unstuck from the paper (this now going down) and continue sliding forward, so you need a piece of card to hold close to the table to catch the shapes as they eventually come loose.  Am never any good at explaining things, so do hope this is understandable. 

Am expecting the Tesco delivery this morning, so need to clear some room in the fridge before that comes.  I see from Jane's comment she too has been sorting out her kitchen.  This is something we should all do at least twice a year as it's surprising how many things can get pushed at the back of cupboards (one reason why I like my foods to be stored on open and fairly shallow shelves so there is no room for anything to be hidden behind, and being visible daily they are more likely to be used).
Shouldn't worry too much about gaining weight when on holiday Jane, as this is a time when most people take a lot more exercise and burn off those extra 'fish 'n chip' calories.

Good to hear from you again Noor.  Interesting to hear that your brother's home has no oven, yet maybe an oven is not so much used in Malaysia as here where the weather is colder and so we do more 'slow-cooking' of casseroles during the winter.  Probably cakes, biscuits and puddings are also not traditional eating in the Far East. 
Have to say that I much admire the Oriental diet as it seems so healthy, as well as being economical and very quick and easy to prepare and cook.  My B has now taken to making himself a stir-fry at least once a week, and thoroughly enjoys it.

Believe Tess is a newcomer to this site, if so welcome.  However Tess, think you may have got a bit mixed up re the Foodbank.  I haven't done very much with our local one (except some baking and writing up a small recipe booklet for them).  It is Janet who is doing a great deal more for her Foodbank in Rossendale.  All credit should go to her.

Notice a lot of weeds too in our garden Anona, and once this week is over hope to find time (if the weather stays fair) to get outside and pull up a few.   It is said that weeds are just wild flowers growing in the wrong place, and our garden is proof that the 'butterfly bush' (can't spell it properly but it sounds like 'buddliea') is a true 'weed' it keeps sprouting up everywhere, both white and all shades of light to dark purple, it is even growing from cracks in our brickwork (this needing repointing).   Another flower that keeps reappearing is the orange Welsh poppy, and we do have a creeping plant that has purple flowers (don't know the name) that crawls everywhere (even into this dining room through a tiny gap by the door frame),  and loads of different grasses (the previous owner having planted grasses that we pulled up by obviously they seeded themselves). 

One day must take out my wild flower book and find out exactly what is growing 'free' in the garden.  Most of the time it looks pretty when left 'wild' - at least that's my excuse.

Just time to give one recipe today.  This was intended to be served at the club 'do', but as it requires to be 'timed just right', think I'll stick to serving a Mango Cheesecake with a Tropical Fruit topping.
(Memo to myself:  make a second batch of EasyYo Greek yogurt today for the Raita, and tomorrow another batch of Mango yogurt).

This dessert is very similar to our 'Eton Mess' (whipped cream with crushed meringues and strawberries), but this time with a more Middle Eastern flavour.  It would go well served with Moroccan or Indian dishes.  There is room to change ingredients to suit particular tastes, so just use this as a guide.
To cut costs, myself would probably make my own 'mascarpone' by draining yogurt through muslin, possibly also beating in a bit of cream cheese (always use this at room temperature when cooking).  Canned apricots (or even no-soak apricots) could be used instead of the fresh.
Instead of using orange flower water, use rose water (or rose essence), and include the rose flavoured Turkish Delight, and then you could use raspberries instead of apricots.  You know how my mind works by now - keep the theme, but experiment with other ingredients, other flavours.
Apricot and Turkish Delight Mess: serves 4
7 oz (200g) mascarpone cheese (see above)
4 oz (100g) Greek yogurt
2 oz (50g) icing sugar, sifted
2 - 3 tblsp orange flower water
2 meringue nests, coarsely crushed
3 fresh apricots, stoned and chopped
4 cubes orange flav. Turkish Delight, chopped
2 oz (50g) flaked almonds
few mint leaves (top sprigs) for decoration
Put the cheese, yogurt, sugar and orange blossom water into a bowl and whisk together until thickened.  Fold in the rest of the ingredients and then pile into four individual (pref glass) serving bowls, and decorate by sticking a spig of mint in each.   Serve as soon as possible after making.

Heard on the news yesterday that the mid-west of American have just had 20 strong tornadoes.  Let us hope that our US readers did not fall prey to these.  Hearing about something like this makes me realise that however much we Brits complain about our weather, compared to other parts of the globe, we are pretty lucky.   It is true that we now seem to be having a lot more rain, a lot less sun, and more high winds, and compared to many years back (when our winters were REALLY cold and the snow lay around for several months), even the snow we have had has not been THAT bad. 

Today is another grey and miserable day, although the sun does tend to come out once noon has passed and they do say that Morecambe has more hours of sunshine than anywhere else in the country.  I just don't happen to be looking out of the window at the right time (the afternoon sun being at the back of our house, and our living room - where we sit in the afternoons - at the front).

Think I'll have time tomorrow to pop in and have a wee chat with you all, then Thursday, Friday and Saturday I'll be taking time off writing to allow me to concentrate fully on the Indian meal (Norma coming on Thursday and I'm at that cookery course during the evening so my 'working' day will be shorter than normal anyway).

Am trying to fit in watching repeats of The Great British Bake-Off, and realising now that I never liked Paul Hollywood anyway (it is just his eyes that used to mesmerise me).  He's far too much an 'I know it all, and I'm right' sort of man.  Does that make me fickle as I did say he was my sort of 'crumpet'?
Mentioned that it would be a good idea for those 'Baker Boys' to take his place in the next series, there true title is 'The Fabulous Baker Brothers', who I really enjoy watching and they seem genuinely 'real' family lads. 
It's odd really why I dislike so much any celebrity male who leaves his wife/family.  At one time I used to really like and admire Eamonn Holmes, until he left his wife of many years, and his children and set up home with someone else (forgotten her name but she is also a TV presenter, and they now have at least one child together).  Have 'gone off' Rick Stein for the same reason (although his children had grown up), and as for Heston B, well, never really liked him much anyway.  At least Gordon Ramsay has stayed with is family (so far), and also Jamie Oliver (cannot ever believe he'd stray).

Hypocritically I'd probably just shrug my shoulders if a well-known female cook left her husband, for we all know that for a woman to leave a man she'd been married to for many years, there'd be a very good reason, and possibly I'd even applaud her for doing so, certainly it wouldn't stop me watching her carry on TV cooking.   
Perhaps it's just that reading about what Paul H has done has disappointed me so much for when we hear of celebrity cooks that have (or seem to have) a solid family life, then it makes me feel good.  Family life and cooking go together in a 'feel-good' sort of way. You could call it a 'glue' that holds the family together.  Just wish it was, but sadly - in this day and age - it seems we need more 'super-glue'.  I blame ready-meals and junk food for a lot of marriage breakdowns.  So there!!

Have to get on.  Do hope you will be able to join me tomorrow, the last free day (or partly free) of this week, then it will be count-down to 'club food'.  Whatever the weather.  Enjoy today.  TTFN.