Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Ups and Downs...

Things are going so well that it is making me feel slightly uneasy, for so often in my life when things go well, then something unpleasant usually follows.  Swings and roundabouts I suppose, but as long as this 'up-side' lasts over the weekend, then hope I'll be able to gracefully accept what Fate throws at me next.   It's not that I'm pessimistic, in fact usually the opposite, but it does seem that life is like a pair of scales, up one minute, down the next (a bit like my weight!).

My mother was always pessimistic about everything, and when things went right for her, she always said she could never enjoy them because she knew something bad would follow.  When the 'bad' did arrive, she somehow couldn't bring herself to find any pleasure in the fact that something good would be just over the horizon, so most of her life was spent with a very gloomy outlook.  I always tried to be the opposite.   Do other readers feel that life is like a long series of rolling hills that moves up and down as we travel over them?

Anyway, I'm on an 'up' at the moment and determined to enjoy it.  Yesterday had a really good change round of my culinary work-space, the (bedroom) shelves are now in the kitchen and really, REALLY, useful.  All the 'stuff' that I kept under the kitchen table has now been cleared, and even the Hoover kept working until I'd reached the end of the carpet when it began to give off a smell of burning rubber.   My mother bought the Junior Hoover for us when we moved to our first house in Oadby.  We lived there 12 years before moving to Leeds where we then lived 40 years, and as we've now been in Morecambe four years (give a month), that means the Hoover is 56 years old!! And still working well.  
My Beloved checked the Hoover after 'the smell' and said it had picked up a nail (which he removed) also the rubber belt was a bit loose, but when I was sorting out the 'under table stuff'', would you believe I found a small tin that contained 3 unused rubber belts for this very Hoover, plus a box of bags, so Fate really did smile on me yesterday.  

Thanks for comments.  Advance congrats for your Ruby Wedding next week jane, you sound so young.  B and I will be celebrating 60 years of marriage next year (is that a 'Diamond' anniversary?).  It's so funny really, at our age we now have begun to say things like "I hope we/I'll live long enough to reach the Millenium". After that its' "hope we live long enough to reach our 70th birthday, 75th birthday, 80th birthday...."  So our next 'hope to live long enough' is now our (next year) wedding anniversary.  Or for that matter, even this year's (which doesn't really count in the great scheme of things). 

A welcome to Flibbertigibbit (we hope you will write to us again soon), and will definitely take a look at that Freegle site.  Wish now I'd kept those jams jars/lids, but always have plenty gathering dust over the months, so will keep them in the hope someone else can find use for them.  I have enough in the larder holding my own preserves that I would recycle for my own use, so any others would not be needed. 

Like you Mandy, do find that it really helps to keep the kitchen organised.  It's surprising how much time can be wasted having to search for things.  Yesterday, decided to do a bit of advance preparation and measured out the amount of rice I'd be needing to cook on the Saturday.  It didn't take long to do this, but - like pennies saved soon adding up to £££s - minutes saved means an hour less work when I should be doing the actual cooking.   On Friday will be preparing some of the salad ingredients and bagging them up separately to keep chilled in the fridge ready to mix together just before I leave for the clubhouse. 

Not sure if it is 'welcome' or 'welcome back' Diana, but good to hear from you anyway.  Chefs say we should always use the very best quality ingredients, and myself believe this in part (especially when it comes to meat).  With baking I tend to sit on the fence.  Certainly the well-known brands of flour are good, perhaps because they are (called) 'super-sifted', but to me flour is flour, and the cheaper own-brand flour can also be 'super-sifted' when we sift it ourselves TWICE before baking (say) a light sponge) cake.

Unsalted butter I use only when salt is not included in the recipe.  If salt is included, then I use salted butter (and omit any other salt used).  Maybe if I made a cake using top brand flour and unsalted butter, then made another using the cheaper flour/salted butter, a sample tasting might show a difference.   Am sure there HAS to be a difference, but not always one that your average domestic cook would notice.
Even with branded flour, is one better than another.  My mother always used Be-Ro (her only cook-book at that time (pre-war) was the 'Be-Ro' cook book, a very narrow, long booklet printed in brown ink (anyone remember that?).

Discovered another interesting booklet yesterday during my 'clear-up'.  This being 'Miller's War-time Recipe Book' (promoting their baking powder - this being used in every recipe).
In the introduction it said "All the recipes are the works of experts...and compiled with the greatest regard for war-time conditions.  Note, for example, our expert's awareness of the need for appetising items in the lunch basket.  The recipe for 'Potato Splits' is a case in point.... Results will be up to your highest expectations if you carry them out exactly as printed, using PLAIN NATIONAL FLOUR and MILLER'S BRITISH BAKING POWDER".

During war-time there were no different brands of flour on sale.  It was all 'National' and not even pure white, as it was a 'sort of' wheatmeal, as was our bread: the 'National Loaf' (also 'sort of' wheatmeal, but the flour baked to give a greyish crumb colour and it didn't taste very good anyway).   Pretty sure our cheese was also 'National' (what we called 'mouse-trap cheese'.

For anyone interested, here is the recipe for those 'Splits'.  The fat would probably be margarine or lard, as in those days oil was not used (or available for) cooking, olive oil only on sale at the chemists for 'medicinal purposes'.  At least there did seem to be plenty of potatoes on sale, and the booklet gives many recipes using them.  There was even a cartoon character called 'Potato Pete' who persuaded cooks to keep buying/cooking/eating them.  How things have changed since then.
Potato Splits:
4 oz flour
6 oz mashed potatoes
2 oz fat
1 teaspoon salt
quarter pint milk
1 teaspoon Miller's British Baking Powder
Mix the flour, salt and baking powder, rub in the fat. Lightly mix in the mashed potatoes.  Mix to a soft dough with milk.  Roll out to half inch thick; cut into rounds. Bake in a moderately hot oven about 20 minutes.  When cold, cut through to make a sandwich with shredded vegetables mixed with salad cream, gravy or sauce, or with any sandwich spread.
Electric Temperature: 425F.  Regulo No.6

Whilst not expecting anyone to serve up 'war-time' food today, am giving a few more recipes from the booklet to show the type of food that people ate in those days, and this next recipe is given as: "a delicious spread for the kiddie's tea when the fat ration is finished".
Chocolate Spread:
quarter pint of milk
1 dessertspoonful flour
2 dessertspoonsful sugar
3 dessertspoonsful cocoa
Blend the flour, cocoa and sugar with a little milk, pour over the rest when boiling, return to the pan and stir until smooth and thick.  Use when cold.

Goodness knows what this next would end up like, but the recipe is in the book, and no doubt it was made, served and perhaps even 'enjoyed'.
War-time Yorkshire Pudding:
4 tablespoons flour
1 egg (dried will do)
pinch of salt
half pint of milk
half teaspoonful Miller's British Baking Powder
Sieve the salt and baking powder into the flour.  Make a well in the centre, add the well-beaten egg, then the milk gradually.  Beat very well until full of bubbles.  Allow to stand. Add 1 tablespoonful of water and pour the mixture into smoking-hot fat. Bake in a fairly hot oven for 30 - 35 minutes according to size of tin.
Electric Temperature: 400F   Regulo No.5.
Hint: if dried egg or dried milk is used, sieve with the salt and baking powder and add to the flour.  Use the required amount of water for mixing.

Final recipe is one that I remember my Mum making for our mid-day meal (it would be, as this cookbook used to be hers).
Miller's Lunch-time Morsels:
8 oz flour
1 level teaspoon Miller's British Baking Powder
1 level teaspoon salt
3 oz lard
water to mix
(Filling: 4 tablespoonsful cooked lentils, 4 tablespoonsful breadcrumbs, a pinch of salt and pepper, a pinch of mixed herbs, a pinch of curry powder).
Make the pastry in the usual way.  Roll out and cut into large circles. Wash and cook the lentils; add the breadcrumbs and seasonings, mixing well together.  Put a portion of mixture on each circle of pastry, moisten the edges and make into pasties.  Bake in a hot oven until a golden brown.
Electric Temperature 425F  Regulo No.6

Despite my (now) dislike of P.H, am finding time to watch the repeats of 'The Great British Bake-off' each afternoon.  It's not normal for me to feel so let down by someone I 'felt drawn to' (but only his eyes). But, as they say 'love and hate' are almost bedmates, so as P.H.has now lost my love, he'll have to put up with my hate, and have decided, that next time I bake bread, I'll keep back a bit of dough to mould into a figure to represent P.H. then role-play 'witch' and stick pins (or cocktails stick) into various parts of his anatomy.  Might even bake 'him' along with the bread and take even more delight biting off (and eating) his head!!  At one time I was almost a real 'witch', and was able to cast spells. Now I never do because most of them worked!  I don't like playing with fire, but now I feel almost like having a dabble again. So P.H. be afraid.  Be very afraid.

The weather seems to be getting warmer in that we don't now need the central heating on for more than an hour (once in the morning, once early evening).  Today we have blue skies and clouds and a high wind that is blowing petals from the apple tree that makes it look as though snow is falling.
Devastating tornadoes are hitting the mid-west of America at the moment.  The only buildings that seem to stand up to them are those built of brick.  One wonders why all homes in the 'tornado belt' of the US are not brick-built to withstand these 'twisters' (which are - after all - a common occurance).

Yet, my mind goes to Japan, where they have many earthquakes and certainly many years ago (before skyscrapers etc), houses were always built of light wood.  Internal walls were more like sliding doors made of wood-framed paper, and there was very little furniture. Even the bed was a rolled up mattress (futon) with a wooden support to lay the head on.  Complete minimalist decor, with just one beautifully arrangement of flowers in one corner, and a low table in the centre of the room (people sat on the floor to eat and drink).  When the earthquakes hit, the houses collapsed like a pack of cards, with less chance of anyone caught inside being hurt, and the houses were easily rebuilt.  This did make a lot of sense.  So perhaps wise for property to be re-built in the tornado zones 'Japanese style', and furnish minimalist - the good thing about that is the less we have, the less it costs us to replace. 

Nowadays we don't seem to take any notice of what weather nature constantly throws at us.  We (in the UK) build on water-meadows, and cover land with concrete so there is nowhere for excessive rain water to drain away.  Then we complain because we get flooded.
And who decided that it made sense to build a big city (or several) on the San Andreas fault in the US? A disaster waiting to happen, which could be any day now, or in a hundred or so years hence.  Who knows, who even seems to care?.  Live for the day and let tomorrow take care of itself.

At least I have to keep thinking about tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that. So this means I'll now be taking my leave of you until Sunday (or might even be Monday as I may feel the need for a 'lie-in' after the hectic day previously).  I'll miss my chat with you, but you will still be with me in my thoughts over the next few days and hope you will keep sending comments so that I have some to reply to once I sit myself back in front of the comp. again.   Bye for now...xx