Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Continuing Cooking...

Slight delay in blogging today as I stayed to watch some chat about a new TV series 'Eat Well For Less' on BBC TV starting next month.  Greg Wallace (?) Masterchef Judge was talking about it, and in his opinion home-cooked food is never as good as that served in (top?) restaurants.  I beg to differ.  But as Greg (who says he his a good cook) admits 'eating-out' five or six days a week, how would he know?  Does he ever eat home-cooked food other than his own?  Me I'm going to continue cooking,  and 'eating in' not 'out'.

Previous to the above, I sat and watched an episode of DC cupcakes, and although this was not one I had seen before (they do a lot of repeats), somehow it still seems so 'staged'.  Almost as though they are working to a script and disasters made to happen rather than accidentally.

Then watched two of the 'Unwrapped' (new series on Food Network), the first being on the US popular sweets (many originating in the 19th century). There were jelly-based Fruit Slices, Adams Black Jack chewing gum, also Beemans Pepsim Gum, and Clove gum.  All these gums stopped making in 1970 but have begun occasionally retailing them again now as 'retro gum', keeping them in short supply so that people will buy them because of that not because they particularly like them.

What is interesting is that in many cases we see the actual making of the sweets, and the Sweet Candy Co's Caramel and Nougat rolls am sure we have something similar sold here although our pronunciation of Nougat is different (US = Noo-gatt.  UK either 'nugget' or 'New-gar').

It did seem as though the US puts the 'invention' of liquorice sweets as their own.  But all they seem to make are the Liquorice 'Crows' and 'Dobs'.  The 'Crows' are tiny rolls, and the 'Dobs' are like 'buttons'.  Here in the UK we have been selling Liquorice 'buttons' for (is it?) centuries, but these we call Pontefract (aka 'Pomfret') Cakes, circles of liquorice stamped with a pattern.  The same 'crows' we find in our boxes of Bassett's Liquorice Allsorts.  Both seem to have been on sale for well over 100 years (maybe much longer - liquorice grows in the Pontefract area of England, hence the name).

Apparently if you pull a little US 'Crow' apart, stretching it, then look through it at the light the colour is not black but dark green. Must try that with our Bassett's version and see if the same thing happens.

After the sweets came the Potato Chips (called potato crisps in the UK).  These were first 'invented' in 1853, put on the market by Lay's in 1932, the name changed to Frito-Lay in 1952.  This company (there are now others) demonstrated how they were made, sliced then fried in cotton-seed oil which has to have been previously used.  New oil would make the 'chips' too oily.  This company makes 3 BILLION lbs of chips (crisps) a year.   They travel along a chute that separates the small chips/crisps from the large, the large going into big bags, the small into small bags (presumably that way the big bags look to have more chips (by number) than the smaller.  Here in the UK our potato crisps come in varying sizes, many of them broken.
Add the amount of chips make by the company above to all the rest made by other companies and no wonder the US has an obesity problem.

The origins of Coca-Cola (originated 1886) I found also interesting as from from just a few drinks sold many decades ago -always in glasses, usually at 'soda fountains', this company now sells 10 BILLION cases a year over 200 countries with surprisingly Mexico and Iceland having the highest consumption (presumably per head as Iceland isn't that hugely populated).

Following episode not so interesting for me, although it did show 'Chudders' as sweet store that in 1999 had the longest display of candy jars.  We saw a three deep displayof jars along shelving that measured 112ft (in the Guiness Book of Records as 111ft 11inches to allow for shrinkage of the wooden shelves).  Overall there were 3.5 tons of sweets, and no two jars alike.  Children (and adults) were allowed to help themselves by taking a bag, but having to don a plastic glove so that no germs got into each jar, the sweets were not then weighed for sale but counted separately - as this is the shop's tradition.
The rest of the show was not very interesting for me even thought there was a mentioned of the oldest restaurant in the US,  this being Ye Olde Union Oyster House (if I can read my scribble correctly), in the 1820's under a slightly different name, think it was Attwood Oyster (or was it Lobster?) Bacon House.  In Boston if anyone is interested. 
As here in the UK we have Inns and eating houses many centuries old (several in original condition) we don't seem to be so interested in the age of these, just whether the food they serve is good enough to eat (and much better than it would be when the inns were first built).  What IS 'old' in the UK?  Probably a building over 1,000 years old, like the Tower of London?  We have even older ones, although not all in pristine condition. Plenty of Roman villas with their mosaic floors intact.

Why are we (or is it just me) obsessed with the age of anything.  Surely a new-build (especially if an 'eatery') can be as good or even better than what came before?  Are all countries so tied to their past 'lives' that they don't wish to part with anything that keeps them in mind?  Perhaps living in a fairly 'new' country such as Australia gives more of a sense of freedom re this.  A new start, a new life-style sort of thing.  

Certainly yesterday was busier than normal for me.  I did get a load of laundry done (now dry), baked a ginger cake (the cake batter spread over a layer of apricot jam this in turn spread over the base of a pastry case I'd baked previously).   B enjoyed eating some - reheated in the microwave - with cream poured liberally over.   He said the stir-fry he'd cooked himself was one of the best (perhaps was as I'd had to part-cook most of it before he even started, even made the stir-fry sauce for it as the ones he had bought in little sachets were not the right flavour to go with beef).

During the afternoon I did quite a bit more gardening.  B wandered down the path and said he was going to remove certain bushes (revealing a very boring fence), and take out all the plants round our apple tree.  I said he couldn't, and I'd be the one to wield the pruning shears as then I wouldn't just chop at things leaving stumps sticking up, but I'd prune carefully so that the bushes still looked good.  He seemed satisfied with that. 

Around the apple tree seems to have sprung up all sorts of different flowers this year that I'd not seen before (we've now been here 4 years on the 1st July).  Yesterday noticed some lovely tall yellow iris in bloom, slightly behind the tree, unseen from the house, but visible from the garden bench, also other flowers (name now forgotten or can't spell them) and several other leafy plants,   so there they must stay.  B would rather uproot everything and have bare soil than have to bother to look after plants, so now I am a bit more mobile (at least in the garden as I can have a sit down every 15 minutes to rest my aches and pains then start again - I've even got a chair in the greenhouse) I'll be able to do more in the garden, especially when the weather is good - as it is at the moment.  It takes me quite a time to water all the containers, but still have plenty of rain water stored in various large butts and buckets, and other containers. 

Last night part of the country had some frost, but I don't think the chill did any of my plants harm as the garden had heated up a lot during the day.  Today it will be cooler, about 12C in Morecambe up to 18C further inland, and possibly even 20C over London (always a degree or two hotter there because it's such a large built-up area).
Thank goodness we don't have the extreme temperatures that Margie (Toronto, Canad) is having at the moment.  At least not often and if it ever has reached 90F (probably over London) it would not have been humid, just sheer dry heat.   We don't often get much humidity, but do suffer a lot from pollen, today being a 'high pollen day' over much of the country.  This doesn't affect me, but many people do suffer with hay-fever (caused by high pollen).

By the way, thanks Margie for giving details of the Turbinado sugar.  At the bottom of your comment it said 'ads by Google', what does that mean - as there were no ads.

I can't believe that soft-boiled eggs are not eaten in the US Pam, at least not served in shell the British way.  The only way the American seem to eat eggs with soft yolks are either fried or poached and maybe not even the latter. You mentioned serving them in 'cups', so did you manage to buy the proper egg cups, or use a small pot or jar that would hold an egg? 

Glad you liked the idea of making your own cheese straws from left-over shortcrust pastry Mandy. They are even better if made using left-over puff pastry as it doesn't matter if the pastry is gathered up roughly before being rolled out, after thinly rolling several times (with grated cheese between each layer) when cut into the final strips they puff up in all directions and are lovely and crispy when baked.
Sometimes, when getting a pack of puff-pastry from the freezer, when it has begun to thaw I will then cut a narrow strip from one end (so the layers run top to bottom of the strip).  I then roll it out into a very long, thin strip, sprinkle it with celery salt, and/or pepper (or any other seasoning you like), then cut this into strips and - being so thinly rolled - it stays flat when cooked but also flaky and crispy after baking.  These cost a lot to buy but very, VERY cheap to make.

As you say Taaleedee, 'a bit of dirt won't harm you'.  Most children who play outdoors get filthy hands and still suck the dirt off them.  It's the type of dirt that gets 'eaten' that is the problem, but it has always been said that the less clean we keep things the more likely our children will grow up more healthy because their bodies learn to become immune to germs that might cause others - who live in almost hospital clean conditions - to fall prey to.  As I've mentioned before, I have a long-term friend who is fanatical about cleaning, emptying her kitchen cupboards EVERY week and giving them all a good scrub out. Her house is spotless, yet she and her children (now grown up, sadly one had died), have never been really healthy, she herself is ALWAYS ill with something or other. Nothing really serious, but she is never well.  I put that down mainly to living in a very clean and bacteria free house.

The 'MR T' you mentioned (that has panko). Do you mean Tesco's?  Or is there a store called 'Mr T'? 
Thanks for giving the recipe for the 'Holy Toad' (as I call it).  You mention using skimmed milk (to cut down cholesterol).  If you added a tablespoon (or two) of low-fat skimmed milk powder to the milk (or add dry to the flour) you would increase the density of the milk/batter which would make for a richer 'Yorkshire'. 

There has been a lot mentioned in the press recently about eating walnuts (or drinking walnut oil) as a way to reduce cholesterol.  Apparently this works miracles.  I mentioned it to the diabetic nurse when I saw her recently and she agreed that this nut really does seem to lower cholesterol.   We don't need to eat a lot, just a few nuts each day, or a spoonful of oil (use this with lemon juice to make a salad dressing), and the results - if not immediate - will be in a very few days.  There is no point in eating a lot of nuts, just a little and often works best.

So there you go - a very good reason to make a coffee and walnut cake, or how about a carrot cake with low-fat cream cheese frosting on top studded with obligatory walnuts?

With walnuts at the forefront of my mind think it would be a good idea to give a savoury recipe that uses these nuts.  The red cabbage too (being red) makes healthy eating.  In fact all red (and purple) foods are very good for us.  Beetroot being one of the tops as it lowers blood pressure.

Although intended to serve as a 'side dish' with meat, potatoes etc, this does eat well on its own.  Worth making the full amount (it serves 8) as it freezes well, but let it thaw completely before reheating.
Please don't be one of those cooks who dismiss this recipe because they haven't a bay leaf or any cloves.  Just leave them out.  Apples are pretty essential to this dish, but any green apple (or even an eating apple) could be substituted for the Bramleys.   Use any soft brown sugar, or even demerara.  White sugar if nothing else.   However it is best to use the correct ingredients if you can as substitutes can change the flavour, not always for the better.  Sitting on the other side of the fence I would say it doesn't really matter too much as an apple is an apple, sugar is sugar, and vinegar is vinegar, and changing the recipe in this way makes no nutritional difference to the 'food value' of the dish.  After all, that's why we eat food in the first place - as fuel for our bodies.  Think nutrition first, and play around with adding 'additions' (flavours etc) later.

So we could use white wine vinegar (or plain clear malt vinegar) if we haven't the cider vinegar (for some reason this is spelled 'cyder' sometimes, so if ordering online check both, Tesco 'don't recognise' or 'have no' cider vinegar, but they do have 'cyder vinegar' (same with their cous-cous.  They don't have cous cous/cous-cous, but they do have couscous).
Red Cabbage, Apple, and Walnuts: serves 8
1 red cabbage, finely sliced
1 oz (25g) butter
1 Bramley apple, peeled and grated
1 bay leaf
3 cloves
4 fl oz (100ml) cider vinegar
1 oz (25g) light soft brown (muscovado) sugar
good handful toasted walnuts, chopped
Put the cabbage in a wide shallow pan, add the butter, apple, bay leaf and cloves, then cook over gentle heat, continually stirring, until the cabbage is beginning to wilt.  Pour in the vinegar (but hold your breath until the steam subsides or you'll find yourself choking), then continue to cook-stir for about 20 minutes until the vinegar has all but disappeared.
Add the sugar and walnuts, and when the sugar has dissolved (take care it doesn't burn), fold in the walnuts and serve.

Now and again I like to make a large panful of popcorn, normally tossing it in melted butter and sugar then crisping it up in the oven.  Recently though I have got a taste for all things chilli (I'm hooked on chipotle sauce), so today am making another panful of popcorn, this time 'spiced'.

Popping corn is extremely cheap compared to the cost (when popped) of the same amount (by volume) of popcorn bought over the counter.  
The recipe below uses more corn than I would normally 'pop' in one go, but if you have a saucepan large enough, and people to eat the corn, then go for it (it will keep in an airtight container for 1 week), and - as it makes such a lot - you might be interested that - at least with this recipe - there are only 75 calories per portion and only 1g of fat.

As most cooks keep a fairly wide variety of dry spices in their cupboard, it is always worth experimenting.  Try using ground cumin and coriander instead of the chilli flakes (or as well as).  Or melt a very little butter with some Thai Sweet Chilli Sauce and toss the corn in that, finishing off in the oven.  
There must be many different ways to flavour popping corn, both sweet and savoury, so if any reader have suggestions, please send them in.

Spiced Chilli Popcorn: serves 5
4 oz (100g) popping corn
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp cracked black pepper
2 tsp mixed spice
Pot the corn kernels as per packet instructions.  Mix together the chilli flakes, pepper and spice then sprinkle this over the popped corn and toss well.   Tip onto a large baking sheet (or two) and put in the oven (200C, 400F, gas 6) for 5 minutes until the corn is crisp and fragrant.  Remove from oven, sprinkle with a little salt and eat warm or cooled.  Store any surplus in an airtight container for up to a week.

Wimbledon has started and I even managed to fit in watching at least some of Andy Murray's match (which of course he won).  Shock news that Nadal was beaten by an unknown player.
Despite that the Centre Court now has a movable roof (we need it to keep off the rain), have to say that Wimbledon hasn't changed much over decades, it's all so very traditional and 'English'. Strawberries and cream and champagne always on sale there during the two weeks of tennis.  Even I have been known to sit and watch Wimbledon on TV eating strawberries and cream, with a small bottle of BabyCham ready to pour into the glass on the table by my side.  Now that's being truly English (or even British).

Suppose everyone abroad thinks of us in the UK as 'British', probably lumping Wales and Scotland, possibly also Northern Island into 'us Brits'.  Do they ever consider we want to be 'separate' countries (which we do), English, or Welsh, Scots or Irish?  I nearly came to blows with an American official when we were about to fly to America.  I'd written 'English' on 'country of origin' on the paper they gave me, and he crossed it out and wrote 'GB'.  I said "I'm not just British I'm ENGLISH!!"  He didn't seem to understand.

To me, saying 'British' is like saying 'European'.  Britain is an area, not a country. Or maybe it is and I'm just a bit too parochial (if that's the word).  Does Hawaii think of itself as truly 'America'? For that matter is 'New Mexico' part of America or belong to Mexico?
Here in the UK (well England at least) we are very proud of the county we are born (Warwickshire in my case, then moving to, Leicestershire, Yorkshire and now Lancashire..) , and some US states have also many counties it seems ('Bridges of Madison County', and 'Dukes of Hazzard (county)') come to mind.  And there is Orange County in California I believe).   Are there counties in Canada? Or just regions?

I'm babbling on again, and see time is fast moving towards noon, so time for me to have an early lunch (or late brunch) so that I can give myself time to spend in the garden again this afternoon.  Liver, bacon, cabbage and potatoes for B's supper, so first must get the liver from the freezer to begin thawing. 

Please, my lovely readers, keep in touch as I do love to hear from you - even if you really have nothing much to say, better a little than never at all.  Make the most of the good weather we are having at the moment, even though we could do with it a bit warmer (and here a little less breezy). Thursday is Norma the Hair day this week, so hope to start blogging just after 8.00am tomorrow. Please join me for our daily chat.  See you then.