Monday, June 03, 2013

Crude Food

Well, I'd written most of my blog, then hit a wrong button and wiped off the lot.  Couldn't even get it back in draft, so am now beginning again, but due to time a shorter version.

Thanks for comments.  Was surprised to see that 'Macaroni Cheese' was part of your friend's take-away Pam.  Here in the UK that dish is almost 'crude food/peasant food'.  Must ask you "what is Texas Toast?  Apart from our English 'breakfast' toast, the only other type I've heard of is 'French Toast'.

Can imagine the mucking out at the stable yard takes a lot of time and muscle power Kathryn.  Do most of the horses have to remain stabled at night, or now it is summer, can many be left in the fields? 

Think it is pretty common at this time of year to lose a bit of interest in eating, as nature gave us the gift of the right foods to eat in winter, those that could be cooked in large casseroles to keep us well fed and build up some fat on our bodies to help keep us warm during the cold months.  Now the weather is warmer (that's a laugh!) our genes are programmed to eat more fresh foods (to gain the vitamins to build up protection for next winter's colds and flu etc), and most 'seasonal' foods at this time of year need very little cooking anyway. 

However, due to becoming more 'civilised', and old habits die hard etc, we feel we should be eating even when we don't really need to.  So today am giving some suggestions for what I call 'crude food', the type that is easy to cook, if any cooking is needed. More like 'grab a snack', and these - as with yesterday's recipes - can, in many cases, be prepared in advance so we don't have to bother when we want to eat something, but don't feel at all like making anything - at that moment.

The first is not a 'food', but something to add to 'crude food'(in this case bread) to make it very tasty.  Basically this suggestion is a blend of toasted nuts and spices that can be made in bulk and will store well in an airtight container.  Originally from Egypt, this mix of spices can be used as a crunchy coating for chicken or fish dishes, but as 'a meal/snack' I'd be serving it in a bowl, alongside slices of crusty bread or ciabatta, with a bowl of extra virgin olive oil.  Dip the bread in the oil, then in the spices.  Eat and enjoy.
5 oz (150g) sesame seeds
2 oz (50g) whole blanched almonds
2 oz (50g) pistachios
4 tblsp ground coriander
3 tblsp ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
half tsp ground black pepper
Roast the sesame seeds, almonds and pistachios in a dry frying pan (but separately) for about 10 minues or until browned lightly.  Take care they do not burn!  Leave to cool, then blend or process until fine (but not to a powder).  Add the rest of the ingredients, mix well together then store in an airtight container.
Note: you can if you wish add a few dried sunflower or similar seeds to the ingredients before blitzing.

Samosas are another good al-fresco food, although ideally eaten shortly after baking (or frying). However, as these can be made in advance - at least up to a month ahead - then frozen (to be cooked on the day) most of the prep/labour will have already been done on the day you choose to eat some.

Indian spiced samosas always taste good, but just to be different, here is a 'cheesy' filling that would eat well with salads (or alone).
If you have no filo pastry, and do have some puff pastry, then use some of the latter, rolled as thinly as possible (and then even thinner), and use this to wrap the filling. But not in triangles as these would end up with too much 'puff'.  Cut circles or squares of the mega-thinly rolled puff pastry,  add the filling, and either fold circles over to make a half-moon shape, or lift one corner over across to the opposing corner to form a similar samosa-shaped triangle, but using only the one layer of pastry each side.  Make sure all edges are sealed with water or beaten egg.
Cheese Samosas: make 24
5 oz (150g) feta cheese, crumbled
4 oz (100g) ricotta cheese
1 egg, beaten lightly
pinch ground nutmeg
half tsp freshly ground black pepper
12 sheets filo pastry (see above)
4 oz (100g) butter, melted
Mix the feta, ricotta, egg, nutmeg and pepper together.  Layer two sheets of filo, brushing each with a little melted butter. Cut layered strips into four lengthways.  Place two teaspoons of cheese mixture at one end of each strip, then fold over one corner diagonally across the filling to the other edge to form a triangle. Continue folding to end of strip, keeping the triangle shape.   Brush each with a little butter, repeat with remaining pastry, filling and buttering  (they can be frozen at this point.  No need to defrost before cooking)..
Place on greased baking trays, and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for about 15 minutes until browned.
Serve warm or at room temperature.

If you have the oven on baking the above (or anything else roughly at the same temperature), and have a whole Brie (or Camembert cheese) then here is another almost (despite the cost of the Brie) a type of 'crude' food (to me 'crude cooking' often means hardly having to do anything to it at all but in this case just cook it) that eats well out-doors with just chunks of crusty bread or breadsticks.  In other words a 'hot and tasty' dip.
Baked Brie: serves 8
1 x 200g whole Brie
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tblsp red wine
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
Grease a 9 fl oz (250ml) ovenproof dish (10cm wide x 4 cm deep).  Place the Brie in this dish and make six small slits into the cheese.
Take one sprig of thyme and cut this into six pieces, pushing one into each of the slits. Pour over the wine, cover and place on an oven tray.  Bake at 200C, 400F, gas 4 for about 20 minutes, then leave to stand - still covered - for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile chop the second sprig of thyme and sprinkle this over the top of the cheese with the lemon zest.  Serve whilst still hot with chunks of crusty bread or breadsticks for 'dipping'.

That's the recipes for today, but there are a couple of things I want to chat about.  First is the price of split red lentils (I've just paid £1.99p for a 1kg bag), and yellow split peas (69p for 500g).  The split peas are still very cheap, but the lentils seem to have rocketed in price.  Am mentioning this because I used the split peas to make the Indian 'dhal' (normally I would have used red lentils) and find the peas are MUCH better as they hold their shape more than the lentils, and to me the flavour is superior (once the spices have been added). 

Second purchase (worthy of note) is that because I recently treated myself to a pack of Sushi (I just LOVE sushi but it is expensive) and it cost me £4 for 11 different pieces (including a tiny pack of pickled ginger, an even smaller pack of wasabi, and a wee fish-shaped bottle of soy sauce, plus a pack of small chopsticks) and - despite the price - thorougly enjoyed them, so much that I have now bought a pack of 'nori' (dried seaweed) and a pack of sushi rice to make sushi myself.

I used to make sushi,  many years ago, but gave all my 'equiment' (mainly a bamboo mat, surplus rice and nori) to my grandson's 'partner' (they have now split up). But do remember they were very easy to make, and far FAR cheaper than the bought kind.  Sushi does not use raw fish (think this type is call sashushi or similar), and the ones bought the other day were made from the normal sushi rice with these fillings (in the case of the 'nigiri' this seemed to be a block of rice with a topping):
1 smoked salmon with cucumber and low fat soft cheese; 1 smoked salmon 'nigiri'; 1 prawn 'nigiri';
Californian roll with the sesame coating'; 2 smoked salmon hosomaki; 2 tuna mayonnaise and red pepper hosomaki; 1 chilli and garlic mackerel nigiri; 1 prawn, rocket and mango Californian roll with white sesame seed coating; 1 crab and surimi Californian roll with the sesame coating; 1 surimi, edamame and carrot

Only four were wrapped in the 'nori',  others were filled blocks of rice that had some sesame seeds around the sides, or were blocks of rice with fish laid on top.  The amount of fish used (either for filling or topping) was very small, so as I have many (but not all) of the above fillings (canned tuna, frozen smoked salmon and smoked mackerel, canned crabmeat, frozen prawns etc) should now be able to make myself a huge platter for considerably lower cost than the above small pack.  Will let you know how I get on. 

If the rice is freshly made (and cooled of course) and the fillings are either from a fresh (cooked) fish or canned, then will see if the sushi made from these can be frozen for a few days, to be thawed and eaten later.  Don't see why this wouldn't work.  If it does, it would save a heck of a time preparing them 'on the day', but a big platter of assorted sushi would go down well at any buffet party, indoors or out.
Previous times I've eaten sushi that have been filled with omelette, and certainly feel that those 'sea-sticks' would make another good filling (one sea-stick being enough to fill at least 3 sushis!). and when I use other other 'non-fish' fillings,  'the world's my oyster' when it comes to making this dish it seems.  I'm going to have a lot of fun experimenting.

Slightly overcast sky today, but it may clear to give us more sunshine again, but still no sign of the cool wind abating.  Would you believe I felt cold even in bed last night, nearly got up to get myself a hot water bottle, and in a couple or so weeks it will nearly be mid-summer!   Most of the flowers this year are at least a month (some even six weeks) behind their normal time of flowering, and yesterday noticed for the first time the white-flowering hedgerows that flower normally at the beginning of May and always a beautiful sight.  If we are now getting our 'springtime', then when will we get our 'summer'?  Autumn usually manages to 'fall' at the right time of year, so it does seem that in the UK we now are having only three seasons, or if we do get any 'summer' it will last only a month (if that), and by 'summer' I mean warmer temperatures, not necessarily much sun. 

Goodness knows what this recent unseasonal weather will do to our 'locally grown' crops (by 'local' I mean in the UK), almost certainly some will be in short supply, if managing to reach maturity at all.  This means paying higher prices, or doing without.   I had to give up my 'organic veggie' delivery over the winter as the crops were not up to 'supermarket' standard - a dreadful thing to say, but I did not feel like paying top whack for carrots, parsnips etc. that had 'forked' and hard to peel/trim leaving more waste than the edible part at times. Not the fault of the farmers of course, much of the problems due to the weather, but still feel I wasn't getting good value for money when it comes to the nutritional side of things.  Am tempted to begin again buying 'the organics' but what with having to have the heating on for a month longer than normal and having to control my spending to make sure I can cover the extra heating bills am having to think harder about where my money goes (perhaps if I hadn't treated myself to the sushi....!).   If B and I have lived to be octogenarians, then it seems that as long as we eat enough 'fresh' food (if you can call supermarket veggies 'fresh') then we can't have been eating too many of the wrong things.

Time for me to sign off for today.  B will be out at the gym this afternoon and has chosen to have some Chateaubriand for his supper tonight (with a salad).  Not a whole Chateaubriand (that I bought him from Donald Russell last year as part of his birthday pressent - this being a large box of mixed beef steak), but a third of one.  This cut is horrendously expensive as served for one portion, and being so large (although in the US probably a normal size serving of beef) was able to cut it - whilst still frozen, using my 'freezer knife', into four.  Returning three to the freezer, cutting the fourth into thin strips to serve as Beef Strogonoff).  He has two 'pieces' left, so will thaw one out today for his supper.  He can then bash it to the thinness he wishes and fry it himself.  Let us hope he doesn't fry it for too long (he doesn't like his meat rare) as this would spoil the tenderness (and for me this would mean a great waste of money).  Still, it's HIS beef/present, so he can spoil it if he wishes. But if he does I'll never buy him another one.

Like Kathryn, I myself have lost interested in food, well, certainly not interested in cooking at the moment. Perhaps I did too much over the last few weeks, preparing and cooking the Indian meal. Or it just could be the normal 'seasonal' disinterest.  Think I'll be settling for eating mainly salads, hard-boiled eggs, maybe a few cooked and cooled sausages (I just LOVE sausages), and already have some dips in the fridge to 'snack on'.  What more do I need? 

Almost half-way through the year already and very little done that should have been done.  If only we could have some warm and still weather, then that should put me back on track. 
Today is the start of yet another week, so am hoping we all get to enjoy at least some of it. The Devil makes work for idle hands it is said, so time for me to stop my fingers tapping idly over the keyboard and make them do something useful.  Looking forward already to having a chat with you tomorrow.  Please join me then.  Don't let me down - keep those comments coming so I know you are still there.  TTFN.  (spell check not working, so aplogies for any errors).