Sunday, June 23, 2013

Spreading the Load

Good idea Taaleedee, to chop up sausages when making Toad in the Hole.  For some reason, the more we can 'spread' ingredients around, the more of them there appears to be.   In the same way, grating veggies for (say) coleslaw, can make an impressive pile that would serve several, but when left in their original state would look barely enough to feed one small child.
Grated cheese also seems to go further - something I'm glad about as when using sliced cheese for 'toasted cheese', this always uses more than if the cheese was first grated then put on the toast.  So I now keep a box of grated cheese in the fridge for B to help himself to when he wishes to make cheese on toast.

Regarding wartime rationing Pam.  Not all food was rationed, fruit and veggies were not, but many were very difficult to obtain, the only 'regular' ones were potatoes and carrots.  Onions were treated as if they were made of gold, a pure luxury if you could get one.  Farmers had to give up growing many vegetables and concentrate on growing wheat and other grains (for our bread and also animal feed), plus the potatoes and carrots. 
It was left to the public to grow their own fruit and veg, with the help of allotments (for those who had no gardens) and that well-known 'Dig for Victory' campaign.  

The main rationed foods were things like bacon, butter/marg/lard, cheese, sugar, tea, meat (but not offal), eggs, and a few other things.  Each person had their own ration book - this filled with little coupons that the grocer would cut out when the food was collected each week.  Everyone had to register with a grocer and stick with him throughout rationing, so that he knew exactly how much to order from his suppliers (no more, no less).  
Other foods such as canned foods and dry goods were sold via a 'points' system.  This meant another book full of points coupons.  A set amount of points allowed per person per month, and how these were spent depended on the purchaser.  A 'luxury' item such as canned salmon would be (say) 7 points, but (maybe) a can or sardines only 2 points, so it made sense (nutritionally) to buy the sardines so you had more points left to buy something else.
The 'points' per product would change according to the nation's stocks.  If there happened to be more cans of salmon in store than (say sardines) then the points for salmon could be reduced to (say) 4, and the sardines put up to 5 points.  I think the 'points for products' were printed in the newspaper every month so that people would know the 'best buys' at that time.

Fish wasn't rationed, but in short supply as most of the sailors were fighting the war, and also there wasn't the petrol to distribute fresh fish around the country.  Really strange fish began to be sold, one was called 'snoek', and never sure what that was, some said it was whale-meat.   If the fishmonger had a supply of any sort of fish, the news would get round and a huge queue would form with usually the supply of fish running out before half the queue was served, but that's how it was.  People would queue for hours if there was a chance of getting something in short supply.  I say 'people', it was usually mothers of young children or old ladies as both were able to stay at home (the other women doing war work in munition factories, driving buses, or in the Land Army).

Many people kept chickens in the tiniest of back yards, also rabbits.  They did have an allocation of chicken feed (but gave up their egg ration to get this). However, the chickens provided more eggs that would have been allowed on the ration (one egg per person per week, and during the winter month it was one egg per fortnight!).  The rabbits were bred for meat.
Like with most rationed (and unrationed) foods and other products (knicker elastic for instance) it was possible to purchase these through the 'Black Market', but at a price.  Anyone who watches 'Dad's Army' will be familiar with the 'spiv' (forgotten his name) who always seems to have something to sell when it is needed (or if not the product, then more 'coupons/points' to obtain it).

Fabric (clothing, bed linen, towels etc) were also sold on 'points', and there were rules about using less material when making clothes, only so many pleats or pockets allowed.  Regulation length, less buttons, no turn-ups on trousers etc.

Petrol was rationed during wartime, and this obtainable in much the same way using coupons, but cannot remember any rationing of this fuel in the 70's Pam.
By that time we'd moved to Leeds, and B was working as a sales rep travelling around in the firm's car.  Think we did have a shortage of fuel sometime after the war, and the 60mpm mile limit (outside city limits) was reduced to 50mph (as this used less petrol).

Did have a wonderful book (either now mislaid or lent and never returned) - this all about the domestic life during the war years, with great chapters re food rationing, clothing etc.  The name of the book is 'How We Lived Then', and well worth getting it (on Amazon or through a library) if interested in the war years in the UK.  I can't recall the author or publisher, but am sure the Internet will come up with details.

Much of yesterday I spent baking - this being something I normally do on a Saturday, probably because it is sort of 'traditional'.   Wishing to use up a block of short-crust pastry I blind-baked two flans, filling one with grated cheese, eggs and cream and baked on to make a quiche.  The other I have to decide what to fill it with today.
Then melted a bar of dark chocolate in a bowl placed over (but not touching) hot water.  While it was melting, then gathered all sorts of bits and bobs from the larder:  a few digestive biscuits, a couple of meringues, some mini-marshmallows, no-soak apricots (which I then chopped), some flaked almonds, some rice-krispies, and sultanas.
Mixed this all into the melted chocolate, to which I'd added a knob of butter, then spread half this over a parchment lined Swill roll tin that I'd sprinkled with dessicated coconut.  Sprinkled more coconut over the 'rocky road' mixture, then spread the rest on top.  Finally finishing with more coconut. 
Placed a sheet of parchment over the lot and pressed it all down flat, then put it into the fridge to set.  Later cut it into many chunks, and left these in a box in the fridge for B to help himself to (he has already eaten several).

Once I'd done that, I then rolled out the pastry trimmings to a very rough square.  Seasoned it with a little pepper and salt and sprinkled over some grated cheese, then folded it into three and rolled it again.  Added more cheese, and this time rolled it up like a sausage as when this was rolled out it ended up with flat sides.  After rolling as thinly as possible, managed to cut out loads of cheese straws, these duly baked (only took about 5 mins as they were thin).  B came into the kitchen as I was removing them to the cake airer, so promptly took half back with him into the living room and ate them up, returning to fetch the remainder.

Taking advantage of a break of half an hour before I began cooking B's supper (chicken escalope), thought about my 'makings' that day, and everyone had been made purely for B.  Yes, I will probably manage to have a slice of quiche, but not a lot else, and began to wonder if this is how it used to be - women cooked purely to please their menfolk.

Today, many men have taken over the cooking, because they enjoy doing it.  But how many of them consider first what their wives would prefer to eat.   My bet is the man cooks what HE wants to eat and his wife either likes it or lumps it.  
The now-not-so-nice Paul Hollywood used to brag that one day each week he would cook his wife her favourite dessert, to show 'how he cared' I suppose.  Maybe male 'home-cooks' might be just as considerate and ask what their OH would like to eat, but I bet not every day.  But then maybe I'm the odd one out, but having read the 1950's Housewife book, it did imply that women always put their man's needs first.  It was just the way it was then.

We have the rather eyebrow raising 'happening' this week re Nigella and her spouse.  Well, he is Iranian and we have been led to believe that people of the Middle East do treat their wives as second class citizens and knock them about a bit.  Maybe not now so much, but suppose it is all to do with 'tradition' and upbringing and culture. 
It's not been THAT long since we women 'burnt our bras', to try and get more independence, this first starting with the Suffragettes but never really moving on since then.  Fathers still 'give' their daughters away to another man, and 'a woman's place is in the home'. 
In a way I don't dispute this as 'genetically' we are programmed to give birth, bring up children, and do all the necessary washing, cleaning, cooking....and a million other things, while all the husband is supposed to do is earn the money to pay for it all.  But not necessarily pay the wife anything more than just the 'housekeeping'. 

Today things are so different, but with thousands of years (maybe millions), of evolving to bring about the above 'balance', no wonder things start to go a bit wrong when the 'new' clashes with the 'old'. 
There's an awful lot in the news about sexual harassment, especially past misdemeanours with young girls, but I've yet to read anything about a man being harassed, even abused, by a woman, and know this often used to happen and probably still does.   So why one rule for one and not for the other?   If we want equality, then let's have it.  Or go back to how it used to be. 

At least, if we did 'go back', then maybe women would be offered seats instead of having to stand up in buses and trains.  Doors would be opened for us instead of them being left to slam back in our faces, and also someone else would carry our luggage and parcels.   In return we would treat our men with more respect.  Like asking them what they would like to eat for their evening meal, then actually make it for them.   Give and take, that's all that is needed, but 'old-style' - like the life I remember. 

During my coffee morning (was it Thursday last?), my neighbour and I spent most of the time talking about 'the good old days' (and she's quite a bit younger than me).  One interesting thing, as a young child, her mother worked for Agatha Christie (as housekeeper I think). How interesting that must have been.  Hope to learn more about it later.

Time now for a recipe (one, maybe more depending on whether the comp 'freezes' or not), but first would like to ask US readers if they could give me a recipe for the 'frosting' (we call it 'icing') that is commonly used on top of cup-cakes.  The frosting I've seen piped onto the cakes looks very much softer than the buttercream icing that we normally use, as if it has more of a marshmallow texture.

First recipe today uses lamb.  Here in the UK the price of lamb seems to be increasing faster than that of beef, so for this reason am using less lamb than normal (because being a one-pot dish, we still keep in all the flavour from the meat).  As an added money-saver, pearl barley is used (this - when cooked with lamb - is a marriage made in heaven), and together with the last of the winter root veggies (am sure we have a few potatoes, parsnips, carrots, swede... left in our veggie drawer), plus fresh or frozen green beans, together these combine to make a really hearty chunky soup, although I feel this should be called more a 'loose' casserole.
Keep this recipe in mind as no doubt we will have other 'summer' days as bad as the one we are having today (gale force winds, rain, and cool with it).   Make a double batch as it can be frozen in the normal way.

Lamb and Barley 'Soup': serves 4
1 tsp sunflower or olive oil
8 oz (225g) lean lamb, cut into pieces
salt and pepper
1 onion, finely chopped
2 oz (50g) pearl barley
1lb 5oz (600g) mixed root vegetables, cubed
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1.75pts (1 ltr) lamb or beef stock
1 sprig thyme
4 oz (100g) green beans, finely chopped
Heat the oil in a large saucepan, add the lamb with seasoning to taste, then fry for a few minutes until lightly browned. Add the onion and barley, fry for another minute, then add the prepared vegetables, stir-frying for a couple more minutes before adding the W. sauce, the stock and the thyme.  Bring to the boil, cover pan, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes - or until the lamb and veggies are tender.
Remove a quarter of this 'soup' from the pan, placing it into another saucepan (or food processor/blender), and either blitz it with a stick blender, or process until pureed.  Add this back to the rest of the 'soup' (to me this turns it into more of a casserole with a thick gravy), add the beans, and simmer until cooked.  Ladle into individual bowls and serve with chunks of crusty bread.

Final recipe today is another soup, but this time chilled and one to be served during the hot weather (if we ever have any).  It was the other week that Pam asked for recipes to use up cucumber, and wish then I'd been able to give this one (but only just discovered it).  However, those that grow their own cucumbers (or who may even get an extra as a Bogof) will find this a very different way to use this salad veg (although suppose it is really a 'fruit').
The advantage with this soup is that although it cannot be frozen, it can be made up to the end of the processing, then kept in the fridge for 2 days.  Add the remaining yogurt, mint, and the chives when ready to serve.
Cucumber Soup: serves 2
1 cucumber, halved, deseeded, chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 - 2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 small avocado, peeled and chopped
1 bunch spring onions, chopped
handful fresh mint leaves, chopped
5 fl oz (150ml) yogurt
2 tblsp white wine vinegar
few drops green Tabasco
chopped chives for garnish
Put half the mint and half the yogurt to one side, then put the remainder with the rest of the ingredients (except the chives) into a food processor and blitz until smooth.  Check the taste and - if you wish - add a little extra vinegar, tabasco and seasoning, plus a splash of water if you wish it thinner.
Put the soup into individual bowls and chill until ready to serve with a dollop of reserved yogurt, the mint and garnish with chives. 

Computer is playing up again, slowing down so I'm now getting cross.  However, think I've written enough to give food for thought, so will be back for a further chat tomorrow.  Hope to see you then.