Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Summer at Last?

To a step outside out back door yesterday (it faces North), and found, despite the blue skies,  it seemed quite cool outdoors (but warm compared to our living room).  Took a few more tentative steps around the corner of the conservatory into the sunlight and suddenly it was summer!  Very little breeze and so I went and sat on the bench (facing south), in the full glare of the sun and it what we in the UK call 'hot'- even though the temp was only (only?) around 70F.  Understand it was warmer inland (always cooler close to the coast it seems).   That temperature might be cool to those in Texas (are you reading this Pam?), but very pleasant here.  Would like it a bit warmer though as this means it is more pleasant to sit outside in the evenings and have a barbecue.

Thought of having a barbie (with the neighbours) this weekend, but the forecast is for more clouds and cooler weather with a few showers in the north west, so perhaps better to wait another week or so (or month or so) in the hope we get another and longer spell of settled weather, then we can really have an al fresco party. 

Today am going to toddle out with Norris to see what I can spend this month's £1 on (for new readers that's the 25 pence a week the state has added to my pension due to me reaching 80!).  Each of the last two months the £1 has been spent on a packet of seeds, the first being Mixed Salad Leaves, now growing nicely (only part of a packet sown), almost ready to begin harvesting (should get at least three good helpings (worth £1 each if bought at the supermarket).  The tomato seeds are growing but have a long way to go yet before big enough to flower.

Maybe the charity shop will have something for a £1 worth having, if not I'll hang onto it and maybe on Thursday scoot into Morecambe to the Festival Market that has loads of stalls where the prices are really low (compared to 'proper' shops).

Liked the sound of the 'pulled pork with chipotle sauce' Kathryn, sounded very American, but when it comes to meat and spices they really do know how to cook them well.  After my first taste of chipotle sauce (I used to call it chippottal until I found the correct pronunciation was 'chip-ot-ly') as well as being chilli hot, it also had a lovely smokey taste, and I love both.  I sprinkle it into or over almost everything I eat.

How annoying that your OH can't let you know what he really means, biscuits are nothing like cakes, although you could almost compromise and make him some US style 'cookies', these looking like large biscuits but not crisp like our UK ones, more like dryish cakes.  I'm giving a recipe or two today for some things, you might like to see what your OH thinks.  He might even like to make some himself!!

Thanks Pam for the tip about 'control then Z' when I've lost what I've just typed.  I'll try it next time I've lost something.  Not sure why I lost 'wot I wrote' in the first place, think I must have hit 'control and another letter' by mistake.  I type so fast and sometimes the keyboard moves slightly across the desk so I end up with my fingers on the wrong keys.

Normally, gingerbread is moist and sticky, but as this war-time recipe uses no fat it has a drier texture.  Three reasons for giving this recipe.  First is to show how cooks managed to still make cakes when many ingredients (eggs, fat) that we use today were rationed and couldn't be used for such 'treats'.  Secondly because this version uses no fat is has fewer calories and of course less costly to make. Thirdly am hoping it might fit into Kathryn's OH requests as it will probably end up 'not quite a biscuit, more like a cake!'
War-time Gingerbread Cake: makes 12 squares
8 oz (225g) self-raising flour
6 oz (175g) golden syrup
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
5 fl oz (150ml) tepid water
Put the flour and syrup in a basin.  Mix the ginger and bicarb with the water, then pour this into the flour mixture and stir together.  Spoon into an 11" x 7" (27.5 x 18cm) greased and lined cake tin and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 35 - 40 minutes or until firm to the touch.  Check during cooking to make sure the top doesn't get too dark, cover it with a tent of foil after 20 minutes if you feel it needs a bit of protection (shiny side up reflects heat away and prevents over-browning, shiny side down reflects heat down).
Leave the cake in the tin to cool, then turn out and wrap in greaseproof paper, then store in an airtight tin for at least 2 days before cutting (as this will help it become moister).

For a savoury 'take-for-lunch', an individual quiche is not a bad idea.  I make these using those four-hollows Yorkshire pudding tins, although tend not to make four quiches, but use each 'hollow' to bake something different at the same time (useful when living alone).  Each 'hollow' would be lined with pastry, then a quiche filling put into one, another would have some fruit (perhaps sliced apple) with a little sugar and a lid of pastry on top.  The third would have the base spread with jam then some sponge cake mixture on top to make a small 'Bakewell' tart.  The fourth would probably have a cooked meat and veg filling, again with pastry on top to make a 'meat pie'.  None have to be eaten on the day of cooking (except perhaps the meat pie), the quiche could be eaten a following day, and the fruit pie and Bakewell will keep for several days.

Here is a very economical recipe that makes four individual quiches (in this instance called 'flans'). As it is a recipe at least 30 years old, 'hard' margarine was used to make the pastry (40g hard marg, 40g lard, 150g wholemeal flour and 2 - 3 tblsp water).  Today you may wish to use your own recipe for pastry, or buy the ready-made shortcrust.
Instead of using two cans of sardines, and the tomatoes, why not use one larger can of pilchards (cheaper than sardines anyway) and use the tomato sauce that comes with it as the 'tomato' part of the dish.
It is not necessary to make these 'flans' in individual tins, my suggestion would be to bake the mixture in one oblong shallow tin so that - when cold - it will be able to be cut into neat squares that will fit into a lunch box.   
Sardine and Tomato Flans: makes four
approx 10 oz shortcrust pastry (see above)
2 tomatoes, skinned and sliced
2 x 120g cans sardines, drained (see above)
2 eggs, beaten
salt and pepper
Roll out the pastry and line four 4.3" (11cm) tins.  Chill before filling (or you may wish to blind-bake for 10 mins).
Reserve 4 tomato slices and chop the remainder.  Chop or mash the sardines and fold into the tomatoes. Make up the eggs to 5 fl oz (150ml) with some milk and add seasoning to taste.. 
Divide the sardine and tomato mixture between the flan tins, and pour over the egg mixture.  Top each with one slice of tomato.  Bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 30 minutes.  Serve hot or cold.

Other useful 'take-for-lunch' ideas are Cornish Pasties (these can be made, then frozen to take out at the start of the day and should be thawed by lunchtime).  Or why not a slice of fruit cake with a chunk of Wensleydale cheese?  A 'Ploughman's' also comes to mind.
Savoury scones (called 'biscuits' in the US) are halfway between a biscuit and a cake, and could be split and 'buttered' with a savoury spread.   These too could be made in bulk then frozen, again thawing en route to work.

Another gorgeous day by the look of it.  Think I'll grab an hour and go and sit in the sun with a cup of coffee once I've done the washing up, and later go out with Norris.  So with this in mind, had better make a start.  Hope you can join me tomorrow.  TTFN.