Thursday, July 04, 2013

Changing Plans

Discovered yesterday evening that the 'Tea by the Sea' (sailing club) was on Sunday, NOT Saturday as I thought, so at least that gives me a day extra to work with.  This means I'm not sure if I'll be blogging on Saturday OR on Sunday, depends how I get on.  Maybe have to take both days off from writing, hopefully only one, will be able to let you know nearer the time.

Yesterday we began to watch Andy Murray's match, but as we had arranged to go out for a meal with our daughter (it was our 59th wedding anniversary - the biggie one next year!), we had to leave after the first two sets - which Andy had lost.  We had a good meal, and got back in time to see Andy had won the next two sets and it was 5 all in the final set.  So at least we managed to be home in time to see him win.   Let us hope he can stand the heat if he reaches the finals, the weather I mean as it is forecast to be 28C on Sunday! 

Today is is still overcast in Morecambe, extremely windy and we expect more rain.  Humid and warm tonight, then the high pressure kicks in and it will get warmer, and warmer, and warmer.  At least where we live it won't be as hot as London (thankfully). 
So am hoping we might be able to have a neighbourhood barbecue at the end of next week (inviting immediate neighbours and friends, not the whole street).

Watching 'Unique Sweets' (Food Network) this morning saw an 'amazing invention' of a sweet sold at one shop - this being nothing more than our 'cinder toffee', broken into chunks and coated with chocolate.  A feeling of deja vu re this as a similar confection, sold commercially, was also shown in 'Unwrapped' the other day. 
What's going on?  We've been making the same 'cinder toffee' for centuries, but the US seem to think it's something they invented, and pretty recently. 

Mentioning the 'Smarties' (yesterday) have remembered that the US 'Smarties' are the same as the sweet called 'Refreshers' over here.  Another bit of cross-purposes between our two countries.  Who 'invented' which, and who decides they should be sold under different names?

Looked up Brightlingsea on the map buttercup, and see it is almost an island.  What a lovely place to live, you are very lucky.  It did appear to be almost a village in the middle, certainly not a large place and you must have a very good community feeling there. 
What I did notice was there was a place called Alresford just above your 'island', and have heard of this place as being the 'watercress' area, but am sure that is in Hampshire although there was only one Alresford (yours) named in the index of our road map atlas. 
The one in Hampshire (sure it was called Alresford), was where one of the authors of a book about crop circles lived.  I was very 'into' crop circles at that time, and had contacted the man and we got quite a correspondence going (snail mail, I did not have a computer then).  Our son then lived in Winchester, so the man invited me to visit him at his home when we were in the area - which I did, and he took me and B to see a recently made crop circle.  In the centre of the main circle was a red poppy growing, everything round it flattened.  

It's now a decade (or two?) since all the fuss about crop circles, and although it has been poo-poohed as all the circles and shapes being man-made, one does wonder.  My Alresford 'friend' said he was certain his phone was bugged, and I've a feeling it well might have been for when he phoned me once and rang off, as I put down the phone I heard a voice and so put the ear-piece back to my ear and heard our conversation repeated as though it had been recorded.  Someone recorded it, and I don't think it was my friend.  Other things happened that led me to believe there was some interest by our government re the crop circles, who kept playing it down, but doing a lot under the surface we didn't know about. 

After a while, as there were more and more circles and some amazing shapes that kept appearing year after year, I lost interest.  Not even sure if they still appear.  But it was something to think about when at that time.

Think today is Independence Day in the US. So probably a holiday for everyone to celebrate. Hope you and family have a lovely time Pam, and the weather holds good for picnics and fireworks.

Not sure what recipes to suggest at the moment, my thoughts are on the coming couple of weeks when our weather is supposed to be set fair.  If very hot we won't really feel like eating much anyway. 

Here is one suggestion, and yes, it is a warm dish, but the sort that would go well at a buffet party, indoors or out (especially out as then any drips can fall on the grass!).  This is a recipe for an easy cheese fondue, and although usually Emmenthal and Gruyere cheeses are normally used in a fondue (because they melt easily), this one uses Cheddar and Gruyere (and you do need the latter if you want a really melting fondue).  Instead of wine, cider vinegar is used as the liquid ingredient, and this keep the cost down.

As a fondue is nothing more than a hot 'dip', although normally served with just chunks of bread for dipping, you could also serve 'crudites' (vegetable batons - cucumber, celery, carrot....) to dip into the cheese.   The cheese is first frozen as then it can be very finely grated - this helps it to melt more easily.
It's important to keep the fondue warm once its ready or the cheese mixture will thicken and congeal, so either stand the pan over a meths burner (usually supplied with a fondue set), or over a candle warmer (tea-lights etc).  If the pot is heavy enough, it could be kept hot at the side of a barbecue.
Easy Cheese Fondue: serves 8
2 tblsp cider vinegar
1 tsp cornflour
9 oz (250g) Cheddar cheese, frozen then grated
9 oz (250g) Gruyere cheese, frozen then grated
3 tblsp creme fraiche
a little freshly ground black pepper (opt)
Mix the vinegar with the cornflour and put into a heatproof bowl with the cheeses. Set the bowl over a pan of boiling water (the base of the bowl can touch the water), and slowly melt the cheese, stir often so the ingredients combine evenly.  When nearly melted, add the creme fraiche and pepper.
Lower the heat and keep warm (or remove bowl and stand over low heat as described above).
Serve with crudites and chunks of bread.  Forks to spear the bread for dipping.

Most of my friends are as interested in cooking as I am (well almost as interested), and one would never cook fish for her family - even though she said her husband loved eating fish - because she herself didn't like it.  Do many people tend to cook only what THEY like, even though the rest of the family wish they could eat something different?

At least with my Beloved this is never a problem as normally I cook a different meal for him than I eat myself (often because he likes things I don't - such as kidney, tongue, scallops....), but the one thing I can't face cooking is whole fish complete with its head.  So will buy these for B, but he then has to cook it himself.  Fish without heads (filleted but complete with skin) I CAN cope with.

One food that neither B nor I like is figs.  Not sure why as they do seem popular.  With me it is memories of Fig Rolls that my dad loved to eat (I hated them - all those seeds), and with B it is the 'syrup of figs' that he was given each week by his mum as a laxative.

For those who do enjoy figs (and I know they grow easily in this country), here is a recipe for fig jam.  I don't think this is meant to be stored for any length of time, but will keep in the fridge for at least a week.  The suggestion is to eat the jam with cheese and oatcakes - good either as a 'nibble' or serving at a buffet), so will give the recipe for the biscuits as well - these can also be made a week in advance, but store in an airtight container. If they soften, they can be crisped up again by popping into an oven for a few minutes, just before serving.

Fig Jam:
3 large fresh figs (9oz/250g), roughly chopped
2 tblsp caster sugar
1 tsp grated orange zest
2 tblsp orange juice
Put all ingredients into a small saucepan over low heat.  Simmer for about 10 minutes or until thickened. Cool then spoon into container (or sterilised jar) cover and keep chilled for up to a week.

Oatcakes: makes 80
4 oz (100g) porridge oats
4 oz (100g) butter, chilled and chopped
3 oz (75g) wholemeal plain flour
2 tblsp plain (white) flour
quarter tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 rounded tblsp brown sugar
1 tblsp milk
Put the porridge oats into a food processor and blitz until finely chopped (but not as fine as flour).
Add the butter with the sifted flours and bicarb, and the sugar, to the oats(still in the blender) and pulse until crumbly.  Add the milk and whizz until the lot comes together. Turn this dough out onto a floured board and knead gently until smooth.
Divide dough in half and roll each between sheets of baking parchment (or clingfilm) to 3mm thick. Cut into 3cm squares.  Using a spatula or fish slice, carefully place oat cakes on greased baking trays.
Bake for 10 minutes at 170C, 325F, gas 3 or until golden brown. Cool on trays for 5 minutes before removing to cake airers to cool completely.  Store in air-tight tins.
Serve oatcakes, topped with jam and a small triangle of cheese (you can either spread the jam on the oatcake and put the cheese on top, or put the cheese on the oatcake and the jam on top - the latter looks more attractive, but the former holds the cheese more securely).

Having started today's recipes with a cheese fondue, will close with another - this time one that can be eaten for dessert.  Again another good indoor/outdoor buffet dish.
Obviously the fruits given are not the cheapest, but we could use other firm fruits such as fresh peaches, apple, banana, even orange segments - in fact any fruit that will 'dip' successfully. Add marshmallows and chunks of plain cake to make the fruit go further, or omit the fruit and just dunk marshmallows! 
Chocolate Fondue with Fruits and Nuts: serves 4
7 oz (200g) dark plain chocolate
2 oz (50g) butter
2 tblsp Malibu or rum (pref white)
3 fl oz (75ml) water
half mango, peeled and cubed
half papaya, peeled and cubed
8 physalis (aka Cape gooseberries)
7 oz (200g) fresh pineapple chunks 
2 oz (50g) toasted hazelnuts, crushed
Break up the chocolate into chunks and put into a heatproof bowl with the butter, alcohol, and water. Place over a pan of gently simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl is above the water.  Leave for 5 - 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until very smooth.
Meanwhile, arrange the fruit on a large platter, leaving room for a bowl of crushed nuts and also the chocolate 'fondue'. Provide forks or cocktails sticks for dipping.
When the chocolate is ready, place on the platter, then spear the fruit with the forks/sticks, dip first into the chocolate, then into the nuts, then straight into the mouth (your own or someone elses!).

It's blowing half a gale at the moment, so it's doubtful I'll be outside today, hopefully will be able to find time to sit in the sun over the next few days, but first have to make sure all my marmalade and baking is done when it should be done.   If I cook in the mornings, then that will leave the afternoon free for sun-bathing and/or Wimbledon watching.

Hope you have a good day.  Will be back 'chatting and rambling' again tomorrow.  Hope you'll be able to join me.  TTFN.