Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Planning the Future...

Many thanks for all your comments.  Many times I've been told there was no need for me to write a blog every day, but myself felt I was letting readers down if I didn't.  That, of course, was making myself far more 'useful' than I really am.   It is good to know that readers also feel that a few blogs a week, as and when I feel like it, will be acceptable, and - in a way - will allow me to write when I do have something really interesting to write about (or moan about), rather than desperately try to fill a page (or pages) with just my 'rambling'. 

So, while this good weather lasts, and there is work to do in the garden, I will be taking days off and probably not deciding until the actual day, so can't give you fair warning.  If I 'disappear' for a day or two, expect me back again, but if the computer is preventing me, then I will get Eileen or Steve to put up a message for me.

Although it appeared to have rained last night, we didn't have a storm (unless I slept through it), and the skies are clearing with the sun shining again.  Shortly I'll be going out with Norris down to the shops.   Certainly feel more inclined to blog when the weather is bad, and certainly will be writing regularly again during the colder months, but with our weather being so unusually good, feel I want to make the most of it while it's here.
Of course I gave the plants a good watering yesterday evening just in case it didn't rain, but perhaps as well I did for the containers are so full of flowers and some leaves that they cover the soil, so maybe not a lot of rain could fall through them.    LOADS of tomatoes ready to harvest, I keep eating them like sweets.

As many comments relate to welcoming me back, I'll just reply to a few that mention other things, but do thank all of you who have written and I think a welcome to Barbara (for I haven't any recall of that name appearing before).

Margie and Pam wrote in with answers to my query re the difference in the US/Canadian flours and our British flour.  Very recently heard either Barefoot Contessa and/or Anna Olsen suggest using cake and pastry flour for a recipe they were making, then add: "but if you haven't any, use all-purpose flour and add a bit of cornflour". Myself feel that our plain and self-raising flour are nearest to the US 'cake and pastry flour', and by adding a little strong flour to the plain would make it close to the all-purpose flour.  Mainly because I've often found strong flour works better in some recipes than our ordinary plain flour (for Yorkshire Puddings, choux pastry etc...).

As you say buttercup, the food budget works when a month's meals are planned ahead.  Am not sure exactly what the family in question cooked/ate (two parents, four children), but with two wages and all the child allowance, SURELY they had enough money for food.  What again was obvious - no food stored in their kitchen cupboards that could be used to 'stretch' the fresh foods.

Myself never plan what meals I am going to make each week, preferring to decided almost day by day, but then am able to do this because I have plenty of canned/packet foods in the larder, and a fridge full of fresh foods, and two freezers full of frozen food (mainly meat, fish, poultry, few vegetables, and some home-made ready meals in case I don't feel like cooking).  It's almost as though I have my own supermarket in my kitchen. 

There are times I feel ashamed of having so much food at any one time, but it's there, not because I've spent loadsa money stocking up, it's been built up slowly still keeping within my food budget, usually because just about all the food I buy these days are at a lower price than normal - 'on offer'. So each time I order on-line my choices will be according to the best buys for that week (I order once a month and sometimes an offer will last that long).  I don't allow myself to run out of coffee before ordering, and often order more when I have a couple of jars left, but always wait until the price has dropped, choose the jar size that works out the best by weight (sometimes it is the 200g, sometimes the 300g), then buy about four jars which last us months, certainly long enough to wait for the next offer.  I do the same with Fairy Liquid.  Once bought no need to buy again for six months (or a year!!).

At the moment my larder is slowing clearing itself as I work through what I have.  As time moves so fast these days (it goes faster the older we get), don't want to have a lot of foods on the shelves that have gone much over their b.b.date, even though - with canned foods - well over the date is not really a problem. 
We've now been living in Morecambe four years (moving here beginning of July), so as we brought very few foods with us, there is nothing in the larder that is older than four years, but I bet there are a few that I bought during our first year (still unopened) that are still there.  I really will have to check.

However, I need shelf space to store my ever-increasing collection of cake tins.  Why I need so many I don't know, but I do use them all (now and again) especially when 'catering' for B's sailing club meals.  At the moment they are stacked on various shelves in the kitchen (and even some in the small lobby/hall adjacent to the kitchen, but would be easier to find when kept together. I'm alway having to spend time to find the one I really want to use, then have to make do with another.

Must just thank Les for his comments.  I don't know if Steve cleaned out the flan etc, but doubt that he did.  No point in bothering with it now, the comp seems a little happier today, still very slow but my blog is not 'freezing' as it does normally (well, not so far).  With Steve bringing me a better comp (not new but faster) in August, then will ask him to give this one a dust, we will keep both so that B can use this one (sans broadband) to play computer games on - and maybe able to learn a bit more about what the computer can do, with no danger of messing it up for me (as has happened in the past).

With my thoughts returning to food, have to say that recently B has been cooking more Oriental Stir-Fries.  These are one of the best meals to use small amounts of fresh veggies.  It's surprising how a few strips of red bell pepper, carrots, celery, with mange-tout peas, tiny sweetcorn, sliced mushrooms, chopped spring onions, grated ginger and garlic - plus a sachet of chosen flavour stir-fry sauce together make a mound of a meal to be piled over Egg Fried Rice (admittedly from a microwave sachet - making it easy for B), or quick-cook noodles (ditto).  Myself would be happy with just the vegetable stir-fry (as above) but B like to cook a few strips of tender beef, chicken or pork before adding the veg (because he likes meat with everything).  Yesterday he added some cooked chicken at the end (just to heat through), because there was a little left over from the weekend.  There was so much that he even gave me some (albeit a teacupful.  It was good though.

After watching the previously mentioned programme about the three chefs cooking meals on a tight budget, have realised - more than ever - that just giving an economical recipe isn't much use unless a person has some knowledge of cooking.  I tend to forget that and blithely drop in 'saute the veg' and 'simmer the stock' without realising that there are many people who don't know what 'saute' means, or even 'simmer' and - for that matter "what is stock?"  The best way is to 'watch and learn', and.or hopefully find a cookbook that has plenty of instructions that go with the recipes. 

What we do need is a series of cookery progs that show how things are done, slowly and not at the speed used by most chefs who seem to be able to 'chiffonade' a pile of leaves in a split second.  My B is always trying to slice onions at the speed that most chefs use, myself have never even bothered to try, I just slice at my own pace, safer that way. The end result is almost the same.

One recipe today, this a favourite because it will keep for up to 2 weeks when stored in an airtight container.  Clementines are used in this version, but tangerines could be substituted.  Although no flour is used to make this, it is not gluten free as white breadcrumbs are an ingredient.  A perfect recipe to use for a buffet or dinner party (or even served al fresco at a barbie) as it serves 8 - 12, and although made in a round tin, could also be made in an oblong one (squares are often easier to serve outdoors).
Clementine Cake: serves 8 - 12
8 fl oz (175ml) sunflower oil
10 oz (275g) caster sugar
4 oz (100g) ground almonds
2 tsp baking powder
2 oz (50g) fresh white breadcrumbs
4 eggs, beaten
grated zest of 5 clementines
juice of 3 clementines
Put 7 oz (200g) of the sugar in a bowl with the ground almonds, baking powder, and breadcrumbs, mixing well to combine.  In another bowl whisk together the oil, eggs, and citrus zest, the pour this over the dry mix and stir together, it needs to be thoroughly mixed.
Spoon the mixture into a greased and base-lined loose bottomed 8" (20cm) cake tin, and place on a baking sheet (to catch any leaks from the tin), then bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 40 - 45 minutes or until golden on top, springy in the centre and a skewer test comes out clean.  Check after 30 minutes and if browning too quickly, loosely cover the top with foil - shiny side up to reflect away the heat.
Meanwhile, remove the pith from the two unjuiced clementines, and slice across into rounds - about 5mm thick.  Put the remaining sugar into a pan with the citrus juice and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved, then bring to the boil - without stirring - and boil for 3 minutes or until slightly syrupy. Remove from heat and set aside.
When the cake is cooked, leave in the tin but place on a cake airer to cool for 15 minutes, then loosen round the edges with a knife and remove from the tin, placing the cake on a serving plate (removing base and any paper still attached to the cake).
Arrange the citrus slices over the cake, and gradually pour over the warm syrup, take time to do this to allow the syrup to soak into the cake rather than run over the sides.  Leave to get quite cold before serving (or storing).

Cannot leave you today without giving a truly economical version of sausage rolls (and one widely used during wartime).  With the addition of a little mustard or maybe a bit of pickle worked into the mixture, the flavour would be even better.  Otherwise serve these hot with a side serving of a well flavoured pickle such as Branston, or home-made piccalilli.
Once we can begin to look 'outside the box', and ignore the small amount of meat in this recipe, also not turn our noses up at using haricot beans, instead realising these are also a good source of (vegetable) protein, I bet your bottom dollar this 'sausage meat' has more flavour and nourishment than any that goes into those cheap 'bangers' on sale today.
In wartime, these 'sausage rolls' would be made using what cooked meat was available, it might be beef, pork, or lamb, almost certainly not poultry (not a lot of that on sale then).  We are now able to have a bit more choice as to the meat we use, and maybe use more of it.
Not quite Sausage Rolls: makes about 30
4 oz (100g) cooked haricot beans
2 oz (50g) cold, cooked meat
one rasher streaky bacon
five sage leaves, finely chopped
salt and pepper
1 lb (450g) shortcrust pastry
milk or beaten egg
Put the beans, meat, and bacon in to a food processor and blitz until minced (but not pureed). Add the sage and plenty of seasoning.  Give a final blitz then remove mixture from bowl and shape into 3 long sausage shapes, each about 14" (35cm) long.
Divide the pastry into three and roll each out large enough to completely wrap around the strips of 'sausage', placing the 'sausage meat' on top of the pastry, folding the pastry over and sealing the edges with milk or egg. 
Place the strips on a baking sheet, fold side down, score the tops with a knife, brush with milk or egg and bake at 190C, 375F, gas 5 for 15 - 20 minutes, then slice before serving.

  My heart sinks a bit with the thought of reading today's newspaper. It will be full of pages of the new Royal Arrival!!  Am pleased the baby has now arrived, we were getting fed up of waiting, but oh, so much fuss is made by the media these days.  I can't remember much being said about the birth of Prince Charles (though his mother wasn't then Queen), apart from it just being reported.  This baby is one step further down the line of succession, but of course much will be made of its arrival and probably the rest of its life.   Let us hope the media allow the family time to themselves and not cause as much damage and distress as has happened in the past.

If the weather is good tomorrow (it's now turning to rain again), then I'll probably be wanting to be out and about, if not in the garden, at least down to the shops or even the seafront.  School holidays have begun so there should be many more people wandering about (and getting in my way as I scoot along).  But it is good to see Morecambe awakening from its long winter sleep, it is like a ghost town when 'out of season'.

From now on I'll be taking it day by day, if I decide not to blog, then I won't, but be assured you will be 'hearing' from me several times a week, you can't get rid of me that easily.  Am thinking of taking weekends off anyway as most readers seem to have enough to occupy them then.  Who wants to sit at a comp when the sun is shining or a week ahead needs to be planned (and maybe shopped and cooked for)?

The library has got me the two books written by Betty MacDonald (I've already read The Egg and I, and the fourth - and last - book of her series), now I have to catch up with the middle two books, so that's something else for me to do.  I've just started reading her second book (when she went into a sanitarium because she got consumption), so have a feeling most of the afternoon will see me with my head stuck into her book.

This now leaves me with a new ending:  'See you when I see you".  Even I don't know (yet) which day this will be.  Have decided not to blog anyway on 'hair days' as I'm obviously tied up for a couple of hours anyway. Normally this would be tomorrow (Wednesday) but this week Norma will be here Thursday, so I will have time to perhaps pop in and do a small blog tomorrow, then return again on Friday.   Haven't yet decided so am going to play it by ear.  This 'freedom of choice' is something I'm going to have to get used to, but am already enjoying the future 'out there' that is beckoning me.  Of course I've always enjoyed having a regular chat with you each day, but I really do feel I need to 'get a life' (outside this room/house) while I still have time left to enjoy it.   And, of course, this would give me a lot more (hopefully) interesting things to chat about. 
Do hope that regular readers won't be too disappointed at missing a day or two, and I fervently hope, because I'm now taking the occasional day off, that none will move on to pastures new (other blogs that are more interesting).

That's it for today.  See you again soon. TTFN.