Sunday, July 28, 2013

Weekend 'Wittering'

Just time for me to write a few words before Gill phones me (in 70 mins), as have decided that if I can't write enough interesting things in that time, then it's not worth me writing at all!

Turning a disaster into a triumph has always been my motto, so I was very pleased when I checked the Internet and discovered that the leaves from a lemon tree CAN be used as flavouring in the same way as bay leaves.  So I collected all the fallen leaves - still 'fresh' so why they fell off I don't know - and layered a few in a jar with some caster sugar in the hope the sugar would end up lemon flavoured (could be very useful when making cakes and biscuits).  Today will also tuck a few leaves into the rice when cooking it for tonight's supper (curry).  The remainder of the leaves have been frozen to use later.

I was surprised at how strong the scent was from the lemon leaves, reminding me very much of those 'sherbet dabs' we used to have as children.  So - as it appears a lemon tree won't begin fruiting until it is at least 7 years old and I'm too old to wait that long, growing a lemon tree from a pip has still worked out to my advantage.  Had I not forgotten to water the plant it would still be growing (and growing, and growing), and no real use to me whatsoever.   Anyway, I've pruned it down to about a foot high (the leaves on this part still intact), and tucked the top 6" of the plant (still with new leaves growing) into the pot at the side of its 'mother'.  It may root, it may not.  Don't really care.  All I know is I've now got some wonderful leaves to flavour things with lemon and that's something worth knowing about BECAUSE THESE WERE FREE (the tree grown from a lemon pip).

If readers log on early enough to read this they might be interested to know that this lunchtime (12.30), on BBC4 the Food Programme is covering 'good food for those on a low income'.  If reading this later, it will be repeated tomorrow (Monday at 3.30pm Radio 4).  I look forward to listening to it.

In the paper yesterday was pleased to read that 'families could save £200m a year by lowering their fridge temperature by just 3 degrees.  Of course this means a national saving, not 'per family', although the way food prices are rising....!!

Apparently many people keep their fridges set at 7deg F,  but if lowered to 4 then foods that have a 'use-by' date should keep several days longer.  This I've discovered myself as regular readers know I've often mentioned that our fridge is set at 3degF,  and have to say that many 'use-by' dates can keep 'fresh' at least a week longer (and dare I say it up to a month?).  
It seems that the little extra power needed to lower this temperature is far less cost than the food that many families throw away because it has reached it's 'use-by' date at the higher setting.

There was also a mention that most of the use-by foods could be frozen when they have reached their date rather than be thrown out (something I also do) "but families often let them spoil in their fridges".

Margie, you mentioned - because of a power failure - you lost a lot of frozen food.  Firstly, hope that you insured it (most household policies cover the loss of frozen food - as do freezer insurances), ideally, photograph all the food that has to be thrown out (as proof) and make a written record.

One good thing about freezers is that if the power fails, as long as the door is left unopened, the food should stay solidly frozen for several days, especially if the freezer is well packed with food.  Think 4 days is certainly mentioned as a safe time to keep food in a freezer that has lost power.

Any food that has thawed out could still be cooked (as long as there is an alternative source of cooking other than electric all that source of power has failed - and one reason why I always have a gas hob and electric oven).  Camping 'gas' stoves, or even a barbecue can be used to cook foods that need cooking. 

'Angel Delight' is still sold Taalaadee, and possibly also 'Birds Trifle Mix' that I often used to buy when our children were small.  It was at that time I noticed that carrageen (moss) was the setting agent used in this trifle mix, and this led me to buying some of this from a health shop (or was it a chemist?) and use this to set my jellies instead of gelatine.  It worked well.

Do hope you reminded the plasterers to clean your garage door before they left Taalaadee.  It was their mess, they are supposed to clear it up.  I'm afraid I'm not a 'workmans' friend' when it comes to what they leave behind, I tend to take a good hard look and then say something like "would you like a cup of tea before you start cleaning up the...and the....and the.... before you leave?"

Myself enjoy eating savoury rather than sweet Eileen, although not due to my diabetes (type 2), although I do indulge in a bag of Wherther's Original toffees each weekend, but these are the 'sugar free' ones.  They are smaller than the 'original'' and I'm saving every golden wrapper (I already have a box full!!) ready to thread on strong cotton to make shiny gold strings to hang around the Tree at Christmas.  I already have a reel of strong cotton (it was my mother's!!) so that's another 'freebie' in the making.  A really good reason to eat these sweets don't you think?

Not sure if you've written before Kerry, but would like to give you a welcome (or welcome back whichever fits..).  What a good idea to be able to have an 'unread list' of postings so you don't miss any.  Maybe most readers already have this, but then I'm so far behind the norm when it comes to computers I really don't know what can be set up and what can't (and quite honestly don't really want to know, just as long as I can read my emails/comments and write my blog that's all I need it for.

Got up early this morning, believing it was earlier than it was because it was still on the dark side, but no - just after 6.00am so decided to stay up and begin cooking the chicken that had been marinading in curry sauce (from a bottle and I'm not even apologising for that) overnight.  I'd thawed out a big bag of 'Value' chicken portions (having saved only the thighs - the drumsticks used for the barbie the other weekend), plus another few from an earlier bag, so ended up with 10.  Decided to cook five as 'Butter Chicken' the remaining five as 'Tikka Masala'.  The first five I cooked earlier this morning, and now turned out ready to remove the bones and freeze most of it away (B having some for supper tonight).  Later this morning will be cooking the Tikka chicken, and then cooling THAT and freezing it away (although I might have a portion of both myself as a treat tonight).  

Darker this morning for two reasons.  We have now passed the summer solstice and the nights are drawing in (days getting shorter), also it was very overcast and raining when I woke.  This was promised and the garden could do with a good soak.  Luckily yesterday I was able to grab a couple of hours sitting in the sun again before the clouds rolled in, and each time getting browner and browner.  B is quite miffed as I'm now browner than he is, so he keeps going and sitting on the bench to gain a bit more of a tan in the hope of catching me up.   I have to say, my 'bingo wings' certainly look better when tanned, I can even wander around wearing a sleeveless T shirt without being embarrassed about my 'floppy bits' (but at my age who really cares???).

Just time for me to give a few foodie suggestions.  The first is re 'Merguez' sausages.  I've often read about these and wish I could buy them as they are highly spiced lamb sausages that originate from North Africa.
Recently I discovered a recipe to add the same flavour when making lamb kebabs, so anyone who makes their own Merguez sausages might like to use this recipe than shove the mixture into sausage skins.  For a 'skinless' sausage version, just roll the mixture into middle-finger length and thickness and fry until cooked.

Merguez Lamb kebab/sausage mixture: makes 12
2 tblsp each cumin, coriander, and fennel seeds
1 tblsp paprika pepper
2 tblsp harissa
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1lb 12oz (800g) minced lamb
salt and pepper
Put all the spices into a small dry frying pan and toast until beginning to 'pop' (do not let them burn). Tip into a mortar and grind to a powder with a pestle, then mix in the harissa, garlic, and cinnamon. 
Put the minced lamb into a bowl with the spices and seasoning to taste and dive in with clean hands and work the lot together until everything is well combined (if you wish to use this mix to make sausages, you can pulse the meat/spices/seasoning together in a food processor to make more of a meat 'paste', but don't overdo it or it will end up like a puree/pate).
This mixture can be made and chilled for a day before forming into kebabs or into sausages.  Then barbecue/fry in the normal way until cooked through.

Time for me to take my leave as Gill will be phoning shortly.  I will be back again on Tuesday. See you then.