Sunday, August 11, 2013

Taking Control

Thanks for the advice re placing **** to separate sections of this blog. Am sure it will make it easier to read. **** Re your 'cremated' bread Louise. Am assuming you cook the bread dough in the oven, not in a bread machine. It could be your oven is too hot (or maybe set too low). Try covering the dough with a loose tent of foil (shiny side up) to reflect away some of the surface heat, this should help to keep the crust a lighter colour. Also pouring cold water into a pre-heated roasting tin placed in the bottom of the oven helps give a steamy atmosphere that helps to keep the crust less 'crusty'. **** Don't know if anyone watched 'Men who make us Fat' on TV last week. It really opened my eyes to the lengths people will go to to make profits. Briefly it was about making mint of money using corn syrup (from a surplus of maize) in food products instead of sugar (the syrup being a third cheaper than sugar). This then led to more confectionery on the shelves ('snacks'), and of course this then led to the rise in obesity in the US (now also here). Thankfully for those in government who had shares in corn, a man decided that it was fat not sugar that caused the health problems, so as there was no loss of money when fat consumption was reduced, corn syrup was still used in quantity. Manufacturers could rub their hands in glee for this mean new products could appear on the shelves: Low fat, Reduced Fat, Healthy Eating etc...but - as food scientist explained - reducing fat from foods made the produce unpalatable, and to get people to continue eating these low-fat products, these were given back taste by adding sugar and salt!! The two ingredients that would cause more health problems than the fat they replaced. ****I look forward to seeing the next episode of this series, for am sure that we will soon find that just about everything 'ready to eat' on the shelves will be there, not because the manufacturers are concerned about our health, only because they find that by persuading us to leave all the work to them (just 'heat and eat') they are lining their pockets with even more money. The only way we can pull ourselves out of this quagmire is to start taking control in our own kitchen. ****Now, of course it's OK to use convenience foods, I do it all the time. For instance who makes custard from scratch anymore? Even top chefs admit to enjoying custard made with custard powder. By all means use convenience foods when these save so much time, but ALWAYS as a small part of the meal, not the whole thing. As long as we can provide the 'fresh', and by this I mean the meat, fish, fruit and vegetables (and frozen is as good if not better than some fresh veggies), then we are well on the way to providing healthy meals. ****Myself believe that when it comes to 21st century cooking is that - viewed by a novice - it all looks so incredibly difficult and time-consuming, and in a way it can appear like this when we read the many recipes that are given in books and mags. So many had loads of ingredients (mainly to add flavour) but any lengthy list of ingredients is very off-putting, I'm sure you all agree. What I like to see are five ingredients or less (but the problem then is the dish they make can end up a lot more expensive than one made with four times as many). Collecting together the ingredients (and putting them back) and then preparing them can take much longer than just the assembling of the dish ready to cook, so it's perhaps not a bad idea to return to some of the old-style recipes that our grandmothers used to cook - almost with their eyes shut, they prepared them so often and never needed a recipe book to refer to. ****Have a feeling I've said all this before, but it is worth repeating. So - over the next few weeks I'll be giving some easy-to-make recipes, hoping that they will be understandable as the ingredients can't be listed in the normal way (with method beneath)until the blog site has been returned to how it used to be. ****Before that, must give a mention to something I discovered yesterday. I was making another batch of 'Fork Biscuits' for my Beloved to nibble (he has already eaten most of them!!), and instead of squashing them down with a fork, suddenly thought I'd try using my meat basher (a wooden mallet that has a pattern on each side to break down meat fibres). So - after rolling the dough into balls and putting them on the baking tray, then lightly dusted the tops with flour and pressed each down firmly with the mallet. The balls then appeared as flat perfect circles, each with a very professionally looking waffle pattern on each that stayed there throughout the baking. I was SO pleased (especially as I'd seen a cookie tin on sale (shallow with a waffle pattern base) that would turn out 12 exactly the same as mine but costs a penny under £15! **** Of course the biscuit dough could have been rolled out fairly thinly and cut into circles, squares or oblongs...using a scone cutter or just a knife. Do we really need to make what we cook look as though it has been made professionally? Maybe, by doing so we defeat our object - proving that home-made is best. It is noticeable that anything sold as 'home-made' now always looks a bit mis-shaped, and anyway, it is the flavour we should be enjoying, not necessarily the appearance. Looking perfect is only worth aiming for when we are - perhaps - making something to give as a gift, or when entertaining, and only then to prove we've put a bit more love and care into what we are making. ****A final word for today. Not everyone enjoys cooking (or even the very thought of it). Myself did not learn how to cook 'properly' until I was around 40, and even then had to find a way to make it enjoyable. This I did by concentrating more on the cost of cooking, proving that it was so much cheaper to make something from scratch rather than buy. So I would set myself little challenges: 'How much could I make for 50p', or how much more could I make than just the price of a bought cake (making not just the same cake but a dozen small fairy cakes and probably biscuits as well). **** It crossed my mind this week that if we could persuads diffident cooks that it really IS worth making meals etc from scratch BECAUSE they would end up with money for themselves, then perhaps they might give it a try. An example. Let's say a wife is cooking for herself, husband and four children (total 6) and has - up to that point - spent £200 a week on food (yes, many do), then making as much as she can (that she might normally have bought) she would probably have saved half the food budget (a whopping £100). They way I see it - the wife has now become a semi-professional cook, her own 'manufacturer' of meals, and worth being paid for the effort. So why not pocket £50 of the savings for her own use, and put the other £50 towards ever increasing household bills? If this idea gets people to think it might just be worth spending time cooking, then why not? It's a win, win situation. The family eat better meals, the food costs less, the cook has money to treat herself, and money left over for something else. There must be a snag. Am sure a reader will think of one (and before I'm told off for expecting anyone to pay £200 on food, it would still work with a lesser bill as long as initially, most of the food was bought 'ready to eat' (even though some heating - often called 'cooking' - might have been involved. ****Today will be finishing off the vegetable soup I made yesterday (using home-made chicken stock and many veggies that were lurking in the fridge drawer: parsnips, small potatoes, carrots, celery, and adding onions of course (these are kept in a basket in the kitchen, not in the fridge). I need to lose weight (like 4lb a week!) and so hope the soup will fill me up enough to keep me away from the 'naughties'. Must also make another loaf of bread (plus mini-loaves) as B is eating these up at a rate of knots. ****May be back tomorrow, if not it will be Tuesday. Do hope you all are having a good weekend, it is breezy here, a little cooler, cloudy with some sunny spells but thankfully no rain. Not a lot of summer left, in the blink of an eye it will be autumn. How rapidly the year moves on. TTFN.