Saturday, September 21, 2013

A quick Chat...

Up early this morning, desserts finished for tonight, so thought I'd catch up with comments, then take the day off...

That pie maker jane sounds good but you mentioned it making 2 pies.  The ones I've seen (Lakeland etc) all make four pies, and the newer version can have a different and smaller changeable insert to make more smaller mince pies.
Taking 10 minutes to bake a pie is quite good as normally any pastry baked in the oven takes at least 25 minutes, and we also have to allow extra time for the oven to heat up.  Incidentally, does your pie-maker cook evenly, or do the pies tend to have 'soggy bottoms' (when baking pies I try to cook the base blind before I fill and place the pastry on top - this then means, overall, they take even longer to cook).

Using tinned meats in pies does help to make it go further, any meat for that matter, and when we take a look at the percentage of meat in a bought pie, we see they use very little anyway.  So we don't HAVE to use a lot more.  Meat is not essential to our diet, as we can get our protein from other foods, and now meat is becoming so very expensive, we should all be cutting down on the portions served - these being recommended - nutritionally - as around 4 oz/100 per person (weight before cooking which normally weighs less after cooking).  Eating meat in casseroles, rather than roasts, we can get away with eating even less as the meat juices remain in the 'gravy' so we retain the full monty.

Myself also hopes the weather is good this weekend as I want to lift all my geraniums, pot them into individual small pots for the winter, and then plant some of the bulbs bought recently.  Was intending to do this earlier, but not quite time for bulb planting (my excuse).
But as the new 'Downton...' begins tomorrow (and earlier the repeat of '...Bake Off', I've plenty to look forward to sitting in my chair, also enjoying having two days to myself as B has a 'sailing weekend' (and club meal) tonight, so I can please myself what I wish to do.

Sounds as though you should start shopping elsewhere Janet.  Do make a strong complaint at the customer service counter at Asda, as having to return TWO purchases in a very few days is definitely not on.  Tell them you are now thinking of shopping elsewhere and I bet they'll give you something as way of apology (voucher) to keep your custom.  Worth a try.

Probably you won't have time to read this Sarina, but do hope you have a lovely holiday in Morocco, and enjoy their traditional cuisine.  Tagine comes to mind.  I just love that.  So looking forward to hearing all about it.  Sad lady that I am, I normally don't visit other blog sites, as use the computer only as a means of writing my own (and that now sounds selfish).  Am so afraid I'll turn into one of those people who can't keep away from reading other blogs, Face Book, and Twitter, because I just KNOW that once I start, I too will get 'hooked'.

My blog originally began as a way to describe my 'cost-cutting life' and give only recipes, hints and tips, but unfortunately it has grown into more of a day to day 'diary', filled with other things that have no bearing on food.  However, readers (or at least some of them) don't seem to mind this, so I'll just keep writing about the good, the bad, and the ugly.  And of course FOOD!

Most of the summer I've cooked only small potatoes, but this week bought a few baking potatoes.  One I cooked as 'roast spuds' to go with B's beef, and yesterday I microwaved one as a 'jacket', and didn't realise how much I'd missed eating these.  It is good to buying some foods for several months as it makes it far more enjoyable when they are eaten again.  Eating fresh foods only when in season (as we always used to) makes a lot of sense as nature has provided us with the right nutrients at the right time of the year.  Having said that, it does make cooking a little easier when we have more (and imported) veggies to play with, all year round.
At one time I thought asparagus was about the only 'seasonal' food sold in our supermarkets (usually late spring for a week or so?), but saw bundles of these on sale the other day, so another 'treat' no longer eagerly waited for. 

Sometimes, being able to buy what we want when we want spoils quite a bit of the pleasure that we used to get looking forward to things, and there are plenty of people I'm sure who are strong-willed enough to wait for the right time of year before they make the purchase.  Me, I tend to get tempted. Not that I like asparagus, but am fond of strawberries.  These, even in season, don't taste as they used to, so why do I bother?  Always hoping I suppose.

Nothing tastes as good as it should any more, even when in season.  Home-grown is better, but not always because EU rules (or whoever makes them) decrees that many old varieties of seeds are not longer to be sold.  Now it seems larger crops of perfect shapes are more important than the flavour (which now seems to come bottom of the list).  Considering we buy fresh foods to EAT and appearance matters not a jot as everything looks the same once chopped, shredded, minced...., you would think flavour has top priority.

Even then, having tried sowing old varieties (still able to be found from specialist outlets) these have disappointed me, and have a feeling a lot could be to do with how they are grown.  My dad used to have a lorry load of manure delivered each year that he would leave to 'mature', digging the previous year's load into his garden.  Worked wonders with the roses, and his tomatoes and veggies all had a flavour to die for.  He would also use soot from the chimneys on his garden, and remember him sprinkling on bonemeal.  'Feeding' the soil in this way seems to give far better results than feeding the plants today using bought products.

Earlier this year we bought a bag of prepared 'farmhouse manure'. Once the bag was opened, it looked much like potting compost and when I was filling the containers this year to plant the geraniums, lobelia etc, being short of potting compost I used quite a bit of this 'manure', and it certainly seemed to work, the plants really grew and grew and the colours were vivid.  I put it down to all the sun and regular watering, but think the 'manure' probably had a lot more to do with it.

Think I once mentioned visiting a mushroom farm in Yorkshire (a group visit by the Leeds Horticultural Society).  We were shown a pile of steaming horse manure that had just arrived from a racing stables.  This was because it was better quality manure due to the food the horses were fed (he said), and this grew better mushrooms than those grown using manure from an ordinary stable.  But whatever, seems that farmhouse manure is something worth using, especially on an allotment.  It would be good to know if Kathryn (who has access to horse manure, and now has an allotment), will find any difference if she uses it.  If she hasn't planned to, then it would be well worth having a trial patch to see if it makes any difference, even if we have to wait for a year to find out. 
Other readers may already grow produce using old methods of 'fertilising' their soil.  Please let us know if it really does work that well.

As there are sometimes requests for meals for one or two, the recipe today make less than normal (most recipes serve four) but of course can be doubled.  This is a good one to make when serving roasted vegetables a day or two previously, as with the advance planning (cooking extra roast veg) most of this dish can be already prepared.  Just reheat up the cooked veg (can be stored for up to two days in an airtight container in the fridge), and continue with the recipe.
Feta cheese is lovely with this dish, but if you have none of that you could use another 'crumbly', such as Wensleydale or crumbly Lancashire (or even goat's cheese).
Have a slight deja vu feeling re this recipe, so apologies if I've given it before.

Roasted Vegetable and Feta Pasta: serves 2
1 small or half a large butternut squash
1 large red bell pepper, seeded, cut into chunks
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 oz (50g) feta cheese, crumbled
1 tsp fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
1 tblsp olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
7 oz (200g) pasta penne (or other shape)
4 oz (100g) baby spinach leaves
Peel the butternut, remove any seeds and pith, and cut the flesh into chunks.  Put these (chunks) into a large roasting tin with the pepper, garlic, feta and rosemary.  Drizzle the oil over the top and season well with pepper. Toss well so that everything is coated with the oil/pepper, spreading the mixture in a single layer in the tin, and roast at 180C, gas 4 for 30 - 40 minutes, giving another toss after 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta as per packet instructions, and when cooked strain and reserve half a mugful of the cooking water.  Add the drained pasta to the vegetables, also adding the spinach.  Stir together until the spinach begins to wilt, adding a splash of the reserved water if becoming too dry.  Serve immediately.

For those who like a taste of 'meat' (in this instance bacon), but can only afford a little, by adding eggs to this dish keeps it both quick and easy to make as well as being inexpensive.  Although Parmesan (not the cheapest of cheeses) is used, as Jamie's prog. showed 'Parmesan as "3p per serving", when finely grated it is not (per portions) expensive at all, so we should use it more often.  
Strictly speaking, spaghetti is the correct pasta for this dish (and Tesco do a very cheap and good spag.), but pasta penne (or other shape) could be used.  If you wish for a runnier sauce then add 2 tblsp crème fraiche or Greek yogurt.  Goes without saying you can use less bacon if you wish, but do use some as the flavour makes all the difference (could use chorizo instead).

Easy Pasta Carbonara:  serves 4
12 oz (350g) spaghetti or linguine
4 oz (100g) smoked streaky bacon, chopped
2 tsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 whole egg
3 egg yolks
2 oz (50g) grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
Cook the pasta as per packet instructions, meanwhile frying the bacon for a few minutes until golden and crisp. Stir in the garlic and fry for a further minute then remove from heat.
Put the whole egg and the yolks into a bowl with half the parmesan and seasoning to taste, and whisk lightly together.
Drain the cooked pasta, reserving half a mug of the cooking liquid.  Return the pasta to the hot pan (still off the heat)  and stir in the eggs plus 1 tblsp of the reserved liquid, mixing gently until the pasta is coated and creamy (the heat from the pasta will cook the egg mixture).  Fold in the bacon and garlic.  Serve topped with the remaining parmesan.

Considering I wasn't intending to blog today, seems I can't keep away.  However MAY take tomorrow off blogging and with B out, may treat myself to a lie-in.  Returning Monday. See you then.