Monday, September 09, 2013

Before It's Too Late...

Beware! I'm going to have another bleat about something I've already moaned about.  Truth is, I may not be so far out when it comes to the crunch.

In the paper this weekend there was a short article headed "Forget darning... these are today's top lie skills".  Tasks all deemed essential to today's modern life.  The one good thing (at least to me) was that being able to cook came fifth (out of 20).  So could be a bit of a Pandora's box there.

Worth taking a look at the list, given in order of priority:
Googling; Operating a mobile phone; Connecting WiFi's; Online banking; Learning to cook; Being able to turn the water off at the mains; Knowing what goes into each recycling bin; Knowing about privacy settings online; Using a calculator; Using a self-service checkout; Searching and applying for jobs online; Using Google maps; Updating/installing computer programmes; Being able to use sat-nav; Touch typing; Re-heating food in the microwave; Checking in online prior to getting to the airport; Uploading photographs; Communicating on Facebook; Changing settings on the thermostat.

Have to say there are only (just) five of the above I can do with any amount of proficiency, and none have to do with computors!  So no wonder every reader in the first flush of youth thinks I am past having any sense.

There is another list given.  The 20 skills no longer essential to know.  How many agree with these?:
Darning; knitting; Polishing brass/silver; Baking fresh bread; Putting up a tent; Writing postcards; Sewing; Knowing the phone number of friends; Servicing the car yourself; Understanding pounds and ounces; Dinner party etiquette; Writing letters; Speaking a foreign language; Knowing capital cities; Understanding feet and inches; Putting up a shelf; Learning car journeys in advance/knowing how to get from A to B; Being able to change a tyre; Neat handwriting; Knowing how to spell long words.

Thankfully I can still do most of the above, but leave B to sort out any car probs. even though - given an instruction book - I would have a go myself).  Obviously a lot of the latter skills are not now 'essential' to life (dinner party etiquette etc), but certainly some knowledge of old skills and others not mentioned (like lighting a coal/wood fire) just MIGHT still be the sort of knowledge that we 'need to know'. 

The article goes on to say "For generations, there are skills that have been passed down from parent to child because they were deemed so essential to everyday life.  However, it seems that technology is wiping out some of those skills as gadgets can now do it for us".
The first list mainly consists of using electricity in some form or another, and it poses the question.. .'If there was a sudden loss of national power, then how would we cope?  Tonight on Channel 4, 9.00pm  there is a prog. called 'Blackout', and what would happen if there was a sudden loss of electricity over the country,k and for at least a week.  It will make interesting watching and I do hope persuade many that we really do need to learn how to survive if this could happen.   If it did (soon) then I can see that us 'oldies' would suddenly become the most powerful people as everyone would be pounding on our doors pleading with us to show them what to do.  In another fifty years there won't be any of us left and then what would people do? 

Before the above prog, we have Jamie O's new series to delight in.  At least this time his meals will be 50p a head cheaper than last time (£1.30 a portion instead of £1.80).  Who knows, next week they could be even cheaper.   On BBC 2 (think at the same time as 'Blackout') there is a programme also about consumerism which I want to watch (so will watch 'Blackout' an hour later on channel 4 + 1, Freeview 13). Desperately hope I don't fall asleep.

In all the previous series of '....Bake Off' I've been wide awake, eyes glued to the screen.  This time I can't seem to keep my concentration.  Not sure why.  I've fallen asleep half-way through, and the same thing happens when I watch the repeats.  Suppose I could watch them again on iPlayer, but I limit my time on the comp so normally don't bother.  Am sure they will be repeated again (and again).

Time for me to reply to comments...
Thanks T.Mills for enjoying my 'ramblings' (sometimes I feel you are the only one), so you may find today's mutterings of mine also thought provoking.

Am pretty sure jane that it us becayse you now have plenty of cooking experience under your belt you are able to realise that there us a lot more to budgeting and economy meals than the TV cooks show us.  When these cooks have had several books published, it gets harder to think up new ideas for another book, and although 'economy' is now to the forefront, am sure that when 'A girl called Jack' brings out her book, this will be of more use than any of those written by Jamie and the H.B's, because unlike the 'wealthy' cooks, she really does live life on the breadline. 

Had not thought of asking on eBay if anyone has a spare part for the food processor. However, yesterday fished out the broken bits from the waste bin and asked B for a tube of his glue, and myself have managed to stick half of it together again, fitting together well (can't even see the join), but have to wait 24 hours before using it. Today will stick together the second bit (both bits join in two places), and after another 24 hours will give it a try.  Am considering gluing the metal grater onto the plastic holder to give it extra security as although I have four different 'cutters' there is only one I use, so it might as well stay with the other bit.   If it doesn't work, then I'm not 'bovvered'.  As said before, I can grate and shred by hand (like generations before me).  At least I have the time to do this.  And now a radio to listen to.

A radio is very good company (I listen only to Radio 4 these days as my digital radio won't get all the channels - who says advancement works?), and now is the only company I get as B has taken to just about living in the dining room where his second-hand £20 plasma TV has pride of place.  He even watches programmes that I'm watching in the living room.  The only time I see B is first thing in the morning when he brings me a mug of coffee as I type my blog, and sometimes he sits in the living room doing the crossword, most other times he is either in the garage or in here watching TV.  When his supper is ready I call him, and move myself into the living room while he sits and eats his meal in the kitchen, then back he goes to watch TV again.  He has now stopped coming in to tell me he has gone to bed.  When I go to bed, half the time I see a light in the dining room and know he is still there, or I find he is asleep in bed.
Perhaps this is a good thing.... neither of us are young, and whoever goes first the other then will be alone, so perhaps we are both learning how to be alone.  Of course B still has to learn how to cook something more than stir-fry, and I will have to learn how to cope with fitting new light bulbs etc.  But it's a pity that we now have drifted apart so much.  But then we were never really 'together', B always having completely different interests to me and the old fashioned approach that 'a wife should be seen but not heard, and preferably not even seen'.  Just there to cook, clean, and raise children.

My goodness Kathryn, you really have been working hard, and reading between the lines I have a feeling that several times you have had that great feeling (as I have once or twice) that you've worked so hard you've earned the right to live.  I do admire all you do, you have so many talents and skills and do keep them up (when you have time).  Do you still play the harp?
Your mention of having a 'digital detox' is another reminder that many people do spend far more time on their computer than they really should be doing.  There are only 24 hours in the day and one third of that should be in sleep, so time is precious, and we could do more with it than just gazing at the screen.  I should talk - I watch far too much TV, but if I was younger....!

It is one of the best years for blackberries, so everyone who can should go and pick as many ripe berries as possible, they freeze very well.  An old wives tale was that they should not be gathered after Sept 29th (for that is the time the Devil comes down to eat them), but as the season is slightly later this year, perhaps this could be ignored.  However, we do have around 3 weeks more of picking time, so worth harvesting now and not leave it until too late when the weather may have changed for the worse.

Was so please to read your comment Angela (managing on £10 a week). Certainly, if we already have a few ingredients in our store cupboard at the start, this challenge is even easier, and I'd like to hope that once we have begun to build up more stores, we needn't again need to spend more than the £10 a week to replace the 'fresh'.  Of course we would have to cut down on what we might normally have bought (like expensive foods) but there is so much on sale at a price we can still afford that - once we know how -  we can use to make wonderful meals. 
Good to know that dried milk works out at only 15p a pint and although the flavour might not be to everyone's taste when drunk as-is, when mixed with fresh (real) milk, half of each, it is undetectable. So fresh milk at 25p pint and dried milk at 15p pint means 'just like fresh' for 20p pint.  Well, it's still a saving.
When baking, and milk needed, I often used to add dried milk to the other dried ingredients (flour etc), and make up with water.  Always seems to work OK.

Thanks Margie for the names of the books (wartime memories etc).  Will make a list and give it to B to take to the library in the hope they can get them for me.  It is said that there is a possibility that libraries will close (due to books now being available to be read on Kindle, tablets etc).  Another worry.  A disaster strikes and we then have nowhere to find books that teach us the old skills. Who knows, old cook books might then be able to be sold for a small fortune.  But even then, who would be able to work out the (old) weights and measures.  At least I have some books that don't even use these.  Just 'a tablespoon of this, a teaspoon of that etc, and the oven hot enough to burn your hand if you leave it in there 30 seconds....!!). Those were the days.

Blogger doesn't show all the comments that come in, usually omitting those who are only there to give their own blog/website details, and there were two of those today not worth replying to.  However, there was one other (maybe shown), not even an 'anonymous' just 'unknown'.  Such a sad blog from a lady who is having to cope and not knowing where or how more savings can be made. She has only £130 a month to spend on food (for herself, husband and number of children not given).  Has to walk 5 miles a day to save bus expenses etc.  Wish I could meet face to face and then maybe able to suggest ways of spending less but enjoying life a bit more.  The best thing I can do is refer her to where she will find many really low-cost recipes.   Trouble is time. Time to prepare the food, time to cook it. 

Sometimes I feel that in a two-parent family, it might just be cheaper for one (usually the woman) to stay at home and cook, knit, sew - using all the old skills, than go out to work.  Work at home can be just as hard (often harder) but immensely satisfying and can save a great deal of money.  But perhaps not for the young of today who would look on this as almost 'slave labour'. 
'Unknown' sounds very down and very tired, and this can be both depressing and stressful, and
- having been in this slough of despond myself - know how hard it is to lift yourself out of this, but once we can find some enjoyment with work (and this is usually 'home' work), things can only get better (or at least 'seem' better).

Louise is the lucky owner of a large marrow, and requests suggestions of use, so here are some ideas.  The good thing about marrows harvested in late summer  (butternut squash and other gourds) is that they will store well in a dark, dry, airy place, preferably fairly cool (although I usually put marrows on top of a cupboard in the kitchen ,and butternut in my veggies basket where I keep my onions and they have kept well for months.). Once cut into, they will need using up within a few days.

During wartime, vegetable marrow seemed to be the staple diet for our family. My dad grew loads, many on top of the Anderson shelter, and - as I said - they kept well throughout the winter.  My mother used to cut off the ends, scoop out the seeds, and stuff them with sage and onion (or thyme and parsley) stuffing, this was then roasted in the oven and eaten instead of a Sunday joint.  Eaten mid-week as well.  Initially I enjoyed it, but not ALL the time.

Here is the recipe for 21st century stuffed marrow and a far cry from the wartime version because this now contains meat.  Even so, we can still economise by using less meat and more of the other main ingredients.
Some recipes would suggest cooking this with the stuffed halves re-assembled and tied together (or like my mother did, keep the marrow whole and remove seeds and stuff it from the ends (in which case omit the cheese).  This version is cooked 'open-stuffed'.  Make your own choice as how to cook this.

Stuffed Marrow: serves 4
1 marrow (approx. 2lb/1kg)
1 onion, finely chopped
4 tblsp sunflower oil
12 oz (350g) minced beef or pork (see above)
4 oz (100g) mushrooms, finely chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
4 oz (100g) cooked rice
2 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
half tsp ground cinnamon
salt and pepper
2 fl.oz (50ml) beef stock
3 oz (75g) cheddar cheese, grated
Halve the marrow lengthwise, scoop out and discard seeds and pith. Carefully scoop out about a quarter of the flesh from each half, and then chop this. 
Put half the oil into a frying pan over medium-low heat.  Add the onion and chopped marrow and fry until softened and beginning to tinge with gold.  Using a slotted spoon, remove from the pan and set to one side.
Increase heat to high, and add the minced meat to the pan and fry until lightly browned, then add the mushrooms and tomatoes (adding more oil if necessary), then reduce heat back down to medium-low and continue cooking and stirring for a further 3 minutes.  Return the onions and marrow to the pan with the rice, parsley, spices, seasoning and stock.  Stir well and remove from heat.
Place marrow halves in a roasting tin, brush with oil and fill both halves with the mixture.  Drizzle any remaining oil over the top.  Cover and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for one hour, then remove cover, sprinkle over the grated cheese and bake for a further 20 minutes or until the marrow is tender.
Cut each into half across the centre and serve hot.

Often a big marrow is too large to make one meal, so here are a few more recipes where the surplus marrow can be used and - with the soup - the end result could be frozen.  If wishing to make only two servings of the other dishes, then use half quantities.  Enough recipes here to use up/serve marrow on consecutive days without it becoming boring.
Marrow Soup: serves 4
1 marrow (approx.2lb/1kg)
1 onion, chopped
2 oz (50g) butter
2 tsp plain flour
3/4 pt (450ml) each milk and veg. stock
pinch each ground nutmeg and cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
Peel, seed and chop marrow flesh, then put into a saucepan with the onion and butter.  Place over low heat, cover and allow to sweat to soften but not colour.
Stir in the flour and cook over medium heat for 2 minutes then gradually stir in the milk to form a thin sauce.  Add remaining ingredients, stirring well, then bring to the simmer, cover and reduce heat, then simmer for 20 minutes.  Allow to cool a little before blending (either in the pan using a stick blender, or pour into a liquidiser/processor).  Return to the saucepan and reheat, adding more seasoning if required.  Serve hot.   Cool completely after blending and then freeze.

Next recipe is a version of 'Mediterranean Roast Vegetables', and anyone familiar with this dish will know that the more colour the better, and - like the trad. roast veg - we could include aubergines, onions and garlic. The more veggies we serve, the less of everything else (like expensive meat!!)
As the marrow used is small, then a perfect way to use an over-grown courgette (virtually the same thing).
As the recipe stands, this make a very good accompaniment to not just roast/grilled chicken, lamb, or beef, but also to small, whole baked fish such as sea bass (if you can afford it!).
Roast Marrow with other veg: serves 4
1 small marrow (approx. 1 lb/500g) see above
4 tblsp olive oil
1 red and 1 yellow bell pepper, cut into thick strips
4 tomatoes, quartered
salt and pepper
1 tblsp fresh oregano or marjoram
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
2 fl oz (50 ml) passata (or ketchup)
2 fl oz (50ml) water
Chop marrow into bite-size pieces.  Put the oil in a roasting tin, add the oil and marrow and toss together. Add the peppers and tomatoes, seasoning and the herbs and give another good toss so all are coated with the oil.
Roast at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for half and hour, turning once.  Meanwhile mix the passata with the water and pour this around the inside of the roasting tin.  Return to the oven and continue baking for a further 15 minutes or until all the veggies are tender and the marrow is light gold.  Serve hot.

Although normally made with courgettes, no reason why marrow cannot be used (or butternut squash/pumpkin...) for this cake.  So another very different way to use up the last of a giant marrow.l
Courgette/Marrow Cake: makes 8 slices
4 oz (100g) sultanas
4 fl oz (100ml) apple juice
8 oz (225g) courgette or marrow flesh
8 oz (225g) butter
8 oz (225g) caster sugar
2 eggs
1 eating apple
1 tsp salt
half tsp ground cinnamon
8 oz (225g) self-raising flour
Put the sultanas into a basin with the apple juice and leave to soak for approx. 30 minutes. Meanwhile, grate the courgette/marrow and put into a clean tea-towel, pressing or squeezing to remove as much moisture as possible.
Cream together the butter and sugar, then gradually beat in the eggs. Add the drained sultanas and courgette/marrow, peel and grate the apple and add this to the mixture.
Stir the salt and cinnamon into the flour then sift this over the mixture, fold together then spoon into a greased 2lb (1kg) loaf tin that has been lined with lightly greased baking parchment.  Level off the top of the cake and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 50 minutes or until golden and a skewer (or cocktail stick) pushed into the centre comes out clean.
Leave to cool in the tin for 15 minutes or so, then  turn out the cake, removing the parchment, and then place on a cake airer until cold.  This cake will keep for up to a week when stored in an air-tight tin. 
If you have no storage tin, wrap the cooled cake in baking parchment and then tightly in kitchen foil.

Grating then squeezing courgette or marrow flesh in a tea-towel (as above) to remove excess moisture works with the following recipe, so you could - at the same time - make enough grated/squeezed marrow for both the following AND the above recipe.  Make the fritters on the day (kids love these), and eat the cake days later.
Courgette/Marrow Fritters: serves 4
approx. 1 lb grated and squeezed marrow flesh
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
2 tblsp chopped fresh chives
3 eggs, beaten
2 tsp paprika pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
salt and pepper
3 oz (75g) grated Parmesan cheese
7 oz (200g) plain flour
4 fl oz (100ml) sunflower oil
juice of 1 lemon
Mix the prepared marrow with the onion, herbs, eggs, paprika, cumin and seasoning. Stir in the cheese and flour then leave to stand for 30 minutes.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan, then drop in tablespoons of the mixture, spacing well apart, and fry over medium heat, turning halfway, until golden on both sides (takes approx. 5 minutes total). Remove with a slotted spoon onto kitchen paper to drain away excess oil, and keep warm until all the batter has been used.  Serve, sprinkled with lemon juice.

It rained during the night, but now the sun has come out and it looks like being a fairly dry day, not that I expect to go outdoors - busy in the kitchen preparing B's supper (have to time it so I can watch Tenko and Downton Abbey).  Tomorrow we'll be going to Barton Grange, taking our next-door neighbour (my new friend) so won't be blogging.  Norma comes early on Wednesday but am hoping to write a short blog after she has left.  Can't promise, but will try as would like to chat about the progs shown tonight (mentioned above) before I forget what it was I wanted to say (or should that be 'moan about'?).

Don't know about you, but I felt very cold yesterday.  I sat shivering in my easy chair in the always cold living room, wearing a thick cardi, cuddling a hot water bottle and with two quilts over me that I had pulled right up to my neck.  And still I couldn't get warm.  Dread to think how I'll feel when the cold weather really arrives.
I've remembered I've still got a very over-sized cardigan (stretched in the wash), so that could be useful to wear on top of an ordinary cardigan, this itself worn on top of a jersey 'jumper', and with a short-sleeved T shirt under that and possibly a sleeveless T shirt under THAT, I may find I can keep in any warmth I have.   I have only one 100% real wool jumper, and that (alone) is the only garment that really makes me feel warm.  But I keep finding small holes in it (moths?), so it is ending up more darned than anything, but being black and darned with real wool, who flippin' well cares.  It still looks OK and as long as I'm warm what else matters?  Maybe holes in woollen garments may come into fashion, like frayed holes in denim jeans.  What is the world coming to?

Have rambled on enough so will love you and leave you but hope you will keep on sending comments as you know I love to receive them.  I suppose one good reason for sitting at the computer, but no better reason I can think of. 
I had an email the other day from a local restaurant that we occasionally use, I didn't bother to read it, then another came up from (presumably) the same place that said to look on 'Facebook' (or was it Twitter) as there were a lot of my 'friends' waiting to get in touch with me.  Now, how can that possibly be?  I'm not even wanting to click the box to find out who these 'friends' are in case it is some sort of virus or hacker wanting to get my virtual address book.  If anyone wants to get in touch with me, they can do it via this blog.  To me 'Facebook' and Twitter are a complete waste of valuable time, time that could be spent doing more useful things.  Know that many readers will disagree, but then I come from a different era when there seemed not enough hours in the day to do all that needed to be done, and nothing to distract us then, not even TV. 
I'm beginning to wonder if the 3 or so hours I spend on the comp reading emails and blogging are a waste of time.  I really hope not.    Enjoy your day, and hope to return Wednesday. See you then.