Friday, September 27, 2013

Give Respect....

Next week it will be October.  Hard to believe as yesterday was warm and - once the clouds had rolled away - the sun shone down again.  As we have had a near perfect summer this year, we are now getting a near perfect autumn.  The leaves are beginning to change colour, and with any luck we might even manage without the central heating for another week (or even a month!).   Ground frost was forecast for the end of this week, but no sign of the temperature dropping as low as that so far.

Made a double batch of Fork Biscuits yesterday morning and have to say I sampled one (well I needed to make sure they were baked long enough as I remove them from the oven when pale gold and leave them on the baking sheet to crisp up - which they do).  After eating one, I then ate another, and another.  Did the same with the second batch.  They are SO more-ish.   B has already eaten most of the rest.

It's definitely showing autumn in the Good Kitchen as there are bowls of apples and pears from the garden, more of plums (given), and yesterday our daughter brought me some damsons.  With several tubs of blackberries in the freezer, and some of the above plums, I'm now having to find more space.  Luckily pears should be (and were) picked before they are fully ripe, and will be left at room temperature until ready (this could take a few weeks).

A thanks to Margaret for telling us of her pear/feta/rocket/walnut oil 'salad' (my name not hers). Pears do go well with cheese, particularly blue cheese - a classic dish is Pears, Stilton, and walnuts.  So the walnut oil is a good alternative to nuts.  St Agur is a milder form of blue cheese and one I prefer, but feta cheese (Wensleydale or crumbly Lancashire, or goat's cheese) is a good alternative.
Walnut oil is expensive, and does not have such a long shelf life as some oils, so best used rather than stored for months.  In fact - from the health point of view - like walnuts, this oil is something we should eat regularly, several times a week if poss as the walnuts and esp the oil has been proved to lower our cholesterol.

A welcome to Yggdrasil who is interested on my views about the life force in plants.  Can't - other than times when I do accidentally damage a plan and instinctively apologise - give much thought to their feelings because other times I pull up weeds without a care in the world.

Yet all plants are alive.  They grow, reproduce, die, and this - to me - shows a similar life force to that in animals (we humans are animals) and all get their food (their fuel) from the earth (although some manage to survive on just sun and rain).   All part of the everlasting circle.  The plants provide food for animals, animals provide food for other animals, when all die their bodies (in one form or another) return to replenish the earth and so it starts all over again.
Some animals eat only vegetation, other eat only meat.  We - as humans - eat both, but, as far as I am aware, the meat we eat (other than fish) is an animal that eats only herbage, and not a meat eater.  It has been said that some of their (and our) health problems in recent years has been because animal protein has been added to the processed foods they have been given.  Go against nature and all hell can break loose.

When I belonged to the Leeds Horticultural Society we were given a couple of amazing slide shows by a person who was interested in the cycle of plants, their reproduction etc, and how the plants (themselves with the help of nature/evolution) made darn sure they lured the right insects to them for pollination.  Or not as the case might be.  We believe that 'nature' controls the plant life, and of course this is so, but by the same token 'nature' controlled us until we got civilised.  Goodness knows what mayhem would occur if plants decided to take over and do their own thing. 
Considering that weeds are often stronger then the more tender plants we put in our garden, if we didn't continually keep removing them, they would engulf everything.  Yet even in wild gardens (or countryside) there is a balance, and no doubt for a good (natural) reason.

Once I had a book called 'The Secret Life of Plants' (gave it away before we moved here and now wish I hadn't).  This really seems to prove there is a lot more to plant life than we think.  Certainly it made me respect plants a lot more.  Having said that I have to admit I almost killed one deliberately. 
This was around the time I had joined a psychic group and we had been talking about the power of our minds.   So I went home and sat and glared at a plant on the windowsill, willing it to die.  Sat there for several hours just concentrating on this plant.  Nothing happened to it, so I gave up.  I rose from the chair, went and got myself a cup of coffee, came and sat down again and looked at the plant.  As I did so, the plant just sagged and dropped down dead!  I felt dreadful. Never did it again, although have to say I've tested my 'mind power' once or twice.  Works well with balloons, the ones filled with helium that drift up to the ceiling.  We once (or twice) had several that - after a party - had floated up to the ceiling and I left them there, dotted around the room.  Then would focus my attention on one and after a while could get it drifting across the room (while the others all stayed still).  My B was quite impressed especially when I stopped that balloon and began doing it with another and the same thing happened.

Oh yes, just remembered when the Horti club gave each member a (forced) hyacinth bulb to plant, these to be taken to the club in January to compete to find the best grown.  And I won!  They asked me how I'd been able to grow such a lovely hyacinth (and it was beautiful, everyone else had brought hyacinths with either long stems or the flowers hadn't opened properly).  I told them it was because I talked to it (and it 'talked' back to me).  This was true although the plants 'voice' was in my head, a transference of thought if you like.  It 'told' me to put it into a cold place (like the fridge) when opening too quickly (for the show), and to put it on a sunny windowsill if it needed a bit more help to get the last little florets (if that is what they are called) open.  On the day it was as perfect as it could be. Even I couldn't believe it.  

Am not suggesting we should concern ourselves as to whether we cause distress to plants we grow when we pull them out of the ground.  But perhaps give them a little more respect and thanking them for being food for us wouldn't come amiss.  Thing is about life on earth, there is so much variety and each species tends to go its own way without disturbing another, in harmony if you like, that if we all began to realise that we have to consider each other, then this could cause imbalance.  We may hate slugs but presumably they are here for a purpose (what?), and although I will never kill a spider (why?) I don't mind swatting flies.  Same goes for weeds, if they are a nuisance, they get pulled up without any feeling of compassion.  Yet some say that weeds are just wild plants in the wrong place.

Looks as though I've allowed plants to take over this mornings blog, and only just started on replying to comments, so had better move on to the next.  This is either a welcome (or welcome back) to Kate. Can't remember my own recipe for banana bread, but thanks for sending yours.  Joy  also sends her thanks.  Laura Lou another name to welcome.

Another newcomer to the comment box is Midlander and loved hearing about the sliced of marrow dipped in sugar as once given as a 'sweet treet' in times past.  What a great idea to use marrow instead of apple in a blackberry and apple pie.

Many years ago I used to make Marrow and Ginger jam for a friend who loved it.  Using canned pineapple cubes (roughly chopped), the pineapple juice from the can, plus chopped marrow, sugar and water, this tasted very similar to pineapple jam.

It is surprising (or not) how so many vegetables can be used in place of fruit when making cakes, desserts etc.  Beetroot, carrots, parsnips, courgettes, butternut squash, pumpkin, marrow... all work very well as mainly sweet (or in some instances flavourless so absorb the flavours of other ingredients such as spices...).  A good way to get children eating vegetables when normally they refuse them.
Why is it today that children get away with refusing food.  In 'my day' (here we go again) we had to clear our plates otherwise we'd be given the leftovers cold to eat for the next meal.  So we always ate what we were given, even if we didn't like it. 

They do say that the food mothers eat during pregnancy their offspring will also like to eat after weaning.  Even Brussels sprouts!  So - if planning for a baby, begin eating healthily and continue to do so and ever after your children will never be 'fussy' eaters.  Live on 'ready meals' and pizzas and your child will touch nothing else. You have been warned!

Returning to the cost of meals and my moan about the current view that £1.50 (give or take a few pence) is now the expected cost of a single portion  'budget meal'.  Don't know if readers agree, but once a cost is given, then many might assume that it cannot be (easily) bettered.  If so, this is not much help to novice cooks who would - I expect - base the cost of their (or family) meals on such information, and why it could seem to make sense to still purchase the 'ready made' because so many of these can be cheaper, even though actually not worth the money.

The amount we serve can also make a difference, and if we have a plateful of instant mash with four (or six) of the cheapest sausages, then that looks (and probably is) satisfying.  Yet if we served one really good butcher's sausage with a jacket potato then we could feel deprived, yet there would be more nourishment, vitamins and fibre in this smaller meal than in the cheaper version. 

We don't need to eat a lot to get our daily allowance of nutrients (we could take one multivitamin and mineral pill if we really wanted to take the easy way, probably cheaper too), but food has become much more than just our 'fuel'.  Eating alone we find it comforts us, eating together it can be a social occasion, and the best way to keep families from drifting apart is to eat at least one meal (the main meal) together round a table.  Food plays an important part in our lives (some will say too important and this could be true), so we should give it the respect it deserves and enjoy every mouthful, not just stuff it down our throats as though there is no tomorrow.

Even a marrow can be 'special' when used in a recipe such as this (another taken from 'The Goode Kitchen').  Served with a slice of melon as a starter, or eat as a dessert with (or without) a garnish of pineapple cubes.
The original recipe used only half an ounce of the ginger, but I think it could do with more so have increased the amount. If you haven't any preserved ginger, then use crystallised ginger.

Marrow and Ginger Sorbet: serves 4
1 lb (450g) marrow, flesh roughly chopped
1 oz (25g) preserved ginger, chopped
2 oz (50g) granulated sugar
2 level teaspoons powdered gelatine
2 egg whites, stiffly beaten
Poach the marrow flesh in a little water until soft (or can microwave).  Drain well then liquidise with the ginger or put through a vegetable mill or sieve.   Measure out 15fl oz (400ml) of the marrow and ginger puree and put into a pan with the sugar and gelatine.   Heat gently until the sugar/gelatine have dissolved then pour into a metal dish, cool and freeze until firm round the edges.   Remove from freezer and - using a fork - beat sides into the middle to make a frozen 'mush'. Fold in the beaten egg whites, cover and freeze until firm.   Thaw slightly before serving.

Many years ago I was regularly forwarded the American 'Good Housekeeping Magazine' (by one of the editors of the English G.H. mag, as at that time I used to write articles for them).  How different were the dishes served compared to those from this country, and although seeming strange, after making some, they did taste good.  Here is one that I adapted, taken from the same book as the above recipe.   Lots of room for adaptation with this one.  You could use a pineapple jelly, or use a blend of mayo and yogurt.  Curd cheese can be home-made from yogurt, or use crème fraiche.  Use walnuts or cashew nuts instead of the peanuts.
No need to use kitchen scales, just use a measuring jug (a mug is usually the right size for half pint and in this instance a little more (or less) doesn't  much matter.

This makes a good buffet dish as - when served with other salads, meat etc - it makes several portions.  Easier to serve when poured into a ring mould before chilling to set, just cut into thick slices as you would a cake.
Coleslaw Mousse:
1 pkt lemon jelly
6 fl oz (175ml) water
zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 tblsp mayonnaise
half pint (300ml) finely grated white cabbage
half pint (300ml) finely grated carrot
quarter pint (150ml) salted peanuts, chopped
half pint (300ml) curd cheese
2 egg whites, beaten
Put the jelly in a pan with the water (or in the microwave) and heat slowly until just melted.  Do not boil (boiling prevents the jelly setting properly).  Remove from the heat and add the lemon zest and juice.  Set aside to cool until just beginning to thicken (but not set).  Whisk until thick and frothy, then beat in the mayonnaise.  Fold in the cabbage, carrot, peanuts and cheese.  Finally, fold in the beaten egg whites.  Pour into a bowl and chill in the fridge until set before serving.

Am planning to take the weekend off from blogging (but then again if I can find time might pop back for a natter, so watch this space) as have such a lot to do.  Tomorrow B and I have to be at the surgery early for our flu jabs, Gill will be phoning early on Sunday (for an hour), there is all the fruit to freeze or make into preserves, the geraniums to put in their final pots, bulbs to plant, and more baking to be done.  The conservatory windows need cleaning (the window cleaner was going to come to do them, but he didn't so I'll have to do themj) and as I'll be putting all the potted up plants on the windowsills in there, the windows need cleaning first (B doesn't do windows, or hardly anything domestic when I come to think of it being  'women's work')..
The sooner I can start each day, the more I can get done.  With the weather set fair, should get most of the above completed and be back on track by Monday.  Even with the weekend delay, please keep your comments coming so that I have something to look forward to reading. 

Traditionally blackberry picking ends on 29th September, so if you haven't already been berry picking, then aim to do so this weekend. 
That date was my dad's birthday.  He was born in 1896, 117 years ago.  I think of my parents early life in the 1920's - around the time that Downton Abbey is set in this new series, which helps me visualise their lifestyle.  A very different way to now, yet not a lot different in the 30's when I was born, and suppose we all tend to be stuck in our own personal time warp, very few of us moving with the times, although able to accept them still preferring much of 'how it used to be'. Perhaps more comfortable with what we know rather than having to keep learning new ways.  To me, Edwardian times are almost 'history', so suppose my parents times feel like 'history' to my children, and my early lifetime would seem alien to our grandchildren.   Yesterday said to  "I'm beginning to feel I'm turning into a living fossil".  My mind still feels as young as 35, just stuck in the wrong (and very old) body.

Can't stop rambling can I?  Sorry about that, but really MUST get on and do what has to be done, or it will be Tuesday before I return, and can't leave it that long.  Enjoy the good weather while we have it.  The days are shortening, the nights are lengthening, and soon the clocks will go back.  Wonder what weather the winter will bring.  Have a feeling it won't be that cold this year.  Let us hope so. TTFN.