Monday, September 30, 2013

Thoughts of Autumn

Don't know about you, but this spell of autumnal weather is really making me feel good with memories of how it used to be like this so many, many years ago.  Thanks to Pam for her comment, she is also enjoying warm weather, warmer than us (but then she lives in Texas), but - for once - am not envious.  Ours is just perfect, around 11C at night, and 20C day time (slightly warmer down south). We did have a stiff breeze on Saturday night that brought down quite a few leaves, but plenty more to come as our road is lined with big horse-chestnut trees, taller than the houses.

We are expecting this year to have a colourful leaf display around the country if the wind stays away, so hoping to drive up through the Lake District in a couple of weeks or so.  Once it has begun in the south, it usually takes a couple or so weeks for the colour change to catch up in the north.

A few comments sent in, but not all using the same comment box (some using ones from earlier blogs - the ones they were reading at that time - so although I do receive all comments within hours of being sent (they arrive with my emails), not all will be seen in the last collection of comments.  However, as all new comments are replied to (at least any that need a reply), nothing of note is being missed.

A request from Susan G. for a recipe for green tomato chutney.  Most recipes for this chutney are very similar, but have plenty of opportunity to adapt to suit person tastes.
For instance:  use a mixture of green and red tomatoes if you want a more 'sweet-sour' flavour (adding the red tomatoes half-way through cooking).  The vinegar can be the brown malt, the clear 'white', or cider vinegar.  Onions used can be red or white. The dried fruit can be sultanas or raisins.
The sugar should be as given as this gives the correct sweetness, but if you haven't the correct sort you could use Demerara and a teaspoon or two of black treacle.  But then I'm one who does like to experiment.  If you haven't made if before, stick to the recipe as much as possible.
The 'bite' to the chutney can be included by adding red chillis, mustard seeds, or mustard powder and ground black pepper, or just a dash of chilli sauce.  Never add too much of the spicies as we can't take the heat away, just start small and then add more until it reaches the 'kick' we are hoping for.

Green Tomato Chutney: makes about 4 lbs
1.5lb (750g) green tomatoes (see above), halved
500ml vinegar, malt or white
9 oz (250g) sultanas or raisins
1 large red or white onion, chopped
1 - 2 tsp salt
14oz (400g) light muscovado sugar
3 tsp ground black pepper OR....
...2 - 3 tsp (or to taste) red chilli sauce
2 tsp mustard seeds
Put all the ingredients into a preserving pan, bring to the boil then reduce heat and simmer for one hour.  If including red tomatoes, add these aver 25 minutes.  Stir occasionally during the cooking time.  When ready (the chutney should have thickened), pot up into clean, sterilized jars, seal with vinegar proof lids and store in a cook dark place.  This chutney will keep for a year, but store in the fridge once opened and eat within a month.

Some weeks ago I wrote a blog that contained a recipe for fried green tomatoes, but - a it was the old comp - on that day it wouldn't publish.  Not sure if I have given the recipe since, but as we are talking 'green' then perhaps today is a good time to repeat it.  If you haven't cornmeal, then you could use semolina.
'Whistle Stop Fried Green Tomatoes: serves 4
4 large green tomatoes
4 oz (100g) cornmeal (polenta flour)
salt and pepper
2 tblsp sunflower oil
Slice the tomatoes into 1 cm (half inch) thick rounds.  Season well, then dip the slices into the cornmeal until coated.  Fry in the oil over medium-hot heat until golden on both sides (takes approx. 5 minutes total). Eats well served with grilled meats and esp. bacon.

Sun-dried tomatoes are fairly expensive to buy, so why not make a similar version ourselves?  Take the opportunity to use up the last of the ripe tomatoes and semi-dry some in the oven.  Once made they are then stored in the fridge and should be used within a month, but worth freezing some (with or without the oil) to make them keep a bit longer.
Semi-dried Tomatoes: serves 4 - 6
12 ripe tomatoes
salt and pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
olive oil
Halve the tomatoes and remove the seeds.  Quarter the flesh and arrange on a baking tray.  Sprinkle with seasoning and the herbs, drizzling a little oil over.
Place in the oven on the lowest heat and leave until most of the moisture has gone (this can take 3 - 4 hours).  Place the tomatoes in a clean, sterilised jar, then add enough olive oil to cover, tapping the jar on a work top to remove air bubble.  Cover and store in the fridge..

Thanks to T-bird Annie for her comment.  Do agree that having groceries delivered - despite delivery charges - works well.  At least for me.  This gives me an added bonus as when shopping in store, se often get tempted and buy things, then when taken home think "why did I buy that, I didn't really need it?" (and wish I hadn't). Shopping online I can fill my virtual shopping trolley with all sorts of foods that have tempted me, and get some pleasure from doing this, but the next day can scroll down and remove all these 'unnecessaries' before sending the final order (but have to make sure I do this in time). Believe me, I've reduced my original order by £50 just by removing all the temptations.

We went to have our flu jab on Saturday, this time it was a long, standing queue with only one, and then later two doctors giving the jabs.  I let B queue while I sat down, then caught up with him about half an hour later when he was close to the front of the queue. It was a good time to 'people watch', one young girl in particular spent most of the time tapping away at her mobile, and can only think she was 'tweeting'.  Seems this is the fashion, to let everyone know what you are doing the moment you are doing it (like waiting in a long queue to have a flu jab!).  Who flipping well cares?
A man was helped out of the room by a nurse and told to sit down for 15 minutes before he left.  Seems he had nearly fainted.  I was told (previously by the practice nurse) that many men faint at the thought of being stuck with a needle.  Haven't heard that it affects women this way.  And we are supposed to be the weaker sex?
Our doctor was very good, neither B nor I felt anything. Not even the slightest prick.  Unfortunately I was 5 months past the age of being allowed the shingles vaccination (only up to 79).  Learned something new.  We can't catch shingles, but those who have had chicken pox when younger, and their health is at a low ebb, could find their 'pox' comes out of hibernation and returns as shingles.  However, anyone with shingles CAN pass it on as chicken pox to those who have not already had it, so should keep away from pregnant women etc.

As we were close to Morrison's after leaving the surgery, decided to call in and pick up a few (few, that's a laugh), things that I could do with. It was only 9.;30am, but the three store's scooters had all been taken by early shoppers, so I came home empty handed, knowing full well I'd enough in the house to keep us going for weeks anyway.  So why did I feel the need to shop anyway?  Suppose it's a bit of a habit, maybe the 'hunter-gatherer' instinct that is particularly powerful at this time of year (build up the stores to see us through winter etc). 
The fridge is looking a bit sad.  Three shelves almost empty, even the veggie drawers are half-empty.  However the freezers are full to bursting.

When we returned, decided to scoot out with Norris and get some veggies from the local butcher who has a small deli (inside) and a few veggies displayed a trestle table outside the shop window. But the choice was limited and not what I wanted (salads etc).  The butcher's  veggies are mainly those that are cooked with roasts (carrots, onions, swedes, potatoes), which makes sense I suppose.  So came back empty handed.  But it was a lovely day, and a pleasure to be out.
You won't believe this, but during the long and often glorious summer we have had this year, I have not scooted along the prom.  Only seen the view when we have driven past in the car.   The problem with Morecambe is that - to me - it is a bit boring, and always the same.  Either the tide is in, or it is out. No waves crashing on the shore, no 'real' sea.  More like a lake that keeps emptying and refilling with hardly any motion. 

At one time Morecambe had a big fun fair, the front lit up with lights a bit like Blackpool, it even had a pier.  Now all this has gone, a third of the shops are permanently closed, half the rest closed for the winter season, and - certainly the east end where we live - we see very few tourists.  The hotels seem to cater now for coach trips, so although the visitors stay in the hotels overnight, during the day they are off to see other sights (York, Harrogate, Lake District, Blackpool....).  It's only at weekends that the sea-front comes to life, and then the pavements too full for me to manoeuvre Norris through the throng, so I keep away.  

Think the problem really is to do with being out alone.  Indoors (and in the garden) am a quite content with my own company, but when out and about on my scooter, there is a sense of loneliness in that when I see something I like, just wish I had someone with me to share it with.  To chat to as we walk along.  B is not keen on being seen with me when I'm on my scooter, he wouldn't even push me when I was in a wheel chair, he always got someone else to do that.  He is either embarrassed to be seen with a 'disabled wife', or he feels it makes him feel 'tied down' and unable to do what he wants to do or go where he wants to go.  Well, that's how it feels to me.

Tomorrow it will be October and - towards the end o the month - we change the clocks.  Then it will seem as though it is time to tuck ourselves in for the winter months to come.  Pity we can't hibernate like some animals.  It always fascinates me how one third of our life-time is spent in an unconscious state - in other words - asleep.  My B sleeps so heavily (and now often during the day) that he probably has spent half his life unconscious.  What a waste!  Normally I find 5 hours sleep at night is enough for me now, although I do have twenty winks now and again while watching TV (usually when the ads are on and my concentration is relaxed).  Sometimes I stay awake all night (not going to bed), but again during this time do have a bit of a nod off for half an hour or so).  It is very rarely I have the full 8 hours sleep, and don't feel any the better for it when I do.

Final recipe today is similar to one I've given before, but as it uses seasonal veggies, and many of them (hopefully) cheaper as there have been gluts of apples etc,  this could work out to be an economical dish, but before I begin - the word 'cheap'  has reminded me that in the latest issue of a well-known cookery mag are budget recipes (they also give the cost).  Again it seems that the word  'budget' to the professionals (cooks/editors etc), means something quite different to me (and to you?). Almost all the dishes shown are between £1.50 and £2 per portion some cost more (believe one was 99p), and that is NOT what I call 'budget' or in any way economical.   Am I so out of touch with the cookery world of today?
What did concern me was that seeing (in another mag), several different manufactured 'ready-to-heat' Cottage Pies (flavour and quality compared), these were all much the same price, and not that different to that shown as a recipe in a magazine.  Who can blame anyone for buying a ready meal when it works out as 'economical' as one home-made, and saves all the bother of making it?

This recipe uses pumpkin (with Halloween approaching worth thinking about this), or butternut squash.  Even a firm vegetable marrow could be used.  The advantage with the squash family is that they store so well, I've a butternut squash in my onion basket that I've had for some months, and it still is firm (not soft and ripe).

Squash and Apple Curry: serves 4
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped or crushed
1 lb (450g) pumpkin, peeled, seeded, cubed
1lb 12 oz (800g) baking potatoes, cubed
2 medium cooking apples, peeled, diced
2 tsp curry paste (your choice of strength)
2 tsp turmeric
1" (2.5cm) piece root ginger, chopped
2 bay leaves
18 fl oz (500ml) vegetable stock
2 oz (50g) raisins
salt and pepper
yogurt to serve
Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the onion for 5 minutes until turning golden, then stir in the garlic and fry for a further minute.   Add the pumpkin, apples, curry paste, turmeric, ginger, and bay leaves. Stir-fry for a couple of minutes then add the vegetable stock, raisins, and seasoning to taste.
Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender.  When ready, spoon into bowls.  Add a dollop of yogurt on top.  Serve with rice or naan bread.

That's it for today.  Will return again either tomorrow and/or Wednesday.  All depends upon whether I have something interesting to write about.  As ever, keep those comments coming as love to hear your news.  TTFN.