Tuesday, October 01, 2013

More in Store

Wasn't intending to blog today, but now the comp arrives instantly at the page I want, this shortens my time at the comp by at least an hour each day.  True! So I will use today's hour to catchup while things are in my memory.

Firstly, yesterday's Hairy B's Budget Gourmet (repeats). and Jamie's current Budget Meals series.  Still the 'economy' versions seem to average between £1.50 - £2.  It is true that all the meals would have cost a LOT more if eaten in a restaurant, and Jamie does serve good sized portions.  When asked, he said he could feed a family of four for around £44 a week, and if you add up (4 x £1.50) x 7 that does come to (only!) £42,  but that is the total for just one main course a day, it doesn't cover puddings, or any other meal(or tea, or coffee...), and presumably people still eat breakfast and lunch.

The H.B's prog was definitely money-saving, but again only when compared to restaurant prices, however they did present their offerings at almost Michelin star level (in other words not a lot on a plate but what there was looked very attractive).  They were - after all - aiming to show how easily (?) we could make the same at home for very much less cost that we would pay when eating out.  Perfect recipes to use when entertaining.

Myself am encouraging my B to go one step further with his stir-fries.  Until yesterday I had prepared all the ingredients ready for him so that all he had to do was throw them into his small wok - in set order (this order laid out for him) and stir-fry.  As he dislikes 'crunchy' veg, I first had to par-boil the carrot batons, the cauliflower florets, the baby sweetcorn, and the sugar snap peas.  The bell peppers, celery, onions, ginger, mushrooms, radish break down enough when just stir-fried in hot oil.  B either has thin (pre-cut) strips of fillet steak or chicken ready to fry first, or he would add cooked meat at the end (one day I didn't pre-cut the chicken, left it in chunks to thaw out, and he cooked them like that and said they took a long time (sob, sob).

Although B boasts he can cook a really good stir-fry (which he can with the help of a sachet of Chinese sauce (we have several flavours), and a pack of microwave rice, to me this isn't really 'cooking', so yesterday said it was time to take it one step further and he should cut up a raw carrot into batons, and then boil/blanch these with the cauliflower florets etc, himself, before continuing.  This he managed to do fairly successfully because I'd got the vegetables-to-be-cooked gathered together on a plate, the other ingredients at the side.
Next time I expect B to assemble ALL the ingredients himself, although (from experience) know that he will keep asking me "where are the carrots" (answer "in the veggie drawer"), "where are the sugar snap peas (then the sweetcorn/celery/ginger/bell pepper/cauliflower?" Just because these are all kept in the same drawer (or on the shelf above, and visible the drawer/door is opened) doesn't mean he is able to see them when he goes to seek the first that he wants.  He does know where the onions are kept: in the large, flat onion basket that sits on top of the washing machine. The garlic is also kept there but B prefers to use garlic puree as it is 'easier'. But he's getting there.

Thanks for the comments that arrived since yesterday.  Good to hear from you again Kathryn, your comments I find so inspiring, you seem to accomplish so much.  Thankfully, with autumn and winter on our doorstep, this will mean the allotment won't need quite so much tending, so you will be free to cope with your several other tasks.  Do hope you find time to keep dropping us a line.  Love to hear all your news.

Not sure what went wrong with that fruit cake baked in your bread-machine Granny G.  You didn't mention liquid in the ingredients you gave, so perhaps some water or milk should have been added.
Although bread-makers now do other jobs beside making bread (cakes, jam etc), myself still feels you can't beat a cake made in the oven (or jam in a preserving pan).
If you have any dry cake left you could pour a little rum or brandy (or even orange juice) over the top to add extra moisture. Wrap it tightly in foil and it will soften in a few days.  Or, cut slices and put in a microwave serving bowl, add a little fruit juice or wine, and heat (no longer than a minute or the dried fruit will burn). Serve with custard or cream.

Wish I could have seen Morecambe with the lights (like Blackpool) Margaret.  To me it doesn't make sense to remove all the attractions when they are desperate to encourage more visitors.   We sometimes drive to Glasson Dock (where we've been able to buy whole fresh - farmed - salmon for £12 but this year they didn't have any at such low price, or forgot to phone me if they did).  When at Glasson we usually visit the Smokehouse to buy other foods they sell. Expensive, but well worth it for a treat.

Thanks to for the comments from readers who are planning to use the green tomato recipes given yesterday.  Please give us your opinion on them when sampled (chutneys/pickles are a bit harsh when tasted soon after making, they mature and become 'gentler' when stored for a month).

A football match on tonight (B watching it on 'his' TV) so I'll be free to watch several cookery progs on 'my' TV at the same time, and hope I can stay awake for the whole of '...Bake Off' (it'll be the first time during this series that I've seen it all the way through - including repeats).

As many readers seem to be the lucky owners of tomato gluts (home-grown or given), here is a really good recipe for a tomato sauce (not ketchup) that works very well spread on a pizza, or served with pasta.  Worth making in bulk, then freezing away in plastic freezer bags or sturdy containers (us a small size, you can always thaw out two).
Vary the seasonings.  To some of the mix add chopped chillies or chilli sauce, to some add chopped herbs.  Always mark the containers so you know what contains which.
If you prefer a smooth 'passata-type' sauce, then puree the cooked mixture in a blender.

Tomato puree (sometimes called tomato paste) is sold in tubes, small cans, sometimes in large cans. Cheaper to buy the larger cans (but always check the weight/price first), then once the can has been opened, decant the amount not used into ice-cube trays and freeze.  Once solid they can be bagged up (or put into a plastic container), where one can be added - still frozen - to a casserole or spag.bol meat sauce when making.

Tomato Sauce: makes about 1lb (450g)
1 large onion, finely chopped or grated
1 tblsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
a good 1 lb (500g) ripe tomatoes, chopped
2 tsp tomato puree (see above)
1 tsp soft brown sugar (or Demerara)
juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper to taste
Put the onion and oil into a frying pan and heat gently until the onion has softened.  Add the garlic and continue frying for a further minute before adding the remaining ingredients,.  Bring to the boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for half an hour, stirring occasionally, until thickened into a rich sauce.  Cool and use or freeze according to your needs.

Tomato soup.  Most of us enjoy this, but not always the same type (manufactured or from a recipe).  My first memory of tomato soup was the Heinz that my mother gave me to drink because my two front milk teeth were about to fall out that I was afraid to bite into anything.  They even wobbled when I drank the soup.  Since then have always enjoyed the same brand and flavour soup, but have discovered others that I now enjoy even more.

At the moment I drink tomato 'soup' at least three - if not four - times a week at lunchtime, but make it a very easy way by emptying a can of chopped tomatoes into a saucepan, adding a little water from the rinsed out can,  a good dash of pepper, and a good squirt of Heinz Tomato Ketchup "feiry chilli" because I need my daily 'chilli kick'.  Sometime I even add a sachet of tomato cuppa soup.  This makes a good mugful, more a meal than a soup as the tomatoes are still 'chunky', so I sit and eat it with a spoon and enjoy every mouthful.

For those who prefer a more sophisticated tomato soup, here is a good way to use up this year's glut of tomatoes. It freezes well, and so again worth making in bulk. 
For anyone who wishes to experiment, I've heard it said (more than once) that the flavour of the above brand of tomato soup comes from the addition of peaches, so if you have opened a can of peaches for pudding, then add the can juices to the soup (or even add a pureed slice or two of peach).

Myself would add a good dash (or two) of the 'fiery ketchup' instead of the paprika.  Even then there are different paprika, each giving a different taste, there are sweet ones, and smoky ones, so we can keep experimenting until we get the flavour we like.  The way I would do this would be to use a can of chopped tomatoes (or plum tomatoes - we could use these to make the soup instead of the fresh toms if we have none).  Fry a little onion, add a little of the chosen paprika (or whatever you wish to use), then a little chopped tomato and test for flavour.  Try again with a different paprika (or chilli sauce...), then once satisfied, go ahead and make up a batch of soup.

Normally, recipes suggest that when soup is to be frozen, the cream is omitted and added after thawing.  Although not mentioned with this recipe, I'd tend to do the same.  Omit the cream, freeze the soup, then add the cream after thawing and before reheating, leaving a little to drizzle on top.

Cream of Tomato Soup: serves 4
1 onion, chopped
1 oz (25g) butter
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp paprika pepper
1 tblsp tomato puree
2.25lbs (1kg) ripe tomatoes, chopped
2 tsp granulated sugar
1 bay leaf
1 pint (600ml) vegetable stock
5 fl oz (150ml) double cream
salt and pepper
Put the onion and butter into a saucepan over low heat and cook until the onion has softened but not coloured.  Stir in the garlic and paprika and cook for a further minute before adding the tomato puree, then cook for two minutes longer.
Add the tomatoes, sugar, bay leaf and stock.  Bring to the simmer and cook for 20 minutes.  Remove bay leaf, then cool the soup slightly before putting into a blender and whizz until smooth.
Stir in two-thirds of the cream, reheat, add seasoning to taste and serve with the remaining cream drizzled on top.

Much as I'd love to stop and chat, have a lot of tidying up to do in the kitchen, the conservatory windows to clean, maybe some baking (B is sure to whimper because he doesn't have any nibbles to eat while he watches 'his' TV, he had loads but he ate most of them during one evening!!  Methinks I spoil him rotten, but then the only way to B's heart - like any mans - is through is stomach).
So I must go.  Hope to return tomorrow as Norma will not be here as per usual, this time it will be Thursday she comes.  But I will return, even if not quite sure at what time, and when.  Hope to see you then.  Enjoy your day - the first of October, and still pleasantly warm.  Let us give thanks1