Friday, October 04, 2013

Our Daily Bread....

Good to hear from you again Cheesepare especially as you seem to have stayed with me since my blog began (7 years ago now?). We missed hearing from you.

The 'girl called Jack' has a great site, especially for novice cooks as she is 'of the moment' (different mind-set to me, but we work along the same lines).  Agree about the expense of buying fresh herbs, and not that many people these days know the difference between a wild herb and a 'weed'.  Better not to pick unless absolutely sure.
Doubt very much it would even cross the Foodbanks mind  to give a few herbs, even if they were available, most won't provide anything fresh (incl the very necessary fruit and veggies, eggs, and cheese).

Could be wrong I suppose, but only those who are fairly experienced in cooking would think about using fresh herbs, and these are people who would normally keep a fairly well-stocked store-cupboard, therefore can ride out the storm of waiting a couple or so weeks for any benefits to come through.  Those who use foodbanks tend to prefer convenience foods (ready meals etc) so buy as needed. Ok, I'm generalising, but from seeing/hearing about those who go to our local foodbank, have yet to come across anyone who knows anything much about cooking.

It doesn't have to be the younger generation who prefer 'the readies'. The other day I mentioned a bridge friend of mine who has loadsa money, spent a fortune on having a new kitchen fitted, but does no cooking at all, just lives on M & S ready meals (very good but can be very expensive).  Whenever she is ill(she is never really well, perhaps she doesn't eat the right things) she had to ask her friends and neighbours to go and buy food for her as she has nothing in store. She has a small freezer, goodness knows what she keeps in it.   She is the fortunate one, having enough money to buy everything she needs (why bother to do it yourself when someone else can do it for you), not everyone is so lucky, and though she is not so young (but younger than me by about 10 or so years), it just goes to show that home-cooking is not something that everyone wishes to do.   There are a lot of things I don't wish to do - like housework!
Strangely, that is one thing that the above friend really is fanatical about, she would clean her bungalow every day from top to bottom (not difficult as the decor was very 'minimalist - and to me never felt like it was 'home', more a show house).  She loves cleaning, dislikes cooking. Each to his own.

Spam with chipotle had already crossed my mind CP.  Although not sure if it there is chipotle in the ketchup, Heinz do a lovely Tomato 'Fiery chilli' sauce, and I spread this on the bread instead of mustard when making Spam sarnies.
This has reminded me of a good (?) tip that probably everyone has already worked out.  If you want to add seasoning (pepper/salt) to a sarnie, it is far easier to see the amount added to the filling if the seasoning is shaken or ground onto the buttered bread, not onto the tomatoes/lettuce etc.  It can also be sprinkled on more evenly.
Quite a few (bought) loaves of bread are not even on top, one side might be higher than the other.  So when buttering a pile of sliced bread for sarnies, turn the next slice over before spreading, then when placed back together the high bits on the top slice fit over the high bits on the bottom slice.  Does it really matter?  Well, it often helps to prevent some of the filling falling out.

It's always good to hear about reader's meals, and congratulate you buttercup on your 33p portions. Not sure if everyone feels the same way, but working out that a home-cooked meal has been really  low cost makes me feel pretty good. A bonus in more ways than one.

Thanks for filling in the gaps about Heysham Head Eileen, I was not sure where that was in relation to the village proper.  Think I know the gated estate, the one behind and above the high wall that is opposite the playing field/park.  Am sure the (once) fun fair was mentioned in one of Nella Last's books (which I am re-reading).

There have been at least nine other comments sent in pver the last 24 hours that I'm ignoring as they don't seem to bear any relation to what I chat about (one mentions my videos of which I have none!), and as usual they seem to be just pushing their own site.  Blogger usually blocks these anyway but just thought I'd give it a mention in case any have been shown. .

Back to my world.  The other day had a disaster in the kitchen, so bad I dare not even give it a mention at the time as it included throwing food away (shock, horror).  I'd run out of chicken stock and decided to make a small amount using up some ancient and cheap chicken joints from the freezer (thawed), and for the first time decided to dice the carrot, celery and onion instead of leaving them in chunks. Added a couple of bay leaves and a pinch of salt and pepper, covered the lot with water (there wasn't a lot anyway), and put it on to simmer.  After a couple of hours was about to switch it off, but at that moment was distracted (phone or door), and forgot!!!!  Some hours later B came into the living room to say there was a dreadful smell of burning, and we discovered the pan had boiled dry, and everything stuck to the base (well almost everything).  I poured in some water (steam everywhere), and left it overnight.  Next day poured off any loose bits (only a few vegetables floated), was able to prize some meat from the chicken joints stuck to the bottom as they had been cooked in their skins, so only the skin had stuck.  I ate the meat for my supper (so that wasn't wasted) and although it tasted burnt, was able to convince myself this was what it would taste like if it has been barbecued.  Needed quite a bit of convincing, but when I set my mind to it can make myself believe almost anything.

The rest of the food was as if it had been glued to the bottom of the pan with superglue.  I went onto the Internet to see if there was any way I could save the pan (my favourite pan, with an enamel interior, not non-stick), all the suggestions were much the same, add laundry powder and water and boil up.  Tried that.  Nothing happened.  The gunge was still stuck tight.  THEN I remembered something my mother once did, and I had done this many years ago myself but forgotten about.  Boil up some rhubarb leaves in the pan, then leave it to soak overnight.  Went into the garden and fetched 3 leaves, cooked and soaked AND IT WORKED!!!! 

My B was given the job of cleaning the pan (strangely, this is the sort of kitchen chore he really enjoys), and within a very few minutes he brought the pan to me to show a clean and gleaming base and sides.  So - if you burn a pan and are lucky enough to have rhubarb in the garden, remember it is useful for more than just cooking (cooks stems only, the leaves are poisonous).

A page in the Daily Mail yesterday was devoted to bread making at home.  Due to David Cameron telling the world he made his own bread (using a bread-maker), believing it to be cheaper than bread bought over the counter (which it is but apparently not if read the article).  Seems he didn't know the cost of a 'value loaf' (47p) and why would he? 
What irritated me a LOT, was an article by a journalist who shared the page and had his say abut bread-making machines, giving it the headline "why these gadgets are a waste of space".  

Hope you don't think I'm being sexist when I say that it was a man who came to this conclusion. Or at least a man who has never learned to cook.  His conclusions were so black and white, and could so easily put off anyone who was considering buying a bread-maker.
Cost of the machine was given, the cost of quality flour, even the cost of the electricity used, and not wrong in his pricing except telling everyone that excellent bread can still be made using cheaper flour, and the machine can be used just to make the dough (as I do), ideally baking the risen doug in a conventional oven when it is cooking something else (as I do).  The 'thinking difference' between black and white (such as 50 shades of grey? Must read that book....) turns 'a waste of space' into something that not only saves us money and time, but also gives us pleasurable eating.  When proper thought has been given - and that is something the journalist didn't bother to do.

To save even more time, I buy Tesco's packs of bread mix (white and brown), and although risen slightly in price recently, they are still half the price of a bought loaf (but not as cheap as a 'value' loaf, although these are not worth buying if you like to eat 'good' bread).  The journalist had worked out that the cost of making bread from scratch (quality flour, butter, yeast, sugar, salt...) came to just over £1.30 "and that doesn't include the cost of electricity" (which he had worked out to be 40p).  As I've mentioned in a previous blog (several times over the years), by adding half as much again strong bread flour (by weight) to the bread mix (plus half as much again liquid), this makes an extra loaf for very few pence more, and making only the dough in the bread-maker wouldn't use much electricity at all.  It is even cheaper to make it from scratch, not using a bread mix, but I do tend to take the easy way out if it still saves me money.

David Cameron apparently sets his bread-machine on a timer, so the bread is freshly baked when he gets into the kitchen for his breakfast.  Myself would rarely - if ever - eat freshly baked bread, it would give me indigestion.  Also difficult to cut unless thickly sliced so it would be used up rather faster than if cooked early in the day and left until cold (as soon as cool I place the bread in a plastic bag to prevent it drying out.  Mind you, an aroma of freshly baked bread is almost as mouth watering as the smell of bacon frying.  Put the two together and what a wonderful start to our day.

Yesterday the Hairy Bikers - now on their 'Bakeation' - were in Germany and I really liked the sound of the Potato Bread they made, they said it keeps 'fresh' for ages.  The Germans love their bread and make umpteen different types.  Reminded me when we had German students to stay, they HATED our soft, pappy, supermarket bread.  I had to go and hunt for better bread to make their sarnies/toast and even that wasn't up to their standard (at that time I wasn't into bread-making).

My Beloved has just come into the room bringing me a mug of coffee (bless), and said when he went to be last night (before me), he said everything in the room was damp, the bedding, even the book he picked up to read.  Must be all the rain we have had, it is still unseasonably warm, but very humid, and although we were promised torrential rain yesterday, it seemed to stay away, just a shower now and then, but this morning have woken to a very wet day.  But not torrential rain, I'd have heard that during the night, just normal 'quiet' - but persistent - rain apparently.   They say the weather will improve again over the weekend.

Even so, B has requested we have the heating on today to  'dry out the bedroom', so will switch it on late afternoon for a couple or so hours and see if things improve, although if the room temperature is still comfortably warm, then maybe the radiators thermostat will kick in (or off) and we won't get that much heat given out where needed.  Have to wait and see.  Suppose I could turn the bedroom radiator to give out more heat. 

Last night found it difficult to sleep as I was too warm, or maybe it was the damp atmosphere.  My left knee was certainly giving me jip. Couldn't get comfortable.  Will sleep with a lighter cover over me tonight, esp. if the heating has been on.

Referring to the notes I had jotted down to remind me what I wanted to talk about, see I've written 'lemon tree' down.  Readers may recall that I planted a lemon pip early this year and it sprouted.  Grew up and up with only one offshoot 'branch' a few inches lower down.  The rest was one long stem and quite ugly.  Where each leaf grew from the stem also grew a very long 'thorn'.  Anyway, once it had grown about 3 ft high (over the soil level) began to dislike it.  No chance of it producing fruit for years anyway (and I'd be dead by then).  Forgot to water it and the leaves began to drop off.  Decided to prune it down, and this really worked, it came back to life and has thrown off three or four more 'branches' from the foot length I'd left.  At least it looks a bit more attractive.  
I'd saved the leaves from the stem I'd pruned away, and these are now in the freezer.  A few fresh leaves I stuck into a jar with some caster sugar and these did given the sugar a lemony flavour, but not a particularly interesting one, but am sure these leaves would work well added to rice to help give it flavour in much the same way as Kaffir lime leaves.

There was a query in a gardening magazine about whether all 'squash' seeds are edible, even those grown in the garden than may have 'crossed' with another variety.   Apparently all are - including oversized courgettes (in other words grown into marrows).  Supermarket pumpkins and butternuts also provide seeds, and anyone interested in growing their own can save some to sow next year.
The seeds can be eaten raw, but far better to roast them as they will then keep for several weeks.

Follow this recipe to make a lovely savoury snack, and of course you can alter the flavourings to suit your personal taste.
Savoury Squash Seeds:
4 oz (100g) pumpkin (or other squash) seeds
1 tsp celery salt
half tsp paprika
1 tblsp olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
After washing the seeds free of flesh and fibres, place on a baking tray (see above) leave for 24 hours at room temperature to dry. Put into a bowl with the remaining ingredients and toss until the seeds are thoroughly coated.   Spread seeds out on a baking tray and toast/roast in the oven at 180C, gas 4 for 10 minutes, turning halfway through.   Store in an airtight container where they will keep for several weeks.

The other day there was a request for Green Tomato Chutney, and although I did give a recipe, have come across another that might be of interest.  I give the original ingredients, although (being me) I'd make it simpler by using a white pickling vinegar(already spiced)  to save me bothering buying both vinegar AND the pickling spices.
Green Tomato Chutney: fills approx 5 x 14oz jars
3.5lb (1.5kg) green tomatoes, chopped
2 cooking apples, chopped
1 lb (450g) onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped or crushed
2 tblsp pickling spices (see above)
17 fl oz (500ml) white malt vinegar (see above)
1 tblsp salt
14 oz (400g) sugar
Put all the ingredients except the pickling spices and sugar into a preserving pan.  Tie the spices in a small muslin bag then add these also to the pan.  Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer gently for one hour until everything is tender and thoroughly combined.
Remove from heat, and while still piping hot stir in the sugar.  When this has dissolved return to the hob and continue simmering for a further 45 minutes or until the mixture is thick.  Remove the bag of spices and pot up into warm, sterilised jars.  Seal with vinegar proof lids and store in a cool dark place.

As marrows (and squashes) have been given a mention today, worth giving a recipe for marrow chutney, and as courgettes could be used instead of marrow, am assuming that pumpkin or butternut squash would also make an excellent substitute (or maybe some of each?).
Marrow Chutney: fills approx. 6 x 14oz jars
3.5lb (1.5kg) marrow
1.25lb (500g) onions, chopped
1.25lb (500g) tomatoes, chopped
4 oz (100g) sultanas
1 pint (600ml) white vinegar
2 tsp ground allspice
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp mustard powder
1 tblsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
1 lb 6 oz (600g) soft, light brown sugar
Peel, de-seed and dice the marrow and put the flesh into a preserving pan with the onions, tomatoes, sultanas and the vinegar.  Bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes, or until everything is soft.
Add the spice and seasonings then continue simmering for a further 15 minutes before adding the sugar.  Remove from heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved, then return to the hob and simmer for 20 minutes or until the mixture is thick and most of the liquid has evaporated.  Pot up in the usual way (see above recipe).

Yesterday made B a Beef and Mushroom Strogonoff for is supper (his choice).  More mushrooms than meat (so cheaper), and have to say it really is a very speedy meal to make.  I'd thawed out a very small piece of beef fillet tail and cut that into strips, then sliced up three mushrooms and one onion.  Fried the meat first in a little oil, the removed that to a plate, adding the onions and mushrooms to the oil in the pan, then frying these off.  To make the sauce I used the half pack of Strogonoff Mix that I had (naughty but easy), this mixed with a little milk and stirred into the mushrooms and onions gave a lovely thick sauce, and while cooking a pack of microwave rice (even naughtier) added the meat to the pan and just heated it through.  When the rice was ready (2 minutes!) put it onto a heated plate (always heat the plate by standing over a pan of simmering water), spread the rice out to cover most of the plate, and poured the beef and mushroom 'sauce' on top.  B thought it was wonderful. I enjoyed making it because it was so quick and easy.  Not the cheapest of meals, but then not that expensive either as the mushrooms made a very small amount of meat go a lot further.  The meat also looks a lot more than it is when cut into thick 'matchsticks'.

Not sure what B wants for supper tonight as haven't yet asked him.  Am hoping he'll settle for kippers as all that has to be done is heat up the pack.  He could do that himself!  A bit late in life I suppose, but have a feeling I'm turning into a 21st century woman.  Like let the men do things for themselves instead of leaving 'the little woman' to do everything.  And that's one thing I'm not.  Little!

Whether I'll be blogging tomorrow depends on whether I do/find today something worth chatting about.  No point in filling a page with nothing of interest.  Suppose - at a pinch - I could always find something to moan about, however today am not in that frame of mind.  Almost bright-eyed and bushy tailed, a big beam on my face as I write.  Tomorrow is another day.  Hope you will drop in anyway to see if I've returned to my desk or just taken the weekend off (as I now sometimes do). TTFN.