Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Time Waits...

My Beloved informed me yesterday, mid-morning, that he'd invited a sailing mate over to have a 'cup a soup' at lunch time as his friend was working on a house in our road (fixing a leaking chimney).  Well, of course I didn't mind, but CUPPA SOUP?!!  As I told B, I do have a reputation to keep, so set to and made a pan of chicken and vegetable soup, served - of course - with toasted home-made bread.
Enjoyed very much, so basking in glory and wanting more, I invited the friend to 'sup with B' each and every lunch-time while he was in the area.  

This means a different soup every day, mushroom Wednesday, Mulligatawny Thursday (or maybe the other way round) not sure yet for Friday.  Also need to make more bread this morning so can serve little freshly baked rolls with the soup today, toast tomorrow. 

As well as that am planning to make a quiche AND a Lemon Meringue Pie this morning as tomorrow all my time is taken up.  Norma the Hair first thing, my neighbour coming in for coffee at 11.00 (she stays until 1.00 so we will chat in here leaving the conservatory free for the men's 'soup-feste' at noon). This means I'm extra busy this week and there will be no blog tomorrow.  Am sure you can understand why.

Managed to watch most of '...Bake Off' last night, but didn't find it that interesting, probably because it was mainly about bread.  Nothing really pretty or elaborate to drool over.  Or maybe I'd just got into the habit of losing concentration these days.   Always enjoy watching Hairy Bikers though.

Not sure whether you were talking about the smallest ring on an electric hob buttercup, but the smallest ring on our gas ring, even set at the lowest, still simmers at too high a point for me.  When I need the liquid to just 'burb' in the pan (as when making chicken stock), I need to put one or even two simmer mats over the ring, beneath the pan to spread the heat and also reduce it.  It still uses the same amount of fuel, and not sure how much that would work out over (say) eight hours. 
Our electric oven can be set to keep warm at 'crock-pot' temperature, but again this could work out more expensive than a light bulb.  Our Les (the clevercloggs), fount of all knowledge (of this type) could no doubt tell us which is the cheapest way to slow-cook.

Sometimes, I have had our gas ring on a low heat, and when B has gone out of the back door, the gust of wind as he closes the door has blown out the flame, and so there is a danger - if leaving a low flame on for many hours, then leaving the house, the same thing could happen with gas.  No such problem with an electric hob.

Gave up having organic veggies delivered Susan G when we had the bad weather last winter. Previously the veggies had been wonderful with great flavour, but the rains/snow etc then caused a lot of the winter veggies (parsnips...) to 'fork', split etc, and I found a lot of the produce, once peeled, left very little to work with.  This then worked out far too expensive for what could be used.  Since then have not returned to ordering and much depends on whether I can afford to do so.  But if you can, well worth it.

Did order from Tesco this week, and did very well financially.  Not only did I get a reduction of over £21 from my bill (using vouchers and buying reduced priced items) but this morning received an email to say I had 'over-spent' by £2. 04p as they check items ordered against other supermarket prices and if they sell at a lower price, they pay me the difference.  I have to give the code next time I order and they'll take the difference off the next bill.  I've also been sent 12 vouchers for foods that I regularly order, all have money-off, some more than a £1 off (for a pack of four cans tomatoes). Vouchers for double points as well.  Looks like the next order will also be far less expensive than normal.

Haven't heard of 'Champion Pies' Granny G, but it might just be that these are the ones made by a man in Morecambe that B meets in the gym.  He is a well-known pie-maker and was on one of the Hairy Bikers progs. the series when they were losing weight.  They went into his shop and made pies using lower calorie pastry I think.
Some time back I mentioned 'Pukka Pies' (Morrison's sell these).  When we were first married, a man living just round the corner from us had just opened a small pie-shop.  B knew him quite well, used to go to his house to play cards (poker?).   The pies proved so successful they began to be sold in all the local fish and chip shops and the football stadiums.  It began with steak pies, then steak and kidney pies, and later chicken and mushroom pies (using the wife's recipe).  
B used to LOVE these pies, buying them for his lunch when out and was thrilled to discover them in Morrison's, bought one, baked it,  and said they were as good as ever (they now make microwaveable pies, but they are nowhere near as nice - or as large - as their oven-baked, puff pastry ones).

The Pukka Pie firm has gone from strength to strength (I looked it up on the website), and still owned by the same man and his family.  So - like Champion Pies - it is good to know that we still have 'British Made' coming up trumps.

At the moment am working my way through a pile of apples, some lightly cooked then frozen to later make apple pies, other apple flesh turned into pulp (apple sauce).  This I try to do in bulk as the skins and cores also have their uses. So - if you intend making jam this autumn (or at any other time of the year) and need to use extra pectin, the home-made saves adding lemon juice or buying bottled pectin.

how to make pectin:
Put apple peel, cores, and pips into a pan. Cover with water and simmer gently for an hour. Pour through a jelly bag (or muslin-lined sieve) and  allow to drip through. Test to make sure there is a good pectin level (see below how to do this), then freeze in half pint (300ml) containers.  Thaw and add to any jam needing pectin and won't dilute the taste of the fruit being used.

Fruits with a natural high pectin level are blackcurrants, redcurrants, cooking apples, gooseberries, and some plums.  Jams made using these normally don't require adding extra pectin.
Low-pectin fruits are strawberries, pears and cherries (and some others).
Myself take the easy way out, making a mixed fruit jam using both high and low pectin fruits, this normally sets well.  However, if making jam using just one fruit then here is a way to test the pectin level.
testing for pectin:
Simmer the fruit ready to make the jam, but test before adding the sugar.  Take 1 teaspoon of the fruit juice from the pan and pour it into a small glass (lidded) container such as a jam jar.  Leave to cool then add 1 tablespoon of methylated spirits, put on the lid and give it a shake.  After a minute, a clot should have formed.  If large and jelly-ish, the pectin content is high and no extra pectin need be added to the jam. If the clot is not one, but two or three smaller lumps, the pectin is medium but should still be enough to give a set.  If no clots, or lots of small ones, then the pectin is low.

Before I leave, must tell you that I checked the Internet and managed to discover very similar berries to the ones mentioned yesterday (discovered in our garden), seems that these are almost certainly from a honeysuckle bush (that we didn't know we had as it was hidden behind a huge hydrangea).  Not edible, so will leave them for the birds.

Now it is time for me to start my cooking/baking and try and fit in some transplanting into my window boxes before the cold weather sets in (due tomorrow if not today).  Better to keep busy/active then maybe my joints will ease up.   Do hope so. 

Should be back with you again on Friday.  Hope you can join me then. Bye for now. x