Monday, November 04, 2013

It could be Worse!

Stephanie's query re a surplus of limes has reminded me to check the lemon and limes I keep in the fridge.  I put them there several weeks (even months) ago, each wrapped tightly in cling-film, and the last time I checked ( a week ago) they were still firm.  They won't keep forever this way, but certainly will be able to be stored for quite a long time in the fridge (remembering to wrap each in cling-film or they will dry up). Sooner or later they 'ripen' (begin to soften) and then are perfect for use (plenty of juice etc).

Thanks to Joy for giving the link for Key Lime Pie as a way to use up limes.  Could I suggest making Lime Curd (same way as lemon curd)?  Or lemon and lime marmalade (3 parts lemons to one part limes as limes have a much stronger flavour then lemon, so if using these instead of lemons in any recipe, use less to avoid an overpowering lime flavour). I make my marmalade using a can of lemon Marmalade 'base' (Lakeland sell these). adding the grated zest and juice from three or four limes.  Obviously works well as I have B's sailing mates queuing  up for my next batch.

The zest/juice of a lime is regularly used in Thai cooking - especially with fish, but also with chicken, so here are a couple or so recipes you might like to try.

This first recipe makes 36 mini-patties that would be great for a buffet party, or for family 'nibbles'. If wishing to serve them (maybe with a salad) for a main meal, then make fewer - but larger.  I've made something similar using cooked chicken scraps instead of raw chicken thighs.  These (obviously) take less time to cook, but always make sure they are cooked through before serving.

Thai Chicken Patties: 36 mini-fish cakes
1 lb (450g) boneless chicken thighs
2 red chilli, seeded and finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
handful fresh coriander leaves
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tblsp fish sauce
1 egg
4 oz (100g) stale breadcrumbs
2 tsp grated lime zest
3 spring onions, finely chopped
Chop up the chicken into chunks and put these, together with all the other ingredients (except the spring onions) into a food processor and blitz until combined (don't over-whizz or it will end up like a puree, it still needs to have texture).
Put the mixture into a bowl and fold in the spring onions.  Shape tablespoons (or more) into fairly thin patties.  Deep-fry (or shallow fry if you prefer, turning the patties once or twice to make sure they are golden all over and cooked through).  then drain on kitchen paper. Serve with a dipping sauce (recipe below).

chili lime dipping sauce:
2 tblsp lime juice
2 tblsp water
2 tsp fish sauce
2 tsp white caster sugar
1 kaffir lime leaf, shredded finely (opt)
1 small red chilli, seeded and finely chopped
Put all the ingredients into a small bowl and whisk until the sugar has dissolved.

Here is a recipe similar to the above chicken patties, but this time made with fish.  Although white fish is used, I like to include some cooked (thawed) prawns.
Thai Fish Cakes: serves 4
1 lb (450g) white fish fillets, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 egg white
handful fresh coriander leaves
handful of fresh mint leaves
4 red chillis, seeded and quartered
Put all the ingredients into a food processor and blitz until the mixture forms a coarse paste.  Scrape into a bowl and form into 12 fishcakes.
Fry - in batches - in a heated, oiled frying pan, until browned on both sides and cooked through.  Serve with cooked (Chinese) noodles, and some dipping sauce spooned over.

Thanks for your mention re beef steaks Rae.  Am assuming that Keevil and Keevil supply quality meat.  If so, is it frozen or delivered chilled and you have to freeze it yourself?

Yes Granny G, the inside shots of Agatha Christie's house in last week's Poirot, were filmed in the house.  My neighbour recognised them, and told how her mother used to place the breakfast dishes (kedgeree etc) on 'that sideboard seen in the breakfast room'.  Next time we meet I must ask her more about the food that her mother had cooked there.  She remembers such a lot of what she considers insignificant things about her life at that time, that would be wonderful to include in an Agatha Christie biography.

There have been several mentions from readers about 'a girl called Jack'.  Her book is being published in Feb of next year (rsp £12, but £9.09 from Amazon - or thereabouts). And there was me thinking that this would be an inexpensive book so that those who really need it can afford it.  Let's hope Jack 'does a Jamie' and gives a free copy of her book to every library in the country. One good thing, the book being such a high price (and I expect to be a best seller) this should earn Jack a heck of a lot of money in royalties.

Normally don't read Jack's blog, but have recently taken a look and am a bit surprised at how she seems now to be using what I call 'middle-income ingredients', not those bought at poverty level.  But I admit to doing the same.  Just because a dish is cheap to make doesn't mean everyone wishes to take the time and trouble (like the recently mentioned ravioli, when we could so easily cook dried pasta), but at least have written up loads of recipes for dishes that can be made purely from those given at food banks (that I consider a bit plain and boring, but not necessarily to others).

It's good to know Jack has a column in the Guardian, but then the thought comes to my (jaundiced and cynical mind) how many impoverished folk could afford to buy that newspaper, although am sure it is there in libraries to be read, but do people bother to go to a library to read papers?  But I'm splitting hairs.  Jack has pushed the benefit system and food poverty to the forefront of the nation, and that's what IS important. More power to her elbow.

Yes Rae, I did read the article about Jack in the Daily Mail, and think it was a little unfair as we don't know anything about her reasons to give up work other than to look after her child (and all credit to her for that I suppose).  Many single parents do have the support of their own parents, often living with them, so prefer not to claim benefits (other than child allowance).  Problem is today, many youngsters want to be what they call 'independent', and - with or without a child - wish to make their own way in life.  Nothing wrong in that as long as they understand that when it comes to claiming benefits this shows they are still dependent, this time on the state.  And before you all start screaming at me, I am thinking about those youngsters who deliberately have a baby so they can move away from the family home and get a council flat (and then live on benefits).  NOT those people who have lost their jobs and despite trying VERY hard cannot (yet) get another, so rely on benefits (that after all they have paid for in taxes and insurance while they worked).  These are people who now have to rely on food banks whilst their benefits are being worked out, and I just wish this could be sorted out immediately instead of having to wait (sometimes) weeks or even months.  

Many people feel - as I have to admit to also doing - that the benefit system is being abused.  This weekend there was an article (again in the Daily Mail) about a family with nine children (and another on the way), parents not working, thousands paid to them in benefits,  moaning because they didn't have a large enough house, large enough car etc. etc.
How dreadful that the children had to sleep two to a bed (as did my B when he was a lad - he had four brothers and one sister, and they lived in a tiny terraced house, no bathroom, outside loo, no hot water, his mother took in washing.....and they MANAGED!!).  At least the family in the article had a big plasma TV in one of the children's bedrooms.

True, they had mould growing on the walls, but then so did we when we moved to our first house, with three small children.  Probably not helped by the continuous boiling of nappies on the stove, but the mould was regularly scrubbed off, and when we could afford a heater, this helped to dry it out.

What bugged me was that the mother spent £250 a week at Iceland and Asda.  As three of the children are very small, and would eat only half adult-sized portions, then we could assume the family of 11 (two adults, one teenager, the rest younger) could be taken as equivalent to 8 adults when it came to 'portion control'.  That's over £30 a week spent on food for each 'adult portion'.  Some people can feed a family of four on only that!
We have an idea of what type of food would be bought when we read the children eat 1kg of oven chips every day.  "Chips with everything" it seems, and 'everything' is almost certainly processed in some way to avoid doing any actual cooking (fish fingers, beef burgers, baked beans....).  I would have more sympathy for the mother if she said she sat and watched cookery progs each day instead of settling down to watch Jeremy Kyle.
With many of the children being of school age, there is ample time during the day to do some good, old-fashioned, home cooking.  But - as ever - it is probably the lack of knowledge that prevents this. Or could it be just lack of interest?  If it is all so easy to heat up 'the readies', then why bother with slaving away over a hot stove?

With £21 spent a month on a Sky subscription (that on top of a TV licence), and presumably quite a lot of money spent on cigarettes (at least one parent smokes), to me it seems that they receive too much in benefits.   Nobody is going to want to return to work if they can manage-  very nicely thank you - on hand-outs.

Now, don't get me wrong, as I said above, there are many thousands of people who DO need to claim benefits, and many don't get enough money for their real needs, but there are also many thousands who appear to get far more than is necessary. There is something wrong somewhere.  And for goodness sake, let's stop hearing (re benefits) that smug expression 'It's what I'm entitled to'.  Just because benefits can be claimed, doesn't mean they always need be.  In fact I could claim some disability benefit, but I see no reason to.  If I can manage to cope without some extra 'help', then I will.   Only when the benefit system provides just enough to cover the essentials (roof over the head, food in the belly etc) and no more, will people try harder to get work.  Trouble is - being the very much older generation (and you can't get much older than that), what is 'essential' now, we managed - very easily - to do without some fifty years ago.  Do we NEED a flat-screen TV (or even a TV at all), do we NEED a car, do we NEED computer games. Or, for that matter, do we really NEED disposable nappies.....(dare I even mention ready-meals)? Seems that today the standard of living has changed so much that we demand it all (and more) as our right.  Also the right to sit back and have everything done for us, and do nothing much ourselves.

Oh dear, that little bee in my bonnet has buzzed so much I just KNOW I've upset so many readers, and for this I apologise,  but it is good to know that we still are allowed freedom of speech, and no one is forced to read what I write, and although it may seem that sitting comfortably in my chair with a larder full of food, I am not likely to really know what it is like to be on my beam ends, but as regular readers will know, I did have several years of living like that - and had to accept the 'dole' (as it was called then (and what a pittance it was). So I do know what it is like.  But at that time everyone had enough handed down skills to enable us to cope so much better than seems to be happening today.

To try and pacify those who haven't already switched off,  here are some suggestions that I'm sure will suit all levels of cookery expertise and slim purses, at least those who are prepared to have a go at making their own burgers rather than buy those made with uncertain meat, additives and preservatives.

When making burgers, buy the best minced steak you can afford as this is tender and cooks quite rapidly.  Cheap (bought) burgers are normally made with cheaper cuts of meat, and the texture of this is naturally 'chewy' considering it would need hours of slow cooking to become really tender (and burgers are 'fast-cooked'.

Although am starting with a recipe to make a basic burger, the(expensive) meat can be extended by including some breadcrumbs, extra onion, and and egg yolk (or egg white) will also help to bind the mixture together, especially when there is less meat and a lot more of everything else. 
If you prefer to fry the burgers (or barbecue them), allow 6 minutes on each side for beef and lamb burgers, and 8 minutes each side for those made with pork or chicken/turkey.  The thicker the burger the longer time it needs to cook through to the centre.

Basic Burger: makes 4
1 lb (450g) beef or lamb mince
1 small onion, grated
1 tsp English mustard  (opt)
salt and pepper to taste
Mix everything together, then shape into four patties/burgers.  Chill for 30 minutes.  Oven-cook for 15 minutes at 200C, gas 6 (longer if you wish), turning half-way through.  Serve as you would any burger (in a bap with chutney, with salad and chips....). 

Here are a few variations - you choose the flavours you prefer - and why not try them all?  Make in bulk, then interleave each burger and freeze (remembering to label as they will all look alike), and then thaw/cook when you are in the mood for something spicy, or just the 'basic'.  With no mention of an 'Indian' burger, why not invent your own curry flavoured?

Thai Burgers:
To 1 lb (450g) beef, pork or chicken/turkey mince, add 2 tblsp Thai red curry paste and seasoning to taste. Mix together and form into four burgers.  Chill as above before cooking.

Moroccan Burgers:
To the 1lb (450g) beef or lamb mince, add 1 tblsp harissa paste, 1 tblsp each of ground coriander and ground cumin. Add seasoning to taste and form into four burgers.  Chill before cooking.

Tex-Mex Burgers:
To the 1 lb (450g) of beef, lamb or chicken/turkey mince add 1 finely chopped red onion, 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, and 1 tsp dried oregano.  Plus seasoning to taste.  Form into 4 burgers and chill.

Italian Burgers:
To 1 lb (450g) beef mince add 2 tblsp tomato paste, and 1 tblsp dried basil or marjoram/oregano. Add seasoning to taste.  Mix well and form into 4 burgers, chilling before cooking.

Hope the above has given you food for thought, and love to hear your opinions on the benefit system and how it could be improved.  Hopefully it will be Jack who can get the powers that be to listen. The most important thing is to get parents making home-cooked meals for their children. As well as Foodbanks we need free cookery classes and demonstrations, preferably at the Foodbanks.

I could go on and on about the state of the nation, but had better stick to what I know about, like cooking frugally.   Yesterday served B spag bol (reheating spag bol meat sauce).  I cooked extra quick-cook pasta penne (saves 15 minutes cooking time), so that I could have some with 2 teaspoons of green pesto stirred into it, and a sprinkling of parmesan over the top.  Very tasty. And cheap (if you already have the pesto and parmesan).

This week sees the start of several new cookery progs, I look forward to watching as many as I can, and hopefully learn something new.
With the first sighting of ground frost on the lawn this morning, the temperature has now fallen to near normal for the time of year, but with a clear blue sky this is turning out to be a beautiful sunny day.  Nothing like sunshine to put a smile on my face.  Hope it is the same where you are.  Please join me again tomorrow.  Keep those comments coming....