Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Spoilt for Choice...

Strange how memories play tricks.  I could have sworn there was a parrot in the Hope and Glory film, but obviously not.  Even so, the bit about the balloon landing on the roof was pretty accurate, but 'ours' settled there for several hours (it seemed), not drifted away.  Think they managed to haul it up but whether they had to blow it up I don't know.  I was frightened by this big floppy thing and went and hid in the house and it was our parrot that was screaming.

We did see a plane blown up in the sky, and in the film the pilot landed by parachute. We also saw a very low plane (English) flying over the rooftops after this event.  In 'real life' the low flying plane was German, and this was what I  saw blown up, the pilot being killed.

Scenes in the air-raid shelter, and many of the raids was exactly how it was although we were luckier in that our street got minor damage, no direct hits but loads of incendiary bombs fell, and many unexploded - this meant we often had to stay indoors while these were dealt with. 

We give a welcome to Pat (Essex), who I believe has one (or more) of my books, and her mention of these has reminded me to add something to what I said yesterday (of possible interest to Joy - re Jack losing money if every library had a copy of her book.  

Each time a book is taken out, a record is kept of this, and a small royalty is paid to the author through the Public Lending Rights system (authors need to apply for this).  So - if the same book is taken out many times each year, then these royalties add up.  Just one sought-after book could - in a couple or so years - give PLR royalties that add up to more than the cost of the book.  And that is for each actual book taken out, not just the one title.   I used to look forward to receive a cheque each spring.  In my case not a lot and it was about 10 years before I realised I could claim PLRs, and missed out on a yearly pay-out of many £££s.  After about 25 years the royalties dwindled down, and as there has to be a set number requested by readers from the libraries, the total sometimes didn't reach this.  In Jack's case she will have no problem, and should have many years of PLR payments.  But she must first register with them.  Otherwise she will get nothing.

Suppose the timing of afternoon (esp cookery) progs Granny G does not suit everyone, although in P.H's new series, perfect for me as it is early enough for me to leave time to prepare B's supper once it has finished.  Am enjoying it very much, and yesterday loved seeing the kitchens (and cakes made) at the (was it?) Dorchester Hotel?  One of the big London hotels anyway.  Did not - however - feel I would have enjoyed eating scones the way Paul made them (finger shaped to dip into conserve and then cream), I prefer mine round and split to spread the traditional way (and even this can be different, Cornwall and Devon have their own way (and can't remember which) one county first spreads the split scone with cream and then jam, the other has the jam first and the cream on top - and I prefer the latter).

Am enjoying Masterchef.  I do find Michel Roux jnr such a pleasant man who really loves his craft,  and see in the most recent cookery mag that cookery demos/tuition can be arranged with either Monica G. or Michel R.  Bet it costs a fortune, but I might just treat myself as to be actually in the same room a Michel Roux jnr, and watch his enthusiasm would be my idea of heaven. 

Masterchef - at least for me - is purely voyeurism of food as am pretty sure I'd never go to the extreme lengths that the contestants do to prepare, cook and present such dishes.  The visual attraction is what I enjoy, but my Beloved would not be happy should I serve him a plate of such perfection.  Even though it might taste wonderful.  With B it is the size of a meal that matters (although I make sure it does have a good flavour, after all I have a reputation to keep up!) and he prefers a big meal on a big plate (B has his own plates - these being what I call meat platters, all larger than the average dinner plate, and even these platters are in graduated sizes, the very large one just about the right size to hold B's Christmas Dinner (well, imagine how much plate room is needed to hold several slices of turkey, a couple of sausages, several bacon rolls, several balls of stuffing, a big dollop of bread sauce.  Leaving room for roast potatoes, mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts, carrots, peas, parsnips.... and gravy (have I forgotten anything?....). And that's just his first helping. He has seconds.  And maybe a few thirds. 
Thankfully, by the time I've cooked all that, I've lost interest in eating.  So why is it I am always fighting my weight gain and B's weight remains the same?  Life just isn't fair.

Wearing my nutritionists hat again, feel it might be handy to mention (again) how we can serve balanced meals without any being boring.  We are blessed with so much variety, and when it comes to the carbohydrates, these are probably some of the cheapest.  Many times we DO serve more than one type of carbo in a meal, but now swapping hats and wearing my 'bankers' headgear, remind myself and everyone else that serving extra carbos is not the way to save monty.

At least we do have an excellent choice of just about every food, and whatever meat or veg we already have, we should be able to find a recipe where the carbo part could be: potatoes, pastry, pasta, rice, noodles, couscous (and other grains), even bread.  Some vegetables are also high in carbos. (beans etc).

How often we cook a dish that contains potatoes that has a pastry lid (or suet crust), and we probably serve fish cakes (made with mashed potato and/or breadcrumbs) with chips.  It's something we are used to doing, but thinking both nutritionally and financially, doubling up the carbos is not necessary. 

The same with protein.  Apparently a 4oz (100g) serving of mat (and this is the weight before cooking) is the right amount for our daily 'fuel' allowance, yet many (often older recipes) suggest 8 oz per person, and it doesn't always have to be meat.  Fish is protein (slightly more: 6 oz/175g) is now recommended per portion, but as eggs, milk, cheese are also classed as protein, these are even cheaper.
The other day, when making kedgeree for B's supper (I used kippers instead of smoked haddock) the dish had a couple of hard-boiled eggs added (because it is traditional), so there was no need to use so much fish (although I did), and most of the time I doubt many of us do cut our culinary cloth so carefully that we serve only the right amount, and the least expensive when we do.  But for those who are really concerned about feeding the family frugally but still keeping them in good health, it is useful to know how to prune away some of the expense without ending up starving.

The more I read about our nations poverty, the need for food banks etc,  I can't stop thinking about them.  Watching the prog about Iceland Foods yesterday evening made me realise (again) how much tempting food on sale that we do buy but that we don't really NEED.  Mind you, after watching the programme it made we want to go and buy quite a lot of what I saw, and only thankful there isn't an Iceland close to where we live (or don't think so).  For me - at least - not having to cook a meal from scratch is a treat in itself.  Fortunately my common sense keeps me from doing so, although occasionally do allow myself a Chinese takeaway purely for the please of not being able to eat a meal someone else has cooked for me.   One day my B might manage to do that.  Perhaps if I buy him a larger wok?

There was a time when many of us could afford to go and buy a lot of the 'ready-mades' (party foods, frozen desserts etc), and in the distant past, this included me.  Now, with rising prices, it seems that just about ALL food on sale is highly priced (for what it is), and we have to choose between buying this OR that, not both.   Had a vision yesterday (my thoughts turn into mental pictures) of me endlessly running round a wheel (like a hamster in a cage) never getting anywhere, just trying to keep my head above water (was it a mill wheel?) in my attempt to keep food purchases within restricted food budget which I aim never to go above.  So far I have been able to keep it at the same level (and often lower when there are good enough offers on what I wanted to buy anyway), but only because each month I end up buying less, and nearly all at reduced price.  Thankfully, still have enough foods in the larder to pad out the more expensive ingredients when making a meal. 

Tesco seem to have come up with a new idea.  Am now regularly sent vouchers that give me money-off (and sometimes quite a lot off) foods that I regularly buy.  Possibly they have a computer system that works out a customer's 'favourites', and each gets sent a set of different vouchers to suit their individual needs.  Also, although the vouchers expire after a certain time, this is months, not weeks, so gives me time to buy when I need, not give in to temptation.

The other day there was a request for ways to use limes, so here is a dish that is based on chicken and very flavoursome.    Some people would call it a 'curry', but as the chicken is not cooked in a sauce, and served with salad, think of it as more 'curry flavoured'.  If you wish it could be served as a 'dry curry' and served with rice.
Whilst not wishing to remove the subtleties of the flavouring, suppose the spices could be omitted as the limes and coconut have plenty of flavour of their own. 

If you have chicken breasts in the freezer (or if they are on offer) these could be used instead of chicken thighs (although the thighs are normally cheaper and do have more flavour).  As ever, use less chicken  to keep the costs down.  Cutting smaller chunks gives the impression of larger servings (especially if they are given plenty of coating).

Coconut Crusted Chicken: serves 4
8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
zest and juice of 2 limes, plus extra wedges
2 tsp curry powder or garam masala
1 tsp chilli powder (opt)
salt and pepper
2 oz (50g) desiccated coconut
1 tblsp sunflower oil
mango chutney
Leave whole or cut the thighs into large chunks and place in a bowl with the lime zest and juice, the curry powder and chilli powder, plus seasoning to taste.  Mix well then stir in the coconut so that the chicken pieces are coated.
Put the chicken on a wire rack placed in a roasting tin, drizzle over the oil, then bake at 200C, gas 6 for 25 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and tender.  Serve hot with mango chutney and lime wedges to squeeze over. 
If you wish to eat the chicken cold, leave it to cool then keep chilled for up to two days, serving with the chutney and crisp green salad.

Here is another curry dish, less expensive because eggs provide the protein.  As I've made a note that this recipe has been previously posted (but some time ago) feel I should apologise, but as am getting new readers almost every day, feel this dish is worth another mention especially as it works out at under 50p a portion (allowing for only the amount used if larder ingredients) and canny cooks should be able to make it for even less.

Simply Delicious Egg Curry: serves 4
2 tblsp sunflower oil
1 large onion
2 tblsp curry paste
1 x 230g can chopped tomatoes
7 fl oz (200ml) water
salt and pepper
8 eggs, hardboiled and halved
4 oz (100g) frozen peas
4 tblsp Greek yogurt
Heat the oil in a frying pan, then add the onions and fry for 10 minutes until softened and golden. Stir in the curry paste and cook for a further 2 minutes before adding the tomatoes and water.  Add seasoning to taste, bring to the boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for a further 20 minutes to reduce down to a thick sauce.  Add a splash of water if becoming too thick.
Stir the peas and yogurt into the curry sauce and cook for 4 more minutes, then gently place the halved eggs into the pan,  cut side facing up, spooning the sauce over each egg.
Serve with cooked rice or naan bread/chapatis and mango chutney. 

Tomorrow being Hair 'n Coffee morning day, almost certainly will not have time to blog, but will return on Friday. 
Hope those of you who celebrated Guy Fawkes had a pleasant evening and the rain kept off.  Here the fireworks began on Saturday, and carried on locally on Sunday, Monday, and - of course - yesterday.  But nothing too explosive thank goodness.  I see no reason to set off those horrendous 'bangers' that make nothing but noise.  I prefer the 'pretties', the rockets and Catherine wheels.  Even sparklers. 

With the weather turning much colder - snow even forecast for parts of northern Scotland, looks like winter is trying to muscle in before autumn has completed its task.  Due to the high winds, most of the leaves have now fallen, without having had a chance to show us their full autumnal colours.  The leaves are still on the Acer bush in our back garden, and although a good red colour throughout the year, the leaves are now even more coppery and quite glowing against a back-drop of dark green holly and other evergreen plants.

Now that Hallow'een and Guy Fawkes is now over, it's countdown to Christmas, so if anyone needs a recipe to prepare ahead for this occasion, or for something to add to the Christmas Hamper that so many home-cooks give as a gift, then now is the time to ask. "Never put off until tomorrow what we can do today" (or this week).  A quote that I wish I could remember because so often I leave things until the last minute then its all done in a rush.  Am sure you all have a lot more self control and do things when they should be done.   (Am reminded to get out the duster and rub it along the top shelf over the fireplace where sits a Christmas decoration left there from last year, Well, at least it saves me having to hunt it out and put it up there again this year).   My favourite expression is "Oh, I'll do it tomorrow", and I say this every day about the same thing I should be doing. So when will it get done, when will anything get done?  Times like this I play 'the old lady' card, and am now making myself believe I am.  Can't have that.

Please join me again and I'm already looking forward to Friday and our communal chat.  See you then.