Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Glad Game

Have to be a quick blog today as finding it a really busy week.  We went to Barton Grange yesterday and I bought very little - just a pack of tartan paper napkins (to match our tartan-furnished dining room, the room with the dark wood panelled walls.  Very Balmoral!).  A new frying pan (expensive) to replace the one that B ruined, and bulk pack of pork loins steaks. 
B.G's Christmas decorations were again out of this world, and despite the early time of our arrival (before 10.00am) the car park was nearly full, and several coach loads of people arrived when we were there.  Very popular at this time of year.

Just two comments to reply to.  One from Alison who enjoys the books that I like to read (Margaret Powell, Nella Last... and I too had the Miss Read books, although they went with hundreds of others, to the charity shop when we moved.  I hate downsizing as had to get rid of loads of things I had collected over the years, and really loved them and miss them. 

A welcome to Jo from New Zealand. It seems almost everywhere there is a recession to match ours. Do hope you keep writing to us Jo as we'd love to hear more about life in NZ.  I'm especially interested in the traditional (if you can call it that) foods/dishes eaten.  Or is it mainly British?  I envy you your Maori's who seem to be a very noble people.  I can go quite weak at the knees when I see the Haka (?) at the start of one of their rugby matches when they play over here.
Once, playing an afternoon of bridge, held at a local rugby club, a coachload of young New Zealand rugby players came (think they were the second team to the All Black's), and most of them appeared to be of Maori descent.  You should have seen us - fairly old ladies - all standing at the window, drooling as we saw the young men pass.  How good looking they were.

Managed to grab some time yesterday afternoon to watch the new James Martin 'Christmas cooking' prog on BBC 1 (3.45pm).  Can't say I found it very interesting.  Too much chat between him and the guests and not enough detail.  At least it was good to see that Brian Turner is part of the team, he is a down-to-earth chef that I like.  His Turkey Wellington seemed well worth trying, although I'm not too happy about the way it is part cooked before being covered with pastry, then left chilled to cook later. You can do that with beef, but thought we had to be very careful with poultry.  Suppose the final cooking would kill off any bacteria that might have been woken from sleep during the first cooking.

The Masterchef yesterday was a MUST.  If you didn't see it, then do watch it on iPlayer before it disappears.  Normally can take this prog or leave it as it is usually way about my domestic-cooks head, but yesterday the chefs were given a large variety of foods that would left-overs or 'waste' that normally have been thrown out (fish heads, cooked beef bones, carrot and beet tops, over-ripe bananas, outer leaves of 'greens' etc.)  The very sight of the huge range made me instantly want to be there and 'have a play'.  To me, having to making something out of nothing is what I call 'The Glad Game' (from the Pollyanna books).  We should always be glad of what we have, never grumble about wanting things we can't have. 

The chefs were given just a few 'basics' they could use (eggs, flour, milk....) and so had to come up with two different dishes made from their choice of the 'throw-aways'.  I squeaked excitedly to B "hope they'll use the cod cheeks" (they did), and "they can make pasta/ravioli" (they did).  I was pleased about that even though I've not yet got round to buying a fish head and using its cheeks. Perhaps now I'll begin buying whole fish instead of just the fillets (make stock from the bones and trimmings, also soup).
Have to say that I've never seen Michel Roux jnr look so amazed and pleased when he tasted their efforts.  The food looked wonderful, definitely fine-dining style, and it's given me great incentive to start thinking a lot more about the odds and ends that we all have in our fridge/freezers and veggie baskets.   If I can find the time I'm going to watch this particular episode again (and again).  We need more programmes like that, but the final dishes geared more to serving at domestic level.

Two further progs on Channel 4 during the evening were - I hoped - would be worth watching.  The first was more of interest as I never buy clothes from discount stores these days (just Damart catalogues as they have my size).  What was very interesting was how these 'up to 60% off' discounts are not at all what they seem, and the designer labels also are not who we think they are.  We are being conned, left right and centre.  So buyer beware.

The 'Food Unwrapped' prog that followed the above, should have been interesting, but somehow I can't find Jimmy Doherty and his team manage to keep my attention.  Think I had nodded off during the last part (did see the bit about beef stock cubes and half of the ice-cream).  
Maybe it's because I am more than interested in food and cooking that I prefer watching cookery/food programmes that cut out the waffle and get right down to the nitty-gritty.  How to do it and why this or the other works.   I used to like to watch Nigel Slater, but since he's gone all hairy and looks like a tramp I've gone off him.

There are a few cooks whose programmes I enjoy because we can learn a lot from them.  These are Hugh F.W.,  Jamie Oliver,  Paul Hollywood, Mary Berry, Michel Roux jnr, Gary Rhodes (haven't seen him for a long time), Delia Smith, even Gordon Ramsay (when he behaves himself).  The Food Network also have two cooks I like to watch for the same reason:  Anna Oleson, and - surprisingly - Nadia G in her 'Bitchin Kitchen'.  Ina Garten (aka The Barefoot Contessa) does take us through almost every step when she makes something, but she doesn't make much that I would wish to try, either the portions are far too large, too sweet, and always (with savouries) far, FAR too salty.  I know I can change seasonings etc to suit our personal palates, but prefer to watch a cook make something everyone can make, not just experienced cooks (who don't always follow a recipe as exactly as a novice cook would).

When it comes to cookery progs, perhaps it is only the experienced cooks who want to watch just the cooking with no other distractions.  Novice cooks want a programme to be more fun.  In a way this is what Nadia G does so well, and myself don't mind her 'distractions' (Hans being one of them). Bet you've not realised this, but the one thing about cooking on TV is that the cook (and/or guests if there are any) has to keep talking throughout.  A few seconds silence can seem like a very long time when watching.  So a bit of 'chat' doesn't come amiss, as long as it is fun (as is Nadia's).

Am expecting a delivery from Tesco later this morning, and between now and then have to visit the surgery for my blood test, hopefully leaving time to get another tray-bake in the oven before the food arrives.  Tesco are really clever, they now send money-off coupons on foods I regularly order, with no tempting me to try something else.  I've got 50p of a can of Spam, and 50p off fresh mushrooms, and plenty of other things.  Also double points on the whole shop. 

A few more foods to be bought at the end of next week (prob from M'son's), and then batten down the hatches and start cooking for Christmas.  After that it will be weeks and weeks of 'living off what we have in store', so need to make sure I have all that I need (esp. carrots, onions, celery, cauliflower, potatoes, white cabbage and all long-keeping veggies).

Would love to keep chatting, but really have to dash to get ready to go out.  If I can get another cake baked today then will have time to blog tomorrow (if not may blog later in the day as I may not have time on Thursday).  A very busy week for me, so expect me when you see me will have to do for the moment.  But I'll try to blog a few words when I can.  Should be back to normal by the weekend.  TTFN.