Thursday, January 31, 2013

Spreading the Word

Later start today due to Norma the Hair arriving later than expected.  But then with time to spare was able to do quite a lot before she arrived (laundry, preparing a trifle, sorting out a shelf in the larder, washing up the pots, tidying the conservatory....).  Now have cheese to grate and freeze, the trifle to finish, an apple and blackberry pie to make.  A whole chicken is defrosting (will be roasted tomorrow) - also sausages thawing for B's sausage, egg, beans and chips supper tonight.

Want to get most of this done before 1.30, so I can settle down to watch local news on TV, and also 'Doctor's' and 'Moving On' (drama that follows), then back into the kitchen to do more cooking as while the oven is on cooking sausages and chips, it can also cook other things too.  That's the plan anyway.

Thanks to Nikki for her comment.  It's quite true, a leisurely train journey to work means quite a bit can be done whilst travelling.  If not to do with work, more than once I've seen a girl spend quite some time putting on all her make-up (and with one this took some time I can tell you, you wouldn't have recognised her as the same person by the time she had finished).
Punctuality is high on my list of priorities (esp with work), so as - in those days -  could almost guarantee a train would be late arriving, I have always caught the train before the one that should have got me there in time, just to make sure I was. 

Also thanks to Pam (Texas) for her query.  Sorry, but I haven't any experience in growing loofahs, but am hoping that one or more readers of this blog could offer some information.

A welcome to Noor (Malaysia). Seems that my blog is now read in several other countries rather than just the UK.  It would be good to hear from others who live abroad.  They could have some local, and economical, recipes they could share.
Noor enjoys recipes using pasta, so one more is given today - this time using one of the more attractive pasta shapes as there is no need for the 'cups and curlies' to hold sauce.

Have seen several cake recipes that use courgettes Alison, so they could possibly be used in place of carrots, parsnips, or beetroot (all three used in baking as they are fairly sweet). Adding cocoa would definitely help to improve the flavour.

Watched the new series with the Hairy Bikers yesterday, but can't say I was that impressed.  The idea was good (gourmet on a shoestring), but feel there was a bit too much 'hard work' involved.   Personally, I'd rather buy a jar of ready made Thai curry sauce than go to the expense of buying the many different ingredients needed to make it (as shown on the prog). 
Having said that, the more work we put in ourselves, the cheaper the 'end product' should be, and it goes without saying that a gourmet meal made at home will work out far less costly than one we either buy 'ready-made to re-heat', or eaten when 'dining out'.  

Trouble is, my Beloved prefers to be served a 'good plateful', rather than the 'poncy' (as he calls it) little tower in the middle of a plate with a 'drizzle' surround.  So perhaps I should be thankful as his version is much easier, but then I can't develop my 'cheffy' skills.  Yes, I could prepare a Michelin starred meal just for myself, but like most cooks (or so I believe) we enjoy far more cooking for others than cooking for ourselves. Or is that just me being me again?

Time is moving on fast (so fast that it will be February tomorrow - where did January go to?), so will end with one recipe, and then say my farewell until tomorrow.

The idea behind this pasta-based recipe is that you make the 'base' salad - this will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days, then remove a portion, and add chunks of cooked chicken, ham, salami/chorizo, corned beef, cold sausage.... Or open a can of tuna, salmon, or crab, and add flakes of this....Or add flakes of smoked salmon, smoked mackerel, smoked trout.... In other words make up your own salad that can be changed daily.
The prettiest pasta shapes look best in this dish (for eye appeal), and my suggestion would be to use use 'farfalle' (they look like bow ties), but only if you have them. Otherwise use another pasta shape.
basic Pasta Salad: serves 4
9 oz (250g) pasta shapes (see above)
5 oz (150g) frozen peas
handful fresh parsley, chopped
handful fresh chives, chopped
zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 tblsp olive oil (extra virgin if poss)
salt and pepper
(later adding meat/fish as required - see above)
Cook the pasta as per packet instructions, adding the peas for the last 2 minutes of the cooking time. Drain and rinse with cold water to rapidly cool it down.  Drain well again, then tip into a bowl with with herbs, lemon zest and juice, the oil, and plenty of seasoning.  Mix well together, then place into a lidded container and chill for up to 3 days.  Remove what is intended to be eaten that day, and add the cooked meat/fish of your choice, as an when you want (you may wish to eat the salad for lunch with meat, and again for supper with fish...).

It is now noon, so time for me to move from one comfort zone to another.  A better day today, still very windy (80mph in the north of Scotland), with blue sky visible between thin white and high clouds, so probably no rain.  It is good to see the sun shine, slightly higher in the sky now, this giving a feeling that spring will not be far behind.  Suppose, like most creatures, our 'body-clock instincts are controlled by where the sun is in the sky during each month of the year.  And without us really noticing. 

Have a good day, and hope you find time to join me for our 'chat' this time (or earlier) tomorrow. TTFN.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Pasta Pleasures

Yesterday's pasta-based recipes seemed to go down well, so more today. Not because I can't think of anything else to write about (far from it!), but as pasta is an economical ingredient with a long shelf-life, and almost any pasta dish can be adapted to use foods we need to use up, what better dishes to make when we have less time to spare cooking, and/or less money to spend.

According to recent research, we eat roughly 40% more food when depressed than we would do when happy with our lot.  Comfort eating I suppose, and considering - at least in the UK - we haven't anything much to be contented about (and not just the recession, the weather too...!) we need to make sure we choose to eat foods that are good for us, and leave the rest well alone.
Pasta dishes make good 'comfort eating', as quick to cook (some can be made ahead of time, also frozen), so another good reason to include more recipes today.

Firstly though, must welcome two new names to our happy band of cost-cutters.  A comment from Nikki who's husband is vegetarian, so some of yesterday's dishes were useful, and hope today's will be also. Group hugs from us all Nikki.
A welcome and hugs also to Pam (from Texas - originally from Huddersfield - and there must have been a culture shock on arrival in the US). Good to know there are still people out there who remember me the first time round.  

No jane, I have not yet sorted my freezer/s, only opening the door for a few seconds to remove on box of pre-cooked Beef Rib Trim (that my Beloved likes so much).  This was reheated yesterday and 'turned' into a beef casserole with the help of some cooked carrots and potatoes, some lightly fried onions, and a good helping of gravy (the meat stock - frozen with the 'trim' - thickened with Bisto 'Best').  For 'greens', I shredded and steamed - over the pan of carrots and potatoes cooked together - the last bit of white cabbage that I had (I have another whole white as yet unused as back-up in the fridge).  It all went together quite well, and B seemed happy enough.

For myself made a salad (grated and chopped winter veg) with a can of 'no-drain' tuna (I quite like this as there seems to be no liquid in the can at all).  Then ate a large navel orange.  Healthy enough but it didn't warm me up as much as the casserole would have done.  Mind you, the temperature has risen now higher than is 'seasonal', so managed without needing to put the central heating on during the day.  Was so cosy in bed last night that I decided to grab an extra few minutes when I woke, which turned out to be more than an hour because I fell asleep again (bonus was I had a long, long dream), so late starting my blog this morning/ No more 'chat' and straight on to the recipes.

As with most pasta recipes, we should be able to use almost any pasta shape that we have, although some work better than others according to if a sauce is used, or more 'chunky' ingredients.  Italians would throw up their hands in horror if I suggest 'pasta is pasta' (like I think potatoes are potatoes...), with little difference between one or t'other.  So my suggestion of using what we have is mainly for sheer economy. We can be more selective when can afford to be.

The pasta in this first recipe should be 'bucatini', this being like spaghetti, but a thicker, hollow version. Think long strips of macaroni and you're nearly there.  So why not use macaroni, pasta penne, or just spaghetti? Doubt even a Roman would notice the difference.
Bacon is included in this dish - and it truly does add a wonderful flavour.  If wishing to make this dish for vegetarians and non-veggies, cook the bacon separately, cook the other ingredients in just the oil, serve the vegetarian meal first, then finish off the dish by adding the bacon and bacon fat and continuing the cooking.  If you haven't any spicy chillis, then either add a dash or two of Tabasco, or hot chilli sauce, or stir a little chilli powder (to taste) into the pan when frying.

Many Italian dishes originate from small towns (or even villages) and this one comes from Amatrice (central Italy) - hence the name.  .
Bucatini all'Amatriciana: serves 4 - 5
2 tlblsp sunflower oil
7 oz (200g) streaky bacon, cut into matchsticks
1 onion, finely sliced
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
half a green or red chilli pepper, seeded and chopped
12 oz (350g) bucatini or spaghetti (see above)
3 oz (75g) Parmesan or Cheddar, grated
salt and pepper
Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat and saute the bacon until it is starting to crisp up.  Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.
Add the onion to the fat in the pan (or use another pan and fresh oil for the veggie version) and saute for a few minutes until softened, then add the tomatoes and chilli and simmer (uncovered) for 15 minutes until thickened slightly.  Then add the bacon and continue to cook for a further 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta, then drain well.  Put into a serving bowl and mix with the hot sauce and half the cheese.  Add seasoning to taste.  Serve immediately, with the remaining cheese served separately.

Some vegetarians will eat fish, so this might be a 'feed all' dish.  Anchovies do help to add flavour, so worth using, but if you haven't any then you could use anchovy paste, or omit this fish altogether and just settle for the sardines.  If using anchovies, freeze any surplus (with or without the oil), so they can be added to other dishes in the future.
We have a choice of two pastas for this dish, one being pasta penne - this shape soaks up the sauce both internally an externally, the other being spaghettini (aka vermicelli), a thin type of spaghetti, so the sauce coats only the surface of the pasta.  Pasta penne is the one I prefer, mainly because this is always in my larder, being one of the most useful pastas to have.  But if you have neither, then use what you do have.
As the fish is canned in oil, then why not use some (or all) of this oil to saute the onions instead of using just olive oil?
Penne con Sarde: serves 3 - 4
5 tblsp olive oil (see above)
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 x 47g can anchovy fillets, chopped (opt)
approx half a 400g can chopped tomatoes
1 oz (25g) raisins
2 x 120g cans sardines in oil, drained (see above)
salt and pepper
12 oz (350g) pasta penne, or spaghettini (see above)
2 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
2 os (50g) lightly toasted breadcrumbs
Heat the oil in a large frying pan and saute the onions and anchovies until softened. Add the tomatoes and raisins and cook for 10 minutes before adding the sardines.  Reduce heat and simmer for five minutes, then add seasoning to taste.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta as per packet instructions (to 'al dente'), drain well, then add to the sauce.  Stir everything together, fold in the parsley and breadcrumbs, and serve immediately.

We don't associate curry with Italian dishes, but they do have some wonderful mild versions, and here is one.  The pasta for this dish is 'linguine' (a flat type of spaghetti), but you could use the wider 'tagliatelle'.
This is another 'store-cupboard' type of meal (not a million miles away from a 'Carbonara'), and many of us should have all the ingredients to hand (in larder, fridge or freezer). For economy use less prawns and more pasta.  With two egg whites left over, why not make use of these and make some meringues or macaroons?  Or - you could use two whole eggs with a tablespoon of cream and then no need to have spare whites.
Pasta with Prawns: serves 3 - 4
12 oz (350g) linguine or other long, thin pasta
3 oz (75g) butter
12 oz (350g) frozen peeled prawns, thawed
1 tblsp curry powder (or mild curry paste)
4 tblsp white wine (opt)
half pint (300ml) fish or chicken stock
2 egg yolks and 1 whole egg (see above)
4 oz (100g) grated Parmesan or mature Cheddar
salt and pepper
3 tblsp finely chopped fresh mint
Start cooking the pasta as per packet instructions, and while this cooks, heat half the butter in a large frying pan and saute the prawns and curry powder together for a few minutes (if prawns are already cooked, just fry the curry powder and add the prawns nearer the end of the cooking time).
Add the wine to the pan and boil over high heat to reduce, then add the stock . Put the eggs into a bowl with the cheese and mix together.
When the pasta is cooked, drain lightly (it doesn't matter if it stays a bit wet), and add to the frying pan with the remaining butter (cut into pieces), and the egg/cheese mixture (adding prawns if using the cooked/thawed ones).  Stir over a low heat until the sauce has thickened and is coating the pasta. Add seasoning to taste, sprinkle over the mint, give one final toss, then serve immediately. 

Final recipe today has nothing to do with pasta, but due to the comments sent it, thought that this might make good use of excess of carrots (several readers buying these a sackful at a time as this works out much cheaper - by weight).  From my notes I see this recipe has been posted before, but newer (and maybe even older) readers may have missed seeing it first time round, so here it is again.

Unlike many muffins - best eaten on the day of making - these carrot muffins keep moist for up to 5 days in an airtight container (or can be frozen for up to 3 months), perfect for those lunch-boxes.
If you haven't mini-muffin tins, use regular sized one in which case the mixture should make between 9 and 12 muffins.  Allow a little extra time for cooking.  They should be risen and firm to the touch in the centre when lightly pressed.
Carrot Muffins: makes 18 mini-muffins
4 oz (100g) self-raising flour
half tsp mixed spice
4 oz (100g) caster sugar
3 fl oz (75ml) sunflower oil
2 fl oz (50ml) milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
5 oz (125g) carrots, peeled and grated
Sift the flour and spice together over a bowl and stir in the sugar.  Mix in the oil, milk, and egg, then finally the carrots, stirring well to combine.
Put a heaped teaspoon of the mixture into 18 paper-case lined mini-muffin tins, then bake for 12 minutes until risen.  Cool before storing in an airtight tin (up to 5 days) or freeze in a rigid container for up to 3 months.

Due to me cutting out my 'rambling', seem to have managed to complete today's blog in less time than expected.  This will allow me more time to trot off into the kitchen and sort out my own cooking.  Have to say that when writing about food, copying out recipes etc, by the time I get into the kitchen I've almost had my fill.  Really don't feel like dealing with any more cooking, unless quick and easy.  What does that make me?  A bit of a waste of space perhaps. 

Today is very dull, very windy, and rain spattering the window as I write.  Instead of worrying about improving the land, better drainage etc, the government now seems to want to build new train tracks for a planned 'fast-speed' train.  The reason why we need one - according to our PM - is that other countries on the continent have them (so presumably we want to keep up with them).  Has it ever occurred to him that most of those countries are much MUCH larger than ours, so they probably need to cut down travelling time to get from one end to the other.

Why do we need fast trains.  To get to London more rapidly they say.  Why would we want to do that?   What's wrong with catching an earlier train and eating a leisurely breakfast en route?
Many years ago I had occasionally and temporary work as a food stylist at a studio in Manchester (we lived in Leeds at that time). As I had to be at the studio by 8.30am each morning, this meant an early start and I could have caught the express from Leeds to Manchester.  In fact I did the first day, but it was full of busy and stressed commuters, and these 'vibes' I found unpleasant.  The remaining days of that particular 'job' I caught an earlier train that sauntered through the countryside stopping at every small station en route.  The carriages were barely half-full, and this made for a very relaxing trip. I also chose to return the 'slow way', but not by the same route, so had a double whammy of 'scenic routes.  The only drawback was because we finished work when the photographer had completed the task in hand (mid-evening more often than not), I did not reach home until nearly 11.00pm, then had to tumble out of bed by 6.00am next day to catch that early train.  But worth it.  It really was.
Believe me I've travelled on enough fast trains, packed with commuters, to make me realise that this is the worst way to get to work.  There are better ways.

Anyway, as the proposed 'fast train' is planned only from London to Manchester, forking to reach Leeds, hardly worth all the fuss and bother.  Would make more sense if it was fast-tracking from London to Aberdeen.
I asked B if it was to be a 'straight through express' and he said "no, it would stop off somewhere else, probably Birmingham'".  This means that everyone who wants to 'fast track' to London, will have to live close to the 'new' stations or they will be adding more than the 'saved time' to use said trains.  If they continued to catch their 'regular' train from the station closer to home, I bet there wouldn't be that much difference in time saved. Not enough to make any difference, and that's all that matters.

Speed is not essential (though it seems as though this is the way the world is going).  No-one has moaned because Concorde can no longer take us Brits to the US (and other places) it less than half the time it took before.  We seem quite happy to have settled back into the long haul again.  So let's not waste our precious money on something that we really don't need, and use it to make our lands well-drained and fit to grow produce.

If this country is so short of money that cuts have to be made here there and everywhere, then where is this money coming from to pay for the high-speed trains and tracks?  Let's get the nation securely back on its feet first. 
In the 20 years it will take to get this new venture 'on track', by then most business will be conducted via computers, so very few people will need to have to scamper down for a face to face meeting (and having had many of those myself know these tend to start either mid-morning, or as a 'working lunch').  Who needs to be in London early, leading to being wedged like sardines in the Underground carriages as another 'quick' way to get to the venue (everyone else just on their way to 'ordinary' work at that time).   Of course there are taxis!   Which brings me to the cost of it all.  Extra fares for the privilege of fast-tracking, higher taxi-fares (because these will undoubtedly rise), so who will then be able to afford to use the speedy transport.   The trains have to be full to make them pay their way.  Full of what?  Millionaires? Of course not.  They have their own helicopters, cars and chauffeurs.  I rest my case.

There was me about to sign off, and I started to ramble (aka 'moan') again. Always got a bee in my bonnet about something these days.  Old age I suppose.  I'm even moaning about that.  Perhaps we should all stand up, have our say, and be counted.  We have only ourselves to blame when things happen that we might have been able to prevent - had we shouted long and hard enough.   My 'yelling' is mainly confined to my blog.  Those who use 'Twitter' could spread their feeling around, and someone might listen.  Isn't there a saying, something to do with 'a butterfly flapping its wings in South America, can be the cause of a hurricane the other side of the world'?  So let all of us start doing a bit of 'flapping', and bring some sense into the running of this country (meanwhile I'll start by trying to put my own house in order).

However slow your day may be, then consider you will have more time to enjoy it.  Hope you do so.  May be a late start (again) tomorrow as it is Norma the Hair day.  Doubt I will be up early enough to write and publish before she comes.  So expect me around noon (or just after).  See you then.



Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Simple Supper

In a couple or so days it will be February, so time for us to think about sowing a few seeds to begin sprouting on our windowsills.  This year, more than ever before, we really should try and 'grow our own' - as least as much as we can - for our farmers now have saturated fields to get drained and ploughed before they can begin to sow/plant this year's produce, and - if the bad weather continues - they maybe even have to miss this year having a crop that will grow.   If this happens, it will lead to even higher priced fresh produce whether grown in this country or imported. 

There are some vegetables that are still available and reasonable in price, especially if we seek out those that are 'second grade' (in other words mis-shapes).  These are usually better in flavour than those perfect look-alikes (becoming more and more tasteless) that our supermarkets seem to think we prefer (we don't!), so today am including some in today's recipes.

Most of us eat well enough anyway, and often we don't need to cook a substantial meal, so why not occasionally keep it simple, and always cheap?  Make sense (at least to me as I'm getting lazier and more miserly as each day passes).

Today's recipes are based mainly on pasta as this is an inexpensive 'ingredient' (comes in various shapes and sizes) that most of us keep in our storecupboard.  In fact, all the recipes I'm hoping will be able to be made 'from what we already have'.  Never let it be said I encourage anyone to go out and actually BUY an ingredient they are missing.  Always use an alternative, a similar 'substitute'.  Or choose another recipe!

The first recipe makes good use of carrots (inexpensive enough especially if you can buy 'pony carrots'), as - when grated - these help to make a really good, thick, and very satisfying sauce.
The 'meaty' part of this dish comes from sausages (or sausagemeat - which is sometimes cheaper) -and one 'banger' per person would be more than enough, so it hardly breaks the bank.   Use good home-made stock if you have some, but no reason to be ashamed if you make 'instant stock' using water and half a stock cube. 

As ever, the cheese could be stale Cheddar (the harder it is the finer it grates) or the more expensive Parmesan, it doesn't really matter, and - if you can - use macaroni, pasta penne, fusilli, or another small pasta shape that will hold a sauce. 
The important thing to remember (because it really does help to save money) is that - traditionally -Italians serve more pasta and less meat sauce that we do in the UK.  Here we tend to put a small amount of pasta onto a plate then heap the sauce on top.  In Italy they make a small amount of meat (or other) sauce, then add lots of pasta to this, tossing it together so that each piece of pasta has a light coating of the sauce, with every mouthful full of flavour.  You get the idea?
This is a very economical way to use meat, (so next time you are making 'spag bol' bear this in mind).

The advantage of this next dish is that - once made - it can be kept in the fridge for up to three days, and also freezes well, so even if only needing one or two portions at any one time, worth making the lot and freezing the surplus.

Pasta with Sausagemeat and Carrots: serves 4 - 5
8 oz (225g) good pork sausages (or sausagemeat)
1 tblsp sunflower oil
small knob of butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 medium carrots, grated
1 x 400g (14oz) can tomatoes, pureed
4 fl oz (100ml) chicken or beef stock
1 tsp dried oregano or marjoram
salt and pepper
12 oz (350g) macaroni or similar pasta
3 oz (75g) grated Parmesan or other hard cheese
Remove the skins from the sausages, and set the meat aside..  Heat the oil and butter in a pan over medium heat and cook the onion for a few minutes until softened, then add the sausagemeat, breaking it up with a fork, and frying gently until it is lightly browned.  Add the carrots and stir these into the sausagemeat and onions, then add the pureed tomatoes, the stock, and the dried herbs. Cover pan, reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes.  Taste and add seasoning only if you feel it needs it (some sausages are spicier than others).
Meanwhile, cook the pasta as per packet instructions, then drain and add to the pan of 'sausage and carrot sauce'.  Toss together, then serve in one large, or individual dishes (can be chilled/ frozen at this point).  Serve the grated cheese separately to sprinkle on top.

Next recipe is a very simple 'peasant' dish, and looking at the list of ingredients I wouldn't blame you for believing it isn't worth the eating.  Believe me it really does taste good, the toasted crumbs giving an unexpected nutty flavour.
If you can use the quick-cook spaghetti, you can make the sauce in the time it takes the water to boil and the pasta to cook.  It's that quick and easy.

Thin Spaghetti with Herbs and Crumbs: serves 4 - 5
12 oz (350g) quick-cook or thin spaghetti
5 tblsp olive oil
1 onion, very finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 oz (50g) fresh parsley, very finely chopped
half tsp salt
half tsp dried oregano or marjoram
ground black pepper
5 tblsp fresh breadcrumbs
1 oz (25g) butter
Start by cooking the pasta as per pkt instructions.  Meanwhile, heat 3 tblsp of the oil in a frying pan and saute the onions, garlic and parsley until lightly coloured.  Add the salt, dried herbs, and plenty of pepper (or to taste). 
At the same time, using another small frying pan, heat the remaining oil and butter together and saute the breadcrumbs until golden.
Drain the pasta and put into a warmed serving dish, then pour the hot parsley-and-oil sauce over and finish by sprinkling the breadcrumbs on the top.  Serve immediately.

This next recipe is fun to make (also good to eat).  It's a great way of serving home-made chicken or beef stock as a soup in its own right, as all you have to do then is make the cheese pasta, and drop it into the soup to cook.
In Italy, especially in the Bologna area, this cheese pasta (aka 'Passatelli) is only served after Easter, as it traditionally heralds in the spring and summer.  But we could make this and eat it any time of the year.
Most of us have a colander we could use to form the 'Passatelli', but the traditional  'spaghetti-like' strands of the cheese paste are best made using a mouli-mill (food mill - using the largest holes), or a potato ricer.

Passetilli: serves 4 -5
3 oz (75g) grated Parmesan cheese
2 oz (50g) fine breadcrumbs
1 oz (25g) butter
3 eggs
grated nutmeg
2.5pints (1.4ltrs) good chicken or beef stock
Put the cheese, breadcrumbs, butter and eggs into a small saucepan, and mix together to make a cheese paste.  Flavour with nutmeg, then heat gently, stirring, for a minute or two to bind the lot together.  Meanwhile put the stock into a large pan and heat until simmering.
Put the cheese paste into a mouli, potato ricer, or colander, holding this over the pan of stock. Press the paste through, in long strands if possible, directly into the stock, allow to simmer for a minute or two (and don't be concerned if the strands lose their shape.  This is normal.).  Then serve.

Here is an unusual and very different and attractive way to serve pasta.  The recipe for Bechamel sauce was given the other day, otherwise make a thick white sauce (dare I suggest using Bisto granules?), preferably flavoured with a bay leaf, and certainly season it well.
The pasta to use should be either the thin spaghetti (aka vermicelli, or spaghettini), or the thin noodles (tagliatelle).  Gruyere cheese is the best to use for this dish, but another easily-melting cheese could be used instead. 

Goes without saying I am suggesting using the scraps left after slicing a home-cooked ham, rather than go out and buy some.  The 'sauce' should be 'salsa di pomodoro' (recipe also shown) and this is worth making ourselves - and in bulk - as it freezes well and can be used with many different pasta or other Italian dishes, but I have suggested using the ready-made passata for those who just can't be bothered (and shame on you if this is so).
Either make this dish in one large mould to divide up, or use individual moulds and serve as a 'starter' when entertaining (and no reason why we can't 'entertain' our immediate family instead of just serving 'supper', especially as once the moulds have been filled, they can be chilled for a few hours before being cooked).

Pasta Tibales: makes 6 small or one large
half oz (15g) butter
half oz (15g) breadcrumbs
half pint Bechamel sauce (see above)
6 oz (175g) pasta (see above)
4 oz (100g) Gruyere cheese, diced
4 oz (100g) cooked ham, diced
half pint tomato Passata (or use recipe below)
Use one large mould, or (pref) six individual moulds (each approx 6 fl oz/175ml capacity), and butter the inside thickly, then coat with some of the breadcrumbs. 
Cook the pasta to just 'al dente' stage (no further as it will carry on cooking in the oven), and drain (but it should still be dripping with water).  Put the wet pasta into a bowl and add the Bechamel sauce.
Half fill the moulds with the pasta mixture, then add a layer of cheese and ham, then top up to the brim with the rest of the pasta.  Sprinkle the top with the remaining breadcrumbs (then if not cooking immediately, cover and chill in the fridge for several hours). Bring to room temperature before baking, or allow an extra five minutes cooking time.
Bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 20 - 25 minutes, then run a knife round the inside of the mould and turn out onto a serving dish.   Pour the hot tomato passata into a gravy jug, and serve separately so that everyone can pour as much or as little over the 'timbales' as they wish.

salsa di pomodoro (tomato sauce):
2 x 14 oz (400g) cans plum tomatoes
1 onion, chopped
1 carrots, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
1 teaspoon sugar
5 tblsp olive oil
few fresh basil leaves, OR...
...a pinch of dried oregano/marjoram
salt and pepper
Put all ingredients - except the seasoning - into a saucepan, then simmer over very low heat for at least one hour, then puree in a blender, food processor, or rub through a sieve.  Season to taste with salt and pepper
(tip) if you like the flavour of garlic, start by lightly frying a chopped clove in the oil, then remove the garlic, adding the garlic-flavoured oil to the other ingredients.

Forgive me for including a cold dish in January, but as I have all the makings in my fridge/larder I'm therefore tempted.  Also see no reason why it cannot make a good supper dish (as long as eaten in a warm room, or with a hot pudding to follow).  If you can't face eating 'cold' at this time of year, then file this recipe away to make during our 'summer' (which may be sooner than you think as in recent years our really hot 'summer' weather - like a full week of it - has been at the end of April, last year it was at the end of March.  This year - maybe end of February???).

Beetroot is a lovely vegetable to use, but needs care as it can stain what it touches.  In this instance it colours not only the apple, but the pasta as well, turning the salad into pretty shade of pink. For best effect, use the shorter pasta shapes, such as macaroni, penne, fusilli etc.
If you haven't soured cream, use creme fraiche or Greek yogurt (or a blend of both).

Beetroot and Pasta Salad: serves 4 - 5
8 oz (225g) pasta, chosen small shapes
2 tblsp olive or sunflower oil
5 fl oz (150ml) soured cream
2 tblsp single cream
2 tblsp lemon juice
2 tblsp finely chopped shallot or spring onions
pinch salt
2 tblsp horseradish sauce
1 lb (450g) crisp eating apples, peeled/cored/sliced
1 lb (450g) cooked beetroot, diced
8 oz (225g) celery, sliced
chopped mint or chives for garnish
Cook the pasta to 'al dente', then drain and refresh under cold, running water. Drain well again and put into a bowl with the oil.
Using another bowl, make a 'dressing' by mixing together the soured cream, single cream, lemon juice, onion, salt and horseradish sauce.  Add the apples, beetroot and celery.  If not using immediately, keep this 'salad' chilled in the fridge.
When ready to serve, stir the pasta into the salad, pile into a serving bowl and garnish with the chosen chopped herbs.

That's it for today.  Have plenty of cooking that I should be doing, also sorting out the freezer/s, the only trouble is now -while the weather is still cold - the moment the freezer door is opened it makes me feel even colder, so keep putting this particular 'stock take' off for another day. 

Yesterday B finished off the last of the Bakewell, heating it in the microwave to serve with cream. He brought it into the living room to eat, and it smelled gorgeous!  How I wished I could have had some. Maybe next time.  My tummy is rumbling now at the thought.   That's the wonderful thing about home-cooking, it's not just the taste, it's the wonderful aroma that spreads around the house.  Bacon frying for breakfast, bread and cakes baked during the day, meat roasting in the oven.  The smell is the added bonus that cannot be matched in any other way.  So let's keep on cooking.

It's odd to think that winter is nearly over, and Spring is not far behind.  It's even begun to get light by 8.00am.  Somehow this is making me feel unsettled.  Perhaps natural, as all sorts of things begin to stir at this time of year.  Not least our emotions (and even a couple of months short of 80 I still feel there is life in this old dog yet!).  Let us hope I can stir myself enough to spend more time in the garden and grow food, rather than sit and smell the roses (not that we have any roses).

How are all you good readers getting on with the 'use what we have' challenge?  Or for that matter the 'cook a roast on Sunday' challenge (that began well in the Goode kitchen, but very soon fizzled out as although not expensive, was pretty boring due to eating the leftovers every day of the week)?  I''ve had to stock up with a few items (flour, eggs etc) as needing these for baking (for social club, charities etc), but these are kept separate from ordinary stock.  Even so, have manage to keep well within my 'top up' budget each week, so it's just a matter of working through what else there is left. 
I've not needed to order any more organic veggies from Riverford (since well before Christmas), but expect to do so soon, although the weather may have put the price up so much that I end up buying from the supermarket after all.   When on a budget, the money has to go as far as possible.  Personal choices, moral issues, any other good reason not to buy something or other, these occasionally have to be placed on a back-burner when there is not the money to buy enough food to keep a family healthy.  Food that is cheaper sometimes has to be cho(and I don't mean 'orrible stuff like sausages, beefburgers and fishfingers made from processed bits we'd rather not know about).  By 'cheap' I mean non-organic fruit, veg, meat, and so on and so forth.

Ah, well.  If life was how we wished it would be, there would be nothing for me to moan about, would there?   All I can do is try to find the best dishes to suggest we can make and eat during this time of recession, and how we spend our money and what we buy is up to the individual.   Just hope he recipes given are interesting enough.  Anything else you want to know, just ask.   Hope you can join me tomorrow for our 'virtual' chat over coffee.  See you then.

Monday, January 28, 2013

More Thoughts!

Was lying in bed having another think. ( No! Don't switch over to someone else's blog, I'll try not to ramble on for too long about me, more useful recipes will follow, I promise).

Was thinking about thought itself.  Not sure about everyone else, but it's almost as though there is an 'inner me' talking to myself, in that I think in 'words', 'talking' soundlessly to myself..  Then I wondered how people who are deaf and dumb would think, and then if they were also blind, how they too would think.   I've tried very hard thinking without 'thinking' (words, pictures etc), and it is almost impossible.  But that's me.

A very interesting prog last night presented by the always-looking-young Brian Cox. This time about how life evolved on this planet, and was immensely pleased to realise that energy is never lost, it just changes from one state to another, so when I die I will again become part of the 'great scheme of things' - giving me a sort of eternal 'life', but not always as we know it at this precise moment.  I wonder what I was before, and even before that, and before that even....

Am hoping that this series might just touch on the one thing that does puzzle me.  With all the living things there are on this planet, why is it that it is only the higher animals (and maybe only humans) that have 'conciousness', or perhaps that should be 'a conscious'?  Other creatures just get on with their lives as their brains seem 'programmed' to do.  We seem to have a different role to play.  Maybe one day we will find out what it is, and then wish we hadn't.

As I predicted (well it doesn't take much brain activity to work this bit out), the UK is now knee deep in water due to the fast melting snow.  Hundreds of flood alerts again, probably more than before when it just 'rained', as we now have both melting snow AND rain together not being able to be soaked away.  Think perhaps the first priority of this government should be to start clearing ditches,  get better drainage in fields, and stop bothering about building more property.  Also improve and build more flood barriers in towns and villages.

The Dutch seem to control the water that would otherwise flood their low-lands, so perhaps we should bring back windmills again, using them for a dual purpose: to provide electricity as well as pumping water away.  They'd look a darn sight more attractive than those 'wind farms' which - believe it or not - have to be switched off when the wind blows too much or they would break.

Sorry you still have a cold jane, and do hope the onions and garlic help.  In some ways it may seem these make it worse as they rapidly clear out all the mucus.  I must have gone through two boxes of tissues in a week due to eating onions!  But better out than in.

As the 'cookie mix' recipe given recently - with variations - seems to have been popular (at least one reader was happy with this - and if one is happy then I 'assume' all are), because  Janet is about to embark on teaching her daughter to bake, today am giving another 'basic' recipe, this time for cake - also with 'variations'.

For some reason baking is believed to need precise weights and measures, but myself have not found accuracy is absolutely necessary, just as long as it is fairly close.   For instance, if 'three large eggs' are called for and I have only 3 medium, then I probably add a little milk to make up the 'shortfall'.   Sometimes - when making cakes, I use a little less sugar, or maybe a different sugar.  Obviously, the end result might be slightly differeent in taste/texture but still perfectly edible (and dare I say it - even better?).

One thing I have realised that a sandwich cake recipe can turn out well whether it is made 'correctly' (first cream the fat and sugar together, then beat in the eggs....) or all the ingredients are just put into a food processor and whizzed together before being spooned into a prepared cake tin. 
Yet, when baking, am not sure even then whether the result depends more on what ingredients are used, how they are assembled, or whether the cook has that magic touch.
Example:  my mother used to make the most perfect 'melt in the mouth' pastry, yet when working side by side with her, following her every move, my pastry turned out like eating breezeblocks. Why, why, why???
My daughter makes the most perfect cakes (ingredients all thrown into a food processor!) and yet mine are never as light, even though I have tried both the 'correct' way and her the 'processor way'.   Daughter uses Stork (soft) margarine, and now so do I,  but still have a long way before I reach her perfection, and doubt I ever will for she has that magic touch, and I don't.  On the other hand I do make wonderful quiches (using readymade pastry of course).

The other day decided to make my Bakewell by first creaming together the fat and sugar, and spent more time creaming than usual, until the mix really was light and fluffy.  Then beat in the first egg, and - for the first time - the mixture didn't 'curdle'' (we are always advised to beat in a little flour with the first egg to avoid this, and this time I didn't), and can only assume it was the extra beating that made the difference, also the cake 'batter' was much lighter once the flour and ground almonds had been folded in.  Can't say I noticed much difference once it had been baked, but at least I was moving in the right direction.

In old recipe books there was almost always a recipe for 'Pound Cake', (1 lb of everything), and the recipe today uses this amount as the 'basic mix'.   Experienced cooks will realise this is just a larger amount of cake batter than we would normally use when making a Victoria Sandwich.   In other words 'the same weight of flour, sugar, butter, and eggs' (1 egg = 2 oz) can make an average sized cake, or (using more of the same proportions) more cakes or larger ones.
Eggs sold today now are rarely just 2 oz in weight, so if we wish to be accurate we should first find the total weight of eggs used, then adjust the amount of the other ingredients to match.  Doing this is much the best way if you are of the younger generation and work only in metrics, especially if the recipe still uses 'the old imperials'. 

The 'basic Pound Cake' recipe (as given below), is then divided into four portions, each making a different 'bake', but no reason why we can't reduce the amount back to the  '2 egg and four oz of everything else - or metric equivalent', and just choose to make one of the variations.  This mix can also be used to make Small Fancy Cakes - again with variations,
Having made good cakes using Stork soft marg, you could use this instead of butter, or a blend of butter/marg.  If using butter, this will cream better if it is at (summer) room temperature, in other words, slightly softened.

The cakes below can be frozen if you follow these directions:
Pack un-iced cakes into freezer bags, then freeze. Open-freeze iced cakes before packing into rigid containers or freezer bags.  Use within 3 months.
To use: thaw at room temperature, allowing 4 hours for large cakes and 1 hour for the small cakes.

'Pound Cake' Basic Mix: makes four portions 
1 lb (450g) butter (see above)
1 lb (450g) caster sugar
8 eggs (to weigh 1lb/450g)
1 lb (450g) self raising flour, sifted
Cream the butter and sugar together until light (don't rush this, the 'fluffier' it becomes, the lighter the cake), then beat in the eggs, one at a time, then fold in the flour.   Divide into four portions, enough to make three different cakes (suggestions below).  Or use all the basic mix to make four dozen fairy cakes - in four different flavours (suggestions given).  Or make two large cakes and 2 dozen fairy cakes.  A recipe that is fun to play with.

Carnival Cake:
1 portion of basic cake mix
2 oz (50g) sultanas
1 oz (25g) chopped hazelnuts (or other nuts)
1 oz (25g) chopped/grated chocolate
Stir the fruit, nuts, and chocolate into the basic mix, and spoon into a greased  6" (15cm) round cake tin, or a 1 lb (450g) loaf tin.  Bake for 1 hour at 190C, 375F, gas 5.  Turn out onto a cake airer to cool.

Marble Ring Cake:
1 portion basic cake mix
1 oz (25g) chocolate, melted
grated zest of 1 orange
1 tblsp orange juice
few drops of orange essence/extract
4 tblsp icing sugar, sieved
3 tsp orange juice
Divide the 1 portion of basic mix into two.  Stir the melted chocolate into one, and the orange zest, juice and essence into the second.
Grease a 1 pint (600ml) ring mould, then spoon in alternate dollops of the orange and chocolate mixes. Swirl with a knife to give a marbled/ripple effect, then bake for 45 minutes at the same temperature as above (190C etc). Turn out onto a cake airer.
When cold, mix the icing ingredients together, then spoon this over the cooled cake, letting some drizzle down the sides.  Leave icing to set before slicing.

Two portions of basic mix make this next cake, but there are two variations as to flavouring and filling.
Lemon Sandwich Cake:
2 portions of basic mix
6 tblsp lemon curd
5 fl oz (150ml) double cream, whipped
Divide the 2 portions of basic mix between 2 x 8" (20cm) greased sandwich tins.  Bake at above temperature (190C...) for 35 minutes, then turn out onto a cake airer to cool.  When cold, spread the lemon curd on one cake, top with the whipped cream, then cover with the remaining cake.  If you wish you could spread half the cream over the lemon curd, then decorate the top of the cake by piping on the remaining cream.

Coffee and Brandy Sandwich Cake:
2 portions of basic cake mix
1 tsp instant coffee
2 tsp hot water
6 oz brandy butter (recipe below)
8 halved walnuts
Dissolve the coffee in the hot water, cool and then stir this into the basic cake mix.  Divide between two sandwich tins and bake (as above).  When cold, sandwich together with brandy butter, and also spread the brandy butter on the top and decorate with the walnuts. 

brandy butter:
cream together 4 oz (100g) with 4 oz (100g) sieved icing sugar, and 2 tblsp brandy. 

Suggestions for the Small Fancy Cakes are based on using all the basic mix, subdividing it accordingly. Read the variations to see what to do, then choose to make all, some or just one variety.

Fairy Cakes - starters: makes 48
all the basic mix
4 oz (100g) chocolate, melted
Divide mixture in half, and spoon this into 25 paper cases.  To the other half fold in the melted chocolate and spoon this into 24 paper cases.  Bake both lots at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 25 minutes or until cooked (some ovens may take less time).

butterfly cakes: makes 12
Cut a small slice off the tops of 12 of the plain cakes, then cut each slice in half. Pipe plain buttercream on the middle of the top of the cakes, and press in the cut halves to look like wings.

coconut cakes: makes 12
Brush 12 plain cakes with hot apricot jam, then sprinkle over desiccated coconut.

cork cakes: makes 12
Using a sharp knife, remove ;cork shapes' from the centre of 12 chocolate cakes.  Fill hole with chocolate butter cream or 'ganache'. Replace 'corks' and sprinkle over icing sugar.

flake cakes: makes 12
Pipe a swirl of buttercream on top of 12 chocolate cakes, the top each with a chunk of 'Chocolate Flake' or sprinkle with crushed flake (or coarsely grated chocolate).

Finally, another recipe for Oatcakes.  Slightly different than the one I suggested to Cheesepare the other day.  Most 'bakes' have more than one version of a 'traditional' recipe, so worth trying different ones when we come across them.

Oatcakes: makes 12
4 oz (100g) medium oatmeal (or porridge oats)
3 oz (75g) plain flour
pinch bicarbonate of soda
half tsp salt
a bare 2 oz (40g) butter
3 tblsp hot water
Put oats into a bowl and sieve over the flour, bicarb and salt.  Rub in the butter and mix to a stiff dough with the water.  Knead gently, then roll out thinly on a floured board.  Cut into 2 x 6" (15cm) rounds (use a saucepan lid or plate as a guide), then cut each circle into 6 triangles.  Prick all over with a fork.
Place on a greased baking sheet and bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 12 minutes or until pale golden brown.  Cool on a cake airer, then store in an airtight tin.
To freeze: when cold, pack into freezer bags or boxes (remembering to label), and freeze.  Use within 3 months.  Thaw at room temperature for 1 hour. 

That's it for today (is it Monday - I've lost count of the days, not that it really matters.  My Beloved has eaten nearly all of the Bakewell (and it was baked in an oversized Swiss Roll Tin!), and so no doubt will finish it today, also the nine or so 'Fork Biscuits that I kept back - he's already eaten some - (the remainder he took with him to the 'neighbours gathering').
Tonight am planning to make a Chilli con Carne for supper as have some minced beef in the freezer and a Mexican Beanfeast in the larder, plus can of red beans. Together (plus a fried onion and a can of chopped tomatoes) these should make at least three (if not four) meals, two (or three) can then be frozen for later eating.

Want also to make an apple and blackberry crumble for B (to last at least two days, some of it may be frozen) as have some apples that have been in the fruit bowl for ages and now need using up.  The berries are in the freezer.   Want also to make chocolate cake to use up some of that 'ganache' made recently.  If B doesn't see it, then maybe I can get it frozen, otherwise he'll want some of that too.  Perhaps if I baked an oblong cake instead of a round one I could remove a slice or two and then freeze the rest.

A dull day today but as yet no rain.  Let us hope the rest of the country has some respite from all this 'wet', and things soon get back to near normal - whatever that is.  Don't think we have had 'normal' weather for some years now. All we can hope for now is that it doesn't get worse.  If it's going to stay 'abnormal' then at least let us hope we can have an unusually long and very pleasantly warm summer this year.  Wouldn't this just be bliss?

Hope you will be able to return and have another 'chat' with me again tomorrow.  See you then.


Sunday, January 27, 2013

Thoughts to Ponder Over

A couple of days ago heard something interesting.  The question was:  "If a tree falls in the forest, and there is nothing there to hear it, does it make any sound"?   Believe it or not, no-one really knows, for 'sound' is dependent on its being able to be heard.  Only living creatures hear sound, and then not always.  Living creatures 'hear' noises, but only when our ears are able to gather the sound as it comes across the 'air-waves'.  A battery operated radio can pick up several different stations transmitted on different frequencies, and these sounds are already in the air around us, but we don't have the right 'aerial' in our heads to do hear them ourselves.  If we could hear everything being transmitted, we would be surrounded by so much noise that it would drive us mad. 

Then, I hear that light is actually invisible.  In that we only see it when it is reflected off something else.  An example was shown (on TV).  A laser beam sent through a box to hit the other side.  We saw the thin green light, pointed at and shining through the box with the dot of green as it hit the end.  The same light was shone through another box, but this time there was no air in the box (a vacuum), and we saw no light at all other than at the start (in front of the box), then only the tiny green spot as it hit the end.
No sound, no light?  It makes you think?   It is said that we are one of the few creatures that see colour.  Colour itself is something to do with reflected light.  I've often wondered why so many creatures of the deep sea that are always in the dark then show up as multi-coloured (and often very beautiful because of this) when light is shone on them.  Nature truly is wonderful, and to less intelligent mortals (like wot I am), there is still much to learn about it.

Perhaps had better stick to writing about something I hope I know more about. 
Regarding your query Les, in the recent programmes about the Amish, it does seem that there are now different 'levels' of this religion, and that electricity and telephones are now used by some (but still frowned on by others), and - on rare occasions - even cars and tractors allowed!  Don't think the Amish have yet taken to using mobile phones and computers, but I could be wrong.

Regarding the 'extra' work (TV) Cheesepare.  Nothing yet has happened other than my Beloved and daughter on the 'extra' list, and a date been given for a 'fitting' (clothes c.1960).  Filming to start towards the end of February.  If I get to hear more about when/where it will be filmed, will let you know, for you might then like to pop over and have a look-see.  Whether it will be indoors or out depends upon the scenes filmed I suppose.

See no reason why the different sauces (as given a few days ago), would not work using yogurt as a base in the Bechamel, but have no idea whether it would then be able to be frozen. 
If wishing to find a recipe for Brussels pate, perhaps worth taking a look on the Internet?

You made some good sales on eBay Sairy, you might find that a local 'boutique' (or similar shop) may display your scarves, if you offer them 'sale or return'.  You would then give the shop owner a percentage of the selling price.

As late starting (due to Gill's Sunday phone call) will give only a couple of recipes today.  The first is a 'supper dish', and one where we could use alternative ingredients (canned salmon, or different fresh fish; cauliflower instead of broccoli; canned instead of fresh potatoes; a different (but still finely grated) hard cheese. A different mustard. And/or Greek yogurt instead of creme fraiche?  By now you know the way my mind works...."use what you have"!!!
Salmon, Broccoli and Potato Bake: serves 4
1lb 10oz (750g) potatoes, cut into wedges
1 head broccoli, broken into florets
1 x 200ml tub creme fraiche
2 tblsp wholegrain mustard
salt and pepper
2 large (or 4 small) salmon fillets, cut into chunks
Boil the potatoes until almost tender, then add the broccoli and cook for a further 3 minutes or until the florets are also 'just' tender.  Strain and set aside.
Mix the creme fraiche with the mustard and seasoning to taste.  Put the potatoes and broccoli in a shallow heat-proof dish, and tuck the pieces of salmon between them. Spoon the creme fraiche mixture over the top, and sprinkle with the cheese. 
Place under a pre-heated grill and cook for 5 minutes until the sauce is bubbling, and the tips of the potatoes are crisping up, and the salmon is just cooked.
Remove, cool slightly in the dish, then serve.

Final recipe today is one that makes us of surplus hard cheese, and although only Cheddar is mentioned, it could be a blend of several (add Red Leicester and/or, Double Gloucester, Lancashire, Cheshire etc...).  The original recipe 'expected' this mixture to be served as 'balls', these rolled in the fresh herbs, but the basic 'potted cheese' could be served in pots (with or without added herbs) to spread on toast as maybe a 'starter' for a dinner party, or for a lunch or supper dish.
The suggested herbs to use are: parsley, thyme, chives, and tarragon.
This can be made well in advance and kept chilled in the fridge for several days.
Potted Cheese with Herbs: serves 6
8 oz (225g) Cheddar cheese, finely grated
2 oz (50g) soft margarine
2 tblsp sherry or white wine
2 tsp dried mace (or grating of fresh nutmeg)
2 tblsp finely chopped fresh mixed herbs (see above)
Mix together the cheese and margarine, then stir in the sherry (or wine) and mace (or nutmeg) until well combined.  Cover and chill.  When firm, shape into small balls and coat with the chopped herbs. Serve chilled,  each speared with a cocktail stick.  Or - once the mixture has been made it could then be potted up into the serving container/s.  Herbs could be sprinkled on top (opt), then  covered and chilled.

Very windy day today, with occasional spattering of raindrops on the window.  At least sight of blue sky here and there.  Certainly not as cold as it has been the past week or so.  The Big Thaw over the country I believe, just let's hope this doesn't cause too much flooding. 

Yesterday bake a big Bakewell Tart for B to eat hot (with cream) or cold.  He already seems to have worked his way through one quarter.  Found an unopened tub of cream in the fridge past its 'use-by' date, but - given the 'sniff and taste' test - it still seemed as 'fresh' as the day it was packed, so emptied it into a small pan, heated it up to simmering (but not boiling), removed it from heat, added a tablsp of caster sugar and two (broken) packs of 'cooking' chocolate (one plain, one milk), and stirred the lot together until all the chocolate had dissolved.  This 'ganache' is now in the fridge chilling, and can be used (when beaten) for a cake filling (or covering) or made into 'truffles' (both will freeze).

This morning will be making some fork biscuits.  The thinner ones sandwiched together with some of the 'ganache'.  Also planning to make a trifle as have a few trifle sponges, plenty of jelly, some custard and a bit more cream that needs using up.  With the Bakewell, that should keep B in desserts and snacks for a few days.

Not sure what supper will be tonight.  B is at a 'working party' at the club this morning and will be fed 'bacon butties' at lunchtime, then this afternoon he will be going to a club member's house (who lives a few doors away), to meet up with other neighbours for an hour or two this afternoon.  I've been invited but not sure yet whether I'll be going or not.  They have a Jack Russell, and I am absolutely terrified of these little monsters (having had bad memories with one in the past).  At least I can send biscuits as a 'thank you' for the invitation., and blame my bad back on not being able to attend.

Suddenly it has begun to hail.  Well, that's British weather for you. In the time it has taken me to write this blog we have had glorious sunshine, an almost all-blue sky, light rain, high winds, thin cloud, more sunshine, more rain, now heavy clouds with hail, and see more blue sky appearing on the horizon.  Then, possibly more sun.  What's next?  Snow or a heatwave?  Hopefully a drought. 

Enjoy the rest of your weekend, and let all of us start the coming week with a smile on our faces and joy in our hearts because we are still surviving whatever the government (and fuel companies) throw at us.  Do their worst! That's what I say.  We'll show 'em we can't be beaten.    TTFN.


Saturday, January 26, 2013

Silver Linings

Yesterday, around 4.30pm and just as it was getting dusk, the snow began to fall.  Like REAL snow, flakes that were fairly big and floated in the breeze.   I had barely had time to admire them when my Beloved came into the room and drew the curtains.  "Well", I thought "I'll be able to open the curtains later (when B had left for his 'social') and enjoy seeing the big, big flakes lit up by the street light", but well before then the snow had stopped.   No sign of it this morning - still dark as I write but the terrace outside our patio door has no snow on it), and as this region has now to expect rain, and a lot of it - later sweeping across the country to the east - plus higher temperatures, this means as the snow thaws and unable to drain away due to the already saturated soil, with more rain on top - goodness sake, we'll be flooded countrywide, not just certain areas!

Thanks to those who sent in suggestions as to how to retrieve my lost recipes.  I had discovered they were 'returned' with the message sent by the 'not able to send' email.  However, decided to type them out again in 'word', and while I was doing so, thought up more recipes, also improving the original ones.  Made sure this time they had been 'saved', and then sent them to the same email (that hadn't worked first time) but this time omitting the 'dot' that I'd inadvertently put in when it shouldn't have been there.  And the recipes got sent!!!

Had I been 'computer' literate, and known what to do at the time, the original recipes would have been able to be sent at the time, and the improvements then not made.  Just goes to show that perhaps fate threw that particular spanner in my works to make sure I did the job properly, and as the extra recipes that I wrote were quite inspiring, aalmost felt that there had been 'someone up there' pulling my strings.

Somehow I feel that Kathryn has a 'guardian angel' who is inspiring her to look for new ways to save/make money.  Her comments are often full of the most interesting ideas - and they seem to work!  Loved her idea of sharing./bartering meals/food with friends and neighbours.  It might even work to get a few together to form a 'share 'n save club'' where the much cheaper economy packs of foods could be bought, then 're-sold' to 'club members' in smaller packs.  Big sacks of vegetables (carrots, onions, potatoes....) also bought, then sold - in small quantitites by weight - all working out much more cheaply than the average sized supermarket packs.  

What was the phrase yesterday re the 'recession'?  We are now going into 'triple dip'?  So it is getting worse, not better, and for several years to come.   Beloved and I yesterday were having one of our rare 'chats' about this.  My idea (and B agreed) is that everyone on benefits (who could work, not those ill etc), would - after three months on benefits - have to do community work given to them until they could get a 'proper' job.  There is so much that could be done:  cleaning up graffiti, keeping streets clean, helping to clean unused canals (so they can be used again), and especially clearing ditches so that excess rain water has somewhere to flow and help to prevent flooding. 
This 'work or else no benefit money' scheme of mine would apply also to anyone who has come from abroad and been given a house and money without ever lifting a finger to give anything back to our economy.

Why do we have to be so 'generous'.  It would make a lot more sense if we did what the Australians did when they encouraged us to go and live and work in their country.  As the six week sail trip there was subsidised (cost only £10) many people went.  We had friends who took up this offer.  On arrival, the women and children were put into one camp, the men into another, and were only able/allowed to resume family life together when the man had got a job and could afford to put a roof over their heads.  The outcome was that many families did grit their teeth and stick this out for several months, but others, like our friends - who expected a good life from the start - decided to return home.
We should follow this example, no home comforts until you've earned the right, then maybe those who come here expecting free hand-outs and house, may think again.   Myself cannot think of anything worse than having to live in rows of Nissen huts, surrounded by screaming children, with sodden ground outside and rain continually falling on a tin roof.  That would perhaps sort the wheat from the chaff, the men from the boys, the workers from the layabouts.

However generous this country is, there is only so much money, and this has to come from the taxes paid by people who WORK!  It is not fair to expect to be paid money and give nothing in return, and yes, I do realise there are many who do receive benefits through no fault of their own, it's those who seem always to avoid doing any work, and fake bad backs (or can't/won't speak English) etc, that I'm having a moan about.

My next moan is about the EU. It seems we pay out millions into the EU 'national bank',  and all that seems to happen is we now have to open our shores to all Europeans so they can work here. Suppose it works both ways, but the continent of Europe is a hundred times larger than our small island and we are restricted for space, but this doesn't stop people wanting to work here and taking jobs that we Brits could - and should - be doing.  Cannot see that we have gained much from the EU when it comes to business finance.  We can only sell what is worth selling, and people will buy only what is worth buying (and only if we can afford it). This is global, not restricted to just Europe. Am surprised the EU hasn't banned items from other non-EU countries being sold.  No-one seems to stop goods made in the Far East coming onto our shelves.  So the Common Market really doesn't make sense.
At the moment it seems we have to run our country under EU rules and regs, even if they don't fit in with what we prefer to do, and have done traditionally for years.  Can anyone tell me what benefit we will have if we stay in the EU? Otherwise I'll be voting OUT!  Then I can go back to using recycled jars to pot up my preserves.

Maybe we should let our government get on and do its worst.  We are still better off than Greece (and is it Spain also?), so we must be doing something right.  That phrase that JFK said, something like; 'Don't ask what your country can do for you, ask yourself what you can do for your country" makes a lot of sense, but can you see that happening?
We could at least do something on a much smaller scale, like pulling up our own drawbridge, battening down out hatches, and reminding ourselves that 'charity begins at home'.  Within family life we can do much to help each other, and no reason why this 'togetherness'  can't spread within the local community.  Just as long as we still have a roof over our heads, clothes on our back, and food in our belly, we shall survive!  From little acorns, great oaks will grow.

Liked the idea of you selling a charity shop Harris Tweed jacket (bought for £8) on eBay (for £50) Kathryn.  Hope you did manage to sell it.  This could be another way we could make money, buy cheap (charity shops, car boots, jumble sales....) maybe alter, adapt, or sell on as-is, and keep making those few pounds extra that can make such a difference to our lives.  Have heard of several people who make a very good living from buying at car-boots then selling what they have bought (either at auction, another car-boot, or on eBay).

Whenever I get a cold jane, especially one that starts with a sore throat or cough, I always eat a raw onion (sometimes in a sarnie), as this really seems to 'loosen' the cold within almost seconds.  It certainly eases a chesty cough.  Very few people these days use 'real' handkerchiefs, most of us use disposable 'Kleenex' type tissues, however these are very expensive compared to the boxes of 'facial tissues', that are just as good for colds as for their real purpose, and much, much cheaper.
My dad used to have quite a few 'sniffles', and remember my mother boiling his many large white cotton hankies in a huge galvanised pan on top of the stove.  After washing and drying, it was my job to iron them.  This I loved doing - being the only ironing I ever did then (must have been about 12).  After marriage and endless hours of ironing sheets, pillowcases, hankies, shirts, and clothes worn by husband, myself  and four children (all made mainly of fabric that creased badly - because non-iron fabric had not then appeared on the scene.  Remember Crimplene?  I decided to retire from ironing like I've retired from doing a lot of things, so now don't do any ironing at all.  If B wants a shirt pressed he does it himself.  All my clothes are stretchy 'jersey', because they fit more easily, and most bedlinen seems to be almost crease-free these days (other than the few I have left with the wartime 'utility' label.  Over 70 years old and still as good as new!!!  Says a lot about the quality of goods made today.

It's a good idea to chop up veggies in the food processor jane.  I've done the same, sometimes using the blade, and sometimes using the shredder disc.  Veggies prepared this way (especially for soup) cook to tender in a very few minutes, so it saves both prep and cooking time.   The chopped veggies CAN be frozen without blanching, but should be used within a very few weeks, as if kept too long enzymes start working (and not for the good).  Next time best to put the processed veg into a pan of boiling water and 'blanch' for about half a minute, then drain, run under a cold tap, pat dry and pack up into bags of the amount you will need at any one time.  Or why not make a big batch of soup with the veg and freeze that as 'chunky', you can always blend it down later if you wish for a 'cream soup'.

Did notice that my recipes had been returned to my email box MimSys, but have explained above why I didn't bother to copy them out from there (the thought had crossed my mind). In a way I'm glad I sometimes get in a mess with the comp, for often this makes me use my brain instead of letting the comp do all the thinking (and work) for me.

Do hope you soon get more mobility with your shoulder Margie.  My friend Gill once tripped and broke her upper right arm in two places, and it was several weeks (if not months) before she was able to use her arm easily.   Being right-handed she couldn't write, and - in the early days - she said it was almost impossible for her to get dressed, showered, do her hair, open tins, open packets, open letters, cut up her food, especially as she lives alone.  But, bless her, she managed. We take so much for granted, and don't appreciate how lucky we are until something has been taken away.

My Beloved has been enjoying his food this week, because yesterday he told me so..  One day he had his favourite: liver, bacon, cabbage and potatoes (lamb's liver cut into 'gougons' and tossed in flour, then fried in a pan, to which I added some chopped small just-cooked potatoes to 'fry' alongside.  In another pan fried the bacon, then put this on top of the liver, using the bacon fat in the pan to fry the steamed shredded white cabbage (steamed over the potatoes as they cooked).  A very simple dish but so tasty.

Yesterday B had a couple of small Chicken Kievs, stuffed with cheese and bacon, with a few oven chips and some peas.  Earlier in the week he had some thick-sliced beef in gravy (the beef from that 'roast' cooked a week or so ago, then sliced and frozen). With Yorkshire pudding, jacket potato, and Brussels sprouts.  Perhaps today he might like some fish?   I have a fair amount in the freezer (smoked haddock, 'white' fish fillets, salmon, prawns, kippers....) so he could have Fish Risotto, or Kedgeree.  Or maybe even a Fish Chowder.  He can make the final choice, and I bet he will choose something completely different.  Like sardines on toast.  I will bow to his wishes.

My larder shelves are now looking a bit empty.  But only a bit.  Months ago the shelves held a row of cans, with more cans sitting on top and room for a further row of 'topped' cans in the front. Now the front rows have disappeared, and the back rows are down to single cans with few on top, and occasionally a gap between these.  I have never seen so much empty space on my shelves for AGES. This means my 'use up what I've got' is working, and have confined myself to buying only the 'essentials':  fresh milk, eggs, butter, and some fresh veg.  B sometimes brings in a loaf (he keeps forgetting I have a lot of bread mix to use up), and has brought in lovely Navel oranges (these are best at this time of year and we LOVE them).

My freezer/s now have slightly more space,, although very soon filled again with home-made 'readies' (meals, puddings, cakes, ice-cream...).  The fridge also has a slight Mother Hubbard look to one or two of its shelves.  But still plenty of food to use up. 

Today must sort out the cheese and grate up the bits that have been (deliberately) left to dry out.
Then box/bag up and store in the freezer.  Think I'll also make up some boxes of crumble mix and scone mix as this will save me loads of prep time in the future.

Must repack the freezer (both), as 'Boris' (the upright) has much food just shoved in, meaning when the door is open some often slide out onto the floor (they are wrapped), and if I decant veggies into containers they will pack far more neatly, giving me more space.   The freezer drawers (in both also need repacking, keeping all fish together, all beef together, all chicken together etc, and really MUST write down (on the plain back of a used Christmas card), the contents of each drawer so that I know what is in there (crossing it off when used), as the drawers are wide and deep enough so many containers/packs get hidden under or behind others and so 'out of sight, out of mind'.
Sometime during the day I also intend to do some baking.  Think this must be a genetic 'habit' as Saturday always seemed to be 'baking day' in my mother's time (and before then), and it just feels 'right'.

One very useful cheese to keep in the fridge is halloumi.  This has a very long shelf life compared to others as the date on the packs I buy shows it can be kept for about a year.  So today am giving recipes using this cheese.   Halloumi does not 'melt' like most hard cheeses, it just softens slightly, so is perfect for 'grilling' on griddle pans. 

Vegetable and Halloumi Pan Fry: serves 4
3 tblsp olive or sunflower oil
9 oz (250g) halloumi, cut into slices
2 onions, cut into wedges
2 courgettes, sliced
8 tomatoes, halved
1 x 420g can butter beans, drained
salt and pepper
Heat 2 tblsp of the oil in a large frying pan and fry the halloumi on both sides, until golden.  Remove from pan, cut into quarters, and set aside.  Add the onions to the pan and fry over medium heat for about 5 minutes until turning golden, then add the courgettes, and when these have turned gold, remove, with the onions, and set aside.
Add the remaining oil to the pan, and fry the tomatoes until softened, then add the onions, courgettes, halloumi, and finally the beans.  Toss together rather than stir (otherwise they will break up) and heat gently until warmed through.  Add seasoning to taste, and serve.

This next dish uses a jar of 'mixed pepper antipasti' as an ingredient, this is basically a jar of roasted (and skinned) red and yellow bell peppers in a little olive oil, so we could make up our own version by roasting chunks of colourful bell peppers (tossed in oil) in the oven, or even spearing them with a skewer and holding over the gas hob flame to blacken skins (then put into a poly bag to 'sweat' and steam - the skins can then be easily peeled off).
Couscous is a great 'grain' to use as it only needs soaking - and can be left to get on with that all by itself, making this dish one of those that should be able to be made in 15 minutes.

Halloumi and Pepper Couscous: serves 4
5 oz (150g) couscous
half pint (300m) boiling water
1 x 290 jar mixed pepper antipasti (see above)
2 tblsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
4 oz (100g) mushrooms, sliced
5 oz (150g) halloumi cheese, cubed
2 tblsp chopped mixed herbs (marjoram, basil, parsley)
salt and pepper
Put the couscous in a bowl and add the boiling water.  Cover lightly with cling film and leave to stand for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, pour the antipasti into a small pan and heat for 3 - 4 minutes.
Put 1 tblsp of the oil into a frying pan and fry the garlic for 1 minute, then add the mushrooms, and fry these for 3 - 4 minutes until light gold.  Using a slotted spoon, remove from pan and set aside.
Add the remaining oil to the pan and fry the halloumi for a couple or so minute until lightly golden,  Stir the antipasti and at least half of the herbs into the couscous, adding seasoning to taste, then spoon this onto a warmed serving dish (or individual plates/bowls) and top with the pan-fried halloumi and mushrooms. Garnish by sprinkling remaining herbs on top. 

Final recipe also makes good use of halloumi, although suppose there is no reason why another variety of cheese could not be used.   Pitta bread is used as a 'holder', but as this is nothing much more than a closed 'wrap', we could instead use a small flour tortilla. Or - if you don't mind being a bit British and boring, just stuff the filling between two slices of lightly toasted thin-cut bread.  As ever, your choice.
Myself use small Little Gem lettuce leaves (baby cos).  This lettuce keeps quite well in the fridge, and the curly leaves make good 'cups' as a holder for savoury fillings that can be eaten in the hand.

Halloumi and Tomato 'Lunch-Munch': serves 1
2 -3 baby 'cos' lettuce leaves, shredded
1 plum tomato, sliced
1 thin slice sweet (pref red) onion, separated into rings
few mint leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon olive oil
salt and pepper
2 - 3 thick slices halloumi
1 pitta bread
Put the lettuce, tomato, onion, and mint into a bowl.  Drizzle over the oil and toss the lot together. Add seasoning to taste.
Place the halloumi on a baking sheet and place under a pre-heated grill (or could use a griddle pan on the hob). Cook for about 2 minutes or until turning golden, then turn and grill the other side.
Grill the pitta bread for a few seconds on each side until it puffs and opens, then tuck the cheese and prepared salad inside the pitta.  Eat immediately.
(If using a flour tortilla, place this in a heated dry frying pan for a few seconds to heat, then turn, place the grilled cheese over one half, salad on top and fold the other half over.  Remove from pan and eat immediately).

The day has started well, lots of blue sky and sunshine (so where is that torrential rain they forecast?).  Craning my neck I can just see small irregular patches of white on the lawn closest to the house -suppose that is the remains of the snow, there is none to be seen on roofs, paths, tops of walls.... 

Before I leave, mustn't forget to reply to that query re using clementines from Becca.  Have not myself found them hard to peel, as their skins seem quite loose, perhaps there are different varieties.
Not sure what to suggest.  Perhaps grating the zest to collect and store (in ice-cube trays?) with or without the juice squeezed from the fruit?  Another idea is to stud the unpeeled fruits with whole cloves, then leave in a warm place to dry.  Later they can be dusted with cinnamon, a ribbon tied round, then given away as gifts.  These 'pomanders' (usually made with oranges) make a room smell lovely, and are often hung in rooms (or piled in bowls) to scent a room during the winter (esp at Christmas).

Let's hope (for the sake of those that have to travel some distance) the snow and icy roads will soon disappear, and we will have plenty of sun to allow much of the snow to evaporate rather than add more water to that on our already saturated land.   Enjoy your weekend, and hope you will find time to join me tomorrow.  See you then.



Friday, January 25, 2013

Make One Turn into Eight!

Am very annoyed with myself.  Yesterday typed out several recipes for the Foodbank, then emailed them.  Somehow managed to lose the lot from 'word', but at least they had been sent, or so I thought until discovered when I read the email sent from that place that tells you they didn't recognise the email address, so the recipes never got set, and by then I'd lost them!!!  
What I appeared to have done was add a dot after a letter preceding the @ sign when there shouldn't have been one, so today will have another go, this time hoping to save the recipes in word - which I tried to do yesterday, but something went wrong.   Will also type them out so that I have copies, and these could be delivered by hand if they can't be emailed. 

So as now have to spend another few hours doing them all again, had better get on and write my blog. 
Only one comment to reply to, this from Becca - and welcome back.  Very kind of you to offer to send me the recipes from the Family Circle article, but (luckily)  a few years back had published them on this blog.  They may have disappeared (blogger deletes early pages from each month), but I still have them in my 'reference' section. 

With no more comments to reply to, now to the recipes for today.
Often, a slightly 'boring' meal can be greatly enhanced by adding a good sauce.  The French seem to serve a sauce with almost all of their classic dishes.  Here in the UK we tend to serve only 'gravy' (which is a type of sauce), and not a lot else - unless we count tomato ketchup and HP as a 'sauce' - which I feel is a pity, especially as a good sauce can help to disguise a rather unappetising dish, and as well as making it look good, will also make it taste better.

It is easy enough to make several different sauces using one basic white sauce as a 'base'.  Having said that we don't often make  white sauce correctly.  So am giving the recipe (the sauce can be frozen and flavoured after thawing), BUT there is no reason why we can't make up a batch of white sauce using Bisto granules and start from there (although this may not freeze)  It just won't taste as good as it could. But if you don't mind second-rate?...

Using this basic sauce, you can make 8 variations, and even if you would not need to use all, please have a go at making and using some of them.  Being able to freeze the sauce makes it worth making 'properly'.

Basic Bechamel Sauce: makes 4 x half pint (300ml)
2 pints (1.1ltr) milk
1 carrot, cut into large chunks
1 small onion, quartered
1 rib celery, cut into chunks
1 bay leaf
6 peppercorns
4 oz (100g) butter
4 oz (100g) plain flour
salt and pepper
2 tblsp single cream (or 1 of double)
Put the milk, vegetables, bay leaf, and peppercorns into a saucepan.  Heat gently until just beginning to boil, then remove from heat.  Cover, and leave to stand for 30 minutes before straining (you can use the vegetables in another dish, discarding bay leaf and peppercorns).
Put the butter in a large pan and heat gently until melted, then stir in the flour.  Cook for one minute before slowly adding the milk. Keep stirring until the sauce is smooth and has thickened.  Add seasoning to taste, then finally stir in the cream. 
To freeze: spoon into four half pint rigid containers or pots, leaving half inch head space.  Cover surface with greaseproof paper.  Cool completely, then seal and label. Use with 6 months.
To serve from frozen: thaw overnight in the fridge, then beat well and reheat gently.  It can be reheated from frozen in a double saucepan or non-stick pan, and keep stirring as it thaws/heats.
The variations below are made each using one batch (half pint) of Bechamel sauce.

cheese sauce: add 1 oz (25g) each finely grated Cheddar and Double Gloucester cheese, with pinch of cayenne pepper.
Serve with fish, eggs, vegetables, or pasta.

watercress sauce: add half small bunch of watercress, finely chopped, and a squeeze of lemon juice.
Serve with fish, eggs, or poultry.

mustard sauce: add 1 - 2 tsp mustard powder mixed with 1 tsp vinegar and 1 tsp water, OR add a tsp made mustard (English or Dijon) or more according to taste.
Serve with oily fish: herrings, mackerel... also poultry.

curry sauce: add 1 teaspoon curry powder (or curry paste), 1 tblsp stewed apples, 1 tsp tomato puree, 1 shallot, finely chopped and lightly fried, 1 tblsp sultanas.
Serve with meat, poultry, hard-boiled eggs.

mushroom sauce: add 2 oz (50g) finely chopped and sauteed button mushrooms, a squeeze of lemon, and a quarter teaspoon of Marmite.
Serve with steaks, chops, vegetables, or fish.

tomato sauce: add 1 large tomato that has been skinned and finely chopped, 1 tblsp tomato puree, half small onion, chopped and sauteed, and basil to taste.
Serve with pasta, fish, meat, or vegetables.

green sauce: add 2 - 3 tblsp finely chopped mixed herbs (basil, chives, parsley, fennel, thyme, tarragon etc).
Serve with fish, eggs, or vegetables.

hot tartare sauce: add 1 - 2 tblsp chopped fresh parsley, 2 small gherkins, finely chopped, and 2 tsp chopped capers.
Serve with fried fish.

Whenever I come across a recipe such as the above, I try to find a way of using up the 'leftovers' - in this instance the vegetables that were used to flavour the basic Bechamel.   So here is a recipe that would make good use of these.  You could make these patties using fresh vegetables, but myself prefer to make the most of what have already been used!!  Just the thought of this being a way to save even more money brings a smile to my face.  The uncooked patties, and the yogurt sauce can be made a day ahead and kept covered and chilled (separately of course).  As the patties can be frozen, why not make extra of these?
Lentil Patties: makes 4
4 oz (100g) red lentils
1 carrot, finely chopped (see above)
1 rib celery, finely chopped (see above)
1 small onion, finely chopped (see above) but opt.
a bare half pint (500ml) water
half tsp each ground coriander and cumin
5 oz (150g) stale breadcrumbs
2 tblsp plain flour
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1 tblsp finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tblsp sunflower or olive oil
yogurt sauce:
5 fl oz (150ml) natural yogurt
1 good tblsp finely chopped fresh mint
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp lemon juice
Make the patties by first putting the lentils, carrot, celery, onion (if using), in a pan with the water and spices. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until the mixture has thickened, then remove from heat and leave to cool.
Stir in half the breadcrumbs, then shape the mixture into four patties.  Cover with flour, then dip into the egg white, then into the remaining breadcrumbs and the parsley (can be frozen at this point).
To cook: Heat the oil in a frying pan, then fry the patties for a few minutes on each side until browned and heated through. Drain on kitchen paper.  Serve with the yogurt sauce and green salad (if wished).
To make the yogurt sauce, combine all ingredients, mixing well together.

Better take my leave of you as have to retype out the Foodbank recipes AGAIN!  This time I will take more care.  Live and learn as they say.  
Am still waiting for the snow that they said we would get overnight, think this is another year we won't be getting any.  How fortunate we were to have the first two winters here in Morecambe when snow DID fall, and in quantity.  Just love seeing snow fall.  It's the child in me.

Cannot believe it is already Friday again, and how annoying how time speeds up the older we get.  At my age I want to have MORE time, not feel I have less.  So had better stop my rambling and use up the precious time I have remaining of this morning.  And this afternoon, and tomorrow I'll be back blogging again.  Hope to see you then.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Making the Best of It...

Delayed start to my blog as Norma was late arriving, and I've had to spend some time reading emails and replying to the most urgent (otherwise I might forget!!).   So will make today's 'chat' a bit shorter than normal in the hope of publishing by noon.  Immediately after that have to type out several recipes to email to the Foodbank.

First your comments.
Thank you Wendy for offering me that Amish book to read, but almost certainly the library could get me a copy, so if you could send me the title, author, publisher, and - if poss - the IBM number, then will get my Beloved to give our local library the details.

Is it a welcome to Marlene, or a welcome back?  Either way, good to hear from you.  It's getting to the stage where we have readers with the same names or similar, so forgive me if I sometimes get mixed up and a new reader gets mixed up with a regular one that hadn't commented for some weeks.

Regarding the Foodbank Cheesepare, if you look up Morecambe Bay Foodbank on the website, you will find out more details of the foods that are needed.  What seems to happen is that they give out enough food to last 3 days, and by then the benefit people will have hopefully sorted out any money difficulties. 
Only food with a long shelf life is requested, which means eggs would not be given.  Oil never seems to be sold in small amounts, so again not offered.  Think the 'bank' is not allowed to buy large packs of anything and then make up smaller packs from these due to 'elf and safety (hygiene etc).
It is the state that gives the vouchers (social services, benefit people, and similar), these then taken to the charity to exchange for the allocated food. 

The 'Chaenomeles japonica' you mentioned Lisa, is the bush we had in our garden in Leeds. The fruits are not at all like those of the true quince - which grows into a big tree, much the same as a traditional apple - but has much smaller and very hard fruits - they look a bit like apricots - the taste is somewhat similar to the real quince..  The 'real' medlar also grows into a very large tree, so perhaps the bush medlar you mentioned is not the same as the old variety.
Do any readers have experience of growing a bush medlar, and if so what are the fruits like?

Lovely to hear that your toddler made some gingerbread 'bears' Elaine.  Once we get children involved in 'the making', they begin to love cooking, and this then tends to last through their adult life.

Cheesepare asked the other day for a recipe for oatcakes.  This I give below, although there are many different versions.  I've made them using just lard for the fat, and another time made them with bacon fat.  This version uses butter and lard.  No doubt the D.O. oatcakes used 'proper' oatmeal, but I use porridge oats ground down a bit in a liquidiser to make a coarse flour.  It works!

The article comparing 'Duchy Originals' to similar products in other stores states (re Duchy Original products) they are stocked exclusively by Waitrose, and there are 250 different products in the range (presumably not ALL stocked by that store - in fact I've several times bought Duchy Original products in farm shops etc).
However - if in Waitrose Cheesepare, you might like to pick up a pack of D.O. Oatcakes and see what ingredients they use, they you could aim to make something similar.  However, as the idea is to make a comparably good oatcake, the ingredients could differ slightly as long as the end result takes really good.

Oatcakes: makes 48
1 lb (450g) medium oatmeal
4 oz (100g) plain flour
half teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 oz (50g) butter
2 oz (50g) white cooking fat (lard etc)
6 tblsp boiling water
Put the oatmeal into a bowl, then add the flour sifted with the bicarb.  In another bowl put in the fats and the boiling water and beat together, then add to the dry mix and stir together to make a soft dough.  Turn this out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth.
Divide dough into 8 and roll out each piece to about 1/8" (3mm) thick, then cut into rounds, triangles, oblongs or any shape you wish.
Place on ungreased baking sheets, and bake at 190C, 375F, gas 5 for 15 - 20 minutes or until dry. Cool completely on a cake airer before storing in an air tight container.

The other day B brought in a pack of 40 'sea sticks' for me (he knows I like them - and they were 'on offer'!).  These are not often used in recipes, so I was pleased to discover one yesterday for a 'dip', using 'crab sticks' (the old name for what are now called 'sea sticks').  See no reason why canned crab could not be used instead of the 'sticks' or as well as.  The original recipe was intended as a buffet dish for a wedding reception for 50 people (hence the name), so bear this in mind, and if making it for a smaller buffet, reduce the amount of ingredients by half (or even a quarter).
This dip eats well with the above oatcakes and a platter of assorted 'crudites' (carrots; red, green, and yellow bell peppers; celery; and cucumber).
Confetti 'Crab' Dip:
60 'crab' (or sea) sticks
2 lb (600g) cream cheese (pref full fat)
5 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
zest and juice of 2 lemons
ground white pepper
Finely chop the sea sticks (by hand or in a food processor), then mix with the cheese, parsley, lemon zest and juice. Add pepper to taste.

Three minutes to noon, so a quick spellcheck (if its working - quite often it doesn't), and then publish. 
For once the sun is shining, but still cold outside.  The forecast is for slightly higher temperatures, but the worry is that when all that snow melts onto the already saturated ground, where will all the extra water go?   We will have to wait and see.

Hope to start my blog earlier tomorrow, and that you will find time to have a read.  TTFN.