Thursday, February 28, 2013

Slowing Down...

Have a feeling this comp will soon stop working.  Today, after switching on, it took over 15 minutes before anything came up on the screen, I thought it had already broken down.  When my 'desktop' icons eventually appeared, it again took severa; minutes before it opened the icon of my choice.file, Eventually I have managed to reach the blogger page, so perhaps had better begin before the comp decided to throw more wobblies.

Took it easy yesterday, my anti-histamines making me feel very drowsy, but managed to stay awake to watch several cookery progs.  Am always amazed how much salt is used in US recipes, The Barefoot Contessa was making a 'Truffle Mac 'n Cheese' for some friends, she used truffle butter to make her white sauce (butter with shaves of truffle in it), which I don't think is on sale here but wish it was, and then she added TWO TABLESPOONS of salt when making her white sauce, because she said the pasta doesn't have much flavour, but then added only 1 TEASPOON of ground black pepper.  Here in the UK we would use more pepper and very little salt. 

Also watched Hairy Bikers last night.  As ever, I have issues with the cost of their 'budget' recipes, and although I agree that it IS far cheaper (as they demonstrated) to make a meal at home that would cost a LOT more when eaten in a restaurant, the ones they showed still cost a great deal more than most people would wish to pay when 'eating in'.  Even then feel the price they paid for some of their ingredients was excessive. For example, they showed a whole fresh filled salmon that had been saying it cost 'only' £25.  That must be London prices, for here in Morecambe we can buy the same for £12 at Glasson (dock), and Morrison's too have had 'offers' of half a (filleted) salmon on sale this year for £5.

There were some good tips in yesterday's prog.  I liked the one where the Indian chef cooked some cnions until well browned, then blitzed these with yogurt to make a marinade for lamb. He said it also helped to thicken the sauce when cooked.   Also good to know that food sold in Indian stores are far, far cheaper than those sold in the supermarkets.  Unfortunately don't think we have one here in Morecambe.  Believe there might be one in Lancaster, but when we drove down the street where we were told there was one, all that road was residential, not a shop in site.  But who knows what goes on behind closed doors.

No, sorry Hairy Bikers, think this time you have lost the cost-cutting plot.  Nothing you have made yet seems to be what I call 'budget' food.   Did like the idea of the pork pie they made, although again far more costly than it need have been, and would have preferred the 'jelly' in the pie and not served separately..  Where they buy their ingredients I don't know, it certainly isn't here 'up North'.   Perhaps it is Londoners and those in the more affluent 'south' of the country that they are expecting to be interested in this current series, so all the food is sourced 'darn south', where the prices would probably be much higher (but surely all supermarkets keep their prices the same throughout the country?) 

When our daughter comes over from Ireland, normally she (and spouse) fill up the car with food bought from our supermarkets, being cheaper than the same sold in the Rep. of Ireland.  This time she says the food here has risen so much in price it is DEARER now than in Ireland, so no need to buy any food other than a very few not normally sold over there.

Am also enjoying the new 'Food and Drink' series, probably because my most favourite chef: Michel Roux Jnr is one of the hosts (the girl who chooses the wine I find a bit 'forced' in her presentation, she is probably not used to being on TV.), so also enjoyed watching the prog last night where they showed how the Masterchef series was made.  It is so true, as M Roux said, his loves food and cooking so much his face lights up when he talks about it.  That is true enthusiasm that I find very inspiring and because of this I love him more each time I see him.  How I wish I could meet him 'for real'.

Thanks for your comments.  As to whether I could make a two-course meal for 4 for less than the cost of my book Kathryn, all I can say is 'Yes, I could' (for I have always found it difficult to say 'No' and would even manage to cobble together a meal using 'free food' and very little else if I had to, but am hoping no-one will test me on this, it could be almost a step too far, but if it had to happen....!!!).  My two-course meal for the price of the book (the real price not the 10p paid for second hand) would begin with soup (being very cheap to make) the rest of the money for the 'mains'.  Do you wish me to give recipes to keep within this budget, or will you just take my word for it?

There could be a reason why 'ready-meals' say they will serve two people when there is barely enough to serve one, for if there are enough calories in the dish to make it a 'it a recommended calorie-counted serving' then it should be adequate, but not necessarily nutritious, for many ingredients can be high in calories, but small in amount (like sugar, fats...).   It could also be that some people need to eat larger meals as they work a lot harder than others (laborious work, not sitting at a desk), but do agree that practically all ready-meals are smaller (per portion) than most of us would wish to be served.  Perhaps this is another manufacturers ploy to get us to buy extra, hoping we need to buy three meals instead of two, to be able to serve enough to satisfy our appetites.

Thanks to Anonymous (no name given) re the possibility that is is MSG that is the cause of my allergy.  Also to Margie who says the same.  This could well be the case, but maybe not the only cause as I've had facial swelling (but not nearly as bad as this recent attack) after several days eating only fresh home-cooked foods, and been particularly careful what I eat even then. 
Today my cheeks are still swollen, so think this time it could be MSG that caused it.  From now on no more Chinese meals - yet having said that, when we've eaten at this particular restaurant before, and had a Chinese take-away, I haven't had an attack.  Maybe it was a particular dish that I hadn't tried before that set it off this time.

Normally, once I've had an attack, my immune system seems to have wakened up and prevents me having another for at least two weeks.  Sometimes I don't get facial swellings, and instead get 'hives' on my arms, usually on one forearm or the other, never both at once. They start small, then grown almost all round my arm, and very itchy.  Sometimes only one side of my face swells up, and not the other.  It is all very strange, but as it started when I had cellulitis and was prescribed a number of pills that I have to take each day (some of these have the allergy side-effects), wonder if my body tends to build up an over-dose, and the immune system plays up, for the allergy can be quite regular, like every 16 days, and for no other reason I can think of.  Will definitely get an appointment at the surgery to try and get this sorted once and for all.

Back to what interests me most.  Food!  With today's recipes being my version of 'budget with a twist'.  The 'twist' will add a few more pennies, but we probably have the ingredients anyway that need using up (so we can almost ignore the cost of these), certainly far cheaper than something similar the H.B.'s are likely to demonstrate.
It's that little 'extra something' that can lift a recipe from the basic to more, good enough to serve to guests.  Call it 'posh nosh on the cheap' if you like.

First recipe is for potato salad.  For family fare suppose we could use canned new potatoes, but these are not nearly as nice as freshly cooked potatoes, and as the spuds absorb flavours better while still hot, then this should be made as soon as the potatoes have been cooked.
Spring onions are used in this recipe as these have a delicate flavour, both the white bulb and the lower part of the green leaves are used, but if you have none, then use finely chopped shallot or red onion.  The white/brown onions we use for cooking have too strong a flavour.
Potato Salad:
1 lb (450g) new potatoes, scrubbed
6 spring onions, finely sliced (see above)
1 x 7oz (200g) can sweetcorn kernels, drained
1 small red bell pepper, finely diced
3 tblsp mayonnaise
2 tblsp Greek yogurt
1 tblsp milk
pinch of salt
dash of Tabasco
paprika pepper
Cook the potatoes until just tender, leave to stand for 5 minutes, then drain.  Slice the potatoes fairly thickly (or cut into chunks) and put into a bowl with the onions, sweetcorn and pepper.
Blend together the mayo, yogurt and milk, adding salt and Tabasco to taste.  Spoon this over the potato salad, and toss gently to coat.  Cover bowl and chill in the fridge (overnight if you wish). Sprinkle with a little paprika pepper before serving.

Next dish more suitable for warmer weather - or for those who are fortunate to live in warmer climes - but worth making now if you have bits you wish to use up as it can be frozen at *** if you wish, the rest of the ingredients added when ready to serve.
Myself would use canned plum tomatoes at this time of year, then use ripe toms when they are in season.
If you have only double or whipping cream, then dilute with equal amounts of fresh milk.
Chilled Tomato Soup: serves 4
1.5 lb (759g) ripe tomatoes (see above)
1 oz (25g) butter
1 rib celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 potato, chopped
1.75 pts (1 ltr) chicken or vegetable stock
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
4 fl oz (100ml) single cream
1 onion
4 oz (100g) cooked ham, diced
1 cucumber, peeled and diced
2 tsp Worcestershire sauec
juice of 1 lemon
2 tblsp chopped parsley
Peel the tomatoes and set aside. Melt the butter in a large saucepan and add the celery, carrot and potato. Fry for a few seconds then add the tomatoes and lastly the stock, adding seasoning to taste, and also the sugar. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for one hour. 
Cool slightly, then pour the soup into a blender or food processor (or rub through a sieve). Then stir in the cream, check the seasoning, adding more if you wish, then leave to cool. *** At this point it can be frozen.
Just before serving, finely chop or grate the onion and then wrap the bits in kitchen paper and squeeze out as much juice as you can (catching the juice in a bowl).  Add this juice to the soup, together with the W. sauce, lemon juice, ham, and cucumber. Fold carefully together and serve in a tureen or individual bowls.  Garnish with the parsley and serve chilled.
If served with hot garlic bread, this turns the soup into a meal in its own right.

Normally I always make my own custard, admittedly using custard powder, but this does use milk that we sometimes cannot spare.  Recently (and only because they were on offer) bought a couple of cans of ready made custard (yes, I can see you throwing up your hands in horror), but was very glad I did for was able to use one this week when making a trifle.  Saved me a LOT of time.

Some readers may have canned custard in their larder, so am giving a couple of recipes that are made with 'fresh custard' (not sure if the canned counts as 'fresh' but we could use left-over home-made).
Easy Bread Pudding: serves 4 - 6
5 oz (150g) stale white bread, cut into triangles
2 oz (50g) raisins or sultanas
5 fl oz (150ml) milk
1 x 562 tub fresh custard (see above)
5 tblsp caster sugar
Put the bread into a large bowl with the raisins.  Mix the milk with the custard and pour over the bread, mixing well.  Tip into a buttered baking dish an bake for 30 - 35 minutes at 140C, 275F, gas 1 until just about set, then scatter the caster sugar over the top and pop under a pre-heated grill until caramelised.

Next recipe makes chocolate muffins to be served with a hot chocolate custard, but if you have leftover chocolate muffins that have gone stale, just heat them up in the microwave for a few seconds until heated through (don't over heat or they will dry up in the centre). Then serve these with the custard.
Chocolate Muffins with Chocolate Sauce: makes 6
1 tblsp cocoa powder
4 oz (100g) self-raising flour
half tsp bicarb. of soda
2 oz (50g) caster sugar
4 fl oz (100ml) milk
1 egg
2 tblsp sunflower oil
2 x 150g pots ready-made custard (or use canned)
1 oz (25g) dark chocolate, chopped or grated
Sieve the cocoa and flour together and add the rest of the dry ingredients. Stir to combine, then make a well in the centre.
Beat the milk, egg, and oil together, pour into the well and mix the lot together quickly to make a batter (it doesn't matter if it is a bit lumpy, but no dry flour should be seen).
Spoon into 6 oil-greased holes n a muffin tin, then bake for 15 minutes at 170C, 325F, gas 5 or until risen and firm to the touch.
Meanwhile, heat the custard (on the hob or in a microwave) and add the chocolate, stirring until smooth.  Turn the puddings out into individual bowls and pour over the chocolate custard.

I've been asked to make another Indian meal for B's social club in a couple or so months.  Will really enjoy doing that as I make nearly everything myself (other than buying poppodums, but even these I fry myself).
As I can begin making things that will freeze well, will start with samosas.  For these I normally use filo pastry, but last time, having not quite enough ended up making the last samosas using very thinly rolled out puff pastry, and these worked very well.

Although this time there will be no chance of me having filo pastry left over (all will be used to make samosas), very often we come across a recipe that we would like to make, but uses only a few sheets of filo, so what do we do with the rest?  Manufacturers do not recommend refreezing unused filo sheets, but if covered with a damp cloth whilst making an intended dish, the remaining pastry needn't go to waste as long as you have some ideas for its use.

So today am giving a few suggestions for desserts/treats, all made with filo with most being able to be made and frozen (uncooked), so a very good way to use up the rest of the pack, especially as - when baked - all good enough to serve at a dinner party.

Almond and Ginger Slice: makes 10 - 12
4 sheets filo pastry, thawed if frozen
1 oz (25g) butter, melted
8 oz (225g) marzipan
2 tblsp grated root ginger
2 lemons
4 oz (100g) flaked almonds
1 tblsp runny honey
Lay the filo sheets on top of each other, brushing each with the melted butter as you do so.
Roll out the marzipan very thinly, until it is the same size as the filo, then lay this on top of the stack.
Remove the peel and pith from one of the lemons, cutting the flesh into tiny pieces and spread these over the marzipan together with the almonds, the begin rolling up the pastry from both the long sides until they meet in the middle.  At this point it can be frozen. Overwrap, seal and freeze. Use within 6 months.  Thaw at room temp. for four hours than continue as below.
Baked freshly made (or when thawed), place on a baking sheet, brush with butter and bake for 25 minutes at 180C, 350F, gas 4.
Meanwhile, cut the remaining lemon in half lengthways, then slice across. Remove the baked filo from the oven and rapidly brush the surface with the honey, arranging the lemon slices on top. Return to the oven and continue baking for a further 10 minutes.  Slice when cold.

Baklava: makes about 16
3 oz (75g) walnuts, chopped
3 oz (75g) almonds, chopped
3 oz (75g) no-soak apricots, chopped
2 oz (50g) soft brown sugar
half tsp cinnamon
half tsp mixed spice
zest and juice of 1 large lemon
8 sheets filo pastry, thawed if frozen
3 oz (75g) butter, melted
3 oz (75g) sugar
2 tblsp honey
half pint (300ml) water
2 oz (50g) toasted flaked almonds, chopped
Mix the walnuts, almonds, apricots, sugar, spices and lemon rind together.  Lay one sheet of filo in a 12"x8" (31 x 20 cm) Swiss roll tin and brush liberally with butter. Repeat with 2 more sheets, then cover with half the nut mix.
Butter an layer two more filo sheets and cover these with the remaining nuts. Finally, cover with the last 3 sheets of filo, brushing between each layer, as before.  At this point it can be frozen (same packaging and thawing as with above recipe).
Brush the top with butter, then  score into a diamond pattern and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 35 minutes until golden. Meanwhile, put the sugar, honey, lemon juice, and water into a pan, slowly heat until boiling, then boil for 10 minutes.  Strain, then pour this over the baked Baklava, sprinkling the toasted, flaked almonds on top, then leave for at least a couple of hours to get cold before slicing.  It is easier to slice if left until the following day.

This next suggestion uses canned cherries (or cherry pie filling), but a variety of fresh or canned fruits can be used.  The end result is similar to the puff pastry 'slices' filled with cream and iced on top, but these are somewhat easier to make.  The recipes says 'best not frozen', but am sure the pastry 'slices' would keep for several days in an airtight tin, to be assembled when ready to serve.
Myself find that icing sugar is best to use when wishing to sweeten cream, but caster sugar is nearly as good.

Mille Feuilles: makes 8
3 sheets filo pastry, thawed if frozen
1 oz (25g) butter, melted
1 x 14 oz (400g) black cherries (see above)
3/4 pint (425ml) double cream, whipped
1 oz (25g) caster (or icing) sugar (see above)
icing sugar for dusting
Stack the filo sheets on a baking sheet, brushing between each, and the top, with melted butter. Neaten edges and cut into 3 long strips.  Bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 20 minutes until golden.
Strain the cherries, reserving 8 whole ones for decoration, then halve or chop the rest, making sure stones have been removed from all. 
If using icing sugar, this can be beaten in with the cream, otherwise fold caster sugar into the cream once it has been whipped.   Divide into three, spreading one third on each of 2 pastry layers, cover with the cherry halves.  Sandwich these layers together, and place the final bare pastry layer on top. Dust with icing sugar, then slice into 8.  
Decorate top by piping on cream rosettes,  studded with the reserved whole cherries that have been stoned and halved, then ready to serve.

Apple Strudels: makes 8 - 10
1lb (450g) Bramley apples, peeled, cored, chopped
2 tblsp water
2 oz (50g) demerara sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3 oz (75g) sultanas
2 oz (50g) fresh white breadcrumbs
4 oz (100g) butter
8 - 10 sheets filo pastry, thawed if frozen
3 tblsp icing sugar
2 tsp hot water
Put the apples in a pan with the water, sugar, and cinnamon, and cook gently for about 10 minutes until softened.  Stir in the sultanas, then leave to cool.
Put half the butter in a frying pan, then fry the breadcrumbs until golden, then add these to the cold apples.
Melt the remaining butter and brush one sheet of filo with a little of this, then fold in half, lengthways.
Place a spoonful of apple mixture at one end and brush the rest of the pastry with butter before folding over then rolling up to encase the filling. Brush top with butter and place on a baking sheet.  Repeat with the remaining sheets of filo and apple.  They can be frozen at this point, packed and thawed as given above.
To complete, bake for 30 minutes at 180C, 350F, gas 4 until golden brown, then cool on a wire rack.
Decorate by mixing the icing sugar with about 2 tsp hot water (use a little less, you can always add more) to make a thin (runny) glace icing. Drizzle this diagonally over each strudel, then leave to set before serving. 
If you wish, the Strudels can be served hot, freshly baked, without the icing, but served with cream.

That's it for today, and what a lovely day it is.  Still frosty at night, but viewed from the window (with the heating on in this room) it looks (and feels) almost like summer.  Am envying Kathryn who I'm sure will be taking the opportunity to saddle up and go off for a rural canter. Given the opportunity and days like this, we are glad to be alive.

Keep those comments coming, for often this is the only way I know you are 'still out there' interested enough to keep on reading my overlong 'ramblings'.  Today I will do what I intended to do yesterday (but never got around to it) - sorting out the shelves in the freezer side of 'Boris'.  With a large Indian meal to plan for, I'll need plenty of freezer space.  Hope you all enjoy your day, and - computer permitting - will be back 'chatting' again tomorrow.  TTFN.




Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Still Here...

Back again.  Thanks for waiting.  Nearly thought I wouldn't be able to blog today, it has take me nearly 45 minutes to get this computer to work properly.  Seems that age has caught up with it, but until our grandson visits in a few weeks to check it out, hope it manages to keep going until then.

It was lovely to see our daughter again, and fortunately the weather has been absolutely lovely for their visit especially as they were able to go out with B and our other daughter for part of the time. There was a magnificent sunset on the Tuesday evening with a huge orange globe of sun just about to settle on the horizon in the Bay (the sea end so plenty of reflections of orange clouds etc).  We saw it as we went to the Honey Tree Chinese Restaurant for an evening meal together.  It was 'Happy Hour' (the meals then being cheaper, and extra free helping if you wish...) so most of us chose different dishes, and then sampled each others.  Whether it was something in one I don't know, but during the night started with the mother of allergies, and first my upper lip swelled to enormous proportions, just about covering my lower lip.  I looked just like a fish!!

This meant I couldn't drink without dribbling, and could hardly speak.  Within an hour or two the top lip subsided slightly but both my cheeks and under lip then swelled out, I really looked a mess.  This morning my lips have gone down but my cheeks still swollen, but going down.

We too photos of my face as this is the only way I can get the doctor to see it at its worst, so next time I go to the surgery (end of April), I will see if I can persuade them to see if they can find out the cause, or at least give me a different anti-histamine as the ones prescribed don't seem to work.  I do take extra when the allergy hits me (as told to), but this makes me very drowsy and quite 'down', so am not in the best of spirits this morning.

At least it was lovely being able to cook for at least part of our family again,  with B, two of our daughters, and one spouse round the table.  The 'full English breakfast for our visitors, and a chicken curry for a late lunch before they left. 
It's not been an altogether happy visit as our daughter came over from Ireland with her husband for his mother's funeral - this being tomorrow. On the good side they are able to stay with my daughter's son (our grandson Steve who is the computer buff) for a few days, who lives close to where they need to be, and as he works mostly from home, they will be able to spend some time with him. 
he last week of April being all sunshine for many year,, then last year moved back to the last week in March, and didn't I forecast that this year it will be the end of February?  Meant it as a joke, but it's happened?  Not that it is warm enough to be called 'summer', so perhaps the high pressure will return again and we will have summer this year when it should be.
Despite the still very cold weather, the sun seems to have warmed the garden containers enough for the crocuses to be in bloom, also some of the small daffodils, with other spring bulb pushing their leaves above the soil.   So at least a sign that winter is over (or nearly), despite the heavy frosts we are still getting these clear nights.

Not sure whether this tip is useful or not, but when making the curry, wanted to serve some yogurt with it to help cool it down (not that it was a hot curry, just a mild Tikka Masala), but had forgotten to make some Greek yogurt (as planned).  Instead I used half a tub of low-fat Tesco cream cheese (similar to Philadelphia), and blended this with a little double cream, then added a little milk, folding in a couple of teaspoons of mince sauce (from a bottle), adding a teaspoon of caster sugar.  This turned it into a 'Raita', and although not made the correct way, tasted as good as.  This, plus mango chutney, and Peshwari Naan bread, made good 'sides' to go with the curry and basmati rice that I'd cooke.  
The naan bread I'd taken from the freezer to thaw, and they needed a couple of minutes under a grill, but as I was doing several things at once (dishing out the curry, rice, etc), pre-heated the grill, then  put the naan on the oven grid under the grill, then turned off the grill, closed the door and left the naan in the oven to heat through.  They were perfect, just beginning to brown and slightly crusty on the surface, but hot and soft inside.

This morning, because I was up early and fed up with my allergy, decided to sit and watch the Food network on TV (6.00am...).  Well, not sure if the American folk find it difficult to understand any language that has an accent other than their own, but when today they showed some actors being interviewed at a Harry Potter film premiere (Chef Duff's firm had made a 'Hogwart' cake for this), there were subtitles shown only when the British actors spoke, presumably so that everyone could know what they were saying. For goodness sake! Are we that difficult to understand?  Does that mean that English actors in US films all have to be subtitled? 

Have noticed this happening in several US cookery programmes. If there is an Italian or French cook who speak English but with a strong accent, these too are subtitled. Yet we in the UK can understand perfectly what is being said.  Are Nigella's cookery progs also subtitled? 

Generally, we can understand every foreigner who speaks English, their accents don't seem cause difficulty.  Having said that, in our own country often it can be quite hard to understand several of our own regional dialects.  Hearing the 'broad' Cornish, and the Scottish Glaswegian is - to me - like hearing a completely different language that neither I nor B can 'translate' at all.

Over last weekend did manage to sort out my freezer (drawers only, shelves still left to do), and am not sure whether I mentioned this previously or not.  At least I've now written down everything that is in each drawer, so this does make it far simpler to find what I need, saving a lot of time as well.  I just have to remember to cross off the list what has been removed from the drawers (and also write down when I add other things).

Today (or tomorrow) will be sorting out the freezer shelves, then will have a very idea of what space I have so that I can order more DR meat when the right offer comes along.  Their meat is one I really can trust.  No doubt a local butcher will be as trustworthy, but now feel that any processed foods that contain meat (ready-meals and maybe even canned) that are sold in supermarkets (or those cooked in take-aways, burger parlours etc) could be very suspect, and although many will have ingredients exactly 'as on the label', how can we now be sure?   Sadly this is not the fault of the retailer, or maybe even the manufacturer, it is the supplier/processor of the original meat where the current meat fiasco seems to have begun, and like many things 'no smoke without fire' or 'one rotten apple can ruin the whole barrel', so we feel safer trusting none, rather than find out we've been conned (again!).

Recipes today are - naturally - inexpensive, and made with ingredients that most of us keep in our fridge, freezer, and larder.  When it comes to using stock, always best to make home-made (esp. chicken) but a stock cube could be used instead.  The Marigold vegetable stock powder is a good one, less salty than the cubes.

Instead of using risotto rice, use quinoa or pearl barley.  The barley being cheaper than either of the other two grains, and has a 'nuttier' flavour, although it may take slightly longer to cook (quinoa is the dearer grain, has more protein, but takes less time to cook, so less stock may be needed). The butter gives flavour, but use less if you wish (but do use some).  The oil prevents the butter from burning.
Unlike most risottos, once the stock has been added, it doesn't need constant stirring, but check towards the end in case more stock or hot water needs to be added.
Risotto with bacon and peas: serves 4
2 tblsp olive oil
1 oz (25g) butter
1 onion, finely chopped
6 rashers streaky bacon, chopped
10 oz (300g) risotto rice
1.75 pts (1 ltr) hot vegetable stock
4 oz (100g) frozen peas
ground black pepper
grated Parmesan or Cheddar (opt)
Heat the oil and the butter in a deep frying pan (or saucepan if you prefer), and add the onion.  Fry over medium heat for 7 minutes until lightly browned, then add the bacon and fry for a further 5 minutes until crisp.  Stir in the rice and stock and bring to the boil, give a final stir, then cover the pan and reduce heat. Simmer for 15 - 20 minutes until the rice is almost tender (if using pearl barley, you will need to cook slightly longer, and maybe need more stock).
Stir in the peas, season with pepper to taste, and continue cooking for a further 3 minutes or until the peas are cooked, then serve in individual bowls, sprinkled with grated cheese (if you wish).

Next recipe could be a light lunch, supper dish when served with a side salad, or a teenage 'snack' served on its own.
Recipes from many countries have similarities - the one given below resembles an Italian 'pizza' but also a 'quesadilla' (a Mexican toasted 'sandwich' but this time without a tortilla 'topping').  It's tempting to call this dish a 'Mexican Ploughman's, which it might be if we used Branston pickle, but think we'll just enjoy it the way as shown, and enjoy.
A good recipe to use when you have chicken and/or ham scraps that you have salvaged from a cooked chicken carcase, or ham that you have cooked yourself (the scraps could be frozen, as an the tortillas, and grated cheese).  You could use a mixture of both if you wish.
As I do not always keep spring onions in the fridge, tend to use some  finely chopped shallot, these being tender and sweeter then most of the larger onions.
Cheese and Chutney Tostados: serves 2
2 small flour tortillas (about 8"/20cm diam)
olive oil
2 heaped tblsp mango chutney
4 oz (100g) cooked chicken or ham, shredded
4 oz (100g) cheddar cheese, grated
2 spring onions (or 1 shallot) chopped/diced
Brush the tortillas with a little olive oil, then put them oil side down on a large baking tray. Spread the top side evenly with the chutney, then scatter over the chicken or ham (or mixture of both), then the onions and finally the cheese.
Bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 8 minutes, then cut into wedges and eat whilst they are still hot and crispy.

Considering the cost of beef, you might think this doesn't count as 'cheap nosh', but when it comes to using quality, well-hung beef, this has so much flavour that a smaller amount gives a lot more flavour than when using the correct amount of a cheaper meat, and I don't mean a cheaper 'cut', just meat of lesser quality.  One of the reasons I 'deliberately' save money so that I can then afford to buy D.R's meat (but can only afford to do this when 'on offer', but very well worth waiting until it is).
This casserole contains plenty of onions and carrots, and these, together with good meat, and the ale, make up an absolutely gorgeous casserole.  The meat used is 'stewing beef', this being less tender than stewing 'steak' (which is more expensive), so ask your butcher's advice for the cheapest 'stewing' beef' if you are not sure.  It could be that brisket might be cheaper (by weight) and this, being a rolled joint - can be unrolled and cubed for this dish.
Once the casserole has been cooked and chilled, it can be frozen for up to 3 months.  Defrost completely before reheating, and make sure it is piping hot throughout before serving.
Beef and Ale Casserole, with Carrots: serves 4 - 6
2 tblsp sunflower oil
1lb 8oz (675g) stewing beef, cut into chunks
2 large onions, roughly chopped
12 carrots, cut into large chunks
2 tblsp plain flour
1 x 500ml can stout (brown ale)
1 beef stock cube
2 tsp muscovado or demerara sugar
3 bay leaves
1 large sprig fresh thyme
salt and pepper
Put the oil in a large heat-proof casserole dish and place on the hob.  Brown the meat really well, doing this in small batches (or it begins to 'stew' rather than fry).  Then remove the meat from the pan and set aside.
To the pan add the onions and carrots, and fry until changing colour, then sprinkle the flour over, give a stir.  Put back the meat and any juices that may have leached out, and give another stir before pouring in the stout/ale.  Crumble in the stock cube, and add the herbs, sugar, and seasoning to taste, then bring to the boil. Cover with a lid and remove from heat, placing the casserole in a pre-heated oven (160C, 325F, gas 3) and leave to cook for about 3 hours or until the meat is really tender (some cuts of beef may taken longer).
When ready to serve, leave the casserole to settle a bit, then serve with mashed potatoes (or baked spuds), and a green vegetable (such as broccoli, cabbage....).

With the 'meat scare' that is ongoing at the moment, have a feeling that many people may opt out of eating meat altogether, and turn to the vegetarian meat substitutes.  Whether or not this will happen, it has been mentioned that beef cubes could be another 'suspect', so felt that a recipe for vegetarian gravy might be worth including today.
Vegetarian Gravy: serves 4
2 tblsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 tsp thyme leaves
2 tblsp plain flour
4 fl oz (125ml) white wine
11 fl oz (300ml) vegetable stock
half teaspoon Marmite
Put the oil in a saucepan and add the onions and thyme.  Fry over medium heat for 10 - 15 minutes until the onion is soft and transparent.   Stir in the flour and cook/stir for 2 minutes, then blend in the wine, stock and Marmite.  Bring to the boil, stirring continuously, and simmer for about 5 minutes until thickened.

Have to say that having a 'chat' with you has cheered me up immensely, even though I still look like a hamster with cheeks full of stored food.  

Forgot to mention that last weekend B somehow managed to spill half a pint of double cream on the kitchen carpet, and after being asked to mop it up before he did anything else (he was about to get himself a late snack, and I was going to bed), discovered the next morning that all he'd done was put newspaper over the cream then left it.  Very little moisture (if any) had been sucked up by the paper and the cream had almost set to a cheese.  Did not myself feel inclined to get on my knees and scrape it all up (if I had I wouldn't have been able to easily get up again, and anyway it wasn't my mess), so B said he'd do it, but he didn't (he long ago told me his 'trick' of getting out of doing things : "if I wait long enough, someone else will always do it", so it was two days before he tried to clear away some but still leaving newspaper over the rest of it, and this with only hours before our visitors arrived, So decided the only thing to do was scrub it myself to clear it away.  At least it's now back to normal. 

It has crossed my mind that stress could also be a reason for my allergy, so what with the washing machine breaking, the cream all over the carpet, and visitors expected, perhaps I was a mite stressed over the last few days. Not that visiting family should cause me stress, but it all depends on what 'stress' is.  In my case, this could be more adrenalin flowing through my veins, not always caused by something that I wish didn't happen, just something that adds a little more to my life than normal.  Whatever the real cause of the allergy, it seems that I can't find it yet, so will have to cope with the annoyance each time it happens.

B has work to do at the sailing club this morning, a meeting at lunch time, and then on to the gym this afternoon, so I have most of the day to myself.  He's also said he'll get his own supper (as he's eaten rather more than usual these last few days).  Might as well make this a relaxing day for myself.  Then back to cooking again tomorrow.

Only one comment since I last wrote, this from jane, who is off for a holiday this coming weekend I think she said, so hope the weather still stays fair for her.  Cannot believe it will be the start of March on Friday, this year seems to be passing by at a speed of knots.

Hope to receive more comments from readers, I love reading them and sure you all enjoy keeping in touch with each other this way.  As ever, hope you have a pleasant day, and looking forward to our 'chat' again tomorrow.  See you then.



Saturday, February 23, 2013

We CAN do it!

It had to happen!  Yesterday the washing machine refused to work, as it is well over 20 years old now and had been playing up for some months (but still working with a bit of help) we will now have to have a replacement.  Am so sorry as I've grown fond of the machine (as I do - well, many of my kitchen appliances do the work that 'below stairs' used to do for us in the old days, so I tend to give them all a name.  Readers will have already been introduced to 'Boris' (our fridge/freezer), and 'Norris' (my mobility scooter). 
Thankfully, the insurance I took out to cover repairs etc, will - it says in the small print - supply us with a brand new washing machine should the one we have not be able to be repaired.  That's something.   Unfortunately the repair man cannot come to take a look until next Friday, and until then (or even later) will have to go back to doing my washing in the sink (or bath).  Luckily, was almost up to date with it, so only a few 'smalls' to wash by hand.

Was able to watch the regional final of Great British Chef  (not sure if that is the name of the prog, on each weekday evening on BBC 2).  As ever, really 'cheffy' dishes are served up, and I was thrilled to bits to see one of the starters being a very clear chicken consomme, with a big sliver of roast chicken skin tucked in as 'garnish'.  As you know home-made chicken stock is VERY cheap to make, and chicken skin certainly one of those bits many people discard, never being counted as being worth anything, so proof positive that we DON'T need to spend more than a very few pennies serving really 'posh nosh' when entertaining.  As with most meals served in the top restaurants, we are paying for the time, skill, and imagination of the chef, not necessarily the ingredients.  It's what they do with what they've got.  And we can do the same.

A few suggestions coming up on how to make something that little bit different, using simple ingredients, the first being a dish of cooked cucumber.  Normally, a cucumber - eaten raw - is often sliced thinly, so a little goes a long way.  One way to use it up is to cut into 'batons' to add to other 'crudites' when serving dips, but how many of us serve cucumber as a cooked veg?  Try this dish and discover how delicious this tastes after cooking, especially with herbs.
Because this is so different, another good dish to serve as a starter when entertaining.
Herbed Cucumber: serves 4
2 tblsp sunflower oil
1 cucumber, peeled and diced
1 small onion, or shallot, thinly sliced
2 tblsp chopped fresh herbs
half teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1 teaspoon salt
Heat the oil in a pan and add the cucumber and onion, stirring and tossing together for 3 minutes.  Sprinkle over the herbs, Tabasco and salt, then cover pan and reduce heat to very low, and steam for 4 minutes, giving the pan a shake from time to time.   Serve immediately.

Next dish is another that would make a good 'starter', but also good to serve as nibbles when watching TV.  The given name (in Italian) because the melted mozzarella resembles telephone wires when the balls are split and pulled apart.
Those of us who plan our meals ahead (maybe the menu for the whole week) could arrange to make these when rice has been cooked for a previous day's meal, allow a bit extra to make these.  As with any cooked rice you wish to use later, always cool rapidly then keep chilled.  The best rice to use this is medium grain.  If you haven't fresh herbs, use a tsp of dried.
A good tip for fast-chilling cooked rice is to spread it over a baking sheet in a thin layer, then flap a piece of card over it so the cool air moving across rapidly brings down the temperature, then put the cold rice in the fridge (or freeze it).
Suppli al Telephono: makes 8 balls
1 tblsp olive oil
2 oz (50g) frozen peas
1 clove garlic, crushed
half-pint measure cooked white rice
1 oz (25g) grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg, beaten
1 tblsp finely chopped fresh oregano or marjoram
2 oz (50g) mozzarella cheese
2 oz (50g) stale breadcrumbs
sunflower oil, for frying
Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan, then add the peas and garlic and cook until the peas are just tender and the garlic 'fragrant'.  Then put the peas/garlic into a bowl with their oil, add the rice, Parmesan, egg, and herbs, then mix well to combine.  Divide into eight and form each into a ball..
Cut the mozzarella into 8 cubes, then press a hole into the middle of each ball and into each shove in a cube of the cheese, re-shaping the rice round to cover the hole/cheese.   Roll in the breadcrumbs until coated all over, then deep-fry in hot oil, in batches, until golden brown and heated through.  Drain in kitchen paper and serve immediately.

Discovered another recipe that uses smoked salmon, again to be cooked.  Because this is such a simple dish to make, and serves up to 15 (yes, FIFTEEN), a perfect dish for that summer buffet, or scaled down by half, then made in a 1lb loaf tin, when sliced would serve 6 - 8 as a dinner party  'starter'. 
Considering how many it serves, not expensive by any means, and if we have 'value' white fish in our freezer, canned salmon (bought on offer), in our larder, and bought smoked salmon 'offcuts' (the vacuum packs of these will also freeze)', we could be on to a winner here, especially as we have 'free' egg whites to use up, just think of all those meringues and macaroons we could make with these! 
Fish Terrine: serves 15
1.5 lb (550g) cod (or similar) fillet, thawed if frozen
1 onion, quartered
2 bay leaves
4 oz (100g) butter
4 oz (100g) plain flour
1 pint (600ml) milk
salt and pepper
good pinch freshly grated nutmeg
zest of 1 lemon
8 eggs, yolks only
4 oz (100g) breadcrumbs
1 x 400g can red salmon, skinned, boned, the mashed
Tabasco sauce
4 oz (100g) smoked salmon, thinly sliced (or thin pieces)
Put the cod, onion, and bay leaves in a pan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, then place on lid and leave to stand until cold, then drain.  Remove skin and bones, the mash the flesh well..
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan, then stir in the flour and cook for 1 minutes. Slowly stir in the milk, then bring to the boil, continually stirring until thickened and there are no lumps. Remove from heat, add seasoning to taste, then stir in the nutmeg, lemon zest, egg yolks and breadcrumbs.
Add the mashed cod to two-thirds of the sauce, then mix the Tabasco and the mashed, canned salmon, into the remaining third of the sauce.
Place half the cod mixture in a greased and lined 2lb (900g) loaf tin, then top with half the smoked salmon slices. Cover these with the salmon mixture, then the remaining smoked salmon, finished with the reserved half of the white fish mixture.  Cover with a piece of buttered greaseproof paper, then place loaf tin in a roasting tin and pour enough cold water in the larger tin to come up about halfway up the sides of the loaf tin (at least an inch depth of water needed).
Place in centre of oven and cook at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for two to two and a half hours or until a skewer inserted in the centre of the 'mousse' comes out clean.  Cool in the tin, then chill before turning out.  Served sliced.

Moving from the sublime to (almost) the ridiculous (when it comes to cost), this next dish is made with split peas, one of the cheaper 'pulses'.  Very much like a meat-loaf in texture, the flavour is surprisingly good, so worth making as either a 'starter', or could be served with egg curry. Also makes good buffet 'nibbles' or TV 'snacks'.  As these can be frozen, then worth considering whether to make some, like now, and we can decide how to serve them later.
Split Pea 'Spicies': makes 36
8 oz (225g) split peas, soaked overnight
1 large onion, grated
1 tsp each ground cumin and ground coriander
half tsp chilli powder
good pinch each salt and pepper
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 egg, beaten
flour (pref wholewheat)
oil for frying
Drain the soaked peas, then put them into a pan, adding fresh, cold water to just cover.  Bring to the boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for approx 1 hour or until just tender, and all the liquid has been absorbed.
Mash with a fork, then add the rest of the ingredients and beat well (or put into a food processor or blender and blitz until smooth).  Shape into small balls about the size of a walnut.  They can be frozen at this point, by open-freezing until solid, then bag up and seal.  Use within 3 months.  Cook from frozen for 7 - 8 minutes, following directions below..
To cook (fresh or frozen): dip into beaten egg and then in flour. Fry for 3 - 4 minutes (longer if frozen), in 2 or 3 batches, turning once or twice, until golden all over.  Drain on kitchen paper.  Can be served hot or cold, with salad and pitta bread, or on cocktail sticks as a party snack.

As you say Sarina, 'dining in' is certainly the best way to have a great meal, as then we have complete control over what we cook/serve.  When we take the trouble, we can cook superb meals that really don't cost a lot (and certainly MUCH cheaper than we would pay when dining 'out').  The down side is that the cook doesn't have the pleasure of having a meal cooked for him/her.  We cooks really do enjoy being able to let someone else do the work for a chance, but am discovering that only when the food served is better than I could have made it, do I really feel it's been worth spending the money (even if someone else has been paying). This only applies when eating in restaurants, eating someone else's home-cooked food I always enjoy, at whatever level.

Interesting that you also felt that your meal at Hest Bank wasn't as good as usual gillibob. Someone else I spoke to recently said the same, so perhaps they have a new chef.  jSuch a pity when a good reputation has been built, for it to lapse because a good chef has left, or maybe the (new?) owners are cutting costs?

Thanks Eileen for letting Pam know that McD's do serve breakfasts. Have to admit I've never eaten in a McD's ever, so have no idea what they serve other than burgers and chips (and only know this because of their ads).  No doubt the UK 'breakfast' served would be different than those served in the US as we haven't yet reached the stage (thankfully) when pancakes with maple syrup break our fast.  If we ate these at all they would be the 'pudding/dessert' after our main (usually) evening meal.

Recently been watching the Food Network again as there are a few programmes that I've not seen before (far too many repeats, esp of Nigella).  Noticed that the Barefoot Contessa was looking more slender, and she seemed to live in a different house, but after noticing the date at the end of her prog. (2003) realised these were filmed when she was a good 10 years younger.   Believe Ina mentioned she lived in New York (but this could have meant N.Y. state, not the city), and in recent progs she often talks about living in East Hampton (is that on Long Island?), and seeing her often walking on a beach, feel she lives close by the sea.  Am hoping that bad storm that flooded many areas on the east coast of America some months ago didn't ruin her house and garden.

Not quite sure why, but am getting quite fond of watching Guy Ferreri (?), the presenter of 'Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives', who I have discovered does other shows (Guy's Bites?) where he cooks in his own home, along with his two young sons, and it's so good to see how well they work together.   
Quite often on that network, there are several chefs who tell us of their favourite dishes, and where they eat them (seems most chefs prefer to 'eat out' rather than cook their own), and once I saw Guy F's sister (different surname) telling us of her favourite, and she looked very like her brother, but much prettier.  Same spiky (but longer) fair hair (bleached of course).  A really pleasant lady, think she also had he own own cookery prog (or restaurant).

The other day had a double bonus as happened to switch to the Food Network just as Guy was showing Sunny Anderson how to cook a certain meal (forgotten what).  Liking both presenters, I looked forward to enjoying watching, but have to say that Guy did tend to 'talk down to' Sunny and not give her the credit she deserves.  This slightly lowered my opintion of him, but I still enjoy watching his programmes.

Back to the Goode kitchen.  The other day gave a recipe for a 'basic mix' for pastry, that could then be used to make several other things, and today am giving yet another suggestion.  This is a 'Jalousie', basically an oblong 'pie' where the pastry has been slashed into strips across the centre, so that these open slightly when cooking so we can see the filling.   The recipe given is for a dessert, but instead of making the filling from scratch (as given) we could instead used mincemeat left over from Christmas? You need to look up the 'basic' recipe, but if you haven't saved it, just use normal shortcrust pastry, approx 12 oz in weight when made.
OR - we could use a savouring filling, this time using proper 'mince(d) meat', such as a spag.bol meat sauce, or maybe even meat with beans (chilli).
Citrus Jalousie: gives 6 - 8 slices
1 quantity of Basic Mix 
1 orange, peeled, flesh chopped
zest of 1 lemon
2 oz (50g) each sultanas and chopped dates
2 oz (50g) demerara sugar
beaten egg, for glazing
Chill the pastry before rolling out to a flour rectangle 14" x 12" (36.5 x 30cm).  Trim to neaten edges, then cut in half lengthways (ending with two strips 14" x 7").
Place one half on a greased baking sheet.  Mix filling ingredients together and spread this over the pastry, leaving a half-inch (1cm) border. Dampen these edges.
Fold remaining pastry in half lengthways, then make diagonal cuts along the whole length, from folded edge to within half inch of the cut edges.  Open out and place on top of the filled pastry, pressing edges together to seal.  Knock up edges with a knife, then glaze with beaten egg.
Bake at 190C, 375F, gas 5 for 25 minutes until golden.brown.  Cool on tin for five minutes before transferring to a cake airer.  Serve sliced, hot or cold.

Another recipe using the 'basic' mix is a speedy way to make a ginger cake.  Speedy in that we already have the basic mix prepared and kept in fridge or freezer.  Either way, bring to room temperature before making this cake.  Pastry, used as pastry is best when the ingredients are kept chilled, but when making cakes, ingredients should always be at room temperature (unless otherwise stated).

Although we could omit the stem ginger and syrup (use orange juice instead to make the icing), if there is a jar of stem ginger in your larder, we could use this to make extra ginger syrup.  What I do is tip the contents of the jar into a sieve, then get a couple or three similar sized jars and divide the syrup between them.  I then chop or slice the stem ginger (sometimes do both), also dividing this between the jars (some with slices, some with chopped), then top up with some home-made stock sugar syrup).  Screw on the lids, give a shake so the original syup and home-made get well mixed with the ginger, then replace in the larder.  Over time the stem ginger flavours the extra syrup so we end up with loads more than we began with.
Alternatively, if a recipe uses ginger syrup from a bought jar but none of the stem ginger, then just top up the jar with the home-made syrup until all the ginger is completely covered, and in a few days you will have more ginger-flavoured syrup you can use.
Iced Ginger Cake: serves 9
1 quantity of Basic Mix
2 eggs
2 tsp baking powder
3 tblsp golden syrup
3 oz (75g) soft brown sugar
2 tsp ground ginger
2 oz (50g) icing sugar, sifted
ginger syrup (see above)
2 tblsp stem ginger, finely chopped
Put the basic mix into a bowl with the eggs, baking powder, syrup, sugar, and ground ginger, and beat together. Spoon into a greased and lined 7" (18cm) square cake tin.  Level the surface, then bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for half an hour or until cooked.  Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out onto a cake airer to cool completely.
Beat the icing sugar and ginger syrup together until smooth, then sprinkle the chopped ginger on the cake, drizzling the icing over in a zig-zag pattern.   When icing has set, the cake can then be cut into 9 squares or plated up whole..
If wishing to freeze, cool completely then wrap in cling-film or foil, and place in a rigid container. Use within 3 months.  Unwrap and thaw uncut cake for 4 hours at room temp, or smaller squares between 1 - 2 hours.

If you wish to make your own stock sugar syrup, just put equal measures (by volume, not weight) of water and sugar (caster or granulated) into a pan and heat gently WITHOUT STIRRING until the sugar has dissolved.  If we stir there is a good chance that sugar crystals will stick to the spoon or sides of the pan, and if one drops in it could then start the syrup turning back into crystals as it is stored.  This once happened to me. discovering one huge crystal, about the size of my little finger, growing in the centre of a jar of marmalade that I'd made some months before.
Swirling the sugar/water in the pan helps to dissolve, but keeps the sugar crystals beneath the surface.
Once dissolved turn up the heat to medium and boil, fairly rapidly for five minutes, then remove from heat, cool and store in sterilised jars,  When sealed, this syrup will keep for months in a cool place (larder is fine, no need to keep it chilled).

A thought came into my mind yesterday evening (as so often happens), and with this constant urging to the return to home-cooking (not just by me, but now mentioned almost every day in the media, due mainly to the horsemeat scandal), began to think 'outside the box', realising that those who prefer to buy their food already made/processed/prepared, aren't really doing anything different that all those (that includes me) who prefer to buy their clothes ready-made.  In the old days (like when I was a 'gel' (and in my early married years), mothers made many of their own clothes, and certainly their childrens, and instead of buying jumpers, scarves, gloves and hats, these would be  hand-knitted or crocheted.  In those days, of course - meals were nearly always cooked at home 'from scratch', and if there was enough land, people also grew their own fruit and veg, so do feel that perhaps we shouldn't be so down on people because they haven't learned to cook.  Many haven't learned to knit or sew, and no-body complains about this.

As the years roll by, there is always a lot less D.I.Y because it's just become 'easier' to let someone else do all the work.  Sometimes this does mean that both parents have to work to pay for it all, but there is no reason why some of the skills cannot be relearned (esp. cooking) and it's been proved that if one parent (usually the female) gives up the paid work, more money that was earned can be saved when 'the home-made' takes the place of 'the bought'.  Food being one example.

'Domestic history' always interests me, by this I mean 'domestic' as in home-life, not just the history of our country.  Whatever age, there will always be people who remember how things used to be done.  In this 21st century we buy our knitwear, in the last half of the 20th century we used to knit garments using from pre-wound balls of wool. In the first half of the century we had to wind the wool from hanks (I remember hours of holding the hanks between my hands as my mother wound it into balls).
Prior to that, people used a spinning wheel to spin wool from a bought sheep's fleece, and some people still do this (as a 'hobby') today.  Before that I suppose people kept sheep so they could shear it every year to spin more wool. 

Now we buy bread from the bakers/supermarket, with a slight swing back to 'baking our own' using a bread machine.  Some people even knead the dough by hand.  Before that we started with the flour, either buying it from a miller, or growing our own wheat and milling it by hand.
The further back in time we go, the more we have to do to get the 'end product' that is so easily purchased today, so sometimes technology can be very useful.  After washing some 'smalls' in the bath yesterday, wringing out as much water as possible being quite difficult with my old achind hands (and joints) realised that those 'good old days' may not have been quite so good after all.

You may recall me mentioning a book I have published by the Canned Foods Advisory Service, and at the end of the introduction, describes the 'economics of the canning industry'.
Things may be very different today - perhaps the cans are now made in another country, but this makes interesting reading:
"The use of British canned foods benefits several industries, and is a great factor in the reduction of unemployment. The South Wales tinplate mills in 1935 were called on to supply 142,605 tons of tinplate for the industry's cans. Steelmakers and coalminers benefited too: 98% of tinplate is steel and the steel industry had to supply this.  Coke is needed to make the pig iron for the tinplate.  Coal is needed for the coke.
The can manufacturers also need can-making machinery.  The machinery manufacturers benefit as well in supplying the machinery which actually does the canning.
Lastly, the fruit growers and the canners themselves get their livelihood from the industry. 
A few years ago thousands of acres of orchards and fruit plantations were going out of cultivation every year.  Fruit was rotting on the trees.  In a glut year the price was not sufficient to pay the cost of picking.  The canning industry has arrested that decline.
Every time the housewife buys a can of British packed food, she helps four major industries:  steel, coal, tinplate and agriculture."

Somehow, I feel it isn't quite like that any more.  It could be, it should be if we kept the industry to this country, but now it seems so much is imported because it is cheaper for a manufacturer to do this.
On the other hand, with so many canned foods on sale today compared with the relatively few varieties on sale when the book was first published, am wondering why we still get perfectly good fresh fruit and vegetables left rotting in the fields.  Why are these not being canned?

At least it's opened my eyes to the fact that if we want our country to pull itself out of its recession, we do need to keep our industrie's heads above water, and to do this we have to spend our 'disposable' income.  Nothing wrong with that, it's just that most of us have very little money to spare these days.
What is interesting is what is happening to the supermarkets.  Every day we hear of more food being removed from the shelves due to 'undeclared' ingredients being found in them. Yesterday read about someone finding a dead bird in a bag of salad leaves bought from a supermarket.  Very soon we will begin to suspect everything that has been pre-packed. I certainly am. This could mean we see the return of the small, privately owned, grocers, greengrocers, fishmongers, butchers and bakers return to our local shopping parade.  All we have now are estate agents, travel agents, solicitors, chiropodists, sn off licence, betting shops, with only a newsagent and pharmacy that has kept tight hold.  Not forgetting 'the corner shop', the mini-supermarket that sells 'the necessary' at very inflated prices.                                    

A busy weekend for me as famly visiting for a couple or so days.  Much depends upon how I get on today as to whether I'll find time to write my blog tomorrow. I'll try to find time to write something as I'll definitely be taking Monday and Tuesday off to spend time with the family and three days seems a long time without 'having a chat'.  However, if there is no blog tomorrow, you'll understand why.  But will be back again on Wednesday if the comp is still working.

Everything goes in threes, they say.  The electric kettle blew up early last week, the washing machine now has popped its clogs, and the comp seems very close to doing the same.  Fingers crossed it will keep going until we managed to get a replacement.

Not sure whether we had a fall of snow during the night, or a very severe frost.  Feel it could have been frost as the terrace outside our patio door was as dry as a bone first thing, but the wall along the side (about 3ft away from the wall)  was wet - possibly because it is almost directly under the pipe sticking out of our house wall that blows out hot air/steam from our central heating boiler.
But whatever, all signs of snow or frost have disappeared from roof and fence tops, and so far the weather seems to be staying dry, although the rain clouds suggest otherwise.  Suprise, suprise, as I write snow is just beginning to fall, only a few flakes but pretty to watch.

Maybe tomorrow, or maybe not until Wednesday.  But - I'll be back!  Enjoy your weekend.  TTFN.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Too Critical?

Yesterday evening, Beloved, our daughter and I went out for a meal to (previously) my favourite 'eaterie':  The Hest Bank Hotel.  A bit of a disappointment.  Changes had been made, and in my opinion, not for the better.  The place had lost a lot of its character.  A conservatory had been taken down, the pictures on the wall had been changed (originally paintings of how the hotel used to be some centuries back, replaced by scenes of the Bay and surrounding districts).  Even the place mats (used to have pictures of them of how the hotel looked centuries ago) now had been changed to smaller look-alike-but-not-wooden ones, of a very 'modern' design.

The food was still very good, but not as good as it used to be, with more interest in the presentation of the food than its overall taste (but only my opinion).  I chose a tomato and basil soup as my first course.  Flavour OK, but it had huge basil leaves floating on top that had wilted and turned quite soggy by the time the soup was served, I had to push them to one side and try to eat my soup without them ending in the spoon.  All our cutlery was in a container on our table, the knife, fork and dessert spoon wrapped in a paper napkin, so had no soup spoon, and somehow, soup was not so easy to drink using a dessert spoon..  Also no butter knife for the warm (and nice) bread, had to use my 'mains' knife, which they didn't remove, but I didn't need one later anyway as it happened..  The butter was in wrapped pats, but thankfully soft (so often butter these days is served chilled and hardly 'spreadable').

Our daughter had a prawn cocktail, which - to me - didn't look attractive - as served pushed into the top of a tall long drinking glass.  B had some Nachos that were toasted with cheese, with tiny side bowls of guacamole, sour cream, and tomato salsa.  They both seemed to enjoy their starters.

For my main course I had a vegetarian chilli, and did not take too much interest in the other meals as I could only comment on mine.  The chilli wasn't bad other than it seemed to have a few tortilla chips that had been stuck into it and had gone soft.  But ss this was served in a small round shallow Balti type dish, with some spiced rice served in a similar-sized but square dish, a very small round bowl of guacamole, and another of sour cream, plus one rather thin and warm flour tortilla, on the verge of drying out, was not sure how to eat my meal.  I tried eating some chilli, then some rice, tried using bits of tortilla to take up some of the 'quac' (this didn't work as the tortillas were too soft and kept breaking up) so nothing seemed to come together.  In the end put some rice in with the chilli, and some chilli in with the rice, with the small bit of sour cream on top of one of them.  Gave up eating the tortilla, and left the guacamole as that tasted more like 'crushed' peas.   Am sure they had blended peas and avocados together. 
It's not like me to leave food on my plate,  but for once left part of my meal uneaten.  Sometimes it's not easy being 'a cook' because I find I'm becoming far too critical when 'eating out', and only hope others feel they too find there are things that don't come up to their approval.  Or is it just me being too 'picky'?

Almost certainly, due to having so many changes,  the above restaurant must be 'under new management', and sorry to say I probably won't choose to eat there again. At least this gives us a chance to try other 'eateries' that have been recommended.
Incidentally, we chose to have no dessert as we had one of D's cakes waiting for us at home.

A welcome to Bev (from Australia), and to reply to her query,  asked B this morning to look up in our newspaper the exchange rates between Oz and the UK and he said that our £1 = $1.40 (Australian dollars).  Almost half as much again 'down under'. Hope this makes it easy for you Bev to make an approx comparison to the UK prices as these are often quoted on this site.
However, it's not just the cost that needs to be compared, as there could be a difference in wages earned.  The higher the average wage, the more likely it is that food prices (or the price of anything) would also be higher, meaning whichever side of the globe we live, we end up with our costs being - relatively - almost the same.

Do agree with you Kathryn, a recipe for a 'basic' mix (that can then go on to make a lot of different things) can be a real godsend.  Have given several of these over the years, one of my favourites being 'magic mince' (beef), almost simple enough not to need a recipe.  Just make a batch of 'basic' (mince fried with finely diced - or grated -onions, carrots, celery....) and then freeze this to later turn into spag.bol., chilli con carne, and Cottage Pie (or as a filling for pasties).

Your mention of cucumbers going 'past their best' gillibob (when left lurking in a fridge), reminded me that I've seen several recipes where cucumbers are cooked, so will hunt these out and publish them a.s.a.p as myself could make good use of them (not yet having cooked a cucumber, but always have the 'ends' I've rushed to eat up,  not because I wanted to, but because I could not bear to throw it away).

It sounds as though Hoisin Sauce is similar to soy sauce Margie, as soy is often suggested by chefs to add to a meat stew/casserole as this  'beefs' up the flavour.  It is possible to buy hoisin sauce in small sachets to add to a stir-fry, but am sure this works out much more expensive than buying in in a bottle and using more sparingly.

You haven't said what size your pool' is Pam, but if not too big, you could try covering it with netting to prevent the ducks swimming on it, alternatively stick some canes all around the edges and criss-cross the water with string tied to the canes. 
In the old days, on arable land, birds were scared off by scarecrows.  In gardens today, we hang those shiny silver CD discs (usually given free with magazines etc), where they spin in the wind, flashing sunlight.
If the ducks are of the edible variety (and think most ducks are) then have you tried culling one  (or more) with a view to cooking/eating it/them?  Or build a 'duck house' for them to nest, and then you will be able to collect and eat duck eggs.

Re the query about moked salmon.  Yes, this can be used in cooked dishes as well as eaten cold (as we normally might), and am giving a few recipes to give a bit of inspiration.  These are mainly Italian-based, but this doesn't mean that smoked salmon couldn't be used in other dishes, and am sure there are many where smoked salmon could be used instead of 'ordinary' cooked salmon (such as 'coulibiac'), or include with other fish in (say) Fish Pie, or Fish Cakes.

Although we have now come to think of 'noodles' being those used when making Oriental dishes, the Italians also use noodles - these being like thin, flat ribbons, and called 'fettuccini' (so don't get the East mixed up with the West), and although this first recipe uses the pasta verstion, we can of course use another 'shape', mainly because as far as I'm concerned (with an eye firmly fixed on the finance - in other words use the cheapest/or what you've got), pasta is pasta is pasta.  Italians would not agree, and they would probably be right.
It could be that other countries believe that potatoes are potatoes are potatoes, but with the waxy spuds, and the floury ones, and umpteen varieties, we have almost as many different ways of cooking and serving potatoes as the Italians do their pasta.  Hope this proves a point.

Fettuccin al Salmone: serves 6 as first course
half pint (300ml) single cream
12 oz (350g) smoked salmon bits or ends, fresh or frozen
12 oz (350g) dried egg noodles (fettuccini)
ground black pepper
Cut the salmon (thawed if frozen) into small pieces and put into a bowl with the cream.  Cover and leave to stand for at least 2 hours (to allow the cream to absorb some of the smoky flavour).
Cook the pasta as per packet instructions, until 'al dente', then drain and put into a warmed serving bowl.  Towards the end of the cooking time, heat the cream and salmon in a heavy saucepan over a low heat (preferably using a diffuser to reduce the heat further as it must not be allowed to boil). When heated through, pour over the drained pasta and gently stir together.  Season with plenty of pepper, and serve immediately.

One of B's favourite supper dishes is Fish Risotto, and this I make using a mixture of smoked haddock, salmon, and white fish.  The fish in this version is just smoked salmon, but see no reason why some white fish, or small prawns, could not also be included.

Smoked Salmon and Lemon Risotto: serves 4
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tblsp olive oil
12 oz (350g) risotto (Arborio etc) rice
1 clove garlic, crushed (opt)
2.75 pints (1.5 ltrs) boiling vegetable stock
1 x 750g pack (6 oz) smoked salmon, chopped
3 oz (75g) mascarpone or a soft cream cheese
3 tblsp parsley (pref flat-leaf) chopped
zest and juice of 1 lemon
ground black pepper
Fry the onion with the oil, using a large frying pan, over medium heat, for 6 minute. Add the rice and garlic, and - stirring continuously - cook for a further 2 minutes.  Being pouring in the stock, a ladleful at a time, and keep stirring and adding stock as each ladleful has been absorbed.  By then the rice should be cooked and creamy.
Remove from heat and add the chopped smoked salmon, the mascarpone, parsley and lemon zest, with black pepper to taste.  Cover and leave to stand for 5 minutes to 'relax' and the soft cheese to melt to form a 'sauce', then stir in the lemon juice.  It shouldn't need reheating, but if you prefer it can be heated over a very low heat for a couple of minutes before serving.

This third recipe still uses smoked salmon but this time is meant to be served cold.  However, felt it was a bit more 'interesting' than some dips, and could also be made with canned (unsmoked) salmon.   Like all the above dishes, the cheapest (and best) way is to use the packs of smoked salmon 'offcuts' or 'scraps'.
When wishing to mix cream cheese with other ingredients (for sweet or savoury dishes) always use the cheese at room temperature as then it becomes softer. Sometimes, taken and used directly from the fridge, it just won't beat/blend in with (say) cream, always ending up with lumpy bits of cheese left in what should be a smooth textured 'whip'.  When planning to cook with cream cheese, I take the cheese from the fridge just before I go to bed, and by the next morning it has 'softened' enough to use.
Smoked Salmon Taramasalata: serves 4
4 oz (100g) smoked salmon
7 oz (200g) soft cream cheese (see above)
4 fl oz (100g) creme fraiche
juice of 1 lemon
cracked black pepper (or coarsely grated)
drizzle olive oil
kalamata olives and pitta bread (for serving)
Put the smoked salmon, cream cheese, creme fraiche, and lemon juice into a food processor, and blitz/pulse until smooth (or as smooth as you wish). Fold in the pepper to taste.
Spoon the mixture into a serving bowl, then cover with cling film and chill in the fridge - where it will keep for up to 3 days.
When ready to serve, drizzle over a little olive oil and serve with warm, griddled pitta bread and some kalamata olives.

Coleslaw was given a mention by Kathryn, and although the basic coleslaw is made from white cabbage, carrots, and onions, plus some mayo to bind, there are many other variations.
This next recipe is not a million miles away from the 'basic', but myself do enjoy the added flavour of the cheese, so if we have a bowl of the original already in the fridge, then all we have to do is add the 'extras'.  Otherwise make it from scratch, using the recipe below.  Goes without saying we could use almost any of our hard English cheeses, or a mixture.

Cheese 'n Chive Coleslaw: serves 4 - 6
approx 14 oz (400g) white cabbage, finely shredded
1 large carrots, coarsely grated
1 red (or white) onion, halved and thinly sliced
3 tblsp good quality mayonnaise
3 tblsp Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 oz (or 20g pack) chives, finely chopped
salt and pepper.
4 oz (100g) mature Cheddar cheese, grated
Put the cabbage, carrot, onion, mayo, yogurt, and mustard into a bowl with most of the chives.  Mix well (preferably with hands - clean hands!!), making sure every bit of salad is coated with the dressing, then add seasoning to taste.  Cover and keep chilled for up to 3 days.  Serve, sprinkled with remaining chives and the cheese.

Hope I've managed to give useful replies/recipes to queries and comments sent in, and hoping that other readers may be able to offer more suggestions.  The more we share the more we are able to learn.
They do say the best way to learn is not by reading, but by watching, then have a go ourselves.  Difficult for me to do more than 'talk' about how to do this, that, or the other (as my days of demonstrating seem to be over), but hope that even 'chatting' is enough to inspire at least one or more readers to 'have a go'.  Let us hope so.

With visitors coming next week, have a bit of 'food planning' (not to mention tidying up) to do, so am signing off for today, and will be back again tomorrow, even if only for a short while.  Hope to see you then.  


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Losing the Plot?

Very late start as Normal (the Hair) text me at 9.00am to say she was delayed, and arrived an hour later, so have only just been able to sit and read my emails and then begin my blog.

Only two comments sent, so will deal with these first.  Seems that it's not just horsemeat that is undeclared on packaging Janet, but also pork that has been added.  What else with they discover? I doubt that these discoveries will turn folk from meat-eaters to vegetarian, for we can still buy correctly labelled raw meat from the local butchers and make up our own 'ready-meals'.  Would work out cheaper anyway.

Some many years ago a friend of B's - who used to be in the Navy - was enthusing about the curries he used to eat when he visited Asia, and wished he could have them now.  His wife said she would never make them for him "as you never know what goes into curries".  This made me laugh as I said "well, when you make them yourself you always know what goes into them".  Still don't think she was able to understand, and never did make any for her husband (much to his sorrow). 
In a way, we could say the same about the 'ready-made' or processed meals/foods that are now under suspicion, and saying to ourselves "we don't now know what goes into these, and can't trust any of them anymore".  So again this could mean more people go back to making their meals from scratch, and leaving 'the readies' on the shelves.  Let us hope so.

Your mention of making your own beefburgers from supermarket mince Kathryn, made me begin to wonder if this mince (especially pre-packed) might end up being suspect.  Am pretty sure it wouldn't be, but often it can work out cheaper to buy mince from a butcher (or buy a piece of meat and let the butcher mince it up for you), and then at least you would know what you are getting. 

Last night was able to watch the Hairy Bikers, and although shook my head in disbelief when they said that it would be difficult to cater for a party at approx £2.50 a head (they had a £100 budget).  Considering they were able to get free herbs and veggies from the venue (think it was a sort of urban farm), and also eggs and milk, can't see why they couldn't manage to make a feast on just half the budget.

What was good to hear was how attractive presentation could make really inexpensive ingredients look extremely expensive, and we were able to see some really amazing ones, and although there was a mention these would be copied for the above 'party', none seemed to be made or even appear.  What was made seemed easy enough, and - when making the canapes - the 'bikers' were able to show that a little goes a long way.

My gripe is that, considering it is a budget series, there is very little cost-cutting shown.  It is more a matter of making things instead of buying - because this works out cheaper.  What they make is still expensive.  As I said to B this morning, almost certainly the production team are young (like in their 30's) and allowing £2.50 per head must seem like a pittance to them.  It's as if they can't get their head around there are still ways to dramatically cut costs and make a good meal or party food whilst doing so.  So often these days I feel either they've lost the plot, or I'm beginning to.

This has made me think more about cost-cutting (as if I didn't think enough anyway), so it might be a good idea to start some new challenges, like "how much can be made for 50p?", or  "Party food for £1 (or even 50p) a head".  Or "a meal to serve 4 for £1 total - or portion)".  If you like this idea, then I'd love to hear some suggestions.  Give me a cost-cutting challenge and I'll see if it is possible to do.

One good thing about the above prog was seeing a larder with shelves lined with jars and bottles. So very like mine it was almost as though I was there.  Trouble was, the 'bikers' didn't seem to appreciate that many of the more unusual sauces (that they said gave the necessary 'lift' to the basic, inexpensive 'main' ingredients used to make a dish) only work if we already have them.  If we have to buy them especially to follow the dishes they were making, then the cost rises dramatically.

Surrounding my desk are piles of small cookbooks that B says he has enjoyed reading.  Many of the dishes he finds tempting and says he will mark them with his initial so that I can make them for him.  Trouble is - as I said to him - many of the dishes (mainly Asian), use ingredients that I don't normally keep such as: fish sauce, lemongrass, hoisin sauce.... and even if I bought them to make a chosen dish for him, they may not be used again, and if they don't keep well.....!!!   So am hoping he chooses dishes where he knows we already have what is needed.  Mind you, doubt he knows what I've got, other than anything that is immediately apparent when he walks into the larder, or opens the fridge door.
The other day B brought in a new pack of watercress, when there were TWO partly used packs already in the fridge.  "I didn't know there was any left " he said, even though at least one was perfectly visible when the door was opened, and considering B was the only one eating watercress at that time, and after he has taken what he wants he puts the bags back in the fridge (and they stay where they are put with nothing on top of them), SURELY he would remember there was the cress left.  Obviously not. 

Another prog that I thoroughly enjoyed last night was Eddie Izzard's journey to find his ancestors. Not having read anything about it, thought it was on the lines of 'Who Do You Think You Are", and when it started discovered it was right back to his roots. But not just his roots, yours and mine also, proving - as I said yesterday - 'we are all brothers under the sun (or is it skin?).  Even before the trail began I said to B "he's got Viking blood in his veins", because he looked so much like many members of my mother's family, and I've always believed that we come from Viking stock.  
The DNA trail began in Africa (as it does with all of us), and to cut a long story short, Eddie's lineage (in this first episode, the second shown tonight) did end in Scandinavia, so I was well pleased.
It was also very interesting to realise that perhaps my own ancestors, thousands of years back, had the same DNA as E.Izzards, and as the years went by, my own ancestry followed the same route as it branched off.  So knowing how and where our ancestors travelled from the country of origin to where we are made me realise what they had to go through, and if they hadn't, we  - or at least I - wouldn't be here now.

We are blessed with good weather, plenty of sunshine and NO rain, but the forecast is for much colder weather this weekend and possibly snow, although that mainly on the eastern side of the UK.  So winter is not over. 
The seagulls are now to be seen taking possession of several chimney pots on the roofs of the houses seen a the back of ours.  Soon they will start nest building and we hope to be able to watch more baby seagulls grow from tiny chicks to almost fully grown.  Last year one was pushed out of the next by its sibling, and had to spend several weeks just sitting on the sloping roof below.  Am amazed it survived as the weather kept changing from sunny to heavy rain, and often gales.  But with the help of its mother bringing food, it did live, and eventually fly the nest. 

Spent some time yesterday sorting out my freezer/s.  Good job I did for I found I had more of some meats/fish than expected, but less of others.  This time wrote down in a little notebook EXACTLY what was in each drawer, so can now find what I need instantly without having to hunt for it.
Although all the drawers in the chest freezer have been sorted, only the two drawers in 'Boris' have had the 'stock taking'.  There are still three shelves to sort, mainly packs of vegetables, some soft fruits, packs of stock/gravy, and pastry.  But am sure that I'll be finding some foods tucked at the back under something else that I have completely forgotten about.

Yesterday was able to use up a pack of pre-cooked lamb by adding (after first thawing) to a pan of fried onions and diced carrots, then letting it simmer with its stock for an hour (on the box I'd written that the lamb needed a bit more cooking). After most of the stock had evaporated, then added a jar of Rogan Josh, and turned it into a curry.  B heated up a 2 minute microwave rice and ate all that with most of the curry (enough for two, but he really liked it), but enough left for me to have 'a taste', and it was good.

No recipe today as late starting, but hope to get up early enough tomorrow to get a head start.  Hope you can find time to give thought to my 'possible challenges' suggestion, as this will give me something 'useful' to do. 

One good thing - had a notification from the 'pensions' that I'll get an extra 25p (twenty five PENCE!!!) per week once I have reached 80. Am sure that will help to keep the wolf from the door, so roll on April,  then - with an extra £1 a month - can go on a spending spree.  As if.  TTFN. 


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Best Before, Now, and Later?

Late start (due to enjoying pleasant dreams - if I wake after a good dream, then go back to sleep, the dream will often continue - which this time it did, and all about food!!).   Busy day today as well, so had better get on writing my blog...

Your mention of pet food that you remember sold at butchers Pam, would have been normal meat (beef etc, although some could have been horse I suppose), carcases marked with a splodge of purple paint tells the butcher the meat is not to be sold for human consumption, but for pet food..
The 'beef' that I had bought from the greengrocer (mentioned yesterday) also had a oily sheen on it, a sort of rainbow effect like we see on oil split on roads,  but I've also seen that on thin slices of beef that sold in vacuum packs at the supermarket, so not quite sure what or why this 'sheen' is there.

There is a lot of halal meat used in this country Noor, also kosher (no difference between the two other than the prayers I understand), and because of our fast growing Muslim community, halal meat is now served at many school dinners for all scholars to eat.  Also in prisons.  Certainly, the majority (if not all) our Indian restaurants are owned by Muslims, so all the meat in their curries will be halal. 
I've no problem with eating halal (or kosher) meat although of course pork is not included in the diet of both religion, although watching Jewish TV cooks/presenters both in the UK (Nigella) and in the US (Adam Richman), notice they don't seem to abide by their laws, and eat pork as often as they eat any other variety of meat.
But suppose it is the same with any religion, some members are orthodox and abide strictly by the rules, others have drifted away.  My only 'beef' with that (no pun intended) is that I wish some wouldn't wave their religion in front of us (as I heard Adam R. proudly do recently) then shortly after see him munching his way through a big bun stuffed with shredded pork.

I'm not against any religion, in fact respect all of them. Myself believing there is more than one path to achieve eternal life (or whatever we deserve).  But I feel any religion is suspect when it spouts that it is the 'only one', and everyone else that has not joined them is doomed to eternal hell when they die.  There is no excuse for killing innocent people (especially children) in the name of a religion.  Only evil minded people do that, and the Devil is behind most of them.  As B says, most wars are started by religious fanatics, and unfortunately this seems to be true.  We are all 'sons of God', and 'brothers under the skin', so let's start by believing this and learn to love, not hate each other.
Better get off my soap box before I turn all of you against me. 

Yes, Debra, I did give suggestions of what could be made/served for that budget four-course gourmet meal.  Did give a recipe for a twice-baked souffle around that time as one dish that could be served as a starter, or with chicken livers and salad as a main course. 

Not sure if your project on 'food waste' is mainly about using up 'fresh food' gillibob, but as I know there are many people who are obsessed about sticking to 'use-by' (perhaps sensibly), and 'best-before' dates, throwing out everything that has reached it, the info I read yesterday re canned foods might make all of us think again.

The book I was reading:  "A Practical Guide to the use of Canned Foods" published by the Canned Foods Advisory Service, admittedly was published over 50 years ago.  No date on the book, but it still had a postcard inside that could be returned to give details of friends that could be sent a free copy, and the place for the postage stamp said 'penny stamp' (and that in old money).   The introduction seemed to deal with the time when women stayed at home, but would be helped by using canned foods due to the now lack of servants.  Houses then had 'kitchenettes' instead of the larger ones.

It was the mention in the book about the keeping quality of canned food that I found enlightening.  As canning foods had begun in the 19th century, some of the first used for 'Iron rations' in the Crimea, and widely used in expeditions, with Parry's Arctic expedition of 1824 proving that a cache of canned goods found 8 years later by Sir John Ross, but not opened until 1911 - EIGHTY SEVEN YEARS LATER - the contents (roast and boiled beef, vegetables and soups) were eaten and enjoyed. They were perfectly fresh.
Cans of food that Scott took with him on his South Pole expedition in 1910 is another example.  These too opened recently (just before the book was published) and found to be in prime condition.

It could be said that the above canned foods kept well because they were probably solid frozen all that time, but later in the book, in the 'question and answer' pages, the reply to "how long will canned foods keep?" was "Properly processed, they will keep indefinitely without spoiling, as long as nothing happens to make the can leak".

Coincidentally (or would this be a bit of serendipity?), yesterday also flicked through an old copy of Home and Freezer Digest (dated Oct. 1985) where a reader had sent in a query.  Her letter said: "I've discovered a can of salmon hidden away in my cupboard and I'm not sure how long I've kept it - a couple of years at least. Is it safe to eat?".  The reply given was: "Yes, indeed, as long as the can is undamaged, you could carry on storing it for up to 20 years.  A cool, dry cupboard will help to keep canned food in good conditions".

At the end of the reply was the suggestion that is we wish to get further information about canned foods, then write to the Canned Food Advisory Service.  Today am sure that they will have a website giving details of canned food 'shelf-life', storage etc.

Unfortunately, today it seems we are supposed to abide by the dates on cans and packets, but with many (and certainly canned foods) it is only 'best-before'.  From the earlier quotes given above, it seems that 'best-before' doesn't really apply, for however old the can is, the contents will remain as good as 'before', so why the need to put on dates anyway? 

Mentioned some years ago on this blog (but worth mentioning again), I once went into a local grocers who had very recently moved from selling over the counter (as in the old days) to letting customers take a small basket and help themselves from what was on the shelves.  At that time this was lots of fun, and I used to enjoy seeing so many different foods on display.  Helping myself felt almost naughty!
One day I saw a small tin of luncheon meat (or pork - a bit like Spam) for sale, only the one tin, but bought it because the tin had details of a free gift if you sent away proof of purchase or something. When I got home and began to read the details, noticed that the 'offer' ended some three years PREVIOUSLY.  This meant the meat had been canned several years before this, so wrote to the manufactures to complain they were still selling this 'old' meat, and they wrote back to say the grocer must have bought some old stock from some supplier, but they assured me the meat was still fit to eat, and would be for many years to come.  So opened the can, and of course the meat was perfectly OK.

Yet, why is it the Foodbanks insist of having food donated that still has months to go before the 'date' on the cans has been reached?  They say they cannot give foods to people that have gone over that date, even by just a day or two.  Who decides this?  Another 'jobsworth' person who can't wait to get more food into that waste bin? 

Myself sometimes feel that behind all these food 'quangos', there could be food companies who don't want people to store food, because if they did they would probably sell a lot less.  Once cans are dated (and very few have been given more than a couple of years shelf-life - which is pure nonsense), then brain-washed people will throw out the older (still perfectly usable) out-dated ones, and buy more new to replace them. 

In Prue Leith's book (mentioned yesterday), which I've now finished reading, in the later chapters plenty of mention of the larger catering industries taking over more reputable smaller ones, and the quality of meals went down whilst the prices went up.  As always with business - and especially food - it seems to be a case of who cares what the customer wants, we care only what profits we can make.   
In the paper yesterday read that (was it?) 69% of the money we pay certain supermarkets for our food goes into their coffers.  That's over two-thirds of our food budget.  If we also are supposed to be throwing away food costing about one-third of our budget, then it seems we have become like puppets, the food companies pulling our strings in every direction to get as much money from us every which way they can.

Surely this means the sooner we get back to cooking as much as we can from scratch, the better off we will be, and perhaps luckily this 'horsemeat' debacle has made customers think twice now before buying any processed foods.  I've even seen a lady (or two) on TV saying they now will only buy their meat from their local butcher, but still not buying minced beef.  So maybe this will see a rise in sales of domestic mincing machines, so we can buy our beef/lamb/pork... in the piece, and mince it ourselves.  As I often do, but usually 'mincing' it in the food processor, which works well when the 'pulse' button is used.

Am hoping all the above has given 'food for thought', and would very much like to hear what you have to say about this.  Everyone has their own opinion, and not always in agreement, so it would be good to hear all sides.  

Because of time limitations today will now be signing off.  With Norma the Hair coming tomorrow, it might be an early start, or a later one.  Either way, hope to be back as normal, even if only for a short while.  Hope to see from you then AND also 'hear' from you.  TTFN.