Friday, March 29, 2013

Happy Easter

A lovely start to Good Friday with the sun shining in a cloudless blue sky.  Unfortunately the sun is shining on the comp. screen, so I've had to turn that sideways, but can still see what I'm doing.  Shortly the sun will have moved on so I will be able to move it back or I'll end up with a stiff neck.

Yesterday a small brochure from Sutton's seeds arrived (inside) a magazine I had subscribed to. This contained details of several very interesting plants, most available already part grown, sold in small 9cm pots as 'super plugs' or as larger, potted plants.
Am very tempted as these are all of the edible variety, either their fruits, leaves and even flowers, also vegetables (sweet potatoes, yams...), myself interested mainly in those that will grow on the windowsill in the conservatory, or easily in containers, in the garden.

The inspiration for these home-grown plants likes with the TV botanist James Wong, and certainly, those who both love to cook and also grow indoor plants will be more than happy to know they can grow plants both beautiful and interesting but also that will add interesting flavours to meals made.

One plant called 'Inca Berries' is Physalis, normally called 'Chinese Lanterns'.   Bought a punnet of these fruits (each still in its leafy case) from Morrison's last year, and only because they were on the reduced counter as they were expensive.  Used these fruits to add to a fruit dessert when entertaining.  The fruits really did taste lovely.  So that's definitely one I'll be ordering.

Also considering the 'Cocktail Kiwi'.  I love eating kiwi fruits (lots of vitamin C), and as Siberian origin - can stand temperatures down to -35C,  worth growing outdoors. When mature can yield up to 20g of fruit, up to 400 fruits each years, and this variety being smaller than the ones we buy in the supermarket, also has edible skins.

A perfect houseplant for me is the Kaffir Lime.  Up to now have had to buy dried Kaffir Lime leaves in small packs from the supermarket,  and depending how often these are used, after two years the plant will pay for itself, possibly sooner if we dry some of the leaves to 'packet up' ourselves and give as a gift (or part of one).

Having watched some of the series on Caribbean cooking (Food Network) the name 'callaloo' often crops up.  Sutton's sell the seed for this (£1.85 pkt) and harvesting can begin shortly after six weeks. The brochure says this 'is a delicious spinach-like vegetable with a rich , earthy broccoli-like flavour.

The Asparagus Pea seeds is another must, as these pods have an asparagus flavour.  Said to be very easy to grow, the more pods we pick, the more will grown.  For £1.85 a pack, definitely these will become 'regular eating'.

Cardamom plant is another that will grow happily on a windowsill.  Myself use cardamom seeds a lot to flavour curries and some cakes/biscuits, and didn't know that the plant leaves - in the same way as bay leaves - can be added to flavour a dish. 
There is another houseplant called a Vanilla Grass where the leaves can be added - as the above cardamom (and bay) to custards, ice-cream, puddings, sponge cakes...  Much the same price as a bottle of the best Vanilla extract, this plant will also end up paying for itself.

The other day Guy Fieri was cooking with 'tomatilloes', these being very similar to tomatoes, but smaller and harvested at any size larger than a walnut, while still green. They also grow in much the same way as the Chinese Gooseberry (or Inca fruit) mentioned above, not surprising as they are the same family (physalis).   Up to 10kg of fruit per plant, might be worth growing. 

Those are just a few of the plants that have caught my interest, and - as I'm very unlikely to be growing the more ordinary veggies in the garden (slugs eat everything), certainly the ones that might survive outdoors (in ground or containers, kiwi etc) I will be ordering, also those that will grow on windowsills.  As most have a May delivery, by then we should be almost clear of frosts and icy weather, and am hoping to twist B's arm to buy them for me for my birthday.

After having another lovely sleep last night due to the lavender (with chamomile) and another called 'sleeptherapy' I think  (both bought from 'the Avon lady') that I sprayed on my pillow, as Avon doesn't call any more, think I'll buy a lavender plant and a chamomile plant (Sutton's sell the latter) so I can dry the flowers to fill little muslin bags that I can slip beneath the pillow case so the warmth of my head will release the scents and I will still enjoy deep sleep.  Almost 'for free'.

Another houseplant that really would be fun is the 'Electric Daisies.  The edible flowers give a mouth-tingling sensation when eaten, similar to popping candy (or licking the end of a 9 volt battery).  Each flower grows at the top of a leafless (part) of a stem, and looks like a small, round yellow ball that has a brown centre.  The picture in the brochure shows the stems being stuck into balls of sorbet, so make a very interesting (and edible) garnish.  The more flowers removed, the more will appear.

Although we can manage to cook without any of the above, as said before 'variety is the spice of life' and if we can persuade others to buy one or more plants or packets of seeds for us - then why not? As least it these add a little more interest to our domestic cookery.  Sometimes it is so easy to get into a rut and serve up the same meals day after day (even though these would be varied).

Yesterday no need for me to cook B his supper for he wanted to cook his own meal - a stir-fry.  The only thing he needed me to do was put all the ingredients together on the table for him, then leave him to chop up.  Apart from asking how to prepare an onion ready for chopping (surprised he had to ask me that, thought everyone would know), then asking me in which order the veggies should be cooked (those that take longest to cook go in the wok first!!!), he seemed to manage it OK, and brought the plated meal in the living room to show me, where he also sat at ate it on a tray on his knee. 
Stir-fries are one of the speediest meals to cook, and also can use up many odds and ends from the veggie basket.  After pointing B in the direction of a cook-book I'd bought him '100 stir-fries' or some such similar name - he'd left it on the floor by his chair and covered it with books, plastic bags, and other things he will never put away - he will now be able to choose different stir-fries to make, and all I need then is to make sure the right ingredients are in the larder.  More expense?  Worth it when it saves me having to cook.
Silly me had bought B a very small wok as a present,  just enough to cook a stir-fry for one, so that B could 'have a play' and (eventually) cook his own supper (as last night). Unfortunately not enough wok-room to stir-fry a meal for two, so chances of B cooking a meal to serve both of us is most unlikely. 

Thanks for comments.  Leamington Spa Mandy, is a lovely town, and after visiting it many years after living there, it didn't seem to have changed one bit.  We lived fairly close to the town centre when in 'digs', (later in a house on the Rugby Road), and when a child, used to love playing in the Jephson Gardens (opposite the Pump Rooms), where I discovered a big 'weeping' tree where the many, thin branches fell - umbrella fashion - down to the ground and I used to go inside and use it as a 'hide-away'.   When I returned, over 20 years later, discovered the tree was still there, a lot more growth, but still much the same as before, and so I parted the branches and went inside to sit against the trunk of the tree, and it was just as though I was eight years old again.  Wonder if it is still there.
Do hope the 'town centre' of Leamington hasn't changed as remember it being very Regency in style with big hotels and houses on one side of the main street, and some lovely shops on the other.  Memories are making me feel very nostalgic, and I'd just love to go back to take a look at 'old haunts'.
When we lived on the Rugby Road, we were fairly close to fields, a later visit showed these have now had houses built on them.  During war-time we used to take long walks across the fields and end up by the river Avon where there was a derelict water mill - think the area was called 'Guy's Cliffe' .  I remember seeing fan-tail pigeons flying in and out.  A later visit showed this mill had been converted into what was called 'The Saxon Mill Restaurant', the mill-wheel still being visible through an outside glass wall.  Felt disappointed as I wanted things to be as I remember.  Nothing ever is, and as Gill says, 'you'd never recognise Leicester now, if you returned'.  So perhaps better I never do.

Alison, you seem to be doing what my instincts are now telling me to do:  Spring Cleaning'?  Whether much will get done in the Good household remains to be seen, but certainly this urge is stirring in my veins.   

Not sure if I've read any of Julia Child's books Pam, but the film: Julie and Julia, was shown recently on TV, and myself was disappointed after watching, perhaps because there wasn't enough cooking being shown, the film being more a story of Julia Child's life. 
Another well-known US cook/domestic goddess (who's name I have now forgotten) was often mentioned over here (have now remembered her name - Martha Stewart?), she was supposed to be a lot like me (early days) - sort of home-cook, gardener, and 'recycler'.  Think she did something naughty with finances and ended up in prison.  What has happened to her since?

Can imagine those time zones in larger countries/continents such as the US/Canada et al Margie, would prove very annoying when travelling, as time-tables (trains, buses, planes) would change with each zone.  Travelling from east to west it would 'appear' (after altering watches to suit the 'zone') that it takes a much shorter time to reach the destination, than it would the return journey.
In the UK thankfully our time remains the same, even though Bristol is several minutes (is it 9 or 19?) behind 'sun-time' than London, and where our daughter lives in Co Mayo, Republic of Ireland, they are about an hour and a half behind the east Norfolk coast, so they get lovely long (and hopefully warm) summer evenings to sit out and enjoy.

With school holidays, what better time to get the children 'helping' in the kitchen and show them how to cook 'something simple'.  Cakes are always favourites, especially chocolate, and one of the easiest to make are these 'tray-bake' Brownies.  Omit the nuts if you wish, or substitute 'chopped mixed nuts' (sold in packets in supermarkets). You could also use a different dried fruit (sultanas, or chopped no-soak apricots?).  Use the 'cheaper' chocolate, made for cooking, rather than that with high cocoa solids.
The brownies can be frozen, uncut 'in the block', once completely cooled. Bag up, then freeze for up to 3 months.  Thaw for 3 - 4 hours at room temperature, then cut into squares to serve.

Although the ingredients are mixed together in a saucepan, the marg./choc could be melted in a mixing bowl standing over hot water if you prefer to use this method.
Chocolate Raisin Brownies: makes 16 squares
3 oz (75g) margarine
2 oz (50g) plain chocolate cake covering
5 oz (150g) moist soft brown sugar
2 eggs,
3 oz (75g) plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
4 oz (100g) raisins
2 oz (50g) walnuts
Put the margarine and chocolate in a pan placed over low heat, then when melted, remove from heat and beat in the sugar and eggs. Sift together the flour and baking powder, then stir this into the beaten mixture, followed by the raisins and walnuts.
Pour into a greased and base-lined 8" (20cm) square, shallow tin, and bake at 180C, 350C, gas 4 for 40 - 50 minutes or until the cake has just begun to shrink from the sides.  Cool for 10 minutes before cutting into squares (four squares across, four down).

Those cheap 'turkey twizzlers' and 'chicken nuggets', although loved by children, are made from 'reclaimed meat', rather than solid chunks of pure meat.  It is far cheaper to buy a whole chicken, portion it ourselves, freeze the drumsticks, thighs and wings, then chop the breasts and make our own 'chicken nuggets. Add to that a now 'free' chicken carcase and we can end up with lots of really good chicken stock to freeze.
Even though the chicken breasts would cost (by weight) more when bought individually (than when on a whole bird), still worth making our own 'nuggets.  In fact, once an adult has cut the meat into chunks, the children could then assemble the nuggets themselves, ready to bake in a pre-heated oven (an adult over-seeing this part).  As well as serving with (hopefully) a salad, these 'nuggets' also make good snacks/nibbles to serve with a chosen dip (suggest ketchup for ease), this being a far healthier and more nutritional than a bag of sweets or crisp (and today these cost almost as much as a chicken breast).
Crispy Chicken Nuggets: serves 3 as 'nibbles'.
1 chicken breast
2 tblsp red pesto
3 oz (75g) fresh or dried breadcrumbs
olive oil
Cut the chicken into about 15 marble-sized chunks, and put into a bowl with the pesto, mixing well together until the chicken is well coated. 
Put the breadcrumbs into a plastic (freezer?) bag, then tip in the chicken and give a good shake so the nuggets are coated with the crumbs. 
Pour a little oil onto a shallow baking tray, just enough to cover it, then put the tray into a pre-heated oven 220C, 435F, gas 7 to heat up for 5 minutes.  Tip the nuggets onto the tray, then return to the oven to cook for 10 - 15 minutes until crisp and cooked through.   Cool slightly before eating and serve with a little bowl of tomato ketchup to dip the nuggets into. 

Next recipe is one teenagers might like to make for Mum and Dad.  For ease, buy a 'ready-pack' of mixed salad leaves to go with the chicken, then all that has to be done is pan-fry the breasts as per recipe.  When served with the 2 minute microwave rice, or speedy 'mash' (made with instant spuds), very easy to prepare/cook. The ingredients shown are enough to serve four (Mum, Dad and two teenagers), halve the quantity if just making for two adults.
Stickin' Chicken: serves 4
4 boneless chicken breasts, skins removed
salt and pepper (opt)
1 tblsp olive oil
half pint (5 fl oz/150ml) chicken stock
4 tblsp thin-cut (or clear) orange marmalade
pinch dried thyme leaves (or few fresh leaves)
cooked rice, mashed potatoes, salad (see above)
Sprinkle the chicken with a little salt and pepper (opt). Heat the oil in a large frying pan, over medium heat, and fry the chicken for 8 - 10 minutes, turning once, until golden on each side.
Pour in the stock, marmalade and thyme, then bring to the boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes.  Remove chicken and place in a heated serving dish, and keep warm while raising the heat under the pan to high so that the mixture fast boils down to a syrupy mixture. Pour this over the chicken.  Serve with rice or mashed potatoes (these mop up the sauce) and a fresh green salad.

Final recipe is another 'easy', although best prepared a day previously as this gives time for the chicken to absorb the flavours in the marinade.  But a shorter marination time will also give good results.  A useful recipe to use those drumsticks from the 'home-portioned' chicken.  Drumsticks are far cheaper than chicken breasts, and - being darker meat - have a great deal more flavour.  So worth using.  Chicken thighs could also be used for this dish, or a mixture of 'drums and thighs'  as some supermarkets often sell both joints in the one pack.
Sticky Chicken Drumsticks: serves 4
8 chicken drumsticks
2 tblsp soy sauce
1 tblsp honey
1 tblsp olive oil
1 tsp tomato puree/paste
1 tblsp Dijon mustard
Make three slashes into the 'fat' fleshy part of each drumstick and place into a bowl.  Mix together the remaining ingredients and pour this over the chicken, turning the thighs so they are thoroughly coated.  Cover, then leave to marinate for at least 30 minutes at room temperature, or overnight in the fridge.
Tip the drumsticks into a shallow roasting tin, and bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 35 minutes, turning occasionally, until the chicken flesh is tender and cooked through and the drumsticks glistening and sticky with the marmalade marinade.

With that I will leave you. Hope you don't mind if I take tomorrow and Sunday off as I feel as if I could do with a break from my 'routine'.  Writing a daily blog (or nearly every day) for the last 6 years (at least) I'm beginning to feel there isn't much left I have to write about, and since I have (more recently) allowed myself a day or two off at 'holiday' (or busy times), feel more refreshed and able to dredge up hints, tips and memories that had become forgotten.  The last thing I want to do is write a boring blog, so always give me a nudge when you feel I've got 'past it'.  Time then for me to take another break!
Hope you all have a very pleasant Easter weekend, and hopefully I'll be back again chatting to you on Monday (unless I take that day off as well).  See you then.



Thursday, March 28, 2013

Lucky Dips?

Shorter blog today due to a later start, so will begin with replies to comments.
No chance of seeing Hope and Glory on DVD Pam, as we don't have a DVD player, and our computer won't accept these either (although it will take CD's).
Both B and I enjoy watching Foyle's War, this often repeated on a Freeview channel.  We have just seen the start of a new series (think only three episodes) of F's War, where Foyle has come out of retirement.  He looks exactly the same as before, but Honeysuckle Weekes looks quite a bit more 'mature'.

Here in the UK, the schools have quite a long Easter holiday, it used to be 2 - 3 weeks, but maybe shorter now, but at least a week.  Good Friday through to - and including - Easter Monday are usually taken as a general holiday (Friday and Monday being 'Bank Holidays' - when the banks are shut), but of course today, many shops do remain open as with people not at work they hope to tempt them in to spend, spend, spend.
On Good Friday we traditionally eat Hot Cross Buns.  Easter Biscuits on Saturday, Simnel Cake on Sunday.  Easter eggs always given to the children over the weekend, and not so long ago the tradition was for these always to be hidden in the garden (or around the house) to be hunted for.  Now these (usually much bigger ones, made of chocolate, hollow but usually filled with sweets) are given to children, and often they receive more than just one.
Easter Sunday lunch is another 'traditional':  Leg of lamb served with new potatoes and green peas, with mint sauce and redcurrant jelly.

Eggs are always associated with Easter, and another way of serving these is to hard-boil, then carefully crack the shells all over, then place the eggs - still in their shells - in water than has had food colouring added. Left to cool in the water, once the shells are removed, the 'whites' are seen tinted with the chosen colour and look 'marbled'.  Very pretty, and an interesting way to serve hard-boiled eggs at any time of year.  The best colours to use are red, blue, and green, orange if it is fairly bright, yellow is a bit too pale.

Your Canadian Easter holidays sound much the same as ours Margie, and can understand the need to change the clocks to fit in with the US times. Presumably, with Canada being so large, this country also has time zones?

Yesterday, was trying to explain to B how I had a feeling that in Australia, the sun appears to moves anti-clockwise across the sky, the opposite to here in the UK where it always appears to rise in the east, move clockwise across the sky but towards the south, before sinking in the west.
East is always east, but in the southern hemisphere, when facing into the sun, the east would then be on our right, whereas here in the northern hemisphere it is on our left. 
So can anyone tell me if - in Australia - when looking towards the sun, this does ''rise' on our right, and appear to move anti-clockwise?

Watching the Food Network have noticed that all the cooks in every programme seem to use the same shape of glass mixing bowls. These appear to have a circular and flat base with straight sides widening out to the top.  I do have one, exactly the same, but that came from a florists, containing already arranged flowers.  Not at all suitable for cookery use I would have thought. 
Here in the UK all our mixing bowls are quite curved.  They have to have a flat base underneath to sit securely on the work surface, but the inside base is curved to meet the (also curving) sides, as a tennis ball, cut in half, would appear.  This makes it much easier to whisk/beat ingredients together as every part of a beater would touch the mixture.

We were discussing war-time yesterday and B suddenly remembered how his mother used to make pastry using liquid paraffin instead of lard (or another fat).  He said, using this, she made the most wonderful pastry, and thought it might be a good idea for me to try using this.  At that time, liquid paraffin was sold at the chemist's, and taken as a laxative.  It is not the same thing as the paraffin used used for oil lamps, and for cleaning brushes.    Do hope B forgets as I really don't wish to make pastry using this.

Stayed up late last night to watch a prog. on BBC 3 about horsemeat.  Quite interesting, especially when a cook had made up several dishes for selected people (gathered around the dining table) to sample.  Quite a few refused to eat any at all, their excuse being they consider a horse/pony to be more of a pet than as a producer of meat.  Those that DID eat, all said how much they enjoyed the dishes, and how tender the meat was.
At the end of the programme, other cooked dishes made from insects (locusts, maggots...) were offered, and hardly anyone would touch these.  But, as the presenter said, these are eaten in many other countries (good source of protein) and almost certainly we'll all be eating these in a few years time.
Final remark of the show (also heard it mentioned on the early morning news today), was that a  Lamb 'ready-meal (think it was a curry but could be wrong), bought from a supermarket, had recently been tested to find out if it contained other meat than lamb, and the outcome was that it contained NO lamb, neither did it contain beef, pork, poultry, goat or horsemeat.  What 'meat' the dish contained has yet to be discovered.  Kangaroo perhaps?

Just two recipes today, the first having a double use as can be coarsely processed to spread on toast as a paste, or blended slightly smoother to put into a bowl and served as a dip, the second recipe being 'dippers'.  The paste/dip can be prepared a day ahead, covered and kept chilled.

Olive and Herb Paste/Dip: serves 6
9 oz (250g) pitted green olives
1 shallot, finely chopped
ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 fl oz (50ml) olive oil (pref extra virgin)
1 tblsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano or marjoram
1 teaspoon lime juice
Process/blend together the olives, shallot, pepper, and garlic until a coarse paste (or smoother if you wish), and - while the motor is still running - slowly pour in the oil, in a thin stream. Finally, mix/stir in the herbs and the lime juice.

Now for the 'dippers'.  The thinner the slices the faster they crisp up, so try to slice evenly (the best way is to use a mandolin, or one of those 'Y' vegetable cutters.  If sliced with a knife, some slices may be thicker than others, so check and remove the thinner ones to prevent them burning, leaving the others to continue cooking.  If your oven has no fan, the turn the trays round several times during the cooking to make sure the slices brown and crisp evenly.

Athough only two veggies have been suggested, worth trying others such as baby turnip, beetroot, carrots?  Am assuming all the veggies would first be peeled, but if well scrubbed, may the peel could be left on to give a bit more stability when using as 'dippers'.  Worth trying both way.
To serve with dips, the veggies need to be slightly thicker than those normally sold as 'potato crisps' as these would break easily when pushed into a dip.

Vegetable Crisps:  serves 8
cooking oil spray
4 medium parsnips
4 medium potatoes
1 orange-fleshed sweet potato
2 tsp sea salt
Take three baking sheets, and spray each with the cooking oil.
Using mandolin, 'Y' peeler, or knife, slice the veggies into 2mm slices.  Place the parsnips, in a single layer, on the oven trays, giving them a lightly coating with the oil-spray.  Bake for about 40 minutes at 150C, 300F, gas 2, or until browned on both sides and crisp.  Remove to a cake airer to cool. Repeat, as above, cooking the potato, then when crisp, cool on airer, and repeat again to cook the sweet potato. When crisps are cool, sprinkle with salt.

That's it for today.  Keep warm, keep happy, and tomorrow being Good Friday, hope you will all have a good, and relaxing Easter weekend.  Will probably be 'blogging' as per usual tomorrow, not yet sure about Saturday or Sunday.  By tomorrow will have decided whether to take time off, or to still carry on chatting.  TTFN.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Cheap and Cheerful

Bit of a late start this morning due to me having a really good night's sleep (due to lavender spray on my pillow), and - when I woke - was so warm and comfortable, decided to stay in bed for a bit longer (so fell asleep and had more dreams). I enjoy dreaming, a lot more 'interesting' things happen than in real life, especially as I dream in colour, can even smell things, taste things.  Food often takes part in my dreams.  Some noises I do hear in dreams, but perhaps these are 'real' ones that I pick up while still asleep, as people's voices - although 'speaking' - seem more like 'hearing' words in my brain, as when 'talking' to myself when I think.

Enough of that as these past few days have been so busy with my 'tests and experiments', that I've fallen sadly behind in all other aspects of my life.  I know I haven't many of those, but the kitchen looks as though a bomb has hit it, and I do need to do quite a bit of tidying up of the rest of our home.   So (hopefully, but can't promise) today's blog may be a bit shorter than usual.

Felt quite good when I read your comment Kathryn, only wish Paul Hollywood WAS looking at me when his programme was recorded.  But I can dream, can't I?

I don't know the age of readers who write in about their interest in World War II, and only those of 80 plus can probably remember much about it, [especially those who lived in the towns that were badly bombed.   My B, who lived in Leicester, keeps telling me that his city was also bombed during the war "remember one bomb falling in Victoria Park" but he can't remember any (or many) others falling.  We moved to Leicester before war ended, and certainly then we never had an air- raid.

Each time I write about that time, more memories come flooding back.  The time when my mother had brought home some sausages.  War-time sausages contained mostly bread ('rusk'), fat, water, and very little meat, these used to 'explode' in the pan when fried, so they got called 'bangers', this name today used as a familiar term for sausages:  Sausage and Mash we call  'bangers and mash'.
My mother was eating a sausage she had just cooked, and found - what she said - was a mouse's tooth in hers.  My dad looked at it and agreed with her (it might have been a rat's?)/  What meat went into sausages we never queried.  We were just glad to have them.

In Coventry (London and other big towns as well I suppose) we had air-raids every night for weeks.  My mum would put me to bed at 7.00pm, already dressed in my 'siren-suit' (this a one-piece garment, like a baby-gro but child size. Think Winston Churchill might have 'invented' this, he certainly used to wear one).  At 7.30pm, almost to the minute, the air-raid warning (sirens) would sound and my mum would wake me up and we would all go outside to the Anderson Shelter that my dad had built.

I remember Dad building the shelter, I used to sit inside on a bench as he built another bench on the other side of the space. Can still remember the lovely smell of new wood as he sawed and planed it.  When he fitted the door to the frame, I used to enjoy sitting close to it, kicking the door with my foot, and watching it spring back open (it had not been fitted with handles at that point).  One day I went to into the shelter, and 'played' kicking the door open and shut, and suddenly it stuck and wouldn't open.  I couldn't get out, trapped inside I dare not scream for my mum as she had forbidden me to play in the shelter.
Seemed to sit there for ages, not knowing what to do, then heard my mother come down the steps to release me.  She said she had been watching from the window, seen what happened, and left me there to 'teach me to do as I was told in the future".   Which was a lesson well learned.

After weeks of night-time raids, suddenly the Germans began day-light raids AS WELL - an unexpected surprise, and because of where we lived (outskirts of the city with farm land the other side of the main road (our road being parallel to that), the planes would fly low over the fields (called 'hedgehopping', so that they couldn't be picked up by the primitive radar of that time.  When they reached the first houses, the planes would rise up and just skim the chimney tops.  We lived fairly close to the factories that formally made cars but now made parts for planes etc.  These were the targets for the bombers.
(Viewing the area where we lived on Google Earth, see that the above mentioned fields are now longer there, all that areas has been built up with housing estates.

The first daylight raid, no-one was prepared, and no sirens souded, so the planes reached the factories and dropped their bombs (without causing too much damage) and then scarpered off before anyone realised what was happening.  The next day we had a second daylight raid, and this time the 'gunners' were prepared (the guns were sited on top of the factory roofs).  Still no sirens, so that was why my dad and I were in the front garden, and saw the plane fly low over our house, then almost immediately blown to smithereens (as mentioned in a previous posting).

Perhaps, because I was a child, and always believed what I was told (never knew what lies were in those days), never remember feeling much fear when we were in the Anderson Shelter as my dad said we'd be perfectly safe there.  One night remember hearing a bomb whistling down, and this must have exploded fairly close to us as I felt the ground under the shelter (and the shelter itself) move up at least a foot before settling down again.  To me that was quite fun!  Couldn't understand why mother and a neighbour seemed so terrified.  "It's alright Mum", I said "we're perfectly safe here, Dad said so".

Although we were now hearing sirens to give warning of daylight raids, one day they didn't sound until the enemy planes were flying over our house, and my mother was then too scared to go outdoors (always the danger of being fired on by the pilots), so pushed me into the cupboard under the stairs.  Remember screaming at my mum to let me out as "we'll be safe in the shelter", while she calmly removed tin after tin of stored foods from the shelves in there so they wouldn't fall on my head. 
Think this was the last straw.  For the last few weeks, the bombing had been so bad, this had turned my mother into a nervous wreck, and for a few weeks we had begun to leave our house each evening at about 6.00 to sleep in a little room rented over the village shop in Berkswell (a few miles north of Coventry), returning home each morning at about 7.00am, my mother firmly expecting to find our house bombed flat.
Do remember us 'sleeping away' on Christmas Eve.  I was very concerned that Father Christmas wouldn't leave me anything in my stocking as I wasn't at home, and - bless him - he actually KNEW I was sleeping that night at Berkswell, for in the morning found my stocking - that I'd hopefully hung at the end of my camp bed - just in case - had been filled.  Am ashamed to say that I hoped fervently that Father Christmas would have also filled the stocking I'd left hanging on the end of my bed in our 'real' home.  The first thing I did when we returned was to dash upstairs to find out, and was very disappointed when I found it still hanging empty. 

Daylight raids left us nowhere to escape to, so the decision was made to leave Coventry and go and live in Leamington Spa, where my parents first rented a couple of rooms in a private house (my mum and the lady of the house did not like each other at all) so we soon rented a house of our own. house.  We stayed there for 2 years, and I went to a RC school that was just over the road where we lived (taught by nuns, and me being the only non-catholic, that's another story!!!).  After two years in Leamington, my parents bought a house in Leicester. I was then nine years old.

Can't believe it was the film you saw that had some of 'my' war-time memories in it Pam. I've only seen the film twice (on TV), but do remember it was very much like how it was in those times, the only difference being we lived in a semi in Coventry whereas the film was set in a row of terraced houses in London.  Hope the film is shown again, as although not the best of times, it is somehow rather nice to return to 'how we used to live, then''.

Unlike the film, children didn't (as far as I know) do much wandering about the streets, hunting for bits to collect.  Many children in Coventry had been evacuated, and those who weren't stayed pretty close to home, at least in the area we lived.  Much of the city had been bombed flat, and during  just one night, there was so much damage, leading to thousands of homeless people who (presumably) had been sheltering in the large, street communal shelters as the bombs fell.  They had only the clothes they stood up in, and any belongings they had taken with them - in a shoe box - at that time. 
We had a large piece of open land about a mile where we lived. This called Hershall Common (or similar name, at the end of Broad Lane). This is where the barrage balloons were 'flown', and the day after the blitz, this area was full of the above 'refugees', and where my parents drove to collect the two families to care for (mentioned in an earlier blog) until they were able to travel to meet up with members of their family who lived in a safer area.
Can shut my eyes and all the above is as if it only happened yesterday. 

Have heard of the US liking for 'peanut butter and jelly' sandwiches Pam.  Have tried making these myself, but use ordinary 'jam' with bits in, and this doesn't seem to work.  We don't seem to have 'grape jelly/jam' sold over here. although it sounds as though this would work with the peanut butter.
Have often made myself sandwiches using peanut butter with mashed banana, and this is not so 'cloying' as peanut butter alone, and also enjoy sandwiches made with mashed banana and Marmite!
Useful to know that peanut butter, weight for weight, contains more protein than minced beef, cheese or chicken, and as much fibre as wholewheat bread.

Yes jane, it was the Fray Bentos meatballs I 'tested', and these only because they were sold under a well-known brand name, so expected to be better than others less well known.  This does prove that cheaper brands, and often 'own-brands' (usually the cheapest of all) can often be as good as, and very occasionally (as with the above meatballs) even better.
Yesterday 'flavour-tested' a can of Morrison's own and cheapest baked beans.  Checked the weight against the average can of Heinz beans (415g), M's being 410g.  Not a lot of difference in weight or even nutritional content, but a HUGE difference in price, Morrison's beans being only 25p a can while Heinz were twice that price when ON OFFER!!

Yhe 'baked' beans vary hardly at all whatever brand of 'baked beans' are bought, the difference always in the flavour of the sauce.  Have to say was disappointed in the taste of the Morrison's beans, knowing that Tesco's 'not-quite-their-cheapest' has a much better flavoured sauce. 
Decided to try adding a tablespoon of tomato ketchup to M's beans, and then heated these and ate them for my lunch.  Couldn't believe it - the beans then (or rather the sauce) tasted as good as any of the top brand/s.  Perhaps leaning more towards Branston Baked beans than Heinz (surprisingly since it was Heinz ketchup used), but a tip worth remembering.  
Not that we need take much notice any more of best-before dates, but the M's beans had the year 2015 as the 'b.b' life, with very recently bought Heinz showing a year earlier: 2014.  Perhaps useful only if we wish to stock up with the 'cheap and cheerful' while it is still 'cheap'.

Good to hear from you again Eileen, was thinking about you yesterday as we haven't been in (personal) touch recently.  Once my 'tests/experiments' are over we must meet up again.
Pleased that some of my 'family buffet' ideas you might find useful this coming weekend.  However,  the weather is not set to warm up much (if at all), so perhaps some hot food dishes should also be included, even if only mugs of soup.
Watching the news, it's hard to believe how much snow has fallen so close to Morecambe and we still haven't had any.  We see farmers on the Isle of Man having to dig out sheep that have been completely covered by snow, and the expectation is that thousands of sheep will have been lost in snow and died these past days.  Why is it that my thoughts instantly turn to "that'll then mean we have to pay more for lamb,", when I should have been feeling sorry for the sheep. Am I getting to obsessed about the cost of everything edible?

As peanuts have been mentioned, will finish with a few recipes containing these.  For the first recipe choose fresh or frozen veg: such as green beans, mangetout, courgettes... Use half a teaspoon dried marjoram or oregano if you have no fresh.
Peanut 'Paella: serves 4
2 tsp sunflower oil
1 onion, chopped
3 oz (75g) shelled peanuts
5 oz (150g) long-grain rice (pref brown)
2 ribs celery, sliced diagonally
8 oz (225g) mixed veg (see above)
1 green or red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp fresh marjoram, chopped (see above)
1 pint (600ml) boiling water
1 tblsp soy sauce
salt and pepper
3 tsp lemon juice
Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the onion until softened.  Stir in the peanuts and rice and cook for 5 minutes.  Add the celery, bell pepper, cumin and marjoram, and continue to cook for a further 5 minutes, then add most of the boiling water (you may need less if using white rice). Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 20 - 30 minutes (depending upon whether using white or brown rice) or until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is cooked.
Stir in the soy sauce, seasoning to taste, and the lemon juice, then serve immediately on warmed dishes.

For this dish, first make a 'peanut pastry' by making shortcrust in normal way with 12 oz (350g) of plain (pref wholemeal) flour, and half its weight (6 oz/175g) of hard margarine.  Rubbing this together until like breadcrumbs, THEN stir in 2 tblsp cruncy peanut butter and enough cold water to mix to a firm dough.  Roll out two-thirds to line a 9" (23cm) flan dish, and cut the trimmings into strip to lay across the filling lattice fashion.
Lattice Peanut Pie: serves 6 - 8
peanut pastry (see above)
2 tblsp sunflower oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 lb (450g) chopped frozen spinach (thawed/squeezed)
salt and pepper
5 oz (150g) peanuts, roughly chopped
2 eggs, beaten
half tsp ground nutmeg
8 oz (225g) ricotta or cottage cheese
2 oz (50g) grated Parmesan cheese
Heat oil in a large frying pan and fry the onion until softened.  Add garlic and spinach (after squeezing out as much water as possible) and cook for 10 minutes, then add remaining ingredients.
Spoon this mixture into the prepared pastry case (see above) and cover with the pastry strips. Brush with egg and bake for 45 - 50 minutes or until set and firm to the touch.  Can be served hot or cold.

With this final recipe, as with many other 'stir-fries', we can use other vegetables.  Myself slice broccoli stalks into strips and stir-fry these as well as the florets.  Do the same if using cauliflower.
The pasta shape (aka 'fusilli') is the one suggested, but penne or macaroni (or other shape/s you have) could be used instead.
Peanut Plus Stir-Fry: serves 4
4 tblsp sunflower oil
6 oz (175g) broccoli florets, stalks removed
2 courgettes, sliced diagonally
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 leeks, sliced diagonally
6 oz (175g) button mushrooms, quartered
4 oz (100g) peanuts
1 lb (450g) cooked pasta spirals drained
2 tblsp crunchy peanut butter
5 tblsp orange juice
segments from one large orange (opt)
Heat the oil in a wok or large frying pan.  Stir-fry the broccoli and courgettes for 3 - 4 minutes, then add the garlic, leeks, and mushrooms, continuing to stir-fry for 1 - 2 minutes or until just beginning to soften, then add the whole peanuts, the cooked pasta, peanut butter and orange juice (also orange segments if using).  Toss all together and serve immediately hot warmed serving plates.

Final recipe am including because I saw Guy Fieri preparing something similar (but his had a different filling), and because easy to make, contains peanuts, and looks very colourful and appetising, thought this peanut version would be of interest, especially as a good way to use up those green bell peppers we are not so fond of using.  As well as green, in this dish use another colour to give contrast, red bell peppers would be perfect, but orange and/or yellow could also be used.
Ths would make a good hot 'family' buffet dish as the quantities given serves 8 as a starter (or 4 as a main course).
Stuffed Peppers:
4 red or green peppers (or other colour)
half oz (15g) butter
half oz (15g) plain flour
5 fl oz (150ml) milk
4 oz (100g) peanuts, chopped
2 red eating apples, cored and diced
3 ribs celery, diced
4 spring onions (or two shallots) sliced
salt and pepper
Halve the peppers lengthways, and remove seeds and 'pithy' bits, then blanch in boiling water for 4 minutes.  Drain well and set aside.
Make the filling by melting the butter in a small pan, stirring in the flour, then cook for 2 minutes before gradually beating in the milk.  Bring to the simmer and cook until slightly thickened.  Remove from heat and stir in the remaining ingredients. adding seasoning to taste.. 
Divide the filling between the peppers, then place the filled pepper in an ovenproof dish, adding a little water to the dish (to provide a bit of steam as the peppers cook). Cover with foil and bake for 25 - 30 minutes at 190C, 375F, gas 5.  Serve hot.

That's it for today.  Depending how well I cope this week, it could be I'll take an Easter break from my blogging as really need to take time to write up recipes for the Foodbank, and also allow myself a little 'me time' to get myself back on track.   But who knows - the enjoyment of chatting with you all is a lot more fun than doing domestic 'chores'.  See how I feel by the end of this week. 

As tomorrow will be Norma the Hair day, almost certainly won't be 'chatting' to you until after she has left, so publishing will be just before or just after mid-day.  See you then.



Tuesday, March 26, 2013

What's In a Name?

Yesterday watched Guy Fieri in his new series of 'Guy's Best Bites', where he cooks in his home kitchen/s. He seems to have a least two, an indoor and and outdoor both amazingly well fitted.  The indoor one appears to have a television permanently switched on (can just see motor-racing or baseball or something on the screen), with a pool table also in the room. The outdoor kitchen has a large brick 'pizza type' oven that has a fire built inside and an open front.  Big hobs to cook on in both kitchens and plenty of work surfaces with 'necessary' ingredients (as used most of the time) like salt, pepper, spices, vinegars, oils... all arranged close to hand.  Oh I wish!

Yesterday Guy was cooking 'by request', several dishes, one of these being 'something with chocolate'.  So G's chose to make 'Mexican Chirros' (maybe I've not spelt this correctly, but as it sounded) and believe it or not this was EXACTLY the same mix as we would use to make choux pastry.  The only difference being the 'dough', after being put into a piping bag, was piped in finger length pieces into a pan of hot oil and fried, to then be put on a tray and dusted with a mixture of caster sugar and cinnamon.  The 'chocolate' part was these would then be dipped into a bowl of melted chocolate before being eaten. 

Almost every country had a dish similar to one from another regiona of the our world, often under a a different name.  Sometimes a country uses the same name but for another dish.  So not surprising we get mixed up.  A 'tortilla' in (say) Mexico, is a flat bread made with wheat or cornmeal, in Spain a tortilla is a type of omelette.
Flat breads are very similar in appearance, the only difference being (sometimes) the flour used, or maybe adding yeast. We are familiar with the soft flour (or corn) 'tortillas', the Indian chapatis not being that much different. Then there is the pitta bread, naan bread, flat but made with yeast, and pizza bases are not a million miles away from these.
Even in Britain we have our own 'flat bread', traditionally made with oats, and mainly regional.
Moving on to 'pastry', there are many countries who have their own version of our 'pasty'. Called different names, but inn appearance to our 'Cornish' (the one that is folded in half with the crimping along the open edge, not the one that is crimped on top). The only difference being the fillings.  Still usually 'meat and two veg', but some can be very spiced up.

Ingredients for one dish can be exactly the same as another, but with the additions of spices or sauces can then end up a completely different dish.  Most of us have gathered 'odds and ends' from our fridge and veggie baskets. One person would choose to make a vegetable soup from these, another a Chinese stir-fry.  A third might use these to make a Vegetable Curry. 

Almost everything we make is being cooked 'another way' in other parts of the globe, so even if we stick to ingredients we know and love, we don't have to keep strictly to our own traditional meals (thank goodness).  "Variety is the spice of life" they say.

Didn't manage to watch Paul Hollywood again last night, 'Corrie' taking precedence, so really must try to catch up on iPlayer. Just managed to catch the last 5 minutes to see pitta bread being made.
Earlier we were watching 'Pointless' (this and 'Eggheads' are two of our favourite progs as we like to see if we know the answers, and if not then we learn a great deal).
Although B and I both have much the same sense of humour, it doesn't always flow in the same direction. Yesterday on 'Pointless' B said "that woman's dress looks just like the top of a compost heap", and as I hadn't noticed it, took a look and said to B  "the dress reminds me of a coffee cream gateau".  Same dress, different viewpoints. 

We welcome Mandy, who has kindly sent in a comment.  Do hope you enjoy the books Mandy, and we hope to hear from you again (and again...).

Can't remember if it was the same film you mentioned Pam, but there was has been one made about the war in London, seen through the eyes of a young boy. It could well be the one that contained several things that happened to me, for this was the filmed version of a book written by a man who had requested people to write in and tell him of their war-time experiences, and I sent him at least two of mine. One was about the time when a barrage balloon's cables broke and it drifted down to settle on the roof of our house, our parrot screaming as the rooms went dark.  Another when a very low-flying German aircraft flew over our road and nearby guns blew it up as I watched.  The latter I still remember with sorrow as the plane had been so low (and slow as they were in those days) that I could clearly see the pilot.  The next second he was killed.  Someone found his hand in the next street.
Both these incidents were included in the film, but it may not have been in the one Pam mentioned..

Was interested to hear you are collecting material to make a quilt Pam.  Quilt-making has always seemed a very American craft, although - certainly in the north of England - quilt-making has been done for centuries, but normally just stitching pieces of material together randomly, not in the beautiful patterns used across America.  We also have a tradition of making 'rag rugs'.  I've had a go at making both the rugs and quilts, and they are very long-lasting, and a great way to use up clothes and household materials that have worn out.

My favourite quilt patterns are the 'Log cabin', and the 'Cathedral Window'.  Think it is the Amish that are known for their quilts, and believe they make a deliberate mistake in each quilt pattern, for some religious reason. Believe that somewhere (Bristol area) there is an American museum where there is a large display of American quilts.

This is the time of year that we normally change from GMT to BST Pam, and we have long days in summer (and shorter days in winter) due to us being further north than Texas.   Wouldn't have thought you would need any change of time as your days and nights would be much the same length.
Here in summer it gets light very early in the morning.  On a clear day dawn would be around 4.00am but at that time of the year the sun is never to far below the horizon, so even at night it can often be barely 'dark. Night fall would be about 11.00pm, although often it seems we hardly get any dark night at all for the reason given above.
The opposite happens during the winter months, but always day-light during most of our working hours (8.00am till 4.00am), so we don't really notice the lack of light as once indoors, curtains drawn, TV to watch, or even outdoors to go to the pub, cinema, night club (where the darkness almost adds an extra thrill).... the darkness doesn't disrupt our lives.   At full moon, with a clear sky, in the country, away from town lights, even in the darkest months, there is enough reflected light from the moon for us to see perfectly without the need of a torch.

This reminds me again of war-time.  Lights were forbidden during the war, to prevent enemy aircraft from discovering where towns were.  Everyone had to have 'black-out' curtains fitted (I hated these, the material had a very unpleasant smell).  Wardens used to patrol the street to shout "put that light out" if they saw a chink.  If they saw it again, the householder would have to pay a heavy fine.
There were no street lights, no lights anywhere in town, cars had to drive with dipped headlights, (petrol was rationed and in those days not many people owned cars anyway), same with cycles.  Even torches had to have the top half of their 'beam' covered, and these lights could only be shone down.  Much of the time we were staggering around in the dark, and in any case, few people ventured out in the dark those days due to the 'smog'.
Smog was a mixture of smoke and fog, and as everyone used to heat their homes by coal fires, every chimney was belching out smoke.  There seemed to be more fogs in those days, and this held the smoke down, and it was once - think in London - that the smog was so bad, many people died.  It was then (I believe) we had to begin burning 'smokeless' fuel.
We even have a 'traditional' soup called 'London Particular', named after the London 'smogs' that were sometimes so thick and almost yellowish green in colour that the was called a real 'pea-souper'.

Nowadays many new houses are being built without fireplaces, this is a pity as it could well be we will have to return to burning 'smokeless' coal, and logs to be able to cook and heat our homes more economically.  Not always necessary to have a chimney as suppose a 'flue' could be fixed to a multi-fuel stove that would go through an outside wall up to and beyond the eaves.

Yesterday I was muttering to B about 'stupid waste of government money'.  We hear of those 'wind farms' not able to work because the wind is too strong (it could break the blades).  The snow on the same blades is now causing some to break.  Millions being spent on a new nuclear power station, yet all around our island we have the sea.  Harness the tides and we have permanent power 'for free' once the installations have been paid for.  No nuclear waste, no ugly wind farms ruining our countryside.  Good healthily made fuel.
Why do we have to move forward to 'new technology' when we have 'the old' ready and waiting to provide what we need on our own doorstep?  Time to stop taking one step forward and return to taking two steps back methinks.

When I was very small (under six I think) my dad was explaining to me about how things worked. I'd seen how water wheels could move great millstones to grind flour, and understood how steam could drive railway engines. When I asked about how electricity was made, Dad explained about the use of coal and water to make this, and I asked why they didn't use the sea to make it instead of 'waterfalls'.  Dad said we didn't need to use the sea as we had so much coal in this country we didn't need water, there was enough coal to keep us going for centuries.   How wrong he was.  Or was he?
Maybe there is enough coal, but we have closed most of our coal mines and prefer to use nuclear power and imported gas and the much more expensive and could be said 'dangerous' fuels.  Am afraid 'advance technology' I tend to view as not always the wisest route to take.

Much of our 'advancement' seems to be the need for speed.  We need to get from A to B in the fastest time possible.  Why?  Do we end up getting more work done?  It could be we are trying to get more leisure time, but what do we do with that?  Seems many prefer to use this to sit and watch TV or play computer games. 

In the 'old day's life was slower, but individuals worked harder and during leisure time, more was achieved.  "The Devil makes work for idle hands" is as true now as it was then, and we can see this happening today.  Youngsters roaming the streets because they have nothing better to do, and put their natural youthful 'rebellion' into the wrong use.  Have to say it would be much better for our young unemployed if they were conscripted, much as is done in the US.  So why can't we put those who don't seem able to get a job (or won't) into the Territorial Army?  Anywhere where they would learn about discipline, and also get the chance to learn a trade. 
Believe it or not, children prefer to be 'disciplined' from a very early age.  It makes them feel secure.  Those who are left to do what they want, having no strong 'guide-lines', really have nothing secure in their lives at all, and this leads them into all sorts of dangers.  Of course, youngsters want to rebel, but far safer to rebel at a safe and low level, than have their only 'levels at a dangerous height to jump over.

When at school, my teachers were so strict that a pupil would be expelled for answering back (and was).  We were not allowd to eat ice-creams outdoors when wearing our school uniform.  Also got order marks when seen not wearing our school hats. 
Sometimes we did the 'naughties' above, and this was 'scary' enough just because we had broken a rule (or three), but it was 'safe' rebellion if you know what I mean, teachers being clever enough to know that although pupils would break rules (part of growing up), the more rules there were to break, normally everyone only broke the 'easy and unimportant'' ones. 

Nowadays it seems there are few rules to break (in schools, in home...) so only when big ones are left to break, who can blame those that do.  It is perfectly natural for children to break rules, part of growing up.  The blame has to go those adults who changed the rules and led us to believe that children should be allowed 'freedom of choice', and be given little discipline 'so that they can learn their errors in their own time'. 
Unfortunately 'doing wrong' is often more fun than 'doing right', and unless an awareness of how this can affect and distress others is instilled into a child, they can grow up feeling what they do (and capable of doing) is for their own pleasure and to hell with anyone else.  What was once a caring society now seems to be turning into a very selfish one.

Dearie me, seem to have go another bee in my bonnet today.  First believing we should control the sea, and now controlling children.  What next will I have to moan about I wonder?  Perhaps better I turn my thoughts back to cooking.  Serving home-cooked meals to a family sitting round a table and eating together will make a good start to child-control perhaps.  "Eat your greens or you won't get any pudding".  Well, this sometimes works.

So let's think about family meals, and with that in mind I'm about to give some suggestions for 'nibbles' that might normally be eaten in front of TV, but instead served as a family buffet.  Not to pick and eat 'on the hoof' or 'at the wander', but to still sit down and eat at table  - like TOGETHER!   Often there is more chance to chat to each other when eating 'nibbles' than when consuming a meal using a knife and fork.  And when eating 'buffet' food, suggest it's better to chat with (almost) a mouthful rather than not chat at all.

First recipe (more a suggestion) is a way to use up oddments of crumbly (or grated) cheese mixed with softer, cream cheese (Philly type).  The idea is to blend the cheeses together, form into small balls, and roll these into different 'coatings'.  Ideas given below, but you could also used crushed cornflakes, potato crisps, crushed cheese biscuits....  As these should be prepared well in advance, a good one to add to a 'buffet' table.
Cheese Balls in Overcoats: makes 64
1 lb (500g) cream cheese
1 lb (500g) crumbly 'firm' cheese
2 tsp finely grated lemon rind
2 tblsp lemon juice
pinch sea salt
Blend or process ingredients together until smooth, then chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours, until firm enough to roll.  Take rounded teaspoons of the mixture and roll in the hands to form balls. Place on a tray, cover and chill in the fridge until firm.  Roll each into chosen coating, the more the merrier, but at least four different ones.  Serve cold.
suggested coatings:
2 tsp cracked black pepper mixed with 1 tblsp poppy seeds.

1 tsp each dried oregano/marjoram, sweet paprika, and dried thyme, plus 1 tblsp toasted sesame seeds.

Quarter pint (150ml) measure finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley.  Or another herb of your choice (or mixed fresh herbs).

Quarter pint (150ml) measure unroasted sesame seeds.

No reason why a family meal can't include 'posh nosh'.  There is nothing 'posh' about the ingredients below (other than the smoked salmon, but then as it is only the cheaper offcuts bought, not much of them used - surplus will freeze - so a biggish buffet would still work out cheaper than if a 'meat and two veg' dinner was being served).  Because this is buffet fare (recipes expected to serve more than a just a 'family') we can reduce the amounts, as long as we are provide enough selection to satisfy appetites.

As the 'rosti' can be made several hours ahead, another useful buffet dish.  Finish assembling close to serving time.
Rosti with Smoked Salmon: makes 24
2 lb (900g) potatoes, peeled
half oz (15g) butter, melted
1 tblsp chopped fresh dill
4.5 oz (125ml) olive oil
7 oz (200g) creme fraiche or sour cream
7 oz (200g) smoked salmon offcuts
dill for garnish
Grate the potatoes then place in a clean towel and squeeze out excess liquid, then put the potatoes into a bowl with the butter and chopped dill.
Heat a little of the olive oil in a large frying pan, placing an oiled 2" (5cm) wide metal (scone) cutter into the pan and fill this with 1 tblsp of the potato mixture.  Press down with the back of a spoon to flatter.   Carefully remove the cutter (it will be hot) and repeat with remaining mixture adding more oil as necessary.  Cook rosti until golden on the base, then turn and cook until golden (both sides), drain on absorbent paper and leave to cool. 
When ready to assemble, put 1 teaspoon of creme fraiche on each rosti, top with a little curl of smoked salmon and s tiny sprig of dill.

Next buffet dish is a good one to make when we have puff pastry in the freezer, a bit of Stilton (or other blue cheese) to find a use for, and either a leek (instead could use several shallots) and garlic (especially worth making if a garlic lover).
The pastry bases can be made a day ahead (or a few days previously if kept in an airtight tin that has had a layer of salt put into the tin, covered by a sheet of kitchen paper, before putting in the pastry - the salt will absorb any moisture and keep the pastry crisp).
The garlic/leek mix can be made up to 8 hours ahead.  Assemble and reheat just before serving.
Garlic and Blue Cheese Bites: makes 24
1 oz (25g) butter
1 tblsp olive oil
8 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 large leek (1lb/500g) sliced thinly (see above)
1 sheet ready-rolled puff pastry
2 oz (50g) blue cheese, crumbled
Melt the butter in a large frying pan over low heat, then fry the garlic, continually stirring to prevent burning, for about 10 minutes or until soft and turning light brown.  Remove from pan and set aside. Add leek to the same pan, and stir-fry this, still over low heat, until softened, then add the sugar. Keep stirring from time to time, and cook for about 15 minutes or until the mixture caramelises.
Cut circles from the pastry sheet using a 4.5cm (just under 2") cutter, place these on a greased baking tray and place a similar tray on top - this prevents the pastry rising, but still cooks the pastry through.  Bake for about 10 minutes at 200C, 400F, gas 6, or until the pastry has browned lightly, removing the top tray after 8 minutes.
To assemble, sprinkle the cheese over the pastry rounds, then fop each with the caramelised leek and garlic.  Return to oven for about 2 minutes or until the cheese is soft.

Being a cost-cutting cook and hating waste, I often get irritated when recipes tell us to cut pastry into rounds, and tend myself to cut the pastry into squares, triangles or oblongs - any shape that has straight sides means no wasted pastry.  Doing this we can often make more 'shapes' than the recipes originally intended.
But if we do have pastry trimmings, it's not difficult to use up short pastry as when pressed together and re-rolled out we can use it/cook it in the normal way.  With puff pastry much harder to make use of. If the trimmings are large enough, I stack these on top of each other so that, when rolled, the 'layers' are still there.  Scrunched up the pastry would then spread every which way when baked.  However, this can be useful i grated cheese is kneaded into puff pastry scraps, rolled out very thinly and cut into fingers.  However mis-shaped these end up after baking, they make wonderful 'cheese straws'.

So my next 'family buffet' suggestion is to include an assortment of dips.  Served with strips of raw veg (aka 'crudites'), maybe some of the above cheese straws, some tortilla 'chips', or toasted wedges of pitta bread, these add extra colour and texture to the meal.  Why not include crispy potato 'skins' for dipping? 
To make these cook 'jacket potatoes' in the microwave or oven, then when tender, cool, cut each into 6 wedges, carefully remove the flesh (this can be mashed to use the following day).  Leave the skins intact and place on a wire rack over an oven tray, skin-side facing down, brushing the up-side (inside) with a little olive oil.  These can be prepared several hours ahead, then roast in a hot oven for about 20 minutes until crisp.  Serve with dips. 

We all have our favourite dips, mine being a tub of creme fraiche (could use Greek yogurt) in which I've blended a heaped teaspoon of mild curry paste (Korma, or hotter if you wish) and a teaspoon of mango chutney.
We probably only need to serve three dips at any one time, but each very different in colour and flavour. Here are a few suggestions:
Feta Cheese Dip:
7 oz (200g) feta cheese, crumbled
5 oz (150g) ricotta or cottage cheese
2 tblsp lemon juice
2 tblsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
Put everything into a blender or food processor and blitz until smooth.  This can be made up to 2 days ahead when stored, covered, in the fridge.

Beetroot dip:
3 medium cooked beetroot, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
7 oz (200g) yogurt
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp lemon juice
Put everything into a blender or food processor, and blitz until smooth.  Store as above dip where it will keep for up to 2 days.

Cucumber Dip:
1 cucumber, skin and seeds removed
1 tblsp chopped fresh mint
7 oz (200g) yogurt
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tblsp lemon juice
As with the above, process until combined, preferably by pulsing as this gives a bit more texture, alternatively just chop the cucumber and mint finely, crush the garlic and fold into the yogurt.

Raita: similar to above but less ingredients
half pint (300ml) Greek yogurt
4 tblsp chopped fresh mint or coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
Mix ingredients together, cover and chill for 30 minutes. Can be made a day ahead and kept chilled in the fridge. 

Peanut (Satay) Dip:
3 oz (75g) roasted peanuts
2 tblsp Thai red curry paste
6 fl oz (175ml) coconut milk
2 fl oz (50ml) chicken stock
1 tblsp lime juice
1 tblsp brown sugar
Blend or process nuts until finely chopped, then add the curry paste, mixing until well combined. Meanwhile, heat the coconut milk to boiling, and then add the peanut mixture, whisking together until smooth. Reduce heat, add stock, and cook, stirring, for about 3 - 4 minutes or until the sauce has begun to thicken.  Stir in the juice and sugar, and when the sugar has dissolved, remove from heat. Cool and chill.  This will keep, when covered and chilled, in the fridge for a day before serving.

With the above recipe feel we could cut corners by using a crunchy peanut butter instead of processing the peanuts as by the time we have blended in the curry paste we would end up with much the same thing.  Maybe we wouldn't even need to add some of the other ingredients so could cut out the cooking.  Instead the mixture could be 'slackened' by folding in lime juice and perhaps a little coconut cream or yogurt.   Recipes such as these give us a chance to experiment/improvise and make each 'our own'. 

What better time than Easter to gather the family round the table and enjoy the above.  So time to start planning ahead and make as much in advance as possible.  

From the inside looking out we appear to be having another sunny day, but still mega-cold outside. Normally, at this time of year seeds will have been sown, and greenhouses possibly housing new growth, but none of this seems able to happen at the moment.  We are advised to wait before sowing seeds, and so this means that some crops will be have to be harvested much later this year. And only then if the weather has been kind.  Another cold and wet summer and prices for fresh foods will rise still further.
I've given up ordering the organic veggie boxes for the time being, as it's pretty certain that the boxes won't contain any 'just picked' produce (as normal) as the country is snow-bound.  Once things have got back to normal then will begin ordering again.  Perhaps not fair to the organic growers (am already feeling guilty), but really don't want to pay over the odds for 'fresh' produce that only tastes good when it is really 'fresh'.  Stored for a week and it tastes no better than that sold (cheaper) in the supermarkets.  Even veggies that have a long 'shelf-life' such as carrots, really lose flavour quite rapidly.

That's it for today.  I've had my moan, I've suggested meals we can serve,  given a nod to our weather.  Not a lot more to chat about, so will wave goodbye for today, then open my arms wide to give you a cuddle when you return to me tomorrow (which I hope you will do).  See you then. 


Monday, March 25, 2013

More Than One Way....

Looking through the window above my desk you would think it would turn out to be a warm and sunny spring day.  Blue skies, sunshine and NO snow or frost.  What could look better?
Even so, much of the rest of the country are battling under snowdrifts, some of them 3 metres high.  On TV we see cars that have been completely covered by snow, and single storey houses with only the roof showing on one side where the snow has drifted.  
Many houses still without electricity, and have to say we, in Morecambe are blessed with having just bitterly cold winds and not a lot else.  Today, even the winds have now dropped to just 'a bit windy'.
The forecast is that the cold weather will continue until Easter (and maybe as well as and beyond...) but hopefully no more snow, but then - with our weather - we can never be sure a forecast is THAT accurate, and although assuredly it will stay cold, we may have more snow.  Just have to wait and see.

Thanks for comments.  Agree with you Pam that many 'solid' canned meat don't contain many additives.  When in Morrison's I purchased a can of Pek luncheon pork luncheon meat that said it was 80% pork (no mention of it being 'reclaimed'), but this was slightly more expensive than Spam and in my opinion didn't taste as nice.  For some reason Spam don't givenutritional details on their cans so I don't know how much fat/calories it contains (although maybe these would be found on the Internet but I just can't be bothered to look).
Thanks for the help re changing that 'roboty thingy', and hope that readers will now be able to work out the letters more easily.

Good to hear jane, that Daniel enjoys your home-cooked meals (who wouldn't?).  Even if he does prefer canned meatballs for breakfast, at least he will be getting a hot meal to start his day, and a good breakfast is supposed to help youngsters to 'be brighter' (as regards learning) at school.
Your mention of having a hot bath made me realise that when/if we get gas cuts, then it's not only cooking/heating we need be concerned about, but neither will we have hot water (unless that is heated in the old fashioned way by an electric immersion heater) for washing (ourselves, laundry, pots and pans...).  Most people have electric kettles, so we'd need to use the bathroom basin or kitchen sink and wash in small amounts.
In many ways, electric cuts could be worse, for many gas appliances are controlled by electric switches (such as gas central heating).
Several times, during my life, remember that 'deliberate' cuts (these being electric)lasted only four hours, and not all in the same parts of the country (or even town).  Annoying when it is time to prepare meals, but we always knew in advance when these would be and most people managed to cope.
When we had electricity cuts in Leeds, I quite enjoyed it, having old fashioned and 'primed' oil-lamps, and a real coal/log fire ready to light.  At that time we had an electric hob and oven, so experimented using tea-lights as 'heat' and discovered that using 6 of these tea-lights, placed closed together, and - with a metal cake airer placed - once lit, these gave off enough heat to boil water.
My B, never inclined to 'make the best of it', or even 'wait for it', would - if the cuts were to be at supper time - would take himself off to another part of Leeds where the electricity was still on so that he could have a 'proper' hot meal.  Myself found far more pleasure sitting in the light of the lamps, and toasting my toes and slices of bread by the glowing fire (the toast to be spread with cinnamon butter and sugar) by a roaring fire.
Remember also taking a grid from the oven and fixing it over the lounge fire, one end on the coals, the other on housebricks towards the front of the grate, placing soup (or maybe even  canned meatballs!!!) in a pan and placing this on the grid for the contents to heat up.  Honestly, this was a lot more fun than 'eating out'.  B doesn't know what he missed.  Well, knowing B he almost certainly wouldn't find it 'fun', he prefers his life to be somewhat 'easier' than that.  Me, I find extreme pleasure in finding 'ways to cope/survive' in the best (and most unusual ways) possible. 

Have mentioned this before, but perhaps worth repeating to show that even with gas cuts, we could still be worse off.  After the worst night of the air-raids (the Coventry Blitz) there was so much damage to the underground piping and overhead cables that Coventry had no gas, electricity or even water for at least three days (probably longer).  My mother, due to the previous night raids, and she being old enough to remember World War I (and why she had already piled up a good store of canned foods even before rationing began) had sensibly filled our bath full of cold water, perhaps to use if our house caught fire by the many incendiary bombs that fell most night to right and left of it.  This 'bath' water, boiled over a coal fire, kept us going until repairs to city pipes or water tanks gave us water again.  As my parents had taken in a couple of 'refugee' families (their homes being flattened by bombs) my mother had a house full of 6 adults, one baby, one child, two teenagers to feed and water for three days, with only a small coal fire to cook on, and the 'bath water' to wash/drink/cook with. Now THAT'S what I call 'coping', so forgive me if I sometimes give the impression that people who 'don't have much' to eat, really should be thankful for (and make the most of) what they have, as they could be so much worse off - as is happening now in many other parts of the world.  Here, in Britain, we are probably one of the more fortunate, even with our recession and rising prices.

Another thing I ranemember, when we moved to Leicester (still war time), we had a huge galvanised tank sitting on top of the flat roof of outhouse close to our house.  This collected rainwater, and a pipe led from the tank to our hot water cylinder in the bathroom.   The old fashioned range in our 'breakfast room' was lit each day to heat the water, and this used for washing, bathing, laundry etc.  Water for cooking/drinking always used from the cold tap.  Suppose it would make sense to do something similar today, especially if we pay our 'water rates' using a water meter.

Our 'breakfast room' was originally the kitchen.  An old range in the middle of one wall, with floor to ceiling cupboards set either side, drawers a the bottom and shelving behind glassed doors above.
My mother never used the range for cooking, although I remember it having at least one oven and two 'discs' on the flat surface above to heat pans.  All the oven was used for was drying wood to use for lighting the fire.  We had no central heating, fires in other rooms being lit only when the room was used (coal being rationed).
What my mum called the 'kitchen' was really a small scullery.  In there we had a gas stove (old fashioned by today's standards.  At the side of that was a big 'Belfast' sink supported by house bricks, I remember a shelf underneath holding 'Vim', carbolic soap and packets of 'Rinso'.
Next to the sink and fitted into a corner so it also went under the small window on an adjoining wall, was the laundry 'copper'.  The old style (as seen in 'Victoria Farm') were there was a place at the front where a fire would be lit, a big lid covering the copper (this lid we never removed), and across this lid, leading to the sink, was a huge wooden draining board.  This had to be regularly scrubbed down.
I remember at night, going into the kitchen, switching on the light and seeing strange 'things' scurrying to hide behind the draining board.  My mum said they were called 'silver fish'.  Living there - I think - due to the damp surroundings of the board.
The other side of the scullery there was only room for some shelving and mum's electric washing machine.  Very 'modern' for those times, a top loader that even had an electric mangle fitted at the back edge.
My parent's quite liked 'modern' (being able to afford it).  They were one of the first to have a fridge, and then a television.  Myself, tending to follow in their footsteps, although not having a washing machine when the children were small,  did at least save up and buy a spin dryer.  Then - when me moved to Leeds in the late '60s', bought a huge chest freezer to take with us.  Not many people had freezers in those days, and this really paid for itself.  It was still working nearly 40 years later when B decided he preferred one of the American style fridge/freezers and so got rid of the chest freezer and 50 year old reasonably large now 'retro style' fridge that we had, and that was also still working.

Have to say the fridge size of our US style fridge/freezer has more room than the old one, but the freezer is much smaller than B thought due to it housing the motors for both. So have had to purchase a four-drawer chest freezer to house the amount of frozen food I wish to keep.  Seeing there are normally just two of us to feed, the fridge/freezer would be more than large enough, it's just that I have the need of more 'storage food space' being a semi-professional cook that does occasional 'catering' and feels the need to 'experiment'. 

Sorry to hear from at least a couple of readers that they have stubborn coughs that won't go away. My B had the same that seemed to last for weeks, so it must be a bug going around.  Myself also began with it, but as I did my 'usual' (eating raw onions) this soon sent it packing.  Think it is the sulphur in raw onions that 'kills' the virus'.  Seems to anyway.   
Normally I never eat raw onions, other than occasionally adding thinly sliced RED onion to a salad (red onions being very mild).  A really strong 'cooking' onion that makes our eyes water when cutting it is the one to eat raw.  But make sure you have a supply of soft tissues to hand (paper hankies, loo roll ...) as within a very few minutes noses will start streaming.  You can almost hear the viruses screaming as they flood out in their millions desperate to get away from the onion fumes.

Can imagine the 'Bitchin' Kitchen' presenter being a comedienne Margie, and - like you - have never been able to watch the programme from start to finish.  It is really OTT, has a certain appeal - but in small doses.  Her 'male' assistants (not in the kitchen but 'snippets' included) make me smile, one called Hans describing something (is it wine?) who always ends up by stripping off his shirt to show his superb torso, amazing shiny body and rippling muscles.  Who cares about the food? Give me Hans any time!

Regarding the high prices charged for US and Canadian cakes/cookies compared to those in the UK.  Having seen supermarket cakes, these always seemed far better than any sold in our supermarkets. At the time we were in the US, we went into a cake shop in Kingston (NY state), and this had the most amazing cakes and breads.  German owned (as were many bakeries in that area), and these cakes/gateaux were virtually the same as those sold in the local supermarkets.
Germans are renowned for making quality cakes, and watching the 'cupcake' progs on the Food Network it does seem as though these are made with as much love and care, so almost certainly American/Canadian cakes are way and above better than those dreadful ones our supermarkets normally sell.  To buy really good cakes, we have to go to a speciality shop that sells them (and then they ARE expensive, probably more expensive than 'over the pond') or - better still - make them ourselves.

Did make some scones yesterday, but - as in a bit of a rush - decided to use self-raising flour plus a bit of extra baking powder, THEN added about a couple of tablespoons of white bread mix that I had in a little pot on the table (kept for dusting the board when I knocked back dough).  Made up the usual way with sugar, dried fruit, egg and milk, have to say the scones seemed slightly lighter than when made with just s.r.flour and b.p.  Hoped (well, expected) them to rise more than they normally did, but can't say there seemed much difference.  Will keep experimenting.

Today and tomorrow should see the last of my 'Foodbank' experiments, and have to say 'thankfully' as canned foods are now turning out to be my least favourite (other than tomatoes and baked beans - tuna and Spam!). 
Yesterday made a huge pot of vegetable soup, the veggies cooked in home-made chicken stock.  B ate some for his supper.  I intended to but our daughter dropped in just before supper time, bringing a big selection of cakes.  Recently our D has joined a local Lancaster 'cake club' where each month, members bake a cake to go with the chosen subject (this time it was 'sugar and spice' I think), and each time the venue is at a different place.  With quite a number of members, plenty of different cakes taken there to be sampled, leftovers can be taken home (as happened with our D).  So I cut each piece in half and ate those for my 'supper'.  Extremely good cakes, and many were very rich. Overnght have gained 3 lbs!
Will have to boil up the remaining soup and have it today for my lunch and probably supper as well as B has requested Chilli con Carne for his meal tonight, so hope I have minced beef in the freezer, to which I will add Beanfeast Mexican Chilli and a can each of chopped tomatoes and red beans.  No mince?  Then will make it anyway just using the Beanfeast plus the couple of cans.

As up early, time to give a few recipes today before I make a start to my 'kithen culinaries'.  The first being a frittata - this a type of deep omelette, but also the same as a quiche but without the pastry crust.  Unlike most 'frittata', this one is cooked in the oven, so it would also work if cooked in a pre-baked (blind) pastry case and then end up as an 'almost' quiche.
Personally I feel the cook who wrote the recipe used far too many eggs, but then the ingredients (put together) do make a thick frittata (more like a cake), intended to be cooked the day before being eaten, and - once cooked - can be stored in the fridge for up to three days to eat as a 'cut and come again'.  Cooked in a larger, shallower baking dish (or pastry crust), this could serve more people.
'Deconstructing' the recipe we see it is formed by layering the two types of potatoes with the rocket and herbs, so we could use different vegetables.  Still keeping the potatoes, but perhaps using thin slices of butternut squash (carrot or parsnip) instead of the sweet potatoes (steaming them in the same way).  We could also use include thin slices of 'sandwich' ham if we preferred something a bit more 'meaty'.
Vegetable Frittata: serves 4 or more
2 potatoes (about 1lb/450g total) peeled
same weight of orange sweet potato, peeled
10 eggs (see above)
5 fl oz (150ml) cream
3 oz (75g) Parmesan cheese, coarsely grated
3 oz (75g) Cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
handful baby rocket leaves
2 tblsp thinly sliced basil
Cut potato and sweet potato into thin (1cm) slices, then boil or steam (separately) until just tender (al dente).  Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, whisk the eggs, cream together, folding in both cheeses.  Place into a jug for easy pouring. 
Layer the potato slices in a greased, and fully lined 8" (20cm) square deep cake pan, extending paper 2"/5cm above the edges. Top potato with rocket, then cover this with the sweet potato, then the basil. Stir the egg mixture to make sure the cheese hasn't settled to the bottom, then carefully pour this over the vegetables.
Bake, uncovered, at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 45 minutes, or until browned.  Cool at room temperature, then remove from tin and cut into triangles. Can be eaten warm or cold. If cold, refrigerate and eat the following day.
To store, refrigerate until cold, then store in an airtight container, in the fridge, up to three days.

As frittatas can be eaten warm or cold, these (chilled) make perfect additions to a packed lunch. So here is another version.  Again using more eggs than I would expect (but less than above), as eggs provide protein then worth using this amount.  As with the above recipe, these mini-frittatas will keep well in an airtight container, in the fridge, for up to three days.
These take less cooking time than the recipe above, but - if you prefer - make one large frittata and cook it for longer - until the filling has set.
Mini Pea Frittatas:  makes 8
6 eggs
5 fl oz (150ml) cream
2 oz (50g) grated Cheddar or other hard cheese
2 tblsp chopped fresh chives
2 tblsp chopped fresh mint or basil
3 oz (75g) frozen peas
Whisk eggs and cream together, then stir in the herbs and HALF of the peas.  Pour this mixture into 8 lightly greased holes of a muffin tin.
Bake at 170C, 325F, gas 3 for 15 minutes, then sprinkle the remaining peas over each mini-frittata, and continue baking for a further 15 minutes or until the egg is just set.  Leave in tin to stand for 5 minutes before turning out.  Can be eaten warm or cold. If cold chill and eat the following day..
To store: refrigerate until cold, then store in an airtight container, in the fridge, for up to three days.

And yet another frittata.  Works the same as above.  Make the day before when intending to be eaten cold, and this will also keep well in an airtight container, in the fridge, for up to three days.
The more variations given, the easier it is to 'mix and match' the fillings, so we could make these with a variety of different 'left-overs'.  As ever - always up to the cook as to use up/make the best of  what she/he has.
Ham, Cheese, and Baked Potato Frittata: serves 4
4 potatoes (approx 2 lb/800g)
4 eggs, lightly beaten
4 oz (100g) finely chopped ham (scraps?)
1 large tomato (5 oz/150g) finely chopped
2 spring onions, finely sliced
1 tblsp finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
4 oz (100g) Cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
Grate the potatoes coarsley and place on a clean tea-towel, twist towel to squeeze out as much excess water from the potatoes as possible, then tip the 'grating's into a bowl, then add the eggs, ham, tomato, onion, parsley and HALF the cheese.  Mix well until combined then spread this into a lightly greased shallow 1.5ltr ovenproof dish.  Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top, then bake, uncovered, for about 40 minutes until browned.  Cool to room temperature.  Cut into squares.  Can be eaten warm, or refrigerate until cold to eat the following day.  Store as above recipes.

When using as many eggs as in above recipes, I'd be inclined to try to save one or two eggs whites, making up the shortfall with milk if necessary.  Egg whites freeze well, so can be saved/frozen one a at a time, then thawed to use in a 'useful' recipe such as this next.  Because these contain no wheat, they are gluten-free.  Although can be made round or oblong, traditionally these are baked 'cresent-shaped'.  Not as crisp as our UK traditional 'biscuits', suppose they could be called 'cookies'.
Greek Almond Biscuits: makes 25
13 oz (375g) ground almonds
8 oz (225g) caster sugar
3 - 4 drops almond essence
3 egg whites, lightly beaten
3 oz (75g) flaked almonds
Put the ground almonds, sugar, and essence into a bowl, and add egg whites, stirring until mixture forms a firm paste.
Put the flaked almonds into a shallow dish, then take level tablespoons of the almond mixture and drop this into the flaked almonds, rolling it into 3"/8cm 'logs'.  When all are done, press any remaining almonds onto the tops of the 'logs', then shape each into a crescent shape.  Place onto parchment lined baking trays and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for about 15 minutes or until lightly browned, then cool on the trays.  These can be made a week ahead of eating, and also suitable for freezing.

Thankfully, my swollen lips/cheeks yesterday did not go into 'full bloom' and subsided fairly rapidly (at least my lips) and today am left with only slightly swollen cheeks.  This is as good as being 'Botoxed' as the swelling 'irons' out those creases between nose and corner of lips that us older folk get, so I end up (for a few days) looking ten, twenty, thirty years younger.
However, the swelling has now turned to 'hives', with a red weal starting at the base of my left thumb, and slowly moving down my arm, always moving onto the whiter, softer underside of arms for some reason, never the 'outside' where the skin is coarser.  It will probably cover most of the underside of the forearm before it disappears, and always 'itchy'.  When at its worst will take a phot of that too to show the doctor.

Despite it being bloomin' cold outdoors, as I sit at my desk the sun is shining through the d.glazed patio doors t(facing south) hat are on the side wall on my left.  It is shining on my neck and my back and feels very warm and pleasant.  Almost as good as sitting outside on a warm summer's day.  Unfortuately the sun will have moved past the window in about half an hour, but in the short time it has shone in this room, it certainly warms it up.   Find that interesting as it seems that double glazing allows outside heat into a rooom (or is that only the sun's 'radiant' heat that get's in?) but doesn't let any heat back out.
The problem with our sitting room is that it faces due east.  With a bungalow and garages opposite, little protection from blasts of cold air that hit the front of our property.  All our windows are double glazed (even in the conservatory) EXCEPT the window in the sitting room, and this is a HUGE bay window.  Wide and high it does have a small radiator beneath but any heat from this does little to warm any air coming into the room, and probably most of it goes out.  We do have floor to ceiling fully lined thick curtains which make a vast difference when closed, the room gets almost instantly warmer.
Because this window is the 1920 'orginal', all the panes being leaded and some also stained glass, it would cost a lot to have it double-glazed keeping the original panes. This could be expensive, and B is not keen on spending money.

It would make sense to move our 'sitting room' into here (the dining room/study) during the winter months, except there is no central heating in this room, only a gas fire.  This could prove to end up more expensive.  So will make the best of what we have and keep fingers crossed that the weather might make a sudden change and we have a long hot summer (certainly due for one). 

Next week (Easter weekend) believe we have to put our clocks forward (we remember this by 'spring forward', 'fall' - US autumn - back).  So this time next week it will be 11.00am. not 10.00am.
At least, now we have reached and past the Spring Equinox, our days will be getting longer and our nights shorter.  Already I wake to daylight, when not so long ago dawn had not yet broken.   The more sunlight we get, the better we will all feel, especially when we can go out and bask in it. 
The few days of really warm sunlight we had last year I used to go out and sit on the garden bench (the same bench I used to sit on as a child and teenager...), and stay as long as possible (several hours) in direct sunshine, getting browner each day, and it really did make me feel good.  Must have soaked up enough Vit.D to keep me going all winter. 
Do we have to be outside to get this Vit.D?  Could my body still absorb it when sitting indoors, by the patio doors?  If so will take an easy chair there and sit there as long as the sun shines on me, then move, later in the afternoon, into the conservatory to do the same.

Think I've rambled on enough for today.  On now into the kitchen to do some more 'trials', then by midweek hope to begin writing up the hints, tip and recipes.  Intention was to get these sent to the lady before Easter (who will thenget them printed into booklet form), but think this will now have to wait until after the holiday weekend, she'd probably be busy doing something else then anyway.  A few more days won't hurt as believe it is after the new benefit alterations and reductions start, believe early April, that this will mean more people needing the services of the Foodbanks over the country.  So this means a couple of weeks before the Foodbank get extra 'clients' and the recipes (hopefully) will then be of more use.

Trouble is, many people - brought up on a diet of 'the readies' - will not be at all interested in doing anything more than opening a can and heating it up (or eating it cold).  Just one small bit of action could make the world of difference to the flavour of canned foods, but with many this could be one step too far.  Why bother when we like meatballs as they come out of the can?  Sort of thing.
Will the 'clients' even bother to read the recipe booklet?  Any hints and tips mean that some sort of thought or action needs to be used, and when not used to giving any thought (to almost anythng) any suggestion might seem more like work than giving pleasure. 
However, there will (hopefully) be some people who ARE prepared to 'have a read' and maybe find one or two ideas worth trying.  Not all people who use the Foodbank are of the 'can't cook, won't cook' brigade.  Some are able cooks but a the given moment in time, unable to buy food because of certain circumstance, so as well as following guidelines would probably make an even better effort of using the 'allocation' than I have.  Almost certainly they will still have a few oddments in their food cupboards that could be used:  oil, herbs, spice, salt, pepper, flour...maybe a few pennies in pockets (or that have slipped behind cushions on the couch) to be able to buy eggs.  

Have had to smack myself on the hand again 'cos I am still 'rambling'.  Why can't I stop?  Really must take my leave of you for today, but hope to meet up with you all again tomorrow.  TTFN.