Tuesday, April 30, 2013


After reading your comment Kathryn, it makes me think that all storage should have open shelves with no doors.  Then perhaps we'd keep things tidy and not collect so much clutter, because (here I go again!!) am reminded of a cupboard in Leeds where I kept all containers that could be reused (think this is called recycling these days), and often the cupboards were stuffed so full that each time the door was opened about 100 (empty, clean) yogurt cartons, stacked in piles would tumble on the floor and have to be re-stacked and put back into the cupboard.   In the end had to throw them away.  Well at least most of them, some were usable as small flowerpots once I'd made holes in the base.  The rest had to go.
Decided after that not to keep so many 're-usables', especially as now these can go into special bins at the tip for someone else to recycle. Unfortunately, the habit has stayed with me, and this week I've just GOT to sort out the revolving set of shelves (bottom unit in a corner), absolutely FULL of empty cottage cheese cartons, small plastic containers (and save all their lids as well), as these are very useful for storing the right amount of home-made chicken/beef stock in the freezer. 
When saving cartons now, my thoughts are with the 'club socials' when I cater for at least 40 people, and so try and save at least 40 individual sized cartons that could hold a dessert (that could be frozen).  Probably makes more sense to make one or two much larger desserts then let the committee members portion them out and serve on plates.  I always seem to want to make things difficult for myself.

The mention of listening to Radio 4 Kathryn, has reminded me that there was a talk on Radio Lancashire about the Foodbanks in this area, the Morecambe Foodbank sent me a memo re this also a radio link: www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p017bof4 and one I'd liked to have listened to myself as some of our Morecambe members were interviewed.   I did pick up the link and began to listen and the presenter (was he called Dave?) mentioned the huge rise in Foodbanks.  Problem (for me) was that the programme ran for 180 mins, and as I had been told the mention of the Morecambe Foodbank came 1hr 8mins into the programme (other areas may have been mentioned earlier) and I just didn't have time to wait that long, but wondered if Janet -who works with the Rossendale Foodbank- listened to the prog (if not, she now has the link) as there may have been a mention of hers.

Sounds as though you found my 'rule of four' worked well Rhea (welcome back).  When it comes to shopping for food, or even choosing which dish to cook (and how we cook it), as you say, it does help to focus our minds.  There is so much of our lives we tend to do more by habit, and by doing so miss so many things that could have proved more useful, or profitable and even more enjoyable. 'Going with the flow' may be easy, but what a lot we could lose because of doing this.

Checking my diary, discovered that next Monday will be a Bank Holiday, so perhaps not a good day to go to Barton Grange.  In fact three other days of that week I have 'other commitments', and also a couple more the following week, then it will be the week of the  'Indian Feast', so am thinking that today might be a good day to go to B.G. having managed to make a bit of space in the freezer (enough to hold the meat purchased) and will take it from there.  Or should I wait and try and fit it in next Tuesday? Decisions, decisions...

Still have a lot of reorganising the kitchen AND stock-taking to do.  It would make more sense to get that done, then buy the meat later.  According to my written record of what is in the freezer drawers, there is already enough meat there for the curries.  However, I have made my usual mistake of not crossing off meat that I've taken out to use, and not added other frozen foods that I bought later (although these have normally been prawns, fish and veggies).  It would probably be a better idea to put a list of contents in each drawer, so that it reminds me to cross off or write down when something is removed or added to the drawer.   At the moment the lists are kept in a small book, and half the time I've forgotten where its been put.

I have a pack of unused postcards in my stationery drawer, so could used these as drawer 'reminders'.  Come to think of it, does anyone write on and send plain postcards these days?  Other than sending holiday ones with a scenic photo on the front?

Even when postcards could be sent (perhaps by a charity or the council) these are still put into envelopes before being posted.  And these are always organisations that are always wanting more money.  Perhaps if they didn't waste the money on envelopes and just sent the postcard that could save a few hundred (even thousand) pounds.
After watching Barefoot Contessa (just for a few minutes), yesterday began to have a U-turn when she was talking about potatoes and tomatoes, pronouncing both the same way. Yet we change the US 'tomay-toes' to 'tom-ar-toes', so why not potatoes to 'pot-ar-toes'?. Sometimes our English language just doesn't make sense. 
Read some months back that the word 'gotten' (regularly used in the US, but never here, where we just say 'got') was actually used in Britain for centuries and changed to the shorter version sometime after the Pilgrim Fathers settled in America.  It could be many of the American pronunciations and words (so different now to ours) WERE ours once upon a time, and it is us who changed them. 

There was a letter in the paper yesterday about the letter 'H' (correctly pronounced 'aitch'). Apparently, many times when giving her postcode over the phone, the operator read it back as 'haitch', and the grumble was this was not corrected at school when spoken incorrectly.
Have to say this is purely a regional difference because in Yorkshire everyone seemed to sound the 'h' when spelling it as a letter, and myself find I too dislike the way some TV presenters keep adding a 'k' at the end of a word ending in 'ing' (saying 'somethink', 'anythink', etc.) not sure but this might be regional to Essex?  But it's not really bad grammar, or even bad 'English', it's just a regional difference.
The days (as in my youth) when everyone on the radio, TV etc, had to speak the 'King's English (as it was in those days), are now long gone.  There are so many 'voice-overs' today that are practically all regional, especially favoured are those from the North-East, the 'Geordies' (quite like these myself).  The majority of our main news presenters are still fairly 'accent-free', but in chat shows it is now very common to hear Welsh, Scottish and Irish accents (some of these probably regional in their own areas) as well as from all areas of England, and all the lovelier because of it. 

Probably did believe that Daisy was your daughter Mandy, but this makes no difference to her diet other than being her grandmother you will probably be more aware than many young mothers of today how to make baby foods at home, and also cope with the problem of a child being lactose intolerant, so bless you for being there to help.
Having had a grandson living with us for a few years (previous to that he used to pop in almost daily after school, had meals with us etc), really do miss having 'youngsters' around, and being able to bring up a grandchild, even for a short time, can be a joy.  Somehow it seems easier the second time around.  Probably due to previously learnt experience (which we often discovered a bit too late for it to be of much use).

Although cost-cutting recipes are always useful, often it is the hints and tips that can help us save a few extra pennies and also help to use up 'left-overs' and odds and ends of packets that others might normally throw away.  Even the strangest things can often be given a second use.  So here are some suggestions...

1) Instead of using egg and breadcrumbs when coating chicken joints, instead use a packet stuffing mix.

2) Save the fluff from the filter of your tumble-drier.  This is useful for stuffing soft toys, pincushions etc.

3) When cooking potatoes in a saucepan of boiling water, heat baked beans or frozen peas at the same time by putting on a place and using this as a pan lid.  Cover the beans/peas with foil and these heat through as the potatoes are being cooked.  Also a good way to heat plates prior to serving a hot meal.

4) Keep cut parsley and other herbs fresh for up to two weeks by first rinsing them , then placing them in a strong polythene (freezer) bag, blow it up like a balloon, then seal tightly and keep in the fridge.

5) Use sleeping bags (ones with all-round zips) to make an extra duvet by laying one on top of the other and zipping together.

6) Store single sleeping bags in colourful pillowcases (made by stitching together one strong new tea-towel (the type with a picture on it), and the same size piece of old white sheeting, to make a 'pillowcase'.  When folded, a single sleeping bag will fit into this to make a plump pillow that can be used on the bed or as a floor cushion throughout the rest of the year when the sleeping bag will not be used. 

7) Use cheese sauce powder/mix to flavour scone mixes as this saves grating the more expensive cheese.  

8) Blitz up some dried onions and fold the onion powder into yogurt or cream cheese to make an onion flavoured 'dip', also add the onion powder to sauces, savoury scones etc. when you wish for an onion flavour.

Everyone has a favourite tip or three, so why don't we share some of them.  Please send any that you think really will save time, money (and hopefully both).
With that thought will leave you for today as am hoping to get the rest of my above-mentioned 'chores' done today.  However, with it showing signs of it being a glorious day, might decide to go to B.G. after all.  Even I don't know yet what will happen today, I'll just have to wait to find out, and you will hear all about it tomorrow.  Hope to see you then. Enjoy your day.

Monday, April 29, 2013


Having realised there is not enough room in the freezers to store bulk purchases of meat, decided against going to Barton Grange today.  So here am I back with you.  Not that I'll be staying long as I've talked myself into sorting out as much kitchen clutter as I can, packing what is rarely used in one wicker picnic basket (that will fit under a shelf in the conservatory), and also writing a list of what is in the basket (and any where else I put things for 'storage') so that I can find them easily. 
Yesterday hunted for at least 30 minutes to try and find my little plastic mould/cutter that would form pasties when covered with pastry and filling (then folded over to seal).  Could I find them? NO!  Must have sent them to the charity shop when we moved as thought I'd never need them again.  Silly me.

Anyway, was able to make over 20 small 'pasties' (same filling as the samosas) using extremely thinly rolled puff pastry, then cutting this with my largest scone cutter.  Filled and folded over, the edges sealed by pressing in a fork, they were quick and easy to do and looked very good.  Who needs a plastic mould I told myself. 
Trouble is, these half-moon 'samosas' have also taken up room in the freezer, so today will be doing yet another 'stock-take' of my frozen foods, and repacking to gain more space.   I've already taken out three packs of minced meat.  Am hoping it is minced lamb but it could be beef.  My fault for not marking the bag.  If I find a bag of minced lamb in the freezer, then I know this will be beef.  The idea is to use this mince to make either spicy beef meatballs (to serve in a curry sauce) or lamb koftas (ditto), but first need to know which meat it is before I use the right spices for flavouring.

This morning have already managed to clear a shelf in the conservatory where I'll now put some of my larger 'appliances' that are not often used (ice-cream maker etc).  This will then give me more shelf-space in the kitchen for pots/pans and whatever that ARE used frequently. 
However messy I am around the rest of our home, the kitchen is one place that I need to be really well organised, and why I miss my Leeds kitchen where everything had a place, and so I could find what I needed in the blink of an eye.  Here I'm lucky if I know where most things are.

I've already washed a load of laundry, some of that is now out to dry, the rest on the airer once I've finished this.  Then must begin my 'stock-taking' that will include the provisions in the larder (if sorting one lot of food, might as well do it all).  That's my day taken care of.

Just time for me to reply to comments, and quite a few so thank you all for those.
Myself used to also get frustrated buttercup, when people just wouldn't seem to understand that to save money on food, there has to be a different mindset.  Many folk just don't want to give up their former 'good life', and can't seem to realise that if they put a bit more thought into they way they shop, and so a bit (or a lot) more home-cooking, they can still eat very well (often better) and spend less than they used to.

Politicians have sometimes been asked to spend a week living on the breadline just to see how they can cope, but have yet to hear of any that have done this.  There was a series some time back where a few politicians went to live with the less well-off, and they did realise it was harder work than they were used to, but it didn't really get down to real hardship.

For a year or two I used to teach at night school, subject obviously cost-cutting cookery, and it was there I found a different approach to shopping really worked.  The (adult) students returned the following week thrilled to bits about how much more they had been able to buy with their money.
How this worked was because of a challenge I set them.  This I call my 'rule of four', the advantage being that each person could buy what they wished (not what I suggested), but at the same time being far more aware of what was on sale and for what price.

If any reader would like to try this with their next shop, then please write back and let us know if it works for them.
All we have to do is write out our shopping list, dividing it into four sections.  One for meat/fish to be purchased, the next for dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese, eggs...), third for fruit/vegetables, and the last category is for 'groceries' (the dry goods).
Then divide the food budget into four, each quarter to go on one of the above categories.  For example, if we have £40 to spend, then we cannot spend more than £10 on meat/fish, or on dairy, or on fruit/veg etc.  The aim is to spend less, quite a lot less in some instances (we are unlikely to spend £10 on dairy, and probably not on fruit/veg either.  Any surplus money could go towards the 'groceries' (these always being purchased after the above have been), but not necessarily.

It is surprising how much meat/fish can be bought for £10 - once we begin to check both prices and what is on offer.  Myself, quite recently, bought a huge pack of chicken drumsticks and thighs for just £2.50, and not every main meal during the week has to contain meat.  Better to alternate with vegetarian.   A tray of 15 eggs for £1.34 (9p each) won't dent the budget too much, but certaibly provide plenty of protein.

My students, all who tried the above, had discovered that they were able to buy MORE than expected within their mini-budgets, and thoroughly enjoyed their 'hunter-gathering'.  All discovered also that they didn't need to spend the full amount of money they had set themselves,  each then ending up with 'savings', whereas when previously 'shopping for the week' they had almost always overspent.

To make cost-cutting enjoyable, we have to make it fun to do. This is something I've always tried to make happen, otherwise we just wouldn't want to continue.   Perhaps I'm a bit small-minded, but have to say even finding ways to make that 25p increase in pension 'work for me', I'm finding it to be a fun thing to do.

Had to smile Janet when I read your comment, I've got 'The Pauper's Cookbook' right at the side of me as I write.  There are some very good recipes and suggestions in the book, although some of them would be expensive by today's standards due to ingredients used.  What was cheap then is not so now.

Have not come across 'A Girl Called Jack', and thanks also to Les for the website details.  I will try to find time to take a look.  I've also been sent details of a radio prog where the Morecambe Foodbank was discussed in length, still have to log onto that.  Don't know why I don't read other blogs/links, probably because the time I spend writing my blog (often up to five hours at a time - yes, it can sometimes take that long) is about as long as I wish to spend in front of the comp.  Unlike younger folk who seem to use their comps continually reading Facebook, Twitter, playing computer games...) I have no interest in any of these 'extras'.  Rarely use the Internet for fact finding.  Perhaps I feel I don't need to learn anything 'new', what I already know (from books) is enough to get me through the rest of my life.

Glad you feel Margie, that the TV progs in America are noisier than most.  Are they also in Canada? 
A welcome to grammyscraps who also feels much the same about yelling cooks, and points out that even here in the UK we have one very noisy one - Gordon Ramsay!  But only when he has people to shout out, and then his programmes are less about learning how to cook, but how kitchen are 'noisily' run.  Most professional chefs tend to shout a lot at their staff, mainly to make sure they are being listened to, but Gordon with the 'f' word alternating with every other, had just about written himself off our screens, and probably why now many of his programmes are American based where they seem to like his noisy approach (not sure whether he is allowed to swear in the US).
When Gordon Ramsay has done a programme showing viewers how to cook, he is on his own and as quiet as any other UK cook, and these have taught me a lot.  It is then I quite like him.  His other programmes I've stopped watching (as most other UK viewers). 

Do feel that in the US noise HAS to become part of many programmes.  There was one, not so long ago, shown on the Food Network in the 'Cup-cake Wars' series, but this time the competitors were British.  Well, only two flew over from Britain, the other two were originally British but who had moved to America some many years before (and it sadly showed).
As the competitors made their cup-cakes and things went wrong, the 'true' Brits would just shake their head and start again, and the presenter went up to them and told them to make 'more noise about it, as that's what the viewers want'.  The two ladies who were originally from Britain made a better job of the shrieks and squeals, and I could feel the embarrassment of the other two who felt it was all too over the top and although they tried, they never got much further than a quiet 'Oh, dear, look what's happened'.

During most (maybe all) the episodes from the 'Great British Bake-off' series, there have been major mishaps.  But do we hear the competitors do more than quietly mutter under their breath? Of course not, they just pick up the pieces then start all over again.  Heaven help what the noise would be like if this series was set in America.  Enough to put me off cooking altogether.

You mentioned hopefully finding time to start my blog from the beginning grannyscraps, and although there are earlier recipes, because blogger restricts my (monthly) space, I've had to remove most of the 'chat' from each of these so at least the recipes can return.  It's been over a year since I did the editing, so it could be that since then only a few blogs each month are to be seen.  These have been 'saved', but will only reappear if I edit out a lot of the 'surplus' writing.  Will try to find time to do this.

Thanks Kate for your comment re additives and preservatives possibly the cause of allergies (facial swelling, itching etc).  Have myself believed this could be the cause of mine, but then even when eating nothing but home-prepared food (even bread, or for that matter leaving out all carbos for a month), it still happens, and always with regularity.
The other day read how someone had had similar problems because of the medication she had been  prescribed, so it just might be the 'cocktail' of pills I have to take each day that could have started my immune system back-firing, as the allergy only began a very few weeks after I'd been prescribed all these pills (some six years ago now).  Am hoping, when I see my doctor next week, that he'll reduce some of my pills to see if there is any effect.  It should take only a couple of months to find out if one or more are the cause of the problem.

With a massive amount of 'work' waiting for me to do, will wend my way back into the kitchen and start getting on with it.  At times like this it feels as though I'm running a catering establishment rather than a home kitchen.  But perhaps the 'professional' approach to cooking is the best way to go, at least we then become more careful of how we spend our money (as happens in any business). 
Maybe if we stop thinking of ourselves as 'amateur' cooks (I've known professionally taught cooks far worse than any of us), and begin to believe in ourselves, then we will begin to approach all aspects of the 'culinaries' (shopping, storing, budgeting, costing) more efficiently.  When do it (not as often as I should) it certainly works for me. 

The weather is clearing up a bit with some blue sky showing, but still very breezy and not very warm.  Haven't time to go and sit out in the sun, so am quite pleased we are not having the end-of-April heatwave that we have been having the last six or so years (only last year it was at the end of March).  Believe me, when it does turn hot and sunny, I'll be sitting in the garden ALL day.

Will be back again with you tomorrow, so hope you can join me.  See you then.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Wider Picture

Missed hearing/seeing the bit about feeding on £1 a day (BBC) buttercup, wish I heard what they had to say.  As with many comments sent in, practically everyone brings thoughts back into my mind, and yours was no exception.  The problem is with a prog. like the above mentioned, when concerned with 'low costs' is they never take the wider picture into consideration.  We all know that £1 is not very much money at all - when taken as a starting point, but those of us who shop weekly (or better still once a month), then find their purchases go a lot further.  Having to shop daily with only a £1 in our pockets wouldn't buy much at all (where could we buy one egg, or 4 slices of bread for instance?), but having £7 to spend over a week, or £30 for the month, THEN our meal/s would become much more satisfying and nutritional.

It is perfectly possible to feed ourselves - a least 'nutritionally' - on £1 a day as long as we can work initially with a larger budget so parts of packs could be used.  Porridge is one of the cheapest breakfasts we can make (esp. when made the Scottish way with water, not milk).

It's a bit like that 25p extra per week that I now get reaching the ripe old age of not saying (you all know anyway).  On its own, worth virtually nothing, but over a month - well, that's at least a £1, over a year exactly £13.  You, I, and all readers could buy/make something worth having with that!

Good idea about practising piping icing using mashed potato buttercup, especially on the top of Cottage/Shepherd's Pies etc.  When working as 'food stylist' at a photographers, I used to colour mashed potato to make it resemble ice-cream (real ice-cream would melt under the studio lights), but could only do this when it was the glasses or bowls that were being advertised.  Had it been the ice-cream itself being the 'ad', then real ice-cream would have had to be used.  However, it was possible to use the potato substitute initially, so the photographer could work out the best arrangement and lighting (and believe me that can take up to an hour!!), THEN remove the containers holding the potato and replace (in EXACTLY the same place) the same, but this time containing the real thing.

There was one time I had to 'food style' the contents of a Christmas Hamper, in as many different ways as possible.  There had to be no imitations, so many foods had to be used more than once.  I remember making a trifle in a large bowl (photographed), then 'deconstructing it' by carefully removing the glace cherries, cream, custard, jelly etc, and then 'reconstructing' in a different way in individual 'Knickerbocker Glory' glasses.  Am sure there must have been other ways I served it as well as by the end of the week, I discovered on one dish the cream had begun to grow blobs of mould (but easily removed).  I had to stick a big notice on the fridge "Do NOT eat any food in here".  Didn't stop one of the photographer's assistants though as I discovered he had helped himself to an individual trifle well past it's 'eat-by' date.  Thankfully, his digestion seemed to cope with it, mould and all.

I blame Ina (Barefoot Contessa), for my mix-up between 'mescalin' and 'mesclun', Mimsys.  It's her pronunciation that is so different to how we - in the UK - would say things.  Shouldn't find it irritating I know, but when she keeps saying 'Bay-sil' (where we would say 'bazil') I feel like throwing ping-pong balls at the TV screen.  Am sure the US public find the way we Brits speak, just as strange. 

This morning, watched a bit of the Food Network as it normally deals with cake decoration at that time of day.  Gave 'Cup-cake Wars' a miss (a waste of time if you ask me), but did have another ping-pong throwing hour when I watched 'Staten Island Cakes'.  Goodness me, that has to be 'staged', I cannot believe that family really yell at each other quite so much.  But then, they are Italians, and this culture does tend to shout a  bit.  The cake-shop owner's mother looks young enough to be his sister, (she is a look-alike of that Nancy d'olive oil who was in 'Strictly...').

When you come to think of it, in many of the Food Network progs, if there is more than one cook working together, they do a lot of shouting.  Also a lot of 'accidents' are also happening, all giving me the feeling this is 'staged'. Is this the sort of thing Americans enjoy watching?  In films they seem to have to fire off about 10 bullets where as in the UK film we shoot only once (perhaps our aim is better), and those motorcars racing each other...!!! Somehow it all seems to be about making as much noise as possible, and half the time watching these films (I try not to), my hand is on the remote turning down the sound.

Thankfully, cannot recall any cookery prog of ours having 'voices raised', and rarely in our films is there too much noise, even in war films where there would be more explosives than in normal life. But then perhaps not surprising other nations feel we are - as a people - a bit 'cold' and 'distant'. Really we are not, we just don't make such a song and dance about things that the more hot-blooded nations do.  
Maybe heat has something to do with it.  Certainly the Mediterranean folk are inclined to be more 'in your face', and lovely because of it.  Their culture carries on when they move to other countries, and America has a lot of Italians there (many of them TV cooks).  In the light of that, perhaps not surprising that English cook's progs. are not so popular in the US.  We should raise the bar a bit higher, and if we start making progs in the UK like 'Bitchin Kitchen' then firmly believe a lot of our youngsters would soon be wanting to begin cooking.

Today I'm going to try and keep away from the Food Network as it's mainly repeats, with the Anna Olsen prog being the one where I'm likely to learn something new.  But then having said that, if I enjoy watching the US cookery shows so much, they can't be THAT bad, can they?  It's just me having a moan again.  Sorreee!

Yesterday managed to make approx 20 samosas.  Forgot how fiddly they are to do, the filo pastry not being easy to handle as it tears easily.   Have taken another pack of filo out of the freezer to thaw and will make more samosas today using that, and as I'm also thawing out a pack of puff pastry (some of this to make a meat pie for B's supper), will roll some out thinly to use to make more samosas (it's nearly as good as filo).  I've also a pack of short-pastry in the fridge, so might make some tiny 'pasties' filled with the samosa filling as I have a little plastic mould/cutter perfect for making these.  Could also make 'rolls' (like spring rolls), using the same filling.  A big platter of assorted shapes could look more interesting, just as long as people don't think they should take one of each.  Will make my mind up as the day goes on.

Tomorrow it was my intention to go to Barton Grange to bulk by the beef/chicken for the curries. If we do go, then I won't be writing my blog as we need to leave just after 9.00am.  It could be I get up early enough to give me time to reply to any comments, so that again will be 'wait and see'. 
But, in any case, much depends upon whether I can make space in the freezers to hold the meat until ready to cook (even if I cook the curries first, these still have to be frozen), for the samosas are already taking up freezer space.   Every time it's the same.  I don't think it through early enough, and forget to consider the wider picture.

My Beloved used to get very annoyed with me when I used to consider what might happen 'if'. He always feels it is never worth thinking about things like that, because they probably never will occur. But then - perhaps because I'm a woman/mother, am programmed that way, always alert as to what problems might arise, and just be prepared in case they do.

Yet, now seem not to be able to first think things through (at least when it comes to the culinary, with a shortage of space in our kitchen to store things, but I still keep wanting to buy more.  And often do.  There must be a way I can sort myself out. Perhaps store more less-used things in baskets that can be stowed away under shelves in the conservatory (that makes sense), and using up food in the larder that has been there for (say) at LEAST a year (and not replacing it).

Yes, I could do the above, but it would take time, and as now I am into 'Indian mode', time is something I don't have (or at least tell myself I haven't - perhaps less TV and more chores is what should be my priority).  Methinks time for me to take myself in hand again, start talking (out loud) to myself, and do a bit more role-play.  Good idea, will start now.

Only one 'foodie suggestion' today as I've talked myself into moving into the kitchen at the rate of knots.  This one has come to mind because of our recent 'chat' re 'lactose intolerant', and what we should try to do is not dismiss any recipes that are published for the various dietary problems that many people have.  If they can eat (and enjoy them), then so can everyone else. 
How many of us carnivores turn the page when they see a vegan recipe?  Best most of us do. You see what I'm getting at?  Whatever is suitable for maybe only a few, will still be suitable for almost the rest of us.  I say almost, as the one suggestion given today I'm afraid won't suit those who have nut allergies.  But it could be useful to the rest of us?

As an alternative to milk or cream, make this 'milk' using almonds.  Something similar can be made using fresh or dessicated coconut.  Use in place of milk or cream when making ice-cream and desserts etc. If you have only a coarse mesh sieve, line this first with cheesecloth/muslin.  No need to discard any of the shreds left in the sieve, you can add these to a curry, or to a cake mix etc.
Almond milk:
750ml water
160g blanched almonds
icing sugar to taste
Put water and almonds into a blender and whizz until very smooth.  Pour into a fine-mesh sieve that is standing over a jug or bowl, pressing the last of the liquid through.  Sweeten liquid to taste, then transfer to a sterilised bottle or container. Cover and keep in the fridge where it will keep well for up to 3 days.

A miserable cold, wet and windy day today, and spending a few hours working in the kitchen (warmer than the sitting room) seems very appealing, so off I will now trot. 
Whatever your weather, do hope you will have a good day and join me again tomorrow (or it may be Tuesday before I resume my 'blog' if we go to Barton Grange on Monday, but hope I'll be up early enough to at least reply to comments, it doesn't feel write to miss a day.  TTFN.



Saturday, April 27, 2013

If Only I Was Younger...!

If it wasn't that I love the countryside, traditions, and heritage of the UK, and I was 50 years younger, I'd seriously think of emigrating to either Oz, or Canada.  Am very taken with the Maori culture but with the possibility of earthquakes in New Zealand think I'd prefer to settle on more stable ground where the weather is probably also as expected.  Yesterday, early evening we had a fall of snow, and that's here in Morecambe, "where snow never falls!"  What was worse, I even missed seeing it fall as by then we had drawn the curtains, B only discovered it when he opened the back door at 9.00pm to drive off to his 'social'.

But it's not so much the weather that is making me wish I lived elsewhere, it is the direction our country seems to be moving as a nation.  On the (local) news yesterday heard that Booths' (a very reputable and regional supermarket) had withdrawn packets of nuts from its shelves as the packaging did not contain the words "may contain nuts".  This seems to point to us becoming a nation of morons.

An almost full page in the newspaper yesterday about a woman (I won't even call her a 'lady') who hurt her back when at her place of work and was suing the company for £1m.  Seems she had dropped an ear-ring on the floor and it rolled under a display unit and she couldn't reach it, so tried to move the heavy unit herself so she could retrieve the ear-ring and by doing so, hurt her back.  Apparently she believes that it was their fault for having such heavy units, and not her fault for not asking some-else to move it for her (or hook out the piece of jewellery with a stick or something).  The trial will be in November, and as B says, "even if she doesn't win, it's all money for the lawyers".  Which is true.   It was then I said to B, "she hasn't a cat's hell in winning, and if she does, then I'm emigrating"!  Thing is that now even a burglar can claim compensation from the owner of the house if he's been hurt when there, either accidentally or hit by the owner.

I see there is a new ad on TV now about claiming against 'accidents'.  We are used to thr ads that urge us to contact them if we have slipped, fallen, done anything to hurt ourselves when out and about, but this one is to do with just medical claims.  It doesn't seem to matter how long in the past but we can now claim if we feel we have had bad treatment from a doctor, dentist, optician, chiropodist, or whoever.  Believe me, there are several things that have happened to me that might well be good cause to complain, and - let us say - if it turns out that my cocktail of medication is causing my allergy, then would I be able to get compensation for that?  Not that I would claim anyway.  But some people might.

There is another ad for (I think) Colgate toothpaste that makes me cringe each time I see it.  On the final shot the word 'their' is spelt 'thier'.  The first time I saw the ad the word stood out like a sore thumb, and now the last few seconds seems to have been reduced to 'no time at all left to read it' so possibly the mistake has been noticed, but too expensive to have the ad changed, so just hope no-one will notice. But I still do.

While in the kitchen yesterday put on the radio (am I glad I bought that, it really does help to keep me company), Radio 4 as usual, and they were discussing the rise (and fall) of the US cupcakes.  Apparently there are now so many cupcake outlets in American that these cakes have become less popular than formerly, and probably also because the price is so high.  £2 a cup-cake was mentioned (surely they meant 2 dollars - unless the currency was converted to UK pounds), with £5 a cake for the more 'gourmet' style. 
However, over in the UK cup-cakes (US style with as much whipped topping as there is cake beneath)  are now also becoming popular, but not I believe quite as expensive or high with the topping as they are not easy to eat in the hand.   An American lady said the best way to eat the US cup-cakes was with a fork, but she preferred to often they slice the bottom off the cup-cakes, place this on the top and eat it like a sandwich.  The mind boggles.

When watching part of 'DC Cupcakes' the other morning (one I hadn't seen before but didn't have time to watch it to the end), the sisters were complaining they didn't now have time to ice all the cupcakes themselves, each cake being iced with their 'signature swirl' before any decoration was put on top.  Do me a favour, all it was was a 'swirl of icing, nothing clever about that and I doubt any customer would even notice the shape once the 'pretties'  had been laid on.or pushed into it.
However, several minutes of the programme was taken over by showing how three of their  'interns' (thought interns worked only in hospitals, but apparently not) being shown how to pipe the 'signature swirl', and two making a mess of it (although to me their swirls looked pretty perfect).  One did manage to do it 'correctly' after icing only three or four cakes (goodness me, how clever was that?) so was allowed to take over some of the icing from then which would allow the sisters to go out and drag up more trade (in order to make more TV programmes presumably).

My final 'Saturday moan' is very 'of this moment'.  I switched on the comp this morning, went to my email 'inbox' and a lot of fresh mail came in (some of which were your comments), then a box came up saying there was a fault.  I clicked that box off, and clicked on the 'incoming mail' to see what would happen, and then a lot more mail came in, but it was the same mail as before, everything had been put up twice.  I checked everything just to make sure as some people do write twice, but on a different subject, this time, however, mail was just duplicated.  Not really a problem, would rather have a lot of emails than none.

Watched a bit of the Barefoot Contessa yesterday, she does serve big helpings just for herself and her Geoffrey (or is it Jeffrey?).  Can't remember much of what she was cooking, but did see her serve something on a bed of 'arugula', which one reader told me was what we call 'rocket', but the arugula the B.C. used seemed nothing like rocket, to me it looked exactly like Corn Salad, sometimes called Lamb's Lettuce.  She also used salad leaves that she called 'Mescalin' (not sure if that is the name she used, but something similar), and that was what we call 'mixed salad leaves'.

And yes, have to admit, watched 'Bitchin' Kitchen' again last night.  It really is the strangest cookery programme I've ever seen, but do enjoy seeing the 'action'.  The girl (Nadia somebody) grows on me, and now I'm even eagerly waiting to see one of her three male 'helpers', the one called Hans!!!  What is cooked is of little importance.  The presentation is just so 'different'.

Being in the UK, we have to stick to tried, tested, and sometimes boring cookery progs, and although could be worse, it was the Hairy Bikers, and Masterchef that also caught my eye yesterday.  The H.Bs. talked about (and made some) food eaten at meals that celebrated a certain religion. Unfortunately I was only able to watch half the prog. as B wanted to watch Corrie.  B remembered how, each year, I used to  save one of my home-made Hot Cross Buns, and eventually had a big basket full of them (we lived in Leeds 40 years and I think there was a bun for at least 30 of them).  Although they dried very hard, none went mouldy.  The legend goes that these have curative properties and can help heal certain illnesses, but never put them to the test.

The H.B's began by showing a traditional festive feast made by an Ethopian lady, celebrating Christmas.  "Oh, it's a Muslim meal" said B when he joined me in front of the TV.  "Doubt, it" I replied, "seeing it's a meal celebrating the birth of Christ".   Just shows how we tend to believe that everyone from a certain area of the globe has only one faith.

 Managed to get a bit more cooking done yesterday.  B had fetched me some filo pastry from Morrison's (Tesco apparently don't sell it), so now have two packs of that in the freezer ready to make samosas.  Diced lots of carrots and onions, cooked those until tender, throwing in some frozen peas at the last minute, then drained those well ready to add some diced (this time canned) new potatoes. This mixture, when spiced, will make the filling for the samosas, and these will be completed today, frozen, ready to thaw/fry on the day.

Also made a small amount of 'kulfi'.  I say 'small amount', and if it was ordinary ice-cream it would probably be enough to serve four people, but as it is so rich, feel that one tablespoon per person would be more than enough.  The amount made gave over 14 tablespoons, and as I hadn't added the chopped pistachio nuts (too expensive to use for a 'trial'), perhaps if serving with (say) another dessert, perhaps three lots would be enough.

Kulfi is so simple to make.  It really is.  I just took one can of condensed milk, and slightly more (by weight) of double cream.  Stirred a teaspoon of Rose Syrup into the condensed milk, then whipped the double cream until beginning to thicken,  added the condensed milk and carried on whipping until it was thick.  Spooned this into a container, covered and froze it.  Put one small portion in a separate dish 'to sample'.
This morning, got the 'sample' from the freezer and there were no ice crystals in the kulfi at all.  It was very smooth, and VERY rich.  Can understand now why the kulfi served in Indian restaurants is in small portions,  I used to think they were just being mean, but now see they are being wise. 

My Indian cookbook gives a different (and possibly not so rich) recipe for 'kulfi'.  This weekend will give that a try as well to see how it turns out. 

Thanks for letting me know about the chapatis Noor,  again it surprises me how much they cost when bought ready-made, as the ingredients are only wholewheat flour, water (and maybe oil). They are almost identical to the Mexican 'tortillas' (that are made with either white wheat flour or corn meal). I will make a few chapatis this weekend, freeze some, chill some, then after a few days check, thaw, reheat and see how they turn out.  This will then give me plenty of time to decide what is the best way to deal with them/

A welcome to maman. Can understand you not wishing to buy poor quality meats/vegs for your children, and if it is possible for you to shop in a supermarket towards the end of their day, you could find some quality meats/fish/vegetables reduced in price.  Morrison's certainly do this, although appreciate the time for this shopping could be too close to the toddler's bedtime.  Myself have found that an early-morning shop also has good bargains.

Quality meat always seems to have much more flavour than the cheaper meat, and the cheapest cuts of all have the most flavour.  By cheapest cuts I don't mean 'cheap meat', just the least tender meat that needs long slow cooking.  If you have a freezer maman, then you could cook the cheaper cuts very slowly (this also makes a lovely rich meaty 'stock') and freeze in quantities that suit your purpose. 
Making meals just for one is always a bit of a chore.  I rarely cook a meal just for myself, but oddly find this no problem when cooking one meal just for my Beloved.  Perhaps we women are 'programmed' to care more for others than for ourselves. 
My friend Gill lives on her own, she loves food, so - when out with friends - is a 'lady that lunches' so often doesn't need to cook herself a proper meal for supper, but still makes herself a big pot of her favourite chilli-con-carne that she freezes in individual portions to reheat when she feels like eating a 'proper meal' when at home.

Myself have begun to do something similar.  I bulk-cook minced beef with onions, then pack this away in individual containers to freeze.  Can then - using this meat (with other ingredients) - make myself (or B) a chilli con carne, spag bol, or cottage pie, in less than 10 minutes.

Maybe it is the time it takes that puts off some people cooking for themselves.  Certainly this seems the case with me.  I'd rather make myself a 'cuppa soup' than make a soup from scratch, although sometimes do make a big pan of vegetable soup with home-made chicken stock, then chill the surplus (or freeze it), and keep eating it.  It is nice.

There are some ingredients that will cook quite rapidly, so when wanting to make myself a hot meal I would choose to use 'quick-cook' pasta (takes about 4 - 5 minutes to cook), and also pre-soak rice for several hours in cold water (1 measure rice to 1.5 measures water), then bring it to the boil where it should be tender in about 4 - 5 minutes. 

Stir-fried vegetables (maybe with cooked meat added) take very little time to cook once the veggies have been prepared, and Tesco's 11p packs of 'chicken flavoured' Chinese noodles take only a couple of minutes to heat through and add to the dish.  

Another dish I'm likely to 'cook' for myself (mainly because it is so speedy), is the type of omelette called a 'tortilla'.  What it is is just putting some cooked and diced left-over veg (potatoes, carrots etc) a finely chopped raw onion, and some peas,  maybe diced red bell pepper.... then frying these off in a very little oil.  Pour over a couple (or three) beaten eggs (season this well with a little sale and plenty of pepper), shake the pan so the egg settles between the veg, and leave to cook on the hob until the top has almost set, finish off by popping under the grill to seal the surface, then slide onto a plate, eat and enjoy.

When the 'I can't be bothered to cook' comes over me but I still want to eat something hot, I'll either cook a jacket potato in the microwave then eat this with some baked beans or scrambled egg (or both) or pop a plateful of oven chips into the oven to cook and eat with perhaps sausages (cooked in the same oven but for a slightly longer time).

Recently (and mainly because I'm trying to avoid eating carbos - when I do I lose at least 1lb a day) I've been making myself salads.  The easy way.  Just chopping a chunk off an iceberg lettuce, then shredding this, mixing it with some chopped cucumber, tomato, banana (opt), bell-pepper (opt), and then adding a little (diluted with oil or milk) mayo or salad cream, tossing the salad in this dressing, then sprinkling over some grated cheese (a little cheese when grated goes a long way).  Tossed again, and with plenty of seasoning, every mouthful is full of flavour.  Sometimes - instead of cheese - I add a tin of (drained and flaked) tuna.  Takes only minutes to assemble (who cares what it looks like) and a big bowlful is not that many calories, but takes time to eat, so makes a satisfying meal.

A welcome also to Shaynaby.  How olives got their black colour (squid ink) came from a reputable source (chef's book on food), but perhaps this is only one of several ways of colouring the olives. Have to say that ferrous gluco... sounds worse than the 'ink', so think I'll just enjoy eating olives 'au naturel', not that I like them much anyway.

Wish I was able to include photos on this site Pam, but until the problem is sorted, everyone will have to just wait.  It might be the sailing club put photos on their own website (they did of the 'gourmet meal' I made for them on their Casino evening, even though they did call me Sheila!).  If they do I will give the www. details for you to take a look.

Am very glad we don't have mailboxes at the end of our gardens. What happens when people live in apartments, do they have a set of communal mail-boxes at the front entrance?
At least here, in the UK, we get our mail delivered to the door, either through the letterbox or the postman rings the bell if the envelopes/packages are too large to be pushed through.
We also have our newspapers delivered - again pushed through the letterbox.  I would hate to have to go outside to pick up the cling-wrapped newspaper that some newsboy has flung onto our front lawn as seems to happen in the US.  Maybe it makes more sense in the US as most homes seem to have unfenced front gardens, here in the UK we like to have visible 'boundaries', either brick walls, solid fences, or hedges.
It saddened me when we moved here and I discovered there was no doorstep delivery of milk.  In Leeds we had a daily (well at least five days) of milk, and as well as milk the milkman would also leave me weekly deliveries of cheese, butter, eggs, cream, yogurts, even potatoes and soft drinks on days specified by me (just use to tuck a note into the top of the empty and rinsed out milk bottle as to what was required the next day).  Milk came in bottles, these always were expected to be cleaned and they were put out on the doorstep for the milkman to collect the following day, replaced by the milk etc, ordered.
My milkman used to deliver very early in the day (about 4 or 5am) left on a shady doorstep, so everything still chilled by the time I got up (5 or 6am in summer), so went straight into the fridge.
Now I have to buy the milk from the supermarket (and the rest), and although this is far cheaper than when home-delivered, I'd still like to go back to finding milk (and the rest) on my doorstep each morning. 

A slightly earlier finish today, but being Saturday (my baking day) as well as the samosas (must remember to get the pastry to room temperature before I make a start), B has requested me to make him some 'tea-cakes'.  He is fretting because the ones he buys (for himself) are not spicy enough.  So need to do some experimenting with these.  My weekend starts now!

A chill wind blows no good they say, and the wind will be chilly this weekend as the warm air moves back down to the continent.  But we Brits are made of strong stuff and am sure we will cope.  Just as long as we enjoy our 'free' time.  Not necessarily 'relaxing' time, but at least 'free' to do with it what we will.   Enjoy your day.
Gill is on yet another of her regular 'holiday's this weekend, so won't have to wait for her call before I begin my blog, so hope to be back usual time.  See you then?  Do hope so.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Currying Favour

Have to admit that role-playing, talking to myself, taking myself in hand - really seems to work. Yesterday did a lot more sorting of my larder, then moved into the bedroom to sort out my wardrobes, under-bed drawers etc.   I've even begun writing down everything I eat as then less likely to eat too much (it's amazing how much more I ate yesterday than I thought I had - but still managed to lose 1 lb!).

This morning did a bit of a U-turn with my blog.  Normally, come in here after eating breakfast, and then read my emails (these include your comments), reply to any that needs it, then switch to the other half of my comp. and write my blog.  Today, first put a load of washing in the machine, had my breakfast, took my pills, then came in here to read (and reply to) emails, then moved back into the kitchen as the washing was about to go into spin mode, and more often than not the contents are not balanced properly and the machine than rattles and almost has walk about, so I have to just about sit on it to hold it in place.  While waiting for the spin to start began to slicing and dicing carrots ready to cook for the samosa filling (together with diced potatoes, onions, peas, and added spices.  Put the diced carrots in a pan and covered them with boiling water (otherwise they would discolour) then will cook these once I've done my blog.

So - now I'm back in here again, my 'chat' today being inspired by a couple of tubs of curry powder I'd bought from Tesco, one hot, one medium.  Actually I've loads of jars of individual spices, many of them at least 3 years old, some still unopened.  Trouble is I just can't be bothered to make a curry from scratch - although I have done as the good, ready-made curry, sauces taste a load better than anything I can do. 

However, there are times when I wish to add just 'curry powder' to a meal I'm making (kedgeree for example), and I'll also be needing this powder to flavour the samosa contents (frying the powder with the onions).  So - whilst waiting for the spinner to stop, took a read of the ingredients on the side of the tubs of curry powders to see if different spices were mentioned.  And they were!

What I discovered was interesting in that with both the hot and medium curry powder, they contained the same spices, but in different amounts.  The actual percentage of each was not shown, but as these list of ingredients always show them in order, the most first, then the second, the last being the smallest amount, it is easy enough then to 'have a bit of a play' and make up our own 'curry powder'.  Something that I'll be doing with my 'old' spices before I open and use these new ones.  The b/b . date on the tubs bought yesterday is March 2015, so that gives me a couple of years before the flavour begins to deteriorate. 

The tubs were £1.10 each, but fairly good size, holding 80g, and this would perhaps be a better way to buy curry powder, especially when individual spices are not used often, because buying them separately would cost a great deal more, and once opened they should be used within 6 months (or is it weeks?) as the flavour fades rapidly.   
Anyone with spices that have lost their strength could mix them together and use as 'cat deterrant' in the garden, shaking the powder over places that neighbour's cats seem to prefer.

In one of my books, it mentioned that 15 spices could be used in a good curry, and probably why I bought as many as I did.  Then, when I bought a book of Indian curries, discovered that - with some - only a few spices are used.   This is not so with the Tesco curry powder, the 'Medium' actually did have 15 different ingredients, the 'Hot' had 13.  It was all to do with the amount of spices used with each that apparently will made a difference to the 'heat' of a curry made.

For those of you who might have a load of spices that you are not sure what to do with or how to use, here is the list of ingredients from both curry powders, in order as on the pack.  You will see how similar they are, but note also in which order they come because this can make a difference as to the 'heat. With both, coriander seed comes first, cumin second, then the order of the rest can vary.

Medium curry powder contains;
Coriander seed, cumin seed, onion, salt, chilli powder, fenugreek, garlic powder, ginger, paprika, turmeric, cinnamon, black pepper, clove, bay leaf, cardamom.

Hot curry powder contains:
Coriander seed, cumin seed, ginger, salt, fenugreek seed, garlic powder, chilli powder, cinnamon, black pepper, paprika, bay leaf, cardamom seed, caraway seed (the latter being a spice not included in the above 'medium mixture').

Wish now I'd bought the 'mild' curry powder (just for research purposes), but bet your bottom dollar it contains most of the above ingredients, but the milder ones first, and the hottest at the end of the list.

Having seen the above I'm inclined not to bother to measure too accurately, just mix the lot together to make my own 'garam masala', and use a little or a lot when it is used according to how mild or hot I wish my curries to be.  Have to admit, not the correct way, but at least it will use up my spices (even these I cannot bear to throw out).
The very best way with spices is to buy them whole and grind only when needed, as the whole spices keep their flavour for very much longer.

As ever, thanks to those who sent in comments and queries.  Yes, Cheesepare, I too thought the 'Flat Rib Broth' was made using the 'Beef Rib Trim' (but off the bone that I buy from D.R.). I see from the D.R. catalogue that they do sell the 'flat ribs' with the meat still attached, and - as with all meats - cooked on/with the bone this does give a better flavour. 
Although it seems several weeks now since I gave the recipes to the lady who was printing them out for the Foodbank, I have had no comeback at all and can only assume that they were not suitable.  So until I hear one way or the other (I might not even hear at all) will not pass on any recipes as they probably were not suitable.  Well, I did try!

Kathryn, your mention of free washing powder has taken my thoughts back to those days when we used to be able to get a lot of 'freebies'.  Some were free samples of products (often posted through the letterbox), others were 'gifts' that were given with what we bought (a plastic daffodil with a pack of washing powder), or those that could be sent for when labels were collected.   Just for collecting labels from Nescafe 'instant' coffee, I was - over the years - able to amass quite a collection of Nescafe 'freebies', a complete coffee set (coffee pot and 6 mugs), tea-towels and other things.  Not sure whether it was collecting vouchers in boxes of tea-bags, but was able to get a 'free' set of stainless steel basins (with plastic lids), a lovely tray, sets of storage jars, aprons.... and even from the milkman (if we bought a tub of cream) a cream jug and 6 drinking glasses. 
Not forgetting the Green Shield stamps that most grocers gave at the check-out counter.  Must have filled several books with these, and now cannot remember what we free gifts we chose in return, but all good quality.

What do we get these days? Not a lot.  Occasionally I do get a 'free sample' included with my Tesco order, and once or twice something like a 'much improved' tea-bag has come through the letter-box with a money-saving voucher attached.  Unfortunately all vouchers are of little use to me as these are not taken when ordering on-line.
Some many years ago we could collect all money-off vouchers, and as long a the store sold the products, we didn't have to buy them to get the money-off, this taken off the bill, or given back in cash.  I'd spend quite a bit of time cutting vouchers out of magazines, newspapers and even asking friends/neighbours for theirs if the didn't want them.  Saved me ££££s!
 Later this was changed to having to buy the product the voucher was intended for, and not much use if we normally didn't purchase it.

Sorry you are feeling a bit 'demotivated' Kathryn.  There have been many times in the past when I've felt the same, as if my life was not going anywhere.  Then, suddenly and very unexpectedly, something happens to inspire me to 'do something interesting'.  My culinary 'media work' began like that, and since then there have been several more 'highs and lows'.  After a very low patch, suddenly decided to write a blog, so that's been well worth doing.  After we moved here went through several months/years of feeling low again with nothing new on the horizon, but recently the Foodbank has given me a new interest, possibly only short-term, but now it could be the 'Clandestine Cake Club' will be my new kid on the block. 
Don't underestimate your skills Kathryn, as long as you know how to use a needle (hand or sewing machine) you would be able to compete in the next '....Sewing Bee'.  Some of the competitors in the first series really didn't seem to know what they were doing, and you sound as though you do have some experience. It's taking part that is the fun bit, who cares about winning? 
So give yourself that 'good talking to', and grab any opportunity (like the above) to widen your horizons.

A lot has been written about food colourings Noor, one of the yellow ones being responsible for causing hyper-activity in children I believe.  Many people won't use the red food colouring called 'cochineal' as the colour comes from ground up dried insects, but that's never bothered me as it is far more 'natural' than any of the synthetic colours.
Beetroot juice makes a really good red colouring when making cakes.  Not as scarlet as most food colours, more on the deep 'plum' colour, but this would be 'pink' when smaller amounts of the juice is used.
Certainly when colouring pasta, to get 'green', spinach juice is used. And for black pasta, then 'squid ink' would be the colouring.  There are no black olives grown, the colour of these comes from squid ink.  Orange zest would give a good colouring (as well as flavour), and marigold petals and the much more expensive saffron will give a yellow colouring.

You mentioned chapatis Noor, I do have whole wheat flour, and could make these easily, but to make enough for 40 - 50 people they would take time on the day, so wondering if these could be made in advance and then either kept in the fridge (or freezer) to be warmed up in the oven at the venue.   I've seen packets of chapatis for sale at the supermarket, at a very high price for just four, so obviously sensible to make my own (for just pennies).

Although curries can be made in advance (and in fact the flavour improves with keeping), samosas and dahl also, on the day will need to reheat the curries,  fry the samosas, poppadums, bhajis, cook the rice, prepare the vegetarian side dishes, also make/assemble the desserts, the less I need to do on the day the better.  So should I go for making naan bread that could be done in advance to be reheated, or the easier chapatis (but only if these can be prepared in advance).  Anyone had any experience of pre-making/re-heating these?   All hints and tips for an Indian meal appreciated.

It may seem that I've over-egged the pudding so to speak, as with the above meal there will also be dishes of Raita, lime pickle, mango chutney, and 'other things', all displayed on a table to 'help yourself'.  But the more that can be put onto a plate, the less room for the more expensive meat curries, that with the rice wouldn't look much on their own with just (say) a poppadum and a dollop of Raita on top, but with everything else, a little curry then looks a lot.  It's all to do with 'costing'.

Am planning on serving a choice of three curries (some people may wish for a helping of more than one, but let's hope not, they can always come back to try another, if there is any left!).  Am doing a Beef Madras as the hottest, a Lamb Rogan Josh as 'medium', and a Butter Chicken as the mildest of the three.  Even not not sure whether to make Lamb Koftas (meat balls), flavoured with the Rogan Josh spices, then fried, to be re-heated in the R.Josh sauce.   Or whether to buy 'stewing lamb' and cook this, with onions, in the sauce.  An easier way but more expensive than using minced lamb in the Koftas.  Again, all to do with cost as will have to kee[ within the club's budget (if I knew what that was - I asked a couple of weeks ago and so far have had no comeback).

Just one recipe today - obviously a curry, but one that I'm considering as including with the 'help-yourself' part of the meal (we will be using several hotplates to keep the foods-that-need-it warm).
Although this amount would serve 4 as a main meal, when it comes to 'buffet' servings, this should be enough to feed at least 12-16 (maybe more as only 1 tblsp per head would end up on the plate of 'mixed curries, rice and sides').
Spinach and Chickpea Curry: serves 4
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tsp grated or chopped root ginger
1 tblsp sunflower oil
2 tblsp mild curry paste
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
half a pint (300ml) water
1 x 400g chickpeas, drained
1 lb (450g) spinach, stalks removed
handful coriander leaves
Put the onion, garlic, and ginger into a processor and whizz until finely chopped (to almost a paste).
Heat the oil in a pan over high heat, then add the onion mixture and food for 4 minutes until golden (keep stirring), then add the curry paste and stir-fry for a further 2 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, water and chickpeas, then bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes. 
Meanwhile, chop the spinach leaves adding these to the pan when the 15 minutes is up, and cook until the spinach has just wilted.  Stir in the coriander and serve (with Indian bread of your choice).

What I'd probably do with the above is make the basic curry earlier in the day, then reheat at the venue, adding the prepared spinach, then it will as 'fresh' as can be.

Time waits for no man, so as I have a busy day today (it takes time to make samosas from start to freezing), will now take myself off into the kitchen, keep talking to myself to make sure I keep on track, and then at least will know that some preparation has been done.  Also want to make a trial batch of the 'kulfi' (Indian ice-cream) that appears to freeze successfully without the need of any further beating.  Will let you know the results (hopefully tomorrow).

We keep having showers, but still plenty of sunshine although the weather has turned colder again. I saw that London was 21C earlier this week, far hotter than it has been here.  The wind at the moment is coming from the north (north pole by the look of the weather map.  So will still need to keep the heating on I suppose.

One final mention before I sign off.  Yesterday had a warm feeling about Tesco when I realised how 'thoughtful' they had been packing frozen food in blue bags, chilled food in green bags etc.  Then read in the paper how someone had bought a joint of lamb from Tesco labelled 'British', then - after removing the wrappings - discovered the meat had 'New Zealand' stamped on it (more than once).  It just seems that all the supermarkets these days seem to try to 'con' us into buying something at a higher price because we believe it to be what it really isn't.
I personally, don't care whether it is N.Z or UK lamb that I buy as more inclined to go for the cheapest in price, and when you consider how expensive it must be to ship/fly meat from N.Z (or any meat from any part of the globe), then why is British meat always the most expensive?   It's nothing to do with transport costs as imported meat also has to be taken to all parts of the UK.

Hope you all have a good day, and this coming weekend at least stays dry enough to venture into the garden and start sowing/planting. Hope to meet up again for a chat tomorrow.  TTFN.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Taking Myself in Hand

One of my best ideas yet was to spend yesterday role-playing 'teacher' and talking my way through everything that needed to be done.  It actually worked!  By the end of the afternoon felt as though I'd moved a few steps up the 'professional' ladder, and might even been able to hold my own against other amateur 'chefs'. 

The day itself was interesting in that many different things seemed to needed to be done, this sometimes leading to 'multi-tasking', but as I had a notebook in my apron pocket and a pen clipped onto apron bib, then was able to jot down reminders of what to do, both when - and where.

My 'kitchen work' began with me seeing what was lying around.  Half an apple and blackberry crumble that B was working through (large enough for four portions), so divided the remained and half and froze these as having the same pud four days in a row is not really what anyone would wish for (unless of course it was ice-cream!).  Decided to make a couple of individual trifles for B using a packet jelly, some frozen raspberries, and then made up a pint of custard (using Bird's custard powder).  When the custard was cold, used half to top the trifles, leaving B to add cream on top when he was ready to eat.   The remaining custard will today be made into ice-cream with the help of more cream and fruit puree.  
To this end put the inner container of the ice-cream machine into the freezer as it needed 24 hours freezing before the ice-cream can be made. 

Around lunch time, the Tesco groceries were delivered.  I was due to order anyway, and had chosen the right week as a lot of their Indian 'things' were reduced this week, so took advantage of several as these were perfect for the Indian feast to be made/served next month.

As well as the above, I'd order the usual 'basics': milk, eggs, salads, carrots, onions... plus some baking potatoes, and a bag of 'Value Chicken Portions'.  Have to say both seemed really good value. There were 13 large potatoes in the 2kg bag, and for a normal family each would have served 2.  Basing the costs on this, each potato worked out at 17p each (or 8.5p per portion).  Interesting only if comparing the cost against another carbohydrate such as rice or pasta.   Mind you, a loaf of sliced bread (£1.50p) would work out much the same for just one slice.  Myself bought bread yesterday as reduced to £1.00, but even then, using 2 slices of bread (these then being 5p each), depending upon the chosen sandwich filling, a whole potato would work our cheaper than one sarnie, and be far more satisfying.

You'll have to excuse me for occasionally wearing my  'cost-accountant's' hat, as it continually surprises me how, when working out the cost of a food/ingredient to the smallest amount normally used, this makes me very aware of how cheap some foods are, and how easy it is to make a meal using just these.   The Hairy Bikers yesterday gave a good example when they demonstrated the traditional way of making 'broth' from mainly vegetables (and a little meat).

Returning to my grocery delivery.  As the frozen chicken portions were in a large bag, this as it stood too large to fit in my freezer drawer/shelf, opened the bag to wrap the portions in smaller bags so they would fit into the 'gaps'.  The weight of the 'Value' pack was 2.5kg, and cost £3.50p.  This was around about the price of the cheapest whole chicken on sale.  Was then very pleased to discover the bag contained 9 chicken drumsticks and 8 chicken thighs.  For one thing, these joints have a much better flavour than chicken breast, and considering how many meals could be made from these (they weren't tiny), far better value than buying a fresh (or even frozen) whole bird.

Another purchase was a gammon.  My Beloved is very fond of home-cooked ham, and we'd used up what we already had, so decided it was worth cooking another.   So yesterday evening, put the ham on to boil, then left it in the pan overnight, covered with its cooking liquid, to get quite cold.  This morning I drained it well, then wrapped it in foil and it is now resting in the fridge where tomorrow it will be sliced (on my 'leccy' slicer), giving me plenty of slices that should last several weeks (more than half the slices will be frozen).

Tesco have improved their deliveries.  At the moment the delivery charge is cheaper than it used to be (charges can vary according to the day and time, but my day/time is always the same), and yesterday the delivery man pointed out that the frozen foods are now packed in blue carrier bags, the chilled foods in green, and the rest (stores) in the ordinary white bags.  This I found so helpful, for with a number of bags on the floor waiting to be put away, I previously had to find out those that held the frozen foods/chilled foods, yesterday no need to hunt, I could see exactly where they were.

Was able to put all my stores away, sort out a bit more freezer space, freeze some sausages that I'd bought, and also prepare B's favourite supper: lamb's liver, bacon, cabbage and potatoes.  Not only that I sat down (talking to myself) and 'together' we drew up the final menu for the Indian meal. By the end of the afternoon (once supper had been served) had a feeling that the day had been a 'job well done'.

Telling you about it, to me it now looks as though I didn't do very much at all, but when you consider that on some days I don't seem to do ANYTHING, then something is better than nothing and it did seem that because I had my 'tutor' standing over me (or should that be 'in' me), followed instructions to the letter, with barely a break. 

I'm going to need my 'inner self' to keep holding my hand as this month I seem to have at least NINE things that I'll be doing away from the house.  To which I have to add the extra days spent preparing/cooking for the Indian feast.  Compared to last year when I can count on the fingers of one hand how many times I went out, nine days in one month is beginning to feel quite alarming.  But am sure I will cope.  It's all a matter of planning and list-making.  Also not thinking about what I will be doing in the near future (that's already written in my diary as a reminder), just concentrate on what is happening on each day at a time, and then completing the task on hand before starting to think about the next.

From comments sent it, seems that my recent posts have been worth reading, and think your 'lost' comment Mandy, did arrive as I had two from you in my inbox this morning.   Am pleased that you found my suggestions helpful.  You mentioned making a 'baby pudding' for your daughter, and not sure if you make each meal (savoury and sweet) 'fresh' to be served that day, or whether you make in bulk then freeze away the surplus in small amounts.   Rice pudding should freeze, so worth cooking more than you need (saves both fuel and time). 

A welcome back to druidsgarden, and your comments re soya milk could prove useful to many readers.  I didn't know that soya could do harm to men, but not surprised as have read that it is especially good for women, especially at the menopause.  No one has yet mentioned whether goat's milk can be taken by the 'lactose intolerant', but if it can be, then presumably goat's cheese could also be eaten.

Very pleased to hear that sales of sewing machines have risen Alison, since the screening of 'The Great British Sewing Bee', and nowadays these machines are so much smaller and lighter than the one I have, making them very easy to handle.   It was much the same with the '.....British Bake Off', sales of cake-making ingredients, tins, decorations etc have shot up as people have been inspired to do a lot more baking.  Probably the same thing is happening with bread, a lot more people baking their own after watching Paul Hollywood.

'Superscrimpers' seem to be doing quite a bit more when it comes to home-sewing and alterations of clothes that have been bought at charity shops.  Hadn't heard of 'Swishing Parties' (is that the name), but the idea of girls each taking their unwanted clothes to a friend's house and exchanging them sounds a very good idea.

Not sure if the 'Sewing Bee' programme would ever get to be seen in the US Pam, much depends upon whether our 'Great British Bake-off' is shown (the same production company make both).  Am not even sure whether the same 'Food Network' cookery progs are shown in the US as here.  We seem to have slight over-kill when it comes to Guy Fieri, not only do we see his 'three D's', shown back to back (four at a time) but now also his 'Guy's Big Bites' (where he cooks from his own kitchen/s (he has both indoors and outdoors kitchens).

Good that you have a husband prepared to haggle Dottiebird.  He sounds as though he has done some good deals.  I've rarely 'haggled' myself, although have done it once or twice at a car-boot sale (where it is expected), but once did manage to reduce the cost of a new car, mainly because it was the salesman who was offering me a reduced price.  This is what happened.
For my first car (bought because I'd done TV, could afford it, and needed it to travel around the country to give demos), I chose a Fiat Panda. It was about the cheapest car on sale anyway, and very economical to run.  The problem was - being a new design - the front seat were more like deckchairs.  Not very comfortable at all, and as I'd had it for 3 years (with not many miles yet on the clock, but the MOT would then start needing to be done annually, decided to change the car for a Fiat Uno (as I found this make very easy to drive), and chose one that was slightly more expensive and more comfortable.  When in the showroom I saw a Fiat Uno 'Carte Blanche' model, that had lots of extras, a sunshine roof, five gears, and other bits and bobs the other car didn't have, but it was also about £1,000 more.
Sadly, decided on the cheaper model, but when I got home, the salesman rang up to say the model I'd chosen (they had one in stock) had already been sold by their sister showroom.   So I said, don't worry, there was nothing wrong with the car I already have so I might as well keep it".  Panic from the salesman as apparently he'd already sold my car to someone else.  "Come back and let's see if we have another car you would like" was the request.
So I went back.  No car there that I wanted (other than the white Fiat Uno I craved).  To cut a long story short, the salesman sold me the white Uno, plus a year's tax disc, and a tankful of petrol for the price I would have paid for the smaller car originally ordered).  I'd saved £1,000 and got the car of my dreams (well, being a woman, size doesn't matter, what makes more sense is to own a car that is small enough to park, easy to drive, and has low petrol consumption.
As it happened, that car lasted me a good 20 years before it had (regretfully) to go to that great garage in the sky.  And how I miss it!!!

Oh jane, you don't know how much I envy you being able to 'haggle' and get that set of chef's knives for such a low price.  Even at the original 'car-boot' price, it was a great bargain.  Make sure you keep your knives well sharpened as once they go blunt it is often difficult to get them back to what they were again.  But as with any sharp knife, always keep them our of harms way and be especially careful when washing them, as it is easy enough to cut fingers when plunging hands into a bowl of suds when washing up, and discovering sharp knives are in there.
Myself keep sharp knives in a wooden knife block, and one (more expensive) has its own 'sheath' that has an inbuilt sharpener.   In Leeds used to hang several of my knives from a magnetic rack over the draining board, but no room to hang one here, the walls are tiled and the cupboards too low. 
I've more knives than have room for in the 'block', but the surplus are wrapped away and kept in a drawer.

Believe that we are not meant to throw away knives, in case they fall into the wrong hands, so can anyone tell me how I should dispose of my old knives (any sort)?

Because it's been a 'hair day' today, and now it is just past noon, will sign off and return tomorrow with (hopefully) more recipes and chat, maybe about more 'role-playing' done today.  See you then.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Inside and Outside the Box.

Yesterday evening, watching the final of 'The Great British Sewing Bee', felt that it had a worthy winner, but as she was 81 (even older than me!!), with 75 years (she said) of sewing experience behind her, this was to be expected.  However, the programme did grow on me, and by the last episode do hope it inspired many younger folk to begin taking up their needle and start making their own clothes.   The producers are asking for people to offer themselves for the new series, so do hope that at least one of my readers will have a go (how about you Kathryn?).  Nothing to lose, especially when we see how most of the other contestants have now started up either their own small businesses or are giving tuition.

Am not sure whether I'm right, but tend to believe that most people who are 'Jack of all trades, and master of none' (like myself) feel that although they can do quite a lot of different crafts etc, none are good enough to pass muster.  In today's world just about EVERYTHING 'home-crafted' is worth something, just because it is.  Of course there are people who can do a great deal better than we can, but these are usually who we consider to be at 'professionals level''.  Just because we consider ourselve 'amateurs' doesn't mean that we are lacking. 

In today's 'recession', although often we cannot earn 'real' money, we can barter our efforts, and recalling a time - must be over 30 years ago  - when I found a way to completely furnish a room by bartering my basic domestic skills, not doing anything that most of you couldn't do.  Perhaps I was lucky and things just fell into place at the right time, but it just goes to show that many of us can help out others who perhaps aren't able, or just haven't the time to do it themselves.

When it comes to bartering with someone 'in business', this can be profitable for both.  As an example, with the above 'room make-over', I was asked to make and decorate a 21st birthday cake for the daughter of a man who had recently lost his wife.  This I was happy to do, and refused any cash payment (the daughter being a friend of one of our offspring), but as the man owned (or worked in) a carpet warehouse, asked if he had a small piece of lilac coloured carpet (to fit the small room, hardly much more than a boxroom) in exchange for the cake.  The carpet would have been too expenisve for me to buy (for full price at that time), and the cake - ordered from a shop - would have cost the man more than the carpet (at his trade price) so, by 'bartering' we both saved money.
In return for helping a neighbour, in return was 'paid' with enough paint to decorate the room, and also got given a second-hand Z bed (with new mattress) as another 'barter'.  Finishing off the room with a chest-of-drawers and material for curtains and a patchwork quilt (also by bartering). 
Have to admit getting far more pleasure out of furnishing that room in that way than if I'd had the money to buy everything outright.

There is a series on BBC 1 at the moment where two professional chefs compete against each other to see how much profit they can make when they choose to make/serve their own meals at a chosen restaurant.  We are told how much the chefs are allowed to spend (like £400 for a three course meal to feed 60 people, and far too much money in my opinion), the idea then is to sell the meals in the restaurant at a high enough price to make a profit, this then going to charity.  We see the chefs going to various stores to buy their ingredients and 'haggle' to bring down the prices.  Because most of the time the ingredients are bought in bulk, the shopkeepers will give good discounts (but I wonder if they would do if the cameras were not there!).  Even then the shopkeepers themselves, still make a (smaller) profit as the price eventually charged will still be more than the wholesale price paid, so as all individually owned shops (not supermarkets) have control over the prices they charge, these are the places to go to when we wish to do any 'haggling'. 
Haggling is not something we Brits are accustomed to do, but it is done a lot abroad, especially in the Middle Eastern countries, and from what I see on TV, this is becoming something that seems to be worth doing here.  We have nothing to lose if we try a good 'haggle', and possibly a lot to gain.  Have any readers being haggling recently?  And has it worked?

They say that we are now to expect some really hot weather. 'Hotter than California' it said in yesterday's paper.  Unfortunately not in the north of Britain, mainly from the Midlands and down south.  That means we'll miss it no doubt.  Today again overcast, windy and I feel quite cold, although that's not unusual for me, it can be really warm outdoors and indoors seems to want to stay on the cool side.  The only 'room' in our home that gets most of the morning and afternoon sun is the conservatory, at the end of the kitchen, so not a lot of use to me as this is where B insists we keep our over-large dining table he bought, and therefore no room there to have a comfortable easy chair to lounge in and enjoy a cosy and warm nap.  When I wish to sit in the sun, all I have to sit on are the very uncomfortable wooden dining chairs (B bought them because he liked the look of them - and they were on offer - he has bought a lot of things just because they were 'cheaper', not because we need or even want them). 

Funny how an overcast day, wind and the threat of rain puts me in a bad mood.  It doesn't help, when sitting in the living room on a really sunny day, seeing the sun shining on the houses opposite, but not in our room.  Even worse, the sun reflects on the windows of said houses, one also has a glass globe hanging in the window and the warmth of the sun sends it moving slowly round, and both the globe and some windows reflect the sun itself and these flash into my eyes and I have to move my chair or lean sideways in my seat until the sun has moved over.  
You see, I can even moan about when the sun is shining, at least today - if the clouds stay - then I won't be bothered with reflected sun.  Something to be pleased about.  Perhaps I should be more like 'Pollyanna' and keep playing 'the glad game' (and doesn't 'glad' look a funny word when you've looked at it several times?).

Aplogies to Kate (in Oz) whose comment I did not reply to yesterday.  Only discovered it after I'd published the blog and returned to my email page.  Do hope my allergy isn't due to preservatives in food as these seem to be in most of the 'processed' foods we buy today.  Easy enough (I suppose) to make all my meals from scratch, but it does help if I can have the occasional cuppa soup, or use a jar of ready-made curry sauce etc.

Good to hear about that lady Alison, who you saw feeding her baby with mashed avocado and then banana. She has obviously the right approach when it comes to feeding her family. 
When my children were small, one of the first 'solids' (and hardly that) was the yolk of softly boiled eggs, then, as they grew older, they could dip their bread 'soldiers' into the egg yolk and feed themselves.  Some many years ago - due to that salmonella scare - we were told that young children and old folk should not eat soft-boiled eggs, but now the little red lion is stamped on eggs from salmonella-free chickens, feel that these should now be safe enough, but have still not heard that these should be eaten by the very young and very old.   Pity, as eggs have really good food value.

Appreciate you letting us know that soya cream is on sale Christopher.  That means those 'dip' recipes given yesterday can be made using that instead of yogurt/sour cream, and therefore suitable for those who are lactose intolerant.

It is difficult when entertaining friends who have a faith that prohibits eating certain foods.  When we first moved to Leeds our house was surrounded by many Jewish people, and when their children (who became friends with ours) came to a party, I had to make sure I used the correct kosher ingredients when making a buffet. 
Over time, discovered that sometimes (quite often in fact) that 'good manners' seemed more important than 'keeping the faith', so even non-kosher foods would be eaten (esp by the adults) as 'respect' for the person who made and offered them.  Myself tended to believe this was more an excuse to have what was wanted to be eaten but otherwise shouldn't have been.  In a recent book, written by a Muslim lady, she told of her devout grandmother (who used to pray 5 times a day), eating and very much enjoying bacon, because "as long as I don't think it comes from a pig, then it's alright". Bless.

Now that food has entered my mind, think it is time for me to give a few suggestions for alternative ways to serve food.  Any of you who watch 'Hairy Bikers' may have seen them make soda bread rolls, then scoop out most of the crumb and fill the centre with a chunky soup.  Not sure why they didn't make bread 'cups' by baking the bread wrapped round individual pudding basins, so the hole was already there after baking, but am sure they would have saved the surplus 'crumb', perhaps frozen it to use in other dishes (but unfortunately they didn't give that tip).

Myself went through a period of serving food in 'containers'.  I used to cut very thick slices from an uncut loaf, then - using the tip of a sharp knife - cut down into the chunk of bread, leaving about half an inch of bread-border, and half an inch base, brush this 'box' with oil then bake in the oven until light cold and fairly crispy.  Made one for each person, then filled them with a beef casserole (or something similar).  The bread would soak up an surplus gravy, so end up as part of the meal, only green veggies needed as an accompaniment.
I'd do something similar making large, but still individual Yorkshire puddings, using smaller sandwich tins to hold the batter.  When baked, the sides would have risen and be very crisp, leaving a centre that was softer (but still cooked), in which would be filled with beef casserole.  Again with chosen veggies at the side.  (Incidentally, I've been keeping those Fray Bentos meat pie tins - these pies bought for 'research purposes', and these tins are the perfect size to make individual 'Yorkies' (to be filled), and also a good size to make fruit pies to serve two or three people.  Or for that matter, make one meat pie for B).

Here is a recipe for a dessert version of a 'filled bap'.  Ideally, use the individual brioche rolls as this bread is sweeter than the ordinary ones, but readers who make their own bread could make 'brioche', or use an ordinary bread mix, but made up with milk, adding a little butter and a spoon of sugar, this then making a sweeter and moister bread that can be used for this recipe.
If you have no small brioche buns, then cut thick slices from a brioche loaf and remove the centre crumb to make a container for the fruit.
Summer Fruit-filled Brioche: serves 4
4 individual brioche buns
11 oz (300g) small ripe strawberries, halved 
2 tblsp caster sugar
4 tblsp water
4 oz (100g) raspberries
Remove the tops of the brioche, and scoop out the crumb using a teaspoon, leaving a half-inch/1cm case.  Lightly toast under the grill, turning once.  Keep watching them as these can become brown very quickly.  If you wish to keep the 'caps' to serve with the dessert, then toast these as well.
Put the strawberries in a pan with the sugar and water, then heat gently for 1 minute until the strawberries have begun to soften, but still holding their shape.  Remove pan from heat, fold in the raspberries, then leave to cool.
When ready to serve, place the brioche cases on a plate and pile the fruits into each, spooning in plenty of the juice to soak into the brioche, any left over juice can be drizzled onto the plates adding any left over fruits.  Serve immediately, with or without the brioche 'caps' resting against the side of each fruit-filled 'cup'.  Goes without saying a bowl of whipped cream should be served to 'help yourself'.

Can't remember the time when I bought a fresh pineapple, but do remember that when making a fresh fruit salad, used to halve the pineapple down its lengthy, cutting through the leafy top, leaving the leaves still on the fruit, then - after scooping out the flesh - would pile the pineapple 'container' full of assorted fruits (cut into even sized pieces) making it a very attractive presentation.  If the pineapples were fairly small, one of the half-shells, when filled would make a very good dessert for one person.

Melon shells can also be filled with not just melon balls, but mixed perhaps with orange segments, kiwi fruits etc.  Even large oranges, cut through the centre, flesh carefully removed and all the membrane, can then be filled with assorted fruits.  Again making a pretty presentation for (say) a buffet.  Hardly need serving on a plate as the orange 'cup' is easily held in one hand and the fruits speared with a cocktail stick or tiny fork held in the other hand.

When it comes to savouries, the pumpkin shells left over after Halloween make a good 'tureen' for holding pumpkin soup, and - on a very much smaller scale -, after removing most of the potato from a microwaved 'jacket' spud (use this 'mash' for another dish), these potato 'cases' can then be refilled with almost any savoury you wish (chilli con carne, spag bol meat sauce, mac 'n cheese, or just mashed potato with lots of added cheese, onion or bacon).

Many recipes keep appearing in cookery mags that show bell peppers - once the seeds/membranes have been removed - have been stuffed with a savoury filling.  Aubergines, onions, the big beef tomatoes, marrows or over-sized courgettes, once the 'innards' have been scooped out, all make good 'containers' for savoury meals (and of course these 'innards' can become part of the dish or used for another - NEVER throw them away).  So perhaps we should think not always 'outside the box', but more about what could go in 'them'.

Returning to thoughts of '.....Sewing Bee' it was a real joy to see the garments being make correctly. Have to admit that is something I rarely do - whatever it is I'm doing.  Trouble is I have little patience, and when younger would start embroidering a tray-cloth, then once one corner was done, didn't want to do the remaining three (done one corner, the others will the be boring), so would move on to embroidering another cloth.  Used to drive my mother to distraction as she usually had to finish the cloths herself.   As I grew older and made my own clothes would never quite get them finished.  I'd often not put on buttons on the band of my skirts, fastening them with a safety pin (easier). Once even sewed myself into a skirt because it was quicker than sewing in a zip.

In recent years have found the best way to do things properly is to pretend I'm teaching someone else how to do it.  This means talking to myself, out loud,  so tend to do this when I'm alone, otherwise B would think I'm losing my marbles. Come to think of it, B has for years gone around talking to himself, so perhaps he won't notice, especially as he is getting very deaf, especially in one ear (and won't do anything about that because he is too vain to want to wear a hearing aid). 

Taking my own advice, have now spoken firmly (and loudly) to myself, telling me to return to stop rambling and return to recipe writing, so will finish today with a couple of suggestions for fillings for those scooped out potato shells, mentioned above (you will need to use the cooked flesh).  Each fills the shells of 4 potatoes = 8 halves. 
If using cooked minced beef, this will shorten the time taken in the oven, and if you normally (as I do) bake your 'jacket's in the microwave (saves fuel), then no reason why - when filled - these stuffed potatoes shouldn't be reheated in the microwave oven, and (when topped with cheese) finished off under the grill.

mexicana filling: serves 4
1 large onion, chopped
1 tblsp sunflower oil
6 oz (175g) minced beef
3 tblsp tomato relish or ketchup
dash chilli sauce
salt and pepper to taste
potato flesh from skins
2 oz (50g) grated cheese
Fry the onion in the oil until browned, then stir in the minced beef and cook until browned before adding the relish, chilli sauce and seasoning. Cook briskly for 3 minutes, then mix with the potato flesh taken from the skins.  Pile back into the skins and sprinkle with grated cheese.  Place on a baking sheet and cook for 25 - 30 minutes at 180C, 350F, gas 4 till heated through and browned.

tuna filling:
3 tblsp hot milk
potato flesh from skins
salt and pepper to taste
1 x 218g can tuna, drained and flaked
2 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
Beat the milk into the potato flesh until light and fluffy.  Stir in seasoning, tuna and parsley.  Spoon into potato shells and bake as above (they may take less time to heat through).

Surprisingly the sun has suddenly begun to shine with the sky now covered by only thin clouds, but still very windy.  At least the sun has lifted my spirits, so will now return to the kitchen to get on with my 'sorting of stores' that seems a never-ending job for some reason.  Possibly because I can never finish what I started to do (yesterday, the day before, and the day before that).  Story of my life.  But then life would be pretty boring if everything got done on time, I'd be left then with time on my hands just twiddling my thumbs.  Perhaps I'm just afraid of that happening.  Ending up like a vegetable.  No - it's just my usual excuse of getting out of doing what needs to be done and that I don't really wish to do.  At least not today.  Must try harder! 

Am now going to role play, talking out loud as I do so.  See what happens then.  You never know, if you come back to 'have a read' tomorrow you might discover I've worked miracles.  It's happened before when I step out of my shoes into someone else's.  Let's hope it works today. 

Norma the Hair day tomorrow, so my blog will be published later in the morning (so what's new?). Hope to see you then.