Friday, May 31, 2013

Has Summer Arrived?

We are forecast a sunny and warm weekend, and as this morning has begun with a cloudless sky and very little breeze am hoping that I will be able to spend some time in the garden today, even if only sitting on the bench sunning myself.  Temperatures can be anything from 15C to 20C depending on the area, and although that may seem cool to some, to me it will be (hopefully) warm enough if I sit is a sheltered spot.

It would be lovely if it gets even warmer, just as long as there is little humidity in the air. 'Dry' heat I can stand, but not 'sauna' type weather. 

Believe, Margie, that Paul Hollywood's new lady-friend is his co-judge (or maybe one of the presenters) in the US 'Bake Off' series that you mentioned seeing.  Apparently there was a noticeable 'rapport' between the two, so did you pick that up?  Can't remember the girl's name - but perhaps his 'marital problems' have also been big news in the Canadian and US newspapers.  Or is it only us in the UK that feel he has behaved badly?

Was reminded yesterday, when watching Alan Richman (Man v Food), how about a year ago he came to Britain.  He was interviewed on TV but missed seeing that, and wondered if he was hoping to do a similar Man v Food series set in the UK.  Am sure he would never have been able to for we just don't have those sort of 'diners' that serve large portions, and to expect a man to sit and eat about 10 times a normal amount in one sitting (in under an hour) would seen to be obscene in this country and there would be a huge outcry of 'wasting food', not to mention the problem with obesity and other health issues.   Why, in the US, does being served such large portions when 'eating out' seems so important?   It is true the food LOOKS well cooked, and I'm drooling much of the time when I see the lovely meats served, and only wish we had the opportunity to have the same here (for the same price), but it all comes across (and this includes the cup-cakes/celebration cakes) as all TOO much.  Maybe this is the US version of 'comfort eating'?

Even the Barefoot Contessa seems to cook and serve large portions when making meals for either herself and Jeffrey, or when entertaining others.  Maybe the difference is that the US cooks don't want to cook 'cheffy' meals.  Here in the UK a 'gourmet' meal is something about the size of a postage stamp served on a large platter.  We need a magnifying glass to see it.

Yesterday, in The Chef's Protege, one of the young chefs-to-be made a consomme (clear soup). In each large individual soup bowl was placed a very few prepared vegetables (as garnish), plus a tiny slice of cooked pheasant breast.  Then - at the table - the consomme was poured over, yet barely enough to cover garnishes, the soup coming less than half-way up the bowl.  Call that a meal? 

Of course it wasn't the whole meal, there were four courses, but why serve the consomme in such a large bowl, it - to me - looked like a very mean serving.   Gourmet food, and esp. Michelin star food seems to be 'small but perfect',  like just one mouthful of gorgeousness should be all we want.  Perhaps it is if when we are not hungry, but myself (and esp. my Beloved) do like to get our money's worth.

On Planet Cake this morning, a cake was made that cost the recipient $3,500 dollars, and in all honesty it was just one square cake, the icing made to look like marble.  On top of this was a 'gold' horseshoe and lady's shoe, the made from cardboard that was iced.  A lot of work went into making it look as thought it was the real thing (a horse-racing trophy), but the profit margin must have been huge.  This was not the only cake made that week, there were several more, all priced at thousands of (Australian) dollars.  Let us hope the team of cake makers and decorators get a good wage, for the owner of the company never seems to do anything but take orders and almost bully her staff to make the cakes 'the best in the world'.

Very little in the cake-decorating programmes seems to give much of a mention of the actual cake itself.  Those who order them are given samples to try, but they all seem to be made of sponge, either plain or chocolate, with various flavoured fillings.  Nothing clever there.   But then again, when it comes to a celebration cake, it's all to do with 'the look' I suppose.  The more elaborate the better. 

Mind you, there are some really beautifully decorated cakes seen on the Amazing Wedding Cakes series and I'd really love to be able to make something that looks even half as good.  They are true works of art, and suppose that is what people pay for.  What a pity it is that they have to be sliced up and eaten.   Think I'd rather go down the war-time rationing road and decorate a cardboard box with icing so that it can be lifted off (and kept, like forever), with the real cake hidden underneath.  That way we could have our cake and eat it too.

With a fine weekend on the horizon, some families may be opting to go further afield and take a picnic, others may wish to stay at home but eat 'al fresco'.   Plan today to make a few of the following and grab the opportunity to sit in the sun while we can.

Butter Pots and Open Sandwiches:
Drain and mash one can of salmon with a little dried dill (or fresh dill or parsley), and season with salt and pepper. Put into individual pots and cover with melted butter.  Serve with crispbread or toast.
Alternatively mix 100g minced cooked chicken with a pinch of dried thyme and the grated rind of half a lemon....
...OR, mix 100g minced cooked roast beef with 1 tsp horseradish sauce.

Make OPEN SANDWICHES by buttering bread, then top with sliced ham and gherkin fans; sliced salami or chorizo and olives; pate and tomato; halved canned sardines with mayo and a slice of lemon.
Serve with a mixed salad:  celery, spring onions, cucumber, radishes and cherry tomatoes.

One of my favourite meals is a Dip with Crudites.  Both can be prepared in advance and kept chilled in the fridge.  Here is a dip that is easily made from ingredients most of us will probably have in store.  It goes without saying that this makes good use of the scraps of ham left over after slicing our home-cooked gammon.  Use the curd or cream cheese at room temperature or it won't beat to a cream easily.  If you have the chive flavoured cream (Philly type) cheese, then omit the fresh chives.
Pea and Ham Dip: makes half a pint (300ml)
half oz (15g) butter
4 tblsp water
4 oz (100g) frozen peas 
8 oz (225g) curd or cream cheese
5 fl oz (150ml) Greek yogurt
2 oz (50g) cooked ham, finely chopped or shredded
1 tsp finely chopped chives (see above)
salt and pepper
Put the butter in a pan with the water and heat until melted, then add the frozen peas and cook until tender.  Drain the peas and put them into a blender and pulse (or mash by band) to a coarse puree.
Blend the cheese and yogurt together, then fold in the pea puree, the ham, chives, and seasoning to taste.  Place in the serving bowl, cover and chill.   
You can if you wish make this well in advance.  Put into a rigid container, cover and freeze. Use within one month.  Thaw by placing in the fridge for a couple or so hours and stir well before serving.
Place chilled dip in the centre of a large platter and surround with strips of raw vegetables (crudites), such as  carrots, celery, cucumber, young courgettes, bell peppers, mangetout or sugar snap peas, and also chunks of raw mushroom, cauliflower florets.

There is something about mint that is so refreshing and almost essential when serving an al fresco meal on a hot day.  Myself I love to add chopped (or torn) mint leaves to a green salad (and probably other fresh soft green herbs as well).
When making the Indian meal, because my own mint was not yet growing enough to harvest (due to the cold weather), I had to buy a pack of fresh mint, but after removing the lower leaves to chop to add to yogurt (when making Raita), stuck the stems (with top leaves still attached) into a glass of water and now these have rooted, so will be planting these to grow on.  'Free' mint for the future.

Here is a lovely summer drink using mint.  To make it go even further, add ice-cubes to the glass before pouring in the drink, and make these ice-cubes even more special by putting mint leaves or tiny wedges of lemon or orange, cubes of pineapple or other fruit, even olives, into ice-cube trays, then covering with water and freezing.  If you wish to colour the ice-cubes, add a little food colouring to the water.

Mint Punch: makes about 6 glasses
1 tblsp chopped fresh mint
5 fl oz (150ml) water
2 oz (50g) sugar
1 pint (550ml) chilled apple juice
fresh sprigs mint or slices cucumber
Put the mint and water into a small pan and heat until boiling, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Strain and stir in the sugar.  When dissolved, cool and then put into a jug with the apple juice, and fresh sprigs of mint and/or slices of cucumber.

Seeing the lovely sun is now tempting me to down tools and go and sit outside with a mid-morning cup of coffee.  Maybe I'll even take the crossword outside with me as then I'll feel less guilty about sitting 'doing nothing'.  Why should I care?  It's my life (what's left of it), might as well enjoy the sun while we have it (in this country summer could last only a very few days, or it might last a few weeks, we never know until it happens).

Hope you can join me again tomorrow, if so - see you then. 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Right or Long as it Works!

Yesterday B chose to have fish for supper so I made a favourite dish:  Fish Risotto.  A favourite of B's due to it being 'good eating' and a favourite of mine as I enjoy making it as it is so simple.  Some may consider it a bit time-consuming as the correct way is to stand over the risotto, continually stirring (for about 20 or so minutes) until ready to serve.

Yesterday I misread the clock (can never get my head round the '24 hour digitals') so began making the risotto an hour before I intended, so after cooking the main part (rice with the liquids etc) decided to switch off the pan whilst the rice was still 'al dente', then bring it back to the simmer and add the fish a few minutes before serving.   It actually worked!  Myself could not see or taste any difference in the dish had I cooked it properly.  Useful to know when wishing to do a bit of 'advance preparation.

A good risotto is easy enough to make.  Firstly we need to use the correct rice - a short-grain 'risotto' rice and I usually use Arborio but there is another with a name similar to Carnaroli (know that probably not spelled correctly but near enough).  These are very 'starchy' rices and this starch, together with the liquid (which is slowly added to make sure there is just enough and not too much) makes for a creamy texture to the dish.

Adding flavour to the rice is VERY important, so I normally start by finely chopping a shallot then frying this gently in a teaspoon of oil to which I've added a good walnut-sized lump of butter.  When the butter has melted and the onion softened a bit, then I stir in the rice so it is coated with the butter.  After cooking for a minute I then add  half a wine-glass of white wine (I pour out a whole glass, but sit and drink the rest whilst 'stirring', then maybe pour myself another!).  Once the rice  has absorbed the wine, I then add a ladleful of boiling chicken stock (home-made of course, and this is kept hot in a little pan at the back of the hob while I cook.  I also have another pan of fish stock (the water in which I poached the fish I would be using: smoked haddock, salmon and 'white fish').
As my chicken stock is fairly concentrated, I normally need to use no more than two ladles (the second added after the first has been absorbed).  Continually stirring, I just keep adding a ladle of liquid (first the chicken then fish - if using fish), each only after the last has been absorbed.  That way I can control the amount of liquid needed.   After about 20 minutes the rice should be tender to the bite (al dente), and then I would add the other ingredients, yesterday being roughly flaked poached fish and some thawed frozen peas (plus some seasoning to taste).  By the time this is heated through the risotto will have absorbed all the liquid, or at least most of it, the main thing is the rice should be 'creamy' and not 'dry' as it would be when serving (say) a curry.   To give it a bit of extra flavour I added a squirt of lemon juice (from a 'Jiffy' lemon to save me using half a fresh one). 

There are plenty of recipes for different risottos, some may be made with just mushrooms, others with just peas, but they all start off the same way:  rice in the butter, then some wine, then some stock, then cook and add what you wish.  Eat and enjoy!

Am not sure whether to be thankful we have a climate that is never hot enough for us to need our homes air-conditioned Margie (our electricity bills are high enough as it is),  or whether to wish it WAS hot enough to need cool air to blow through our houses.  Would you believe we are still having to put the central heating on for a short time each day.  Perhaps, being old we just feel the cold more.

This weekend the forecast is for warmer weather, 20C in some lucky parts of the country, so am going to bite the bullet and turn the heating off, just leaving it on 'heat water only'. That's tap water, not the radiators.   In previous years we have always had the heat switched off by the end of April, not to be put on again until the end of October, but the extra month this year will add ££££s to our fuel bill.
But as you say Margie, by using 'what we have' (food) instead of buying more, then this should pay for the extra, and I like that saying you gave (I paraphrase): "We can have it all, but not all at once".  In a way MUCH better to have things a bit at a time, then we have something to look forward to.  Who knows, the couch/settee you hoped for this year may well be in a Sale at a much lower price next year. 

Most of the Indian take-aways here are not the same as many similar 'food outlets', the curries are normally supplied by the Indian restaurants and can either be ordered and delivered (if within a few miles) or can be collected.  So the food is pretty well much the same as when eaten in the restaurant, but cheaper!
On the rare occasions that we do order an Indian meal to be delivered, we always order a 'Thali'  (around £15 to serve two).  A 'Thali' is a selection of four different flavoured curries, we can choose from all meat based (lamb, chicken etc), or all vegetarian, or two of each.   With that we get rice, also bhajis, salad, pickles, raita, chapatis and poppadums.   Really good value if you think how much it would cost if we ate the same thing in a restaurant, on the other hand it would be cheaper to make the lot myself, but 'fiddly' just for the two of us.  Anyway, I enjoy not having to cook a meal for myself for a change. 

Through the window in front of me I see the various shrubs being blown back and forth, and a very cloudy and partly dark grey sky, so maybe we will get rain before the better weather.  The lilac blossom is just beginning to open, it seems to have taken weeks to get from bud to bloom this year.
When we first moved here this bush was just one tall 'twig' growing at the end of the border.  It is still not much taller, but over the last three years has developed a few branches, and each year has given a few blooms.  This year I can see at least a dozen 'bunches' of flowers ready to throw off their beautiful scent so am really hoping this weekend it will be fine enough for me to go and sit outside by the lilac bush and enjoy the perfume.
A lilac bush always reminds me of my childhood where my parent's had a huge, pale lilac coloured bush in the back garden, close to the house.  I would sit under it and the scent was wonderful.  They also had a lilac bush in their front garden but it never had flowers on it and one year I got the Harmsworth Encyclopedia and found out how to prune the lilac, and the next year it was covered in white blossom.  My mother was so thrilled. 

It's funny how some smells and sounds can take us back.  I've only to step into a nursery school and the smell (particularly around the cloakrooms!) reminds me of my childhood and also when I used to take our small children to their first schools.   Suddenly the memory of writing on slate boards (with chalk or something even more 'squeaky') has popped into my head, and would you believe that when I first started school at the age of 5 (1938) I was given a slate to 'write on'.  Goodness me, that's almost as though I've lived in what the youngsters of today call 'ancient history'.

Watched more of the Food Network this morning, even B saw some of it (the newspaper being delivered a bit later than normal).  He was very impressed with all the creative work done on 'Amazing Wedding Cakes'.  He asked me how much they cost.  Prices are rarely mentioned, but do know that 'Planet Cake' (the Australian cakes) charge around $4,000 for a fancy cake, and a great deal more for a really special one.  Suppose some people earn enough money to be able to afford to 'have their cake and eat it too'.

Methinks, due to the way we follow the 'American way' like the rats followed the Pied Piper, very soon we too will be expecting bigger and better cakes on sale.  Already we have at least one cup-cake store, and a couple of very elaborate-cake makers (who provide cakes for celebs and royals). So perhaps time for those who already make good cakes, to start improving their decorating skills as am sure there is money to be made 'out there' selling all types of celebration cakes.

Not sure if anyone has made a layer cake where the layers are vertical, not horizontal (as in the normal way), but worth having a go as it looks so impressive when cut.  A friendly chef once showed me how to make one, and although a bit more work than the normal 'sandwich' cake, well worth doing.
The idea is to bake a sponge cake (chocolate always looks good when assembled) in shallow 'Swiss Roll' tins.  The more tins used the wider the cake will be.
Turn out the baked cakes and trim away the edges, then cut each through lengthways to give two strips (if you want a high cake) or three (if you want a shallower one).  The strips need to be exactly the same width.  

Begin by spreading each strip fairly thickly with butter cream (or thickly whipped cream), the take the first strip and begin rolling it up like a Swiss roll, and when you come to the end, butt the next strip up to it and continue rolling until you have used all the strips.  By then you will have a big roll of cake, and when placed flat-side down should be at least 8" across (or more according to how many strips used) and a few inches deep (according to how wide you have cut the strips).
Looking down at the cake you will see ever-decreasing circles of cake filling, and so you now need to cover the top and sides of the cake with more butter cream or ganache (or fondant icing if you prefer).   When sliced, there will be seen many layers of cake with filling between (going up and down instead of across).  

Another 'interesting' way to serve (this time) an 'ordinary' sandwich cake is to bake two sponge layers (as when making a Victoria Sandwich.  Then, when cooled, cut each in half across to make four semi-circles in total.  Cover one semi with chosen butter cream (say orange flavoured), top with another semi, then cover the top and sides of this with more butter cream and coat with grated chocolate (or nuts or whatever you choose).  Make another 'half-cake' but doing the same thing but with a differently flavoured butter cream and coating.  Then cut each 'half-cake' into three, then re-assemble as a complete cake by alternating the wedges.  It looks really good.  Well, good enough for the glossy mag 'Good Housekeeping' to photograph it for their 'You Cook for Us' feature.

When using a chocolate sponge as a base for the above, there are many different flavours that go well with chocolate, so we can choose orange, coffee, chocolate, mint... for the butter cream fillings.  No reason why not bake four sponges and make four 'half-cakes' each with a different flavour, then interleave these (but ending up with two 'complete' cakes of course - one could be frozen).

I'm now talking myself into baking mode and desperately want to dash into the kitchen to start making cakes.  But before I do will give one recipe where the end result looks as though we have used a Swiss Roll as the base (and suppose we could do), but instead it really is bread-based.
To make this (successfully) we need to use a whole, uncut fresh white loaf to give us the length of slices needed, but to serve four only half the loaf needs using. Can only suggest the remaining 'long' slices are then cut in half and used for toast, or blitzed to make crumbs - together with the crusts - and freeze for later use.
Roly-Poly Pudding: serves 4
2 oz (50g) butter
5 oz (150g) raspberry (or other) jam
1 uncut white loaf  (see above).
2 eggs
7 fl oz (200ml) double cream
7 fl oz (200ml) milk
2 oz (50g) caster sugar
few drops vanilla extract
Use a little of the butter to grease a deep 1 ltr baking dish and spread half the jam over the base.
Remove the crusts from the loaf and cut lengthways to give 2 thick strips and spread the butter over one side of each.  Turn the bread over and spread the 'dry' side with the remaining jam.
Working from the short side, roll up each slice, jam-side inwards to make 2 fat Swiss rolls, then cut each into three to give 6 short 'swirls.  Put these into the prepared dish, cut side up, squashing them in together.
Whisk together the eggs, cream, milk and vanilla, beating in most of the sugar at the end, then carefully pour over the bread, do this a bit at a time to allow the bread to soak it up in stages.  When all has been poured over, allow the mixture to stand at room temp. for at least 30 minutes - longer if possible, to allow the bread to soak up as much of the 'custand' as possible (I often prepare a bread pudding such as this in the morning, then cook it later in the afternoon).
Scatter the remaining sugar over the top of the pudding and bake at 170C, 325F, gas 3 for 1 hour - 1hr 15 minutes (or for slightly longer at 150C, 300F, gas 2 if you prefer) until the top is golden and the custard is set (but still with a bit of a wobble).  Cool for 5 minutes before serving.

B has just brought me in a cup of coffee and forgotten to add the sweeteners.  However hard I try I just don't enjoy a cuppa if it has not been sweetened.  So went to the kitchen to fetch them and found B just about to start the washing up (actually he was clearing up a pile of saved oil from a little bowl he had just knocked over!!!).  So can't now start cooking until he has left the kitchen (considering the time he takes doing the washing up this could take 30 minutes, why he takes so long I don't know, I could do it in 5, but then he says he does it 'properly'!!!).

However, there are things I really need to do on the comp.  Have had an email offering me free samples so think that is one I should take up, and a couple of others than need dealing with, so will still take my leave of you today, get on with what has to be done at my desk, then do the baking after that.  Hope to meet up with you all again tomorrow, usual time.  See you then.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Giving Thanks...

A welcome to Druidsgarden, who sent in a very 'worth reading' comment.  Just proves that those who do 'research' seem to interview the wrong people.  What we need to know are the real facts of today's life as give by Druids...  

Also a thank you to Alison for reminding us that in the 60's and 70's it was easier to budget as prices remained stable, and also the average family then did not expect to cosy up with central heating and duvets etc.  If we felt cold we wore an extra layer of clothing, and in those days it was REAL wool that kept us warm, not the synthetic man-made fibres of today that don't keep us nearly so warm. 

Despite all our modern 'conveniences' and easier way of life in this 21st century (when we can afford it), reading the many comments that come in from 'strapped for cash' readers, mostly all seem to be finding a certain amount of enjoyment (if you can call it that) from coping.  That great sense of achievement we gain that those who have money never are able to find any more.  Their loss. Our gain. 
I'm always saying to my Beloved "money doesn't bring us happiness" (or at least in my case it never has), but then B's reply is "having money means we can be unhappy in comfort".  He always wants more money, does that mean he will be more unhappy?  Myself find the less money I have the happier I am, but then having said that I've always 'managed to cope' even when I hadn't any, and that I put down to using skills taught me by my parents.  Skills that seem sadly lacking today.

Druidsgarden's mention of not having a holiday (abroad) for many years...well, have to say the same myself.  Only yesterday was looking at an ad for coach trips in the hope of just getting away from the house for a while.  If I had a car I'd probably drive around and explore the immediate countryside.   Think I was over 50 before I had my first holiday abroad (this to Tunisia as a companion to an older lady - Saga trip).  My best holidays have always been in the UK, but sadly these can now be more expensive than holidays abroad. 
The Superscrimpers prog. have given some cheap family holidays,  and one particularly good idea is to 'house-swap'.  Anyone who lives somewhere worth visiting (a city or county), can swap homes for a weekend (or a week etc), with someone who maybe lives in another interesting place.  Often people who live by the sea are only too happy to exchange homes so they can visit inland places.  We had friends who lived in Cornwall, very close to the sea, a lovely place to live, yet they came to stay in Yorkshire with us en route to the Lake District because it was 'so different'. 

With the above 'exchange' (and this can also be with someone from abroad), the accommodation is free, all that is needed is money for transport, food, and entry fees if visiting places that need payment. 

How I wish we lived in a larger house, then I could go back to doing Bed and Breakfast, or even the full Monty (plus evening meal) throw in some cookery demos/tuition, and B could take visitors out in his car sight-seeing.  Goes without saying my charges would be low (I'd enjoy the visitors and cooking which is almost payment enough).  But we have only one bedroom!   Suppose we could move to another place with two or three bedrooms.  Have to have a serious think about that.  House prices are VERY cheap here in Morecambe, don't know why, it is a lovely place to live (now I've come to terms with having to leave my lovely home in Leeds).

My routine has now changed slightly.  Instead of getting up, then after my morning cuppa and maybe breakfast, moving into here to write my blog.  I get up early (just before 6.00am) so that I can watch the Food Network (B still being in the land of Nod) as at that time there are several programmes about cakes (Cupcake Wars, followed by Planet Cake, followed by Amazing Wedding Cakes, followed by Anna Olsen's bakery course).  I'm now wanting to return to my first love: decorating cakes, and am getting some wonderful ideas after seeing the American and Australian creations.  However, my favourite prog is Anna O's, and I now sit there with my notebook and pen and write down most of the recipes she is demonstrating.  Today one was all about making cheesecakes.  Normally I make the 'English' version (unbaked), but will now try her New York Cheesecake (baked) and then later make her Key Lime Cheesecake.

The new kitchen/cook shop in Morecambe has loads of different shaped tins, cake-decorating materials etc, and I've already bought some cutters and more icing nozzles, even some 'edible glue'.  I'm now wanting some 'edible varnish' (to make the icing shiny), so hope the shop owner will be able to get some for me. 

Of course, there is no need to go to such extremes of decorating.  A lovely home-made cake should be able to stand on its own without the need of any trimmings, but when 'catering' for (say) B's social 'feasts', it's nice to be able to make things look a bit special.  Trick is - making things look as good as those on sale BUT make sure they still have the 'home-made' taste (which bought foods now never have). 

Am a very happy bunny this week as 'The Chef's Protege' (BBC2 6.30pm each weekday) this week has Michel Roux jnr as the 'mentor'. He is - to me - my favourite chef EVER, and I find his love of food and good cooking most inspiring.  The best present anyone could give me would be a day spent in the company of Michel R.  Not necessarily doing any actual cooking (but that would be good).  Just talking about food - and how to cook - with him, for hours on end.  My idea of heaven.

Am giving a recipe today that would probably make Michel Roux run in the opposite direction, for there's not a lot of 'hands-on' about this dish.  More like opening one can after another.  But then I'm a domestic cook at heart and only pull out all the stops when the occasion demands.
At one time Campbell's Condensed Soups seemed to disappear from the shelves, but now see that some flavours are back (wish the others were too as they were even more useful), and this recipe uses one of them. 
You could say this is a store-cupboard recipe if you allow that the chicken might come from the freezer (then thawed), the veggies from the fridge or veggie rack.  Heaven forbid we have to go out and  BUY anything to make this meal.  Although it serves 6, you could reduce the amount of chicken by half, use only half a can of the soup (freeze the rest?) reduce the other ingredients by a third, then it should serve four.

Chicken Chilli: serves 6
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1 lb (450g) chicken, diced
4 tsp chilli powder
2 tsp ground cumin
1 large onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 can Campbell's Condensed Chicken Soup
6 fl oz (170ml) water
6 oz (170g) frozen sweetcorn
2 cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 oz (50g) grated Cheddar cheese
Heat the oil in a large, deep frying pan over medium heat. Add the chicken, chilli powder, cumin, onion and green pepper and stir-fry until the chicken is cooked through and the veggies are tender.
Add the soup, water, sweetcorn and beans, give a stir, bring to the boil then reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
When ready, spoon into 6 individual dishes, sprinkling the top of each with the cheese, then serve hot.

Several days ago (could be weeks, time seems to fly by so fast these days) I was chatting about a war-time recipe book published by 'Miller's British Baking Powder'.   The other day, watching 'Bitchin' Kitchen'  lard was mentioned as being 'clarified pork fat containing less saturated fats and other transfats than margarine...!'  Suppose this must be true or it wouldn't have been said. 
With this in mind am giving a war-time recipe that uses lard and, well, it sounds 'interesting'.  Maybe I'll give it a try.  As well as their 'British Baking Powder', Miller's also produced 'Miller's Golden Raising Powder' "which imparts a good colour and light texture to cakes, steamed puddings, scones, buns, tea-cakes, dumplings etc.."  Both are in this recipe so can only suppose that the 'raising powder' is bicarb (today not coloured), so suggest we use this or increase the baking powder.
No metric weight in those days but I've included these as younger readers probably have never used the 'imperials'.

Cheese Crisps:
8 oz (225g) plain flour
4 oz (100g) lard OR...
...2 oz (50g) lard and
...2 oz (50g) grated potato
3 oz (75g) grated cheese
1 tsp Miller's Golden Raising Powder (see above)
half teasp Miller's British Baking Powder
water to mix
2 oz (50g) grated cheese
2 tblsp chopped parsley
salt and pepper
Make the pastry then roll out into a rectangle and sprinkle with the grated cheese, parsley and salt and seasoning. Roll up into a Swiss Roll shape and cut into thin slices.  Bake in a hot oven on greased tins until crisp and brown. 15 - 20 mins.
Electric Temperature 425F Regulo No.6
Serve these crisps with:
Vegetable soup (to supply protein)
Raw vegetable salads
In place of bread with salad fillings etc.

How different life is today than it was in my youth. In some ways now so much easier with all the modern appliances (how I give thanks every time I use the washing machine). Yet in the 'old days' life seemed less stressful, there was less 'rush' (even though working hours were longer), and we all seemed to be happier.  Little things meant a lot.  Looking forward to something (like the first strawberries) was a real treat when it arrived, then we would start looking forward to something else, then something else....  Now we have almost everything any time we want it, we are plain bored with it all (and fresh food now doesn't taste nearly as good as it used to because all the flavour has been bred out of it. Shape is more important).

However hard life was in 'those days', because we knew no better, we survived and coped quite happily. Now we have so much more, contentment and happiness seems to have been lost.  We just want a bigger version of what we already have, and a year later, exchange it for something even 'better'. 

It's easy for me to live simply because my life started that way and for many years stayed much the same.  Even later, still being short of money, things didn't change much for me, so I find no problem in 'doing without' (what we never have we never miss).  This means that sometimes I may appear a bit critical when I read about, talk about people who are finding it hard to cope on 'a small amount' of money that others would think is a fortune.  But then nothing is easy when we don't know how to do it.   Stick my head under the bonnet of a car and I'd break it within seconds.  When I had my own car even had to ask B to check the oil level for me, and get someone to put the petrol in for me (although later had to learn how to do that myself).  Amazing that I was able to actually DRIVE the car.  All by myself.

Time for me to begin another day of 'what shall I do now?'  Need to have a bit of trial and error making cake decorations, and using sugar fondant is good as if things go wrong, can just scrunch it all up together and start again. 
Weather still cloudy, but dry for the moment.  Still cool, so have to snuggle up under one of my quilts when sitting in the living room.  Do wish it would get warmer.

Hope you all have a good day, and look forward to chatting to you again tomorrow.  See you then.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Working it Out.

Before the days of supermarkets all food prices were controlled in that there were none 'on offer'.  All grocers sold the manufactured/packaged foods for the same price.  Different brands may be either cheaper or more expensive, but always the same wherever bought.  Some foods - such as sugar - was subsidised by the government, possibly many more, but we never had to spend time 'shopping around' to find the best bargains.   Grocers did reduce prices, but only on things like dented tins, and packs of broken biscuits etc.   Fresh food (fruit and veg) could vary in price according to the time of year, but always cheapest when in season.

Nowadays it is one long slog to hunt out the best bargains and in the newspaper yesterday there was an article about supermarket promotions and bulk buys that often proved more expensive than when buying the items singly.   Milk for example.  We could buy 6 pints for £1.65p, 4 pints for £1.25p, 2 x six-pint cartons for £3.50p, and 2 x four-pint cartons for £2.  Worth working it out for yourself, but if you can't be bothered, then the 4 pints for £1.25p works out at the most expensive way to buy = 31.25p a pint, and the 2 x 4-pint cartons for £2 = eight pints at 25p each.

The research people seem nowadays to have plenty to concern themselves with when it comes to food shopping, with one on the most recent studies showing that two-thirds of 1,000 people who were surveyed got it wrong when asked for the cheapest promotions linked to bacon, and more than 4 in 10 failed to identify the cheapest milk (as given above).

Interestingly the proportion of people who hunt for the best deals has risen from 79% to 91% since the same tests were carried out in 2011, but there had been virtually no improvement in their ability to find the best value options.

Myself now find it we can't rely on the supermarket 'offers' to be the 'good value' they expect us to believe.  I've found that multi-packs of (say) baked beans or canned tuna often work out more expensive (per can) than when bought singly.  The only way to be sure of getting the best value is to read the small print (either on the price label fixed to the shelves, or given in brackets next to the cost price when shopping on line), this normally gives the 'price per 100g' or similar. 
Having to continually check prices takes a lot of time, but worth doing - if you HAVE the time.

Another article I found interesting, this about money earned (either by labour or maybe even benefits?).  Seems our 'spending power' is at an all-time low due to rising unemployment and low wage growth piling pressure on family finances.
Yet it says: "The average spare income of hard-pressed households last month was £155 a week - £10 a week lower than three years ago....The average home has a total income of £699 a week, but pays £117 in taxes, and £427 on essentials such as housing, food, clothing, utility bills and transport".

Whilst not disputing that the price of almost everything has rocketed, am very surprised that it was felt that a family WAS 'hard-pressed' when they still had £155 a week left to spend on anything they wanted.   Goodness me, there were times when £5 a week (left over) felt like I'd won the Lottery (even if in those days £5 probably would have bought what would cost £50 now).

But then I can only view life from behind closed doors so to speak.  B was telling me on Saturday that beer now can cost £3 a pint in a pub (it was cheaper at his sailing club - who have a licence). When I worked as a barmaid it was 11d (what's that in today's money? Just over 5p?) a pint.  This means the price of ale has increased times 60!  Quite a lot of other things have too.  However, for those who enjoy eating fresh pineapple, am happy to tell you we pay no more for this than Mrs Beeton did over 100 years ago. 

Suppose if B and I 'dined-out' once a week as many people still do, or go to the pub several times a month, or took holidays abroad, or, or, or....then perhaps the £155 wouldn't go very far.  In days past only the wealthy were able to live 'the good life', now it seems that everyone expects to be able to afford to live like kings, and it is only us really old folk who realise that once younger folk have begun to take such things for granted, they feel very deprived when some have to be given up. Us older ones just settle back into the less affluent ways we have always been used to, and eternally grateful for anything 'extra' that we can still have/use (in my case a washing machine!).

Even saying that 'hardship' is more to do with attitude, or at least I believe it to be as I've met several people recently who actually enjoy 'having to cope', for they then become far more aware of what there is 'out there' (often for free) to be enjoyed, and really find pleasure in re-learning old skills.  Gaining a 'sense of achievement', usually lost when we rely on someone else to do the work for us, can be brought back into our lives and this alone is worth a king's ransom. 

Life today has reverted back to how it used to be and still should be.  A bit like only being able to eat strawberries when in season for those very few weeks.  Being able to buy them all year round and we don't appreciate or even enjoy them.  So by now - due to the recession - being forced to do a lot more ourselves, we then are able to enjoy the very short time when we perhaps can afford to take life a little bit easier, once or twice a year - maybe going on holiday.  This cloud of financial depression we are all under certainly has a silver lining.  Just as long as we lift up our heads and hearts to take a look and enjoy it.

Thanks Eileen for your comments on the Indian meal, and a further comment from you which I find hard to believe, but will try.   

Am always surprised Pam, when I hear from US readers, how it seems that Indian restaurants or take-aways are very few in America considering how they can sometimes just about take-over a city here (Bradford and Leicester for instance).  But then we have a large Asian community who prefer to eat their traditional curries, and it is said that Chicken Tikka Masala has taken over from 'fish and chips' as our favoured national 'take-away'.  
With so many different 'curries', what's not to like about them?  They don't even have to be spicy-hot, ranging from fragrant flavours through the mild, medium, hot, very hot, and 'blow the top of your head off' hot.  Perhaps a little like some Mexican chilli-based dishes.   B and I both enjoy eating curry, and as I've learnt more about cooking these, will now make more.

Watched the 'Cup Cake Wars' this morning (Food Network) as the theme there was cupcakes to serve at the Indian Film Festival, so the cupcakes had to have a 'flavour of India' which the contestants found a little difficult to manage as it seems that most of them hadn't previously tasted any of the spices and flavourings that they were given to 'play with'. 

Wish I'd got the chance to go to a car-boot sale again as you got some really good bargains from the one you went to jane.  I've been using my EasiYo quite a lot recently (making Greek and Mango yogurts for the 'Feast'), and because I'd got only one 'thermos', couldn't make more than one litre each day (two if I began at 6.00am).  I ate the last of the mango yogurt yesterday evening, and all the Greek - used to make Raita - had been eaten at the 'do' (our daughter taking home the last little bit), so today must make some more, this time Greek (always need that) and perhaps a toffee flavoured (given me free as it has reached its  I'd bought some new Mango EasiYo to make for the 'do', then couldn't find where I'd put it, so had to use a pack that was way over its 'date' (like by a year, maybe more!!), but it was still OK.   Once made the yogurt keeps very well in the fridge, I've found it perfect after 3 weeks.  Any left can always be drained and turned into cottage or cream cheese.

Yes Janet, think it was the 'Ugly Cottage' that we saw (we were in North Wales), not that it looked ugly to me.  Just 'quaint'.  Didn't realise that the 12-year possession thingy was now not allowed, so pleased you were able to gain your extra 'plot' just in time.  It will add value to your own property whenever you wish to sell.

Yesterday managed to get the kitchen tidy again and just about everything back in place.  Still want to do a bit of reorganising as really need more 'working room' on the unit tops.  The little bit I'd already cleared turned out to be a boon when cooking on Saturday.

Both freezers now have part-empty drawers and shelves, so will remove most of the long-storage items from Boris (our US style fridge-freezer) and use these to fill the drawers in the smaller four-drawer freezer, leaving me room to store frozen main-meals for B and also puddings (for B), in Boris as 'he' is far more easily accessible. 

Even the larder now has plenty of shelf-space, so today am planning to go in there and bring down tins and jars of foods I've had in store long enough, and move others around in the hope of clearing one shelf that I really need to store all my baking tins etc that - at the moment - are here, there and everywhere in the kitchen.  Once kept together then it will be much easier to find the exact tin I want to use, when I want to use it (at the moment it can take me 15 minutes to 'hunt the tin').

Pleased to see that most of the country yesterday had another good day.  Except of course to our area, and although we didn't get such high winds as forecast, we had the rain, so I never did get to sit outside in the sun.  But - like strawberries - when our summer DOES arrive, it will probably be only for a few weeks, so all the more enjoyable (as long as free to sit out in it).  In the past we used to occasionally get long dry and warm summers (usually once every 11 years, said to be due to sunspots or something), and we got so fed up of it that we actually found pleasure standing out and getting wet when the first rains began to fall again, and just loved the smell of this in the air when this happened. How times change.  Now we have too much rain, no noticeable smell, and not nearly enough sun.

Still heavy cloud this morning, but the sun seems be be breaking through so who knows, maybe it will be a glorious afternoon - as it can often be in Morecambe, but usually I am in the wrong room to notice.   At least I'm still alive and that's something to be very grateful and thankful for.  Life should not be taken for granted.  Must remember that and use my given time to advantage instead of just wasting it. 

The other day I'd bought a small pack of baby asparagus (in season at the moment) think it was 2 packs for the price of one or something, so bought one for me and one for B.  B said he didn't want any, so I cooked and ate 'my' pack.   Later B asked me what they were like, I said they were lovely.  "What did they taste like?" he asked.  "They tasted like asparagus". I replied - there not really being any other answer I could give. 
Which reminds me.  Believe it was you Cheesepare who planted some asparagus spears a few years ago. By now they should be old enough to start picking.  Did they grow well, are you managing to get a crop and enjoying them?  And do they crop well?

Remember my Dad growing asparagus, but can't recall ever being given any to eat. Perhaps considered too much of a luxury for a child.  However, do remember my mother using the 'asparagus fern' to tuck into sprays of the sweet peas I used to grow for her.  Maybe this 'fern' is a different plant, but always believed it was the asparagus that went onto grow the tall fronds when left unpicked. 

Suddenly memories of my dad's garden come flooding back.  He was a wonderful gardener, and even during the war still found places to grow flowers (the rest of the garden taken over by fruit and veg). He grew flowers that I never see in gardens these days such as Canterbury Bells, Burning Bush, Hollyhocks, Larkspur, and others whose names I never knew but would still recognise if I ever saw them again.  He also grew the most wonderful roses (we lived in an area known for growing good roses), and most of these had wonderful perfume.  Like veggies today (grown for looks but no taste) roses today seem to be grown for appearance only, and by doing so have lost all their scent.  Much can be said of most flowers.   Even the indoor (forced) hyacinths I grow at Christmas don't seem to smell as strongly as they used to.  But at least they still have a little scent left. 

Am still not quite 'with it' when it comes to writing my blog, so hope you will forgive my lack of recipes today.  Give me a few days and I should be just about back to normal.  At least managed to get a good night's sleep last night (first for several days), and so feel less tired now.  Not tired at all really, but come this afternoon may suddenly 'flop' again.  No appointments, days out, or anything 'important' to do this week, so should be able to easily drift through it.  Mind you I do enjoy the adrenalin rush I get when I have a marathon 'cook-in', it's just the 'down-drop' I get afterwards that annoys me.  Never used to be as bad as this, but then was never as old as I am now.  Old age has its limitations I suppose, but then I never allow myself to think I'm 'old'.  Inside I'm still young. It's my 'wrapping' that is now showing signs of age.  Just let's hope it holds itself together for a few more years. 

I'll find it very pleasing if you can all join me again tomorrow, send in a few comments, things like that.  You make my day.  Hope to see you then.  TTFN.


Monday, May 27, 2013

Life Begins at 80!

Back again after a hectic weekend.   The Indian Feast went very well, and I coped with it better than I expected to, probably due to me taking my time over all the preparation (details given below in case you are interested).  Although it has to be said the Friday and Saturday were one continuous cook-in as I began working at 9.00am Friday, right through the day, all through the night and right up to 7.00pm on the Saturday (a total of 46 hours) with an occasional break of one hour now and again. Thankfully, most of the work being done was when sitting at the table or perched by the hob, so not THAT tiring.   Even sat down by the sink when I washed up!   Believe me there seemed to be more hours spent during that time clearing up, washing the pots and utensils, putting them away ready to start again, than the food prep/cooking in between. 

It had been an absolutely gorgous two days of good weather (sunny and warm on the Saturday and the Sunday), but didn't get a chance to have a sit down outside to enjoy it, and today has turned very windy again and rain forecast shortly.  Ah well, one day perhaps I can get outside to sit and gain a bit of a tan. 
The drive to the sailing club was sheer delight as the view across the bay at 7.15pm (Sat) was one of the best I've ever seen, as clear as a bell, with range after range of the Lake District hills being visible (normally we only see a few, and often not even these due to cloud and mist). Grange over Sands was 'lit' up by the sun, and the tide being out, the occasional pools also reflected the sunlight.

Returning home, just after midinight, managed to see - again over the Lake District - the strange sight of the dark night sky above but with still blue sky behind the hills across the bay as though dawn had broken.  This was because it was the reflected light from the sun that never goes far below the horizon at this time of the year because we are so far north I suppose.
As we turned off the prom road to drive up towards our own place of residence, we saw the full moon, almost yellow, the largest I've ever seen it.  Quite a magical drive home.

By the time we got home, I was wide awake, so sat and watched TV for a couple or so hours before going to bed, then woke at so got up to do my blog and speak to Gill, but after sitting down with a cup of coffee just 'flaked out', and couldn't find the strenght to get up from my chair.  Didn't even want to get up to speak to Gill, so had to send apologies to her via B.   Couldn't even bring myself to write my blog.  All I wanted to do was sleep - which I did until about 4.00pm!! 

Once I got up, the clearing up of the kitchen was my main task.  B had done some washing up for me, but he was out all day and had to leave at, so loads more to do and lots of things to put away (some more tidying to be done today).  Because I was watching some late TV, fell asleep in my chair and didn't wake until 5.00am this morning, did get up and after coffee and a watch of the Food Network, felt bright-eyed and bushy tailed enough to come and write my blog, but tonight really MUST have an early night.

The menu for the Indian Feast was as follows:
Three main curries:  Lamb Biryani;  Chicken Tikka Masala; and Beef Madras.  To make sure there was enough I also served some meat balls with a very, VERY hot Phal curry sauce.  So there was a choice of mild, medium, hot and VERY hot curries.

It was the first time I'd made a Biryani, and didn't eat any myself other than sampling the lamb part, but many 'guests' came up to me and said it was very good.  Everyone seemed to like all the curries and said how much they enjoyed them, but then they probably would say that even if they didn't like them. People are kind like that.  Most of them went back for seconds (and thirds) it all got eaten so can't have been that bad.  However, did as B to get me a bit of the Tikka and Madras and have to say even I thought they tasted good.  So perhaps they were!!
Eileen was able to sample some of the dishes so hope she gives her HONEST opinion, I don't mind criticism (she says behind gritted teeth!).

Although I used long-grain rice with the Biryani, the other curries were served with Basmati Rice (flavoured with crushed cardamom pods and a few bay leaves), and I tried the tip I learned at the cookery school on the Thursday: wash the rice well under HOT running water, stirring the rice well with your fingers to help release the starch, drain well and repeat four times until the water runs clear.  It's surpising how much more starch comes away when washed with hot water.

After the final draining,  cover the rice with plenty of COLD water and leave it to stand for at least an hour before cooking.   Add a knob of butter or dash of oil to the water to help keep the grains separate, then boil, uncovered, for about 8 minutes (or less) until just 'al dente', then drain most of the water away, cover and leave to stand and the rice will continue cooking in its own steam.  I found this worked well as I didn't want the rice overcookes by the time it got to be eaten.  Always stir rice with a fork to keep the grains separate.  Have to say this was the best rice I've ever cooked, so the above tip really did work.

The above curries were easy enough to make, it was the 'sides' that took the time.  I'd made loads of triangular filo-pastry filled samosas that I was able to freeze, but these then had to be thawed on Saturday and fried just prior to leaving - it took over an hour to fry the samosas and as long again to fry the bhajis.  At least I'd bought the poppadums ready-to-eat instead of frying these myself.

To make sure I'd provided enough food, I'd also made a dhal, but using split peas instead of lentils.  This worked well, and I was able to let it carry on cooking in the slow cooker whilst everything else was being heated or prepared.  Also made a big dish of 'Bombay Potatoes'.  Both the dhal and the spuds AND the meat balls were able to be on the 'help-yourself table as I'd bought a set of four insulated serving dishes (keeps food hot for 4 hours) from the Indian lady who was doing the demo on Thursday evening, she let me have them for trade price, and how useful they turned out to be).

Made a big bowl of Raita flavoured with finely chopped fresh mint and grated cucumber.  Also a huge bowl of lovely 'Indian' salad.  This made with a mixture of finely chopped iceberg lettuce; chopped cucumber, radishes, spring onions, red and yellow bell peppers; finely sliced red onion; a can of (drained and rinsed) chickpeas; and a punnet of pomegranate seeds.  For the dressing used a small tub of tamarind paste (bought from the cookery demo along with a lot of other spices etc) this I diluted with a little oil and juice of a lemon.  Drizzled over the salad then tossed together it was just perfect!  Finished the salad with a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds.

On the table was also a big bowl of (home-made) mango chutney, and a smaller bowl of (bought) lime pickle.  B had bought some desiccated coconut (he likes sprinking this over his curries) and some bananas (he likes this sliced and eaten with curries), so he put those on the table as well.  Think that was all on the table, the main curries/rice served from the kitchen hatch..

For dessert I'd made two cheesecakes, one was mango flavoured with (canned) tropical fruit cocktail on top, the other strawberry and rose flavoured with a topping of whipped cream into which I'd folded some finely chopped rose-flavoured Turkish Delight, and then sprinkled chopped pistachios on top ( one of the guests said the latter was one she would die for!).  All got eaten.

As a 'back-up' I'd also made some Semolina biscuits' (from a recipe in an Indian Cookbook), Eileen -who was at the 'do' - asked me for the recipe, so here it is.  A slightly crisper version of our English Shortbread biscuits, and although at first glance you think the mixture is far too dry (no liquid included) once kneaded - for at least 5 minutes BY HAND - it suddenly becomes 'putty-like' in texture so can then be easily rolled out and cut.
The weights are given in 'the metrics' as I'm not into using fractions of an ounce with 'the imperials' and it necessary to be accurate because no liquid is being used.  It is the heat of the hand that brings out the oils to help the 'dry' to cling together.
As cardamom seeds don't seem to crush easily, I tried crushing them in my pestle and mortar with some of the sugar, and this seemed to help, it also added more flavour to the sugar.

Semolina Biscuits: makes 16 - 18
80g caster sugar
80g unsalted butter
3 drops vanilla essence
4 pods cardamom, seeds only used, crushed.
155g plain flour (sifted)
50g fine semolina
Cream the sugar and btter together until light and fluffy, then beat in the vanilla essence and cardamom seeds, then work (or beat in) the flour and semolina.  It will end up looking like breadcrumbs.  Gather as much as you can with your fingers and start kneading it in the palms of your hands for a few minutes, then gather up another 'lump' and do the same.  Once all the mixture has been kneaded, then bring together (or keep in original lumps) and continue kneading until the mix has softened and becomes like 'putty'.  Roll out (a lump at a time if you wish) to about a quarter inch thick, and use a scone cutter (or other shape cutter), and place on a greased baking sheet, leaving space between each, and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for about 12 minutes or until golden.
Cool on a cake airer.  These will keep well in an airtight tin for up to 3 weeks.

After baking I found the biscuits seemed over-crisp, so left them out, uncovered, overnight in the kitchen. The next day they had softened slightly to shortbread texture, so packed them into a freezer bag, where they kept well (I'd made them on the Thursday).
I've always found that too-crisp biscuits will tend to soften if left at room temperature, especially if there is a bit of moisture in the air for them to gather (I dry the washing on the radiator close by, and there are often pots boiling on the stove, and we live close to the sea anyway, so even if the radiators are not on, the biscuits the air is never too dry.  Another way to soften crisp biscuits is to put them in a tin, place a slightly damp cloth over the top then lightly place on the lid.  Leave for a few hours then remove the cloth and the biscuits should have softened slightly.  Then close the lid tightly.

Your mention of saving just 10p a week buttercup, adding up to £5.20 over the year, really does prove how even a small BUT REGULAR saving can mount up.  Saving  £1 a week (not a lot of money in this day and age) will come to £5.50 over the twelvemonth, and that IS a lot (well it seems a lot to me).  
How many of us do find we have at least £1 of small change in our purses at the end of each week? Why not put most of it into a piggybank and see if we can carry on like that.  "Out of sight, out of mind" works just as well with small coinage as it does with those tins and packets we have shoved at the back of our cupboards and forgotten about. 

It's not too late to make a start with the above saving, still seven months to go before Xmas  so let's just see how much small change we can 'store' by then.  Thanks buttercup for inspiring me, I needed a new challenge.

Am surprised Pam why so many timber framed houses are built in the US, even in the town areas. Perhaps because they were so easily erected by the original 'settlers' that the tradition remains.  In the UK only the holiday 'chalets' are wood-framed, all residential houses seem to be brick or stone built, usually from local stone.  Stone built properties seem to last forever, the Tower of London is stone built I presume, and that is over 1,000 years old I believe.  The Pyramids of Egypt have also come to mind, they are thousands of years old.

Had to smile when we visited our daughter in America.  She was working as a nanny for a family who lived in upper New York State.  They were living in a barn conversion, and when we visited, they were so proud of the place (it really was lovely), and kept boasting how old it was "nearly 100 years", so hadn't the heart to tell them that we lived in an Edwardian house that was even older than their barn, and we didn't consider our home to be 'old' at all.

Your mention Pam of the building of the home by the Methodist community reminded me of the 'barn-raising'  (seen in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers - and other films), that seems is so much part of the rural American tradition.  Doubt anything like that would be allowed here now due to all our 'elf and safety rules and regs, but almost certainly in our past history people did build their own homes.
When we went to Wales for our holiday we saw a small cottage on a plot of land that was of 'historical interest' as it was one that was built in a day.  Seems that in the past, if you chose a plot of land and began buildaing a single-story cottage with a chimney and get a fire lit in the grate so the smoke went up the chimney,  all within 24 hours then you could claim the property and land as your own.  Think I've got that right. Hope a Welsh reader (if I've got one) can let me know the correct story if  I've got it wrong).
In some places, here in the UK, if we 'work' some spare land (normally 'waste' land in proximity to our home) for 12 years, then we can claim this land as our own.  But it needs to be regularly tended and used to grow things.  Am sure this rule still applies.

Regarding my 'witchery', wish I could tell you, but like a lot of 'thing's like that' I've forgotten how to do it.  It does seem that the Fates have often allowed me to 'do things' and even let me know how, then take away my memory.  Am sure we've all had flashes of 'I know the reason why we are on this planet' and by the time we've dashed to the phone to tell someone, the memory has left us.  But then I can go to the supermarket just to buy one thing and when I've got there forgotten what it was I went for.

Sorry I got your anniversaries mixed up Jane, of course the 25th is the Silver.  It's the 40th that is Ruby, and the 50th that is Gold.  60th (ours next year) is Diamond, and what is after that?  Is the 70th Platinum?  People can still be living (and married) at that age. 

Almost every day there has been a mention of Paul Hollywood in the newspapers.  He does seem to have made a much bigger impact with his recent actions that other TV chefs who have done the same.  As Mary Berry says 'men will be men' (and this makes me think she has had a bit of experience re this).  Most men will 'wander' (it's in their genes and they can't help it), so am hoping that Paul will very soon see what a silly man he has been and realise which side his bread is buttered (excuse the pun) and return to his (hopefully) still loving wife and son.  It's the only way he can redeem his credibility before the next series of the G.B.B.O is shown (currently being filmed, so he's still in it, and if he doesn't return to his family then will viewers stop watching because of this?).  Thing is, IF he does comeback and ask for forgiveness, am sure he will be greeted with open arms by all of us ladies who just love to see a man crawling, and we'll all be watching G.B.B.O again. 

Forgot to mention that our daughter and I went to the Indian cookery demo and meal last Thursday. Learnt quite a lot and brought back (bought!) a huge box of assorted spices, and other bits and bobs used by the cook.  At least this got me to roast the seeds then grind on Saturday rather than use the already ground that I had at home, and have to say that dry-frying//oasting the seeds really does give a much better flavour.   Used several of these seeds (mustard, cumin, fenugreek...) when preparing some of the curries on Saturday, although have to admit to using some of the 'quality' ready made bottled sauces to save time.  In future will try to make from scratch. 

It's interesting to watch a lady from India cooking a traditional curry (she was demonstrating Chicken Jalfrezi), and also preparing other dishes, using so many different ingredients - already assembled by her 'helper' - from small dishes arranged in front of her, and then taking small amounts of different spice powders that were in large canisters at the back of her.   I can remember some things in the dishes:  grated ginger, grated garlic, diced red and green peppers, diced mango, lime wedges, sliced/chopped onions, dried bay leaves, dried red chillies, cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, tomato paste, tamarind paste - and a whole lot more.  The spices were garam masala, red chilli powder, dried chilli flakes, a special spice mix, turmeric, fenugreek seeds, ground coriander, cumin, and have forgotten the rest.  The lady does do cookery courses, but these are expensive, but probably worth it.

Also had to fit in a trip to the medical centre last week for my 6 month blood test and foot check.  Won't know the results of the test until I see the diabetic nurse early in June.  With Norma now going on holiday this coming week, won't even have hair appointments for s while, so can start taking it a bit easier after my marathon 'cook-in', not that I mean to as I've found great enjoyment in my month of 'activity' and want to continue.  From now on have decided that life (for me) begins at 80, so fully intend going out a lot more, perhaps returning to painting (pictures) again, and even starting decorating cakes again.  But of course, still cooking and writing my blog.  
Hopefully this will give me something more interesting to write about than the rather boring life I've had since we moved here. 

Think the above should have brought you up to date, and fully expect to be back blogging again tomorrow now that my 'jet-lag' seems to be over.  Being that it is still the long Bank Holiday weekend and that most of the country (except the North West where we live) should still be basking in sunshine and warmth, expect most of you haven't even bothered to check whether I've even blogged today, but do hope that you will eventually catch up and send me a comment or three (or even more, please more, I love to hear from you all).  Enjoy your break and we'll meet up again tomorrow.  Hopefully.  See you then.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Ups and Downs...

Things are going so well that it is making me feel slightly uneasy, for so often in my life when things go well, then something unpleasant usually follows.  Swings and roundabouts I suppose, but as long as this 'up-side' lasts over the weekend, then hope I'll be able to gracefully accept what Fate throws at me next.   It's not that I'm pessimistic, in fact usually the opposite, but it does seem that life is like a pair of scales, up one minute, down the next (a bit like my weight!).

My mother was always pessimistic about everything, and when things went right for her, she always said she could never enjoy them because she knew something bad would follow.  When the 'bad' did arrive, she somehow couldn't bring herself to find any pleasure in the fact that something good would be just over the horizon, so most of her life was spent with a very gloomy outlook.  I always tried to be the opposite.   Do other readers feel that life is like a long series of rolling hills that moves up and down as we travel over them?

Anyway, I'm on an 'up' at the moment and determined to enjoy it.  Yesterday had a really good change round of my culinary work-space, the (bedroom) shelves are now in the kitchen and really, REALLY, useful.  All the 'stuff' that I kept under the kitchen table has now been cleared, and even the Hoover kept working until I'd reached the end of the carpet when it began to give off a smell of burning rubber.   My mother bought the Junior Hoover for us when we moved to our first house in Oadby.  We lived there 12 years before moving to Leeds where we then lived 40 years, and as we've now been in Morecambe four years (give a month), that means the Hoover is 56 years old!! And still working well.  
My Beloved checked the Hoover after 'the smell' and said it had picked up a nail (which he removed) also the rubber belt was a bit loose, but when I was sorting out the 'under table stuff'', would you believe I found a small tin that contained 3 unused rubber belts for this very Hoover, plus a box of bags, so Fate really did smile on me yesterday.  

Thanks for comments.  Advance congrats for your Ruby Wedding next week jane, you sound so young.  B and I will be celebrating 60 years of marriage next year (is that a 'Diamond' anniversary?).  It's so funny really, at our age we now have begun to say things like "I hope we/I'll live long enough to reach the Millenium". After that its' "hope we live long enough to reach our 70th birthday, 75th birthday, 80th birthday...."  So our next 'hope to live long enough' is now our (next year) wedding anniversary.  Or for that matter, even this year's (which doesn't really count in the great scheme of things). 

A welcome to Flibbertigibbit (we hope you will write to us again soon), and will definitely take a look at that Freegle site.  Wish now I'd kept those jams jars/lids, but always have plenty gathering dust over the months, so will keep them in the hope someone else can find use for them.  I have enough in the larder holding my own preserves that I would recycle for my own use, so any others would not be needed. 

Like you Mandy, do find that it really helps to keep the kitchen organised.  It's surprising how much time can be wasted having to search for things.  Yesterday, decided to do a bit of advance preparation and measured out the amount of rice I'd be needing to cook on the Saturday.  It didn't take long to do this, but - like pennies saved soon adding up to £££s - minutes saved means an hour less work when I should be doing the actual cooking.   On Friday will be preparing some of the salad ingredients and bagging them up separately to keep chilled in the fridge ready to mix together just before I leave for the clubhouse. 

Not sure if it is 'welcome' or 'welcome back' Diana, but good to hear from you anyway.  Chefs say we should always use the very best quality ingredients, and myself believe this in part (especially when it comes to meat).  With baking I tend to sit on the fence.  Certainly the well-known brands of flour are good, perhaps because they are (called) 'super-sifted', but to me flour is flour, and the cheaper own-brand flour can also be 'super-sifted' when we sift it ourselves TWICE before baking (say) a light sponge) cake.

Unsalted butter I use only when salt is not included in the recipe.  If salt is included, then I use salted butter (and omit any other salt used).  Maybe if I made a cake using top brand flour and unsalted butter, then made another using the cheaper flour/salted butter, a sample tasting might show a difference.   Am sure there HAS to be a difference, but not always one that your average domestic cook would notice.
Even with branded flour, is one better than another.  My mother always used Be-Ro (her only cook-book at that time (pre-war) was the 'Be-Ro' cook book, a very narrow, long booklet printed in brown ink (anyone remember that?).

Discovered another interesting booklet yesterday during my 'clear-up'.  This being 'Miller's War-time Recipe Book' (promoting their baking powder - this being used in every recipe).
In the introduction it said "All the recipes are the works of experts...and compiled with the greatest regard for war-time conditions.  Note, for example, our expert's awareness of the need for appetising items in the lunch basket.  The recipe for 'Potato Splits' is a case in point.... Results will be up to your highest expectations if you carry them out exactly as printed, using PLAIN NATIONAL FLOUR and MILLER'S BRITISH BAKING POWDER".

During war-time there were no different brands of flour on sale.  It was all 'National' and not even pure white, as it was a 'sort of' wheatmeal, as was our bread: the 'National Loaf' (also 'sort of' wheatmeal, but the flour baked to give a greyish crumb colour and it didn't taste very good anyway).   Pretty sure our cheese was also 'National' (what we called 'mouse-trap cheese'.

For anyone interested, here is the recipe for those 'Splits'.  The fat would probably be margarine or lard, as in those days oil was not used (or available for) cooking, olive oil only on sale at the chemists for 'medicinal purposes'.  At least there did seem to be plenty of potatoes on sale, and the booklet gives many recipes using them.  There was even a cartoon character called 'Potato Pete' who persuaded cooks to keep buying/cooking/eating them.  How things have changed since then.
Potato Splits:
4 oz flour
6 oz mashed potatoes
2 oz fat
1 teaspoon salt
quarter pint milk
1 teaspoon Miller's British Baking Powder
Mix the flour, salt and baking powder, rub in the fat. Lightly mix in the mashed potatoes.  Mix to a soft dough with milk.  Roll out to half inch thick; cut into rounds. Bake in a moderately hot oven about 20 minutes.  When cold, cut through to make a sandwich with shredded vegetables mixed with salad cream, gravy or sauce, or with any sandwich spread.
Electric Temperature: 425F.  Regulo No.6

Whilst not expecting anyone to serve up 'war-time' food today, am giving a few more recipes from the booklet to show the type of food that people ate in those days, and this next recipe is given as: "a delicious spread for the kiddie's tea when the fat ration is finished".
Chocolate Spread:
quarter pint of milk
1 dessertspoonful flour
2 dessertspoonsful sugar
3 dessertspoonsful cocoa
Blend the flour, cocoa and sugar with a little milk, pour over the rest when boiling, return to the pan and stir until smooth and thick.  Use when cold.

Goodness knows what this next would end up like, but the recipe is in the book, and no doubt it was made, served and perhaps even 'enjoyed'.
War-time Yorkshire Pudding:
4 tablespoons flour
1 egg (dried will do)
pinch of salt
half pint of milk
half teaspoonful Miller's British Baking Powder
Sieve the salt and baking powder into the flour.  Make a well in the centre, add the well-beaten egg, then the milk gradually.  Beat very well until full of bubbles.  Allow to stand. Add 1 tablespoonful of water and pour the mixture into smoking-hot fat. Bake in a fairly hot oven for 30 - 35 minutes according to size of tin.
Electric Temperature: 400F   Regulo No.5.
Hint: if dried egg or dried milk is used, sieve with the salt and baking powder and add to the flour.  Use the required amount of water for mixing.

Final recipe is one that I remember my Mum making for our mid-day meal (it would be, as this cookbook used to be hers).
Miller's Lunch-time Morsels:
8 oz flour
1 level teaspoon Miller's British Baking Powder
1 level teaspoon salt
3 oz lard
water to mix
(Filling: 4 tablespoonsful cooked lentils, 4 tablespoonsful breadcrumbs, a pinch of salt and pepper, a pinch of mixed herbs, a pinch of curry powder).
Make the pastry in the usual way.  Roll out and cut into large circles. Wash and cook the lentils; add the breadcrumbs and seasonings, mixing well together.  Put a portion of mixture on each circle of pastry, moisten the edges and make into pasties.  Bake in a hot oven until a golden brown.
Electric Temperature 425F  Regulo No.6

Despite my (now) dislike of P.H, am finding time to watch the repeats of 'The Great British Bake-off' each afternoon.  It's not normal for me to feel so let down by someone I 'felt drawn to' (but only his eyes). But, as they say 'love and hate' are almost bedmates, so as P.H.has now lost my love, he'll have to put up with my hate, and have decided, that next time I bake bread, I'll keep back a bit of dough to mould into a figure to represent P.H. then role-play 'witch' and stick pins (or cocktails stick) into various parts of his anatomy.  Might even bake 'him' along with the bread and take even more delight biting off (and eating) his head!!  At one time I was almost a real 'witch', and was able to cast spells. Now I never do because most of them worked!  I don't like playing with fire, but now I feel almost like having a dabble again. So P.H. be afraid.  Be very afraid.

The weather seems to be getting warmer in that we don't now need the central heating on for more than an hour (once in the morning, once early evening).  Today we have blue skies and clouds and a high wind that is blowing petals from the apple tree that makes it look as though snow is falling.
Devastating tornadoes are hitting the mid-west of America at the moment.  The only buildings that seem to stand up to them are those built of brick.  One wonders why all homes in the 'tornado belt' of the US are not brick-built to withstand these 'twisters' (which are - after all - a common occurance).

Yet, my mind goes to Japan, where they have many earthquakes and certainly many years ago (before skyscrapers etc), houses were always built of light wood.  Internal walls were more like sliding doors made of wood-framed paper, and there was very little furniture. Even the bed was a rolled up mattress (futon) with a wooden support to lay the head on.  Complete minimalist decor, with just one beautifully arrangement of flowers in one corner, and a low table in the centre of the room (people sat on the floor to eat and drink).  When the earthquakes hit, the houses collapsed like a pack of cards, with less chance of anyone caught inside being hurt, and the houses were easily rebuilt.  This did make a lot of sense.  So perhaps wise for property to be re-built in the tornado zones 'Japanese style', and furnish minimalist - the good thing about that is the less we have, the less it costs us to replace. 

Nowadays we don't seem to take any notice of what weather nature constantly throws at us.  We (in the UK) build on water-meadows, and cover land with concrete so there is nowhere for excessive rain water to drain away.  Then we complain because we get flooded.
And who decided that it made sense to build a big city (or several) on the San Andreas fault in the US? A disaster waiting to happen, which could be any day now, or in a hundred or so years hence.  Who knows, who even seems to care?.  Live for the day and let tomorrow take care of itself.

At least I have to keep thinking about tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that. So this means I'll now be taking my leave of you until Sunday (or might even be Monday as I may feel the need for a 'lie-in' after the hectic day previously).  I'll miss my chat with you, but you will still be with me in my thoughts over the next few days and hope you will keep sending comments so that I have some to reply to once I sit myself back in front of the comp. again.   Bye for now...xx

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Tortoise and the Hare...

Slow and steady wins the race it is said.  Certainly this seems to be working for me this week as each day I manage to accomplish quite a lot without needing to rush, although have a feeling that Friday will see the beginning of more action and Saturday will certainly speed up.

Yesterday put my head down and really had a good clear out of the unit tops.  Normally these are full anyway with 'necessary' gadgets such as bread bins, cereal containers, toasters, several stone jars full of cooking utensils, electric kettle, corner racks to store plates and bowls, mug racks....  and no real length to work at as the hob comes in the middle of one length, the sink/drainer taking up much of the other.   Up to a couple of days ago, empty clean glass jars/lids tended to fill up some of the space (as no-where to put them), but as most of my glass jar 'collection' has now been taken to the bottle bank (lids gone into the 'metal/can' bin), and moving a few things from one side of the hob to the other, it's surprising how much space has suddenly appeared.   Not that it is 'working space' as things are still lined up at the back, but at least 'tidy'.  And what a difference THAT makes.

Today I'm going to move a set of wooden shelves (that B once made) into the kitchen.  At the moment these are in front of the gas boiler this itself being behind sliding wardrobe doors (the boiler being in our bedroom for some reason, as is the stop-cock for the water.  Why they didn't use that room for the kitchen when adapting this house into two apartments I don't know, especially as the bathroom is next to what is now our kitchen (this could then have been a bedroom).   Anyway, the shelves are of little use in the bedroom, and am hoping they will fit under the end of our kitchen table so that I have room to put my cookery books (normally piled onto a chair), and other things that are best kept together. 

As I got on so well yesterday, decided to have a sit-down and make some little 'flags' that will show the names of the different side dishes that will be on the 'help-yourself' table.  B says people would like to know what things are, myself would think they were obvious, but it's not a bad idea, so as I'd already got a bag of plain white adhesive labels (useful size for jam jars but have patterned ones for those), peeled two labels from the backing paper and laid a cocktail stick close to one end, and stuck them together.  Cut a notch in the far end (to make them look more attractive), and later will write (best writing of course) the names of the various dishes.   
The backing sheets I have kept as the side the labels were stuck to is shiny and I think would be suitable to use when piping royal icing flowers and decorations as they should then be easy to remove once set.  Could also use the shiny side to drizzle/pipe on melted chocolate when making decorations.

Incidentally, although have never seen this mentioned, and certainly never read about it, the easiest way to remove fragile decorations (esp choc) without them breaking is to first pipe these on paper (wax or baking parchment etc lying on a flat surface such as a table or unit top) and allow to set. then begin sliding the paper to the edge of the table/unit,  and - holding the edge of the paper with one hand (the other hand controlling the paper at the other end to keep it firm/level) - pull the paper about an inch past the table top then pull it down at right angles.  As you pull, the decorations come unstuck from the paper (this now going down) and continue sliding forward, so you need a piece of card to hold close to the table to catch the shapes as they eventually come loose.  Am never any good at explaining things, so do hope this is understandable. 

Am expecting the Tesco delivery this morning, so need to clear some room in the fridge before that comes.  I see from Jane's comment she too has been sorting out her kitchen.  This is something we should all do at least twice a year as it's surprising how many things can get pushed at the back of cupboards (one reason why I like my foods to be stored on open and fairly shallow shelves so there is no room for anything to be hidden behind, and being visible daily they are more likely to be used).
Shouldn't worry too much about gaining weight when on holiday Jane, as this is a time when most people take a lot more exercise and burn off those extra 'fish 'n chip' calories.

Good to hear from you again Noor.  Interesting to hear that your brother's home has no oven, yet maybe an oven is not so much used in Malaysia as here where the weather is colder and so we do more 'slow-cooking' of casseroles during the winter.  Probably cakes, biscuits and puddings are also not traditional eating in the Far East. 
Have to say that I much admire the Oriental diet as it seems so healthy, as well as being economical and very quick and easy to prepare and cook.  My B has now taken to making himself a stir-fry at least once a week, and thoroughly enjoys it.

Believe Tess is a newcomer to this site, if so welcome.  However Tess, think you may have got a bit mixed up re the Foodbank.  I haven't done very much with our local one (except some baking and writing up a small recipe booklet for them).  It is Janet who is doing a great deal more for her Foodbank in Rossendale.  All credit should go to her.

Notice a lot of weeds too in our garden Anona, and once this week is over hope to find time (if the weather stays fair) to get outside and pull up a few.   It is said that weeds are just wild flowers growing in the wrong place, and our garden is proof that the 'butterfly bush' (can't spell it properly but it sounds like 'buddliea') is a true 'weed' it keeps sprouting up everywhere, both white and all shades of light to dark purple, it is even growing from cracks in our brickwork (this needing repointing).   Another flower that keeps reappearing is the orange Welsh poppy, and we do have a creeping plant that has purple flowers (don't know the name) that crawls everywhere (even into this dining room through a tiny gap by the door frame),  and loads of different grasses (the previous owner having planted grasses that we pulled up by obviously they seeded themselves). 

One day must take out my wild flower book and find out exactly what is growing 'free' in the garden.  Most of the time it looks pretty when left 'wild' - at least that's my excuse.

Just time to give one recipe today.  This was intended to be served at the club 'do', but as it requires to be 'timed just right', think I'll stick to serving a Mango Cheesecake with a Tropical Fruit topping.
(Memo to myself:  make a second batch of EasyYo Greek yogurt today for the Raita, and tomorrow another batch of Mango yogurt).

This dessert is very similar to our 'Eton Mess' (whipped cream with crushed meringues and strawberries), but this time with a more Middle Eastern flavour.  It would go well served with Moroccan or Indian dishes.  There is room to change ingredients to suit particular tastes, so just use this as a guide.
To cut costs, myself would probably make my own 'mascarpone' by draining yogurt through muslin, possibly also beating in a bit of cream cheese (always use this at room temperature when cooking).  Canned apricots (or even no-soak apricots) could be used instead of the fresh.
Instead of using orange flower water, use rose water (or rose essence), and include the rose flavoured Turkish Delight, and then you could use raspberries instead of apricots.  You know how my mind works by now - keep the theme, but experiment with other ingredients, other flavours.
Apricot and Turkish Delight Mess: serves 4
7 oz (200g) mascarpone cheese (see above)
4 oz (100g) Greek yogurt
2 oz (50g) icing sugar, sifted
2 - 3 tblsp orange flower water
2 meringue nests, coarsely crushed
3 fresh apricots, stoned and chopped
4 cubes orange flav. Turkish Delight, chopped
2 oz (50g) flaked almonds
few mint leaves (top sprigs) for decoration
Put the cheese, yogurt, sugar and orange blossom water into a bowl and whisk together until thickened.  Fold in the rest of the ingredients and then pile into four individual (pref glass) serving bowls, and decorate by sticking a spig of mint in each.   Serve as soon as possible after making.

Heard on the news yesterday that the mid-west of American have just had 20 strong tornadoes.  Let us hope that our US readers did not fall prey to these.  Hearing about something like this makes me realise that however much we Brits complain about our weather, compared to other parts of the globe, we are pretty lucky.   It is true that we now seem to be having a lot more rain, a lot less sun, and more high winds, and compared to many years back (when our winters were REALLY cold and the snow lay around for several months), even the snow we have had has not been THAT bad. 

Today is another grey and miserable day, although the sun does tend to come out once noon has passed and they do say that Morecambe has more hours of sunshine than anywhere else in the country.  I just don't happen to be looking out of the window at the right time (the afternoon sun being at the back of our house, and our living room - where we sit in the afternoons - at the front).

Think I'll have time tomorrow to pop in and have a wee chat with you all, then Thursday, Friday and Saturday I'll be taking time off writing to allow me to concentrate fully on the Indian meal (Norma coming on Thursday and I'm at that cookery course during the evening so my 'working' day will be shorter than normal anyway).

Am trying to fit in watching repeats of The Great British Bake-Off, and realising now that I never liked Paul Hollywood anyway (it is just his eyes that used to mesmerise me).  He's far too much an 'I know it all, and I'm right' sort of man.  Does that make me fickle as I did say he was my sort of 'crumpet'?
Mentioned that it would be a good idea for those 'Baker Boys' to take his place in the next series, there true title is 'The Fabulous Baker Brothers', who I really enjoy watching and they seem genuinely 'real' family lads. 
It's odd really why I dislike so much any celebrity male who leaves his wife/family.  At one time I used to really like and admire Eamonn Holmes, until he left his wife of many years, and his children and set up home with someone else (forgotten her name but she is also a TV presenter, and they now have at least one child together).  Have 'gone off' Rick Stein for the same reason (although his children had grown up), and as for Heston B, well, never really liked him much anyway.  At least Gordon Ramsay has stayed with is family (so far), and also Jamie Oliver (cannot ever believe he'd stray).

Hypocritically I'd probably just shrug my shoulders if a well-known female cook left her husband, for we all know that for a woman to leave a man she'd been married to for many years, there'd be a very good reason, and possibly I'd even applaud her for doing so, certainly it wouldn't stop me watching her carry on TV cooking.   
Perhaps it's just that reading about what Paul H has done has disappointed me so much for when we hear of celebrity cooks that have (or seem to have) a solid family life, then it makes me feel good.  Family life and cooking go together in a 'feel-good' sort of way. You could call it a 'glue' that holds the family together.  Just wish it was, but sadly - in this day and age - it seems we need more 'super-glue'.  I blame ready-meals and junk food for a lot of marriage breakdowns.  So there!!

Have to get on.  Do hope you will be able to join me tomorrow, the last free day (or partly free) of this week, then it will be count-down to 'club food'.  Whatever the weather.  Enjoy today.  TTFN.