Monday, September 30, 2013

Thoughts of Autumn

Don't know about you, but this spell of autumnal weather is really making me feel good with memories of how it used to be like this so many, many years ago.  Thanks to Pam for her comment, she is also enjoying warm weather, warmer than us (but then she lives in Texas), but - for once - am not envious.  Ours is just perfect, around 11C at night, and 20C day time (slightly warmer down south). We did have a stiff breeze on Saturday night that brought down quite a few leaves, but plenty more to come as our road is lined with big horse-chestnut trees, taller than the houses.

We are expecting this year to have a colourful leaf display around the country if the wind stays away, so hoping to drive up through the Lake District in a couple of weeks or so.  Once it has begun in the south, it usually takes a couple or so weeks for the colour change to catch up in the north.

A few comments sent in, but not all using the same comment box (some using ones from earlier blogs - the ones they were reading at that time - so although I do receive all comments within hours of being sent (they arrive with my emails), not all will be seen in the last collection of comments.  However, as all new comments are replied to (at least any that need a reply), nothing of note is being missed.

A request from Susan G. for a recipe for green tomato chutney.  Most recipes for this chutney are very similar, but have plenty of opportunity to adapt to suit person tastes.
For instance:  use a mixture of green and red tomatoes if you want a more 'sweet-sour' flavour (adding the red tomatoes half-way through cooking).  The vinegar can be the brown malt, the clear 'white', or cider vinegar.  Onions used can be red or white. The dried fruit can be sultanas or raisins.
The sugar should be as given as this gives the correct sweetness, but if you haven't the correct sort you could use Demerara and a teaspoon or two of black treacle.  But then I'm one who does like to experiment.  If you haven't made if before, stick to the recipe as much as possible.
The 'bite' to the chutney can be included by adding red chillis, mustard seeds, or mustard powder and ground black pepper, or just a dash of chilli sauce.  Never add too much of the spicies as we can't take the heat away, just start small and then add more until it reaches the 'kick' we are hoping for.

Green Tomato Chutney: makes about 4 lbs
1.5lb (750g) green tomatoes (see above), halved
500ml vinegar, malt or white
9 oz (250g) sultanas or raisins
1 large red or white onion, chopped
1 - 2 tsp salt
14oz (400g) light muscovado sugar
3 tsp ground black pepper OR....
...2 - 3 tsp (or to taste) red chilli sauce
2 tsp mustard seeds
Put all the ingredients into a preserving pan, bring to the boil then reduce heat and simmer for one hour.  If including red tomatoes, add these aver 25 minutes.  Stir occasionally during the cooking time.  When ready (the chutney should have thickened), pot up into clean, sterilized jars, seal with vinegar proof lids and store in a cook dark place.  This chutney will keep for a year, but store in the fridge once opened and eat within a month.

Some weeks ago I wrote a blog that contained a recipe for fried green tomatoes, but - a it was the old comp - on that day it wouldn't publish.  Not sure if I have given the recipe since, but as we are talking 'green' then perhaps today is a good time to repeat it.  If you haven't cornmeal, then you could use semolina.
'Whistle Stop Fried Green Tomatoes: serves 4
4 large green tomatoes
4 oz (100g) cornmeal (polenta flour)
salt and pepper
2 tblsp sunflower oil
Slice the tomatoes into 1 cm (half inch) thick rounds.  Season well, then dip the slices into the cornmeal until coated.  Fry in the oil over medium-hot heat until golden on both sides (takes approx. 5 minutes total). Eats well served with grilled meats and esp. bacon.

Sun-dried tomatoes are fairly expensive to buy, so why not make a similar version ourselves?  Take the opportunity to use up the last of the ripe tomatoes and semi-dry some in the oven.  Once made they are then stored in the fridge and should be used within a month, but worth freezing some (with or without the oil) to make them keep a bit longer.
Semi-dried Tomatoes: serves 4 - 6
12 ripe tomatoes
salt and pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
olive oil
Halve the tomatoes and remove the seeds.  Quarter the flesh and arrange on a baking tray.  Sprinkle with seasoning and the herbs, drizzling a little oil over.
Place in the oven on the lowest heat and leave until most of the moisture has gone (this can take 3 - 4 hours).  Place the tomatoes in a clean, sterilised jar, then add enough olive oil to cover, tapping the jar on a work top to remove air bubble.  Cover and store in the fridge..

Thanks to T-bird Annie for her comment.  Do agree that having groceries delivered - despite delivery charges - works well.  At least for me.  This gives me an added bonus as when shopping in store, se often get tempted and buy things, then when taken home think "why did I buy that, I didn't really need it?" (and wish I hadn't). Shopping online I can fill my virtual shopping trolley with all sorts of foods that have tempted me, and get some pleasure from doing this, but the next day can scroll down and remove all these 'unnecessaries' before sending the final order (but have to make sure I do this in time). Believe me, I've reduced my original order by £50 just by removing all the temptations.

We went to have our flu jab on Saturday, this time it was a long, standing queue with only one, and then later two doctors giving the jabs.  I let B queue while I sat down, then caught up with him about half an hour later when he was close to the front of the queue. It was a good time to 'people watch', one young girl in particular spent most of the time tapping away at her mobile, and can only think she was 'tweeting'.  Seems this is the fashion, to let everyone know what you are doing the moment you are doing it (like waiting in a long queue to have a flu jab!).  Who flipping well cares?
A man was helped out of the room by a nurse and told to sit down for 15 minutes before he left.  Seems he had nearly fainted.  I was told (previously by the practice nurse) that many men faint at the thought of being stuck with a needle.  Haven't heard that it affects women this way.  And we are supposed to be the weaker sex?
Our doctor was very good, neither B nor I felt anything. Not even the slightest prick.  Unfortunately I was 5 months past the age of being allowed the shingles vaccination (only up to 79).  Learned something new.  We can't catch shingles, but those who have had chicken pox when younger, and their health is at a low ebb, could find their 'pox' comes out of hibernation and returns as shingles.  However, anyone with shingles CAN pass it on as chicken pox to those who have not already had it, so should keep away from pregnant women etc.

As we were close to Morrison's after leaving the surgery, decided to call in and pick up a few (few, that's a laugh), things that I could do with. It was only 9.;30am, but the three store's scooters had all been taken by early shoppers, so I came home empty handed, knowing full well I'd enough in the house to keep us going for weeks anyway.  So why did I feel the need to shop anyway?  Suppose it's a bit of a habit, maybe the 'hunter-gatherer' instinct that is particularly powerful at this time of year (build up the stores to see us through winter etc). 
The fridge is looking a bit sad.  Three shelves almost empty, even the veggie drawers are half-empty.  However the freezers are full to bursting.

When we returned, decided to scoot out with Norris and get some veggies from the local butcher who has a small deli (inside) and a few veggies displayed a trestle table outside the shop window. But the choice was limited and not what I wanted (salads etc).  The butcher's  veggies are mainly those that are cooked with roasts (carrots, onions, swedes, potatoes), which makes sense I suppose.  So came back empty handed.  But it was a lovely day, and a pleasure to be out.
You won't believe this, but during the long and often glorious summer we have had this year, I have not scooted along the prom.  Only seen the view when we have driven past in the car.   The problem with Morecambe is that - to me - it is a bit boring, and always the same.  Either the tide is in, or it is out. No waves crashing on the shore, no 'real' sea.  More like a lake that keeps emptying and refilling with hardly any motion. 

At one time Morecambe had a big fun fair, the front lit up with lights a bit like Blackpool, it even had a pier.  Now all this has gone, a third of the shops are permanently closed, half the rest closed for the winter season, and - certainly the east end where we live - we see very few tourists.  The hotels seem to cater now for coach trips, so although the visitors stay in the hotels overnight, during the day they are off to see other sights (York, Harrogate, Lake District, Blackpool....).  It's only at weekends that the sea-front comes to life, and then the pavements too full for me to manoeuvre Norris through the throng, so I keep away.  

Think the problem really is to do with being out alone.  Indoors (and in the garden) am a quite content with my own company, but when out and about on my scooter, there is a sense of loneliness in that when I see something I like, just wish I had someone with me to share it with.  To chat to as we walk along.  B is not keen on being seen with me when I'm on my scooter, he wouldn't even push me when I was in a wheel chair, he always got someone else to do that.  He is either embarrassed to be seen with a 'disabled wife', or he feels it makes him feel 'tied down' and unable to do what he wants to do or go where he wants to go.  Well, that's how it feels to me.

Tomorrow it will be October and - towards the end o the month - we change the clocks.  Then it will seem as though it is time to tuck ourselves in for the winter months to come.  Pity we can't hibernate like some animals.  It always fascinates me how one third of our life-time is spent in an unconscious state - in other words - asleep.  My B sleeps so heavily (and now often during the day) that he probably has spent half his life unconscious.  What a waste!  Normally I find 5 hours sleep at night is enough for me now, although I do have twenty winks now and again while watching TV (usually when the ads are on and my concentration is relaxed).  Sometimes I stay awake all night (not going to bed), but again during this time do have a bit of a nod off for half an hour or so).  It is very rarely I have the full 8 hours sleep, and don't feel any the better for it when I do.

Final recipe today is similar to one I've given before, but as it uses seasonal veggies, and many of them (hopefully) cheaper as there have been gluts of apples etc,  this could work out to be an economical dish, but before I begin - the word 'cheap'  has reminded me that in the latest issue of a well-known cookery mag are budget recipes (they also give the cost).  Again it seems that the word  'budget' to the professionals (cooks/editors etc), means something quite different to me (and to you?). Almost all the dishes shown are between £1.50 and £2 per portion some cost more (believe one was 99p), and that is NOT what I call 'budget' or in any way economical.   Am I so out of touch with the cookery world of today?
What did concern me was that seeing (in another mag), several different manufactured 'ready-to-heat' Cottage Pies (flavour and quality compared), these were all much the same price, and not that different to that shown as a recipe in a magazine.  Who can blame anyone for buying a ready meal when it works out as 'economical' as one home-made, and saves all the bother of making it?

This recipe uses pumpkin (with Halloween approaching worth thinking about this), or butternut squash.  Even a firm vegetable marrow could be used.  The advantage with the squash family is that they store so well, I've a butternut squash in my onion basket that I've had for some months, and it still is firm (not soft and ripe).

Squash and Apple Curry: serves 4
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped or crushed
1 lb (450g) pumpkin, peeled, seeded, cubed
1lb 12 oz (800g) baking potatoes, cubed
2 medium cooking apples, peeled, diced
2 tsp curry paste (your choice of strength)
2 tsp turmeric
1" (2.5cm) piece root ginger, chopped
2 bay leaves
18 fl oz (500ml) vegetable stock
2 oz (50g) raisins
salt and pepper
yogurt to serve
Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the onion for 5 minutes until turning golden, then stir in the garlic and fry for a further minute.   Add the pumpkin, apples, curry paste, turmeric, ginger, and bay leaves. Stir-fry for a couple of minutes then add the vegetable stock, raisins, and seasoning to taste.
Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender.  When ready, spoon into bowls.  Add a dollop of yogurt on top.  Serve with rice or naan bread.

That's it for today.  Will return again either tomorrow and/or Wednesday.  All depends upon whether I have something interesting to write about.  As ever, keep those comments coming as love to hear your news.  TTFN.


Friday, September 27, 2013

Give Respect....

Next week it will be October.  Hard to believe as yesterday was warm and - once the clouds had rolled away - the sun shone down again.  As we have had a near perfect summer this year, we are now getting a near perfect autumn.  The leaves are beginning to change colour, and with any luck we might even manage without the central heating for another week (or even a month!).   Ground frost was forecast for the end of this week, but no sign of the temperature dropping as low as that so far.

Made a double batch of Fork Biscuits yesterday morning and have to say I sampled one (well I needed to make sure they were baked long enough as I remove them from the oven when pale gold and leave them on the baking sheet to crisp up - which they do).  After eating one, I then ate another, and another.  Did the same with the second batch.  They are SO more-ish.   B has already eaten most of the rest.

It's definitely showing autumn in the Good Kitchen as there are bowls of apples and pears from the garden, more of plums (given), and yesterday our daughter brought me some damsons.  With several tubs of blackberries in the freezer, and some of the above plums, I'm now having to find more space.  Luckily pears should be (and were) picked before they are fully ripe, and will be left at room temperature until ready (this could take a few weeks).

A thanks to Margaret for telling us of her pear/feta/rocket/walnut oil 'salad' (my name not hers). Pears do go well with cheese, particularly blue cheese - a classic dish is Pears, Stilton, and walnuts.  So the walnut oil is a good alternative to nuts.  St Agur is a milder form of blue cheese and one I prefer, but feta cheese (Wensleydale or crumbly Lancashire, or goat's cheese) is a good alternative.
Walnut oil is expensive, and does not have such a long shelf life as some oils, so best used rather than stored for months.  In fact - from the health point of view - like walnuts, this oil is something we should eat regularly, several times a week if poss as the walnuts and esp the oil has been proved to lower our cholesterol.

A welcome to Yggdrasil who is interested on my views about the life force in plants.  Can't - other than times when I do accidentally damage a plan and instinctively apologise - give much thought to their feelings because other times I pull up weeds without a care in the world.

Yet all plants are alive.  They grow, reproduce, die, and this - to me - shows a similar life force to that in animals (we humans are animals) and all get their food (their fuel) from the earth (although some manage to survive on just sun and rain).   All part of the everlasting circle.  The plants provide food for animals, animals provide food for other animals, when all die their bodies (in one form or another) return to replenish the earth and so it starts all over again.
Some animals eat only vegetation, other eat only meat.  We - as humans - eat both, but, as far as I am aware, the meat we eat (other than fish) is an animal that eats only herbage, and not a meat eater.  It has been said that some of their (and our) health problems in recent years has been because animal protein has been added to the processed foods they have been given.  Go against nature and all hell can break loose.

When I belonged to the Leeds Horticultural Society we were given a couple of amazing slide shows by a person who was interested in the cycle of plants, their reproduction etc, and how the plants (themselves with the help of nature/evolution) made darn sure they lured the right insects to them for pollination.  Or not as the case might be.  We believe that 'nature' controls the plant life, and of course this is so, but by the same token 'nature' controlled us until we got civilised.  Goodness knows what mayhem would occur if plants decided to take over and do their own thing. 
Considering that weeds are often stronger then the more tender plants we put in our garden, if we didn't continually keep removing them, they would engulf everything.  Yet even in wild gardens (or countryside) there is a balance, and no doubt for a good (natural) reason.

Once I had a book called 'The Secret Life of Plants' (gave it away before we moved here and now wish I hadn't).  This really seems to prove there is a lot more to plant life than we think.  Certainly it made me respect plants a lot more.  Having said that I have to admit I almost killed one deliberately. 
This was around the time I had joined a psychic group and we had been talking about the power of our minds.   So I went home and sat and glared at a plant on the windowsill, willing it to die.  Sat there for several hours just concentrating on this plant.  Nothing happened to it, so I gave up.  I rose from the chair, went and got myself a cup of coffee, came and sat down again and looked at the plant.  As I did so, the plant just sagged and dropped down dead!  I felt dreadful. Never did it again, although have to say I've tested my 'mind power' once or twice.  Works well with balloons, the ones filled with helium that drift up to the ceiling.  We once (or twice) had several that - after a party - had floated up to the ceiling and I left them there, dotted around the room.  Then would focus my attention on one and after a while could get it drifting across the room (while the others all stayed still).  My B was quite impressed especially when I stopped that balloon and began doing it with another and the same thing happened.

Oh yes, just remembered when the Horti club gave each member a (forced) hyacinth bulb to plant, these to be taken to the club in January to compete to find the best grown.  And I won!  They asked me how I'd been able to grow such a lovely hyacinth (and it was beautiful, everyone else had brought hyacinths with either long stems or the flowers hadn't opened properly).  I told them it was because I talked to it (and it 'talked' back to me).  This was true although the plants 'voice' was in my head, a transference of thought if you like.  It 'told' me to put it into a cold place (like the fridge) when opening too quickly (for the show), and to put it on a sunny windowsill if it needed a bit more help to get the last little florets (if that is what they are called) open.  On the day it was as perfect as it could be. Even I couldn't believe it.  

Am not suggesting we should concern ourselves as to whether we cause distress to plants we grow when we pull them out of the ground.  But perhaps give them a little more respect and thanking them for being food for us wouldn't come amiss.  Thing is about life on earth, there is so much variety and each species tends to go its own way without disturbing another, in harmony if you like, that if we all began to realise that we have to consider each other, then this could cause imbalance.  We may hate slugs but presumably they are here for a purpose (what?), and although I will never kill a spider (why?) I don't mind swatting flies.  Same goes for weeds, if they are a nuisance, they get pulled up without any feeling of compassion.  Yet some say that weeds are just wild plants in the wrong place.

Looks as though I've allowed plants to take over this mornings blog, and only just started on replying to comments, so had better move on to the next.  This is either a welcome (or welcome back) to Kate. Can't remember my own recipe for banana bread, but thanks for sending yours.  Joy  also sends her thanks.  Laura Lou another name to welcome.

Another newcomer to the comment box is Midlander and loved hearing about the sliced of marrow dipped in sugar as once given as a 'sweet treet' in times past.  What a great idea to use marrow instead of apple in a blackberry and apple pie.

Many years ago I used to make Marrow and Ginger jam for a friend who loved it.  Using canned pineapple cubes (roughly chopped), the pineapple juice from the can, plus chopped marrow, sugar and water, this tasted very similar to pineapple jam.

It is surprising (or not) how so many vegetables can be used in place of fruit when making cakes, desserts etc.  Beetroot, carrots, parsnips, courgettes, butternut squash, pumpkin, marrow... all work very well as mainly sweet (or in some instances flavourless so absorb the flavours of other ingredients such as spices...).  A good way to get children eating vegetables when normally they refuse them.
Why is it today that children get away with refusing food.  In 'my day' (here we go again) we had to clear our plates otherwise we'd be given the leftovers cold to eat for the next meal.  So we always ate what we were given, even if we didn't like it. 

They do say that the food mothers eat during pregnancy their offspring will also like to eat after weaning.  Even Brussels sprouts!  So - if planning for a baby, begin eating healthily and continue to do so and ever after your children will never be 'fussy' eaters.  Live on 'ready meals' and pizzas and your child will touch nothing else. You have been warned!

Returning to the cost of meals and my moan about the current view that £1.50 (give or take a few pence) is now the expected cost of a single portion  'budget meal'.  Don't know if readers agree, but once a cost is given, then many might assume that it cannot be (easily) bettered.  If so, this is not much help to novice cooks who would - I expect - base the cost of their (or family) meals on such information, and why it could seem to make sense to still purchase the 'ready made' because so many of these can be cheaper, even though actually not worth the money.

The amount we serve can also make a difference, and if we have a plateful of instant mash with four (or six) of the cheapest sausages, then that looks (and probably is) satisfying.  Yet if we served one really good butcher's sausage with a jacket potato then we could feel deprived, yet there would be more nourishment, vitamins and fibre in this smaller meal than in the cheaper version. 

We don't need to eat a lot to get our daily allowance of nutrients (we could take one multivitamin and mineral pill if we really wanted to take the easy way, probably cheaper too), but food has become much more than just our 'fuel'.  Eating alone we find it comforts us, eating together it can be a social occasion, and the best way to keep families from drifting apart is to eat at least one meal (the main meal) together round a table.  Food plays an important part in our lives (some will say too important and this could be true), so we should give it the respect it deserves and enjoy every mouthful, not just stuff it down our throats as though there is no tomorrow.

Even a marrow can be 'special' when used in a recipe such as this (another taken from 'The Goode Kitchen').  Served with a slice of melon as a starter, or eat as a dessert with (or without) a garnish of pineapple cubes.
The original recipe used only half an ounce of the ginger, but I think it could do with more so have increased the amount. If you haven't any preserved ginger, then use crystallised ginger.

Marrow and Ginger Sorbet: serves 4
1 lb (450g) marrow, flesh roughly chopped
1 oz (25g) preserved ginger, chopped
2 oz (50g) granulated sugar
2 level teaspoons powdered gelatine
2 egg whites, stiffly beaten
Poach the marrow flesh in a little water until soft (or can microwave).  Drain well then liquidise with the ginger or put through a vegetable mill or sieve.   Measure out 15fl oz (400ml) of the marrow and ginger puree and put into a pan with the sugar and gelatine.   Heat gently until the sugar/gelatine have dissolved then pour into a metal dish, cool and freeze until firm round the edges.   Remove from freezer and - using a fork - beat sides into the middle to make a frozen 'mush'. Fold in the beaten egg whites, cover and freeze until firm.   Thaw slightly before serving.

Many years ago I was regularly forwarded the American 'Good Housekeeping Magazine' (by one of the editors of the English G.H. mag, as at that time I used to write articles for them).  How different were the dishes served compared to those from this country, and although seeming strange, after making some, they did taste good.  Here is one that I adapted, taken from the same book as the above recipe.   Lots of room for adaptation with this one.  You could use a pineapple jelly, or use a blend of mayo and yogurt.  Curd cheese can be home-made from yogurt, or use crème fraiche.  Use walnuts or cashew nuts instead of the peanuts.
No need to use kitchen scales, just use a measuring jug (a mug is usually the right size for half pint and in this instance a little more (or less) doesn't  much matter.

This makes a good buffet dish as - when served with other salads, meat etc - it makes several portions.  Easier to serve when poured into a ring mould before chilling to set, just cut into thick slices as you would a cake.
Coleslaw Mousse:
1 pkt lemon jelly
6 fl oz (175ml) water
zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 tblsp mayonnaise
half pint (300ml) finely grated white cabbage
half pint (300ml) finely grated carrot
quarter pint (150ml) salted peanuts, chopped
half pint (300ml) curd cheese
2 egg whites, beaten
Put the jelly in a pan with the water (or in the microwave) and heat slowly until just melted.  Do not boil (boiling prevents the jelly setting properly).  Remove from the heat and add the lemon zest and juice.  Set aside to cool until just beginning to thicken (but not set).  Whisk until thick and frothy, then beat in the mayonnaise.  Fold in the cabbage, carrot, peanuts and cheese.  Finally, fold in the beaten egg whites.  Pour into a bowl and chill in the fridge until set before serving.

Am planning to take the weekend off from blogging (but then again if I can find time might pop back for a natter, so watch this space) as have such a lot to do.  Tomorrow B and I have to be at the surgery early for our flu jabs, Gill will be phoning early on Sunday (for an hour), there is all the fruit to freeze or make into preserves, the geraniums to put in their final pots, bulbs to plant, and more baking to be done.  The conservatory windows need cleaning (the window cleaner was going to come to do them, but he didn't so I'll have to do themj) and as I'll be putting all the potted up plants on the windowsills in there, the windows need cleaning first (B doesn't do windows, or hardly anything domestic when I come to think of it being  'women's work')..
The sooner I can start each day, the more I can get done.  With the weather set fair, should get most of the above completed and be back on track by Monday.  Even with the weekend delay, please keep your comments coming so that I have something to look forward to reading. 

Traditionally blackberry picking ends on 29th September, so if you haven't already been berry picking, then aim to do so this weekend. 
That date was my dad's birthday.  He was born in 1896, 117 years ago.  I think of my parents early life in the 1920's - around the time that Downton Abbey is set in this new series, which helps me visualise their lifestyle.  A very different way to now, yet not a lot different in the 30's when I was born, and suppose we all tend to be stuck in our own personal time warp, very few of us moving with the times, although able to accept them still preferring much of 'how it used to be'. Perhaps more comfortable with what we know rather than having to keep learning new ways.  To me, Edwardian times are almost 'history', so suppose my parents times feel like 'history' to my children, and my early lifetime would seem alien to our grandchildren.   Yesterday said to  "I'm beginning to feel I'm turning into a living fossil".  My mind still feels as young as 35, just stuck in the wrong (and very old) body.

Can't stop rambling can I?  Sorry about that, but really MUST get on and do what has to be done, or it will be Tuesday before I return, and can't leave it that long.  Enjoy the good weather while we have it.  The days are shortening, the nights are lengthening, and soon the clocks will go back.  Wonder what weather the winter will bring.  Have a feeling it won't be that cold this year.  Let us hope so. TTFN.



Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Keeping in Touch

Watching Jamie's series (budget meals), and this week the Hairy Biker's 'Everyday Gourmet', it seems that an 'economy meal' is (at the time of writing) expected to average £1.50p per portion.   My first though is 'that's not what I call economical', but maybe I expect too much.  Am I out of touch with life today?  Trying to think positive, I worked out that as seven portions (one main meal a day) could cost less than £10 a week, if one take-away can cost more than that, then perhaps I'm not thinking clearly. 

On the other hand, surely, surely, it is still possible to make a good 'one-portion' meal for less than £1.50p? There are many writers-of-blogs who can do a darn sight better than that.  Is it they (and me also) who is really in touch with the times?  Or is it still an 'us and them' division?

Ideally, even following a TV prog suggestion, we could look on it as a challenge.  Make the same thing (almost) but cheaper.  Maybe for £1.25, or even £1, or even less.
Every price or cost given in food mags and on TV cookery progs depends a great deal on how much is paid for the raw ingredients in the first place.  In Jamie's case he likes to buy 'freedom foods' and 'free range' etc, and we all know these are not the cheapest.  Even the Hairy Bikers seems to spend more than I expect, but then perhaps the prices are higher where they shop.  Hardly any cooks seem to buy food from a supermarket, it is always the farm shops, or local butchers, greengrocers etc. So as we cooks know already, there is always somewhere we can buy things cheaper, even if it does mean shopping around.

What I liked about the Hairy B's prog was the way they showed that presentation makes a HUGE difference.  Make a dish look as though it came from a Michelin starred restaurant and it makes us believe the ingredients have cost ££££s more than they have. 

This week we've had a paper pushed through the door offering a door-step delivery of milk and eggs. Just like the old days, and I was so pleased.  That is until I saw the prices being charged.  No delivery to pay, but the milk - admittedly from local farms - was 56p pint, more than twice the cost of supermarket milk (this being 25p per pint when 3 x 4pint containers are bought).  Eggs too were almost double the price. 
Have to say - despite the 'doorstep' price - I am tempted.  It would be good to use local farm produce and avoid going to the supermarket (where almost always something else is bought at the same time as the milk and eggs).  Yet, working the extra cost per month and knowing that fuel prices will continue to rise (they say another £100 a year), feel that it would be better to use this money to keep warm in the winter.  What is it they say now?  "Heat or eat?"  Seems that I am now having to think that way too.

Yet, in Leeds, because our milkman also delivered butter, yogurt, cheese, cream, crème fraiche, eggs, potatoes....these - with veggies from the greengrocer - helped me get through many weeks, even months, without going to the supermarket to buy 'other things' (that we probably didn't use at that time, but would use later).  It could be, as Jamie keeps saying, we need to 'spend more to save more', and maybe this is the case with doorstep deliveries of milk.   Will have to phone the man to see if he does deliver other things than milk/eggs, if so - well, watch this space.

Yesterday managed to get quite a lot done due to being able to have an early start.   Mince beef was thawed and cooked in the slow cooker.  Some will be used to make spag.bol for tonight's supper, the rest frozen in packs to use another time.  The gravy also.

B had a Fish Risotto for his supper, and I had a real job finding some chicken stock (frozen), to add to this.  Eventually found a few 'cubes' that had been frozen in ice-cube trays, but that seemed to be all there was.  Must buy some chicken wings (or hopefully 'free' chicken carcases) to make more stock as this is one of the most important 'ingredients' in the Goode kitchen.

Still have lbs of plums to use up, and our small pear tree (planted 3 years ago) has cropped really well (we have about 20 pears from it). Even the old apple tree, despite most of the fruit being scabby/pitted, has had more fruit this year than I've seen before - not a lot but enough to freeze away.  Yesterday made an apple and blackberry crumble for B with some of the apples and blackberries that we've picked.   What a good year for fruit this has been.

The other day made my usual salad for supper, but instead of tomatoes, I used halved plums and would you believe they worked really well as a salad 'veg'. In any case, I'm a quite a fan of including fruit in (my) salad: green grapes, sliced banana, chunks of avocado, sliced or grated apple, so why not plums (or even pears)?  It's a bit like having a main course and dessert rolled into one. 

Yesterday was both warm and wind-free, so although a bit cloudy and now a real feeling of autumn in the air, it seemed a pity to have to clear my containers ready to plant the spring bulbs.  So far have have finished lifting all the geraniums, still growing well, but few flowers on now. Repotted they will be kept in the conservatory where they should continue flowering throughout most of the winter (as they have done in previous years).
 Because there was blue lobelia in the same containers, their roots were disturbed a bit when lifting the geraniums, and not sure if it was the roots or the lobelia flowers, but certainly something was giving off a lovely perfume.  At the moment have left the lobelia where it is, the bulb planting can wait another week. 
The two small lavender plants bought in early summer have now fully filled their pots (after a second transplanted), and will transplant them again this week, probably into the large window box that is under the conservatory window by the side of our back door (that is, once I've planted the spring bulbs).

Was SO disappointed when I saw my hosta.  In early summer I'd bought one in bloom, the leaves green with a white stripe, and very attractive.  Knowing how much the slugs love to eat hostas, I stood the pot on a house brick, this standing in a tray of water (slugs won't cross water), and all summer it has looked beautiful. 
Yesterday saw that something had knocked over the plant (cat, squirrel?) and although the pot was still lying - on its side - on the brick, the leaves had crossed over the water and had, apparently, fallen to touch the ground (which was grass).  I say 'apparently' as there were no leaves at all, just the dead flower spike in the centre.  The slugs had eaten the lot!

As I bent down to pick up the pot in the hope of seeing new growth at soil level, lost my balance and nearly fell to the floor, being saved only by a big pot of acanthus which I fell onto, my hand smashing most of its leaves but fortunately did not too much damage.  As ever, found myself apologising out loud to the plant.  This is what I do.  Fall over onto a hedge and I apologise, bump into a tree and I apologise, severely prune a plant and I apologise...  well they have as much life force (maybe even more) than we do, so tend to think of them as able to feel some sort of discomfort (if not real pain) when they are damaged.  Just because we can't hear a lettuce scream when it is pulled from the soil doesn't mean it isn't hurting.

Just a couple of comments to reply to (hope I have not forgotten anyone).  No, I haven't seen the Gourmet Vegan website buttercup, and although I first thought 'not my cup of tea' because asparagus was mentioned (asparagus being expensive) really LOVED your suggestion of using peas instead of asparagus. That shows great incentive and how we should never dismiss a recipe because one (or more) ingredient is costly for we should be able to find a very similar - and cheaper - alternative (as did buttercup). 

Seems that the Fork Biscuit recipe is going down well.  Kate has added her own choice of flavourings and these sound gorgeous.  Must try them myself as am today making more Fork Biscuits.  B so enjoys them that they disappear as fast as I make them.

Due to this season's glut of plums thought a couple of recipes might come in useful. Plum Duff is a very old-fashioned pudding and - because dried fruit also used - when cooked is similar to a Christmas pudding.  So, if you have surplus plums, why not freeze some to later thaw and make this cheaper version to serve on Christmas Day (or any other cold day in the winter - you can always make half the amount).
The ingredients (other than plums) are what I call 'store-cupboard' (even the apple and orange keep quite well), and we could omit the rum.
Please not that the metrics are slightly more by weight than normally shown (often 100g = 4 oz, this time it is 125g).
Served after a large meal (such as Christmas turkey with the trimmings) we really only need a taste of a pudding such as this, so although the original recipe serves 6, at Christmas it will serve 8. 

Plum Duff: serves 6 -8
4 oz (125g) self-raising flour
4 os (125g) breadcrumbs
4 oz (125g) suet
3.5 oz (100g) soft light brown sugar
3.5 oz) 100g) currants or raisins
4 oz (125g) sultanas
1 tsp mixed spice
10 oz (275g) plums, stoned and chopped
1 dessert apple, peeled and chopped
grated zest and juice of 1 orange
2 tblsp rum (opt)
2 eggs, beaten
7 fl oz (200ml) milk (approx. amount)
Put into a large bowl the flour, breadcrumbs, suet, sugar, dried fruit, prepared plums and apples. Mix well and add the zest and juice of the orange, the rum (if using) and the eggs. Stir in enough milk to give a good dropping consistency, then spoon the mixture into a 1 ltr (1.75pt) greased pudding basin and cover with a folded sheet of greaseproof paper.  Secure with string.
Sit the basin on an upturned heatproof saucer or on a rack in a large pan.  Half-fill pan with boiling water and cover with the pan lid.  Steam for 3 hours, adding extra boiling water during this time as necessary (it may need adding several times depending on how tight the lid fits). 
Cool for 10 minutes before removing the lid, then turn out onto a plate.  Serve with custard or cream.

Here is a recipe for Plum Chutney that will keep well for up to a year (worth adding to that Christmas Hamper). This traditional recipe is often published, and am pleased that new publications suggest we reduced cooking time (saves fuel!!) by first softening the onions, apples and plums in a microwave before continuing with the recipe.
Plum Chutney: makes about 4 lb.
1 lb (450g) onions, chopped
9 oz (250g) cooking apples, peeled and chopped
1 lb 8 oz (675g) plums, stoned and quartered
half a pint (10fl oz) pickling vinegar
4 oz (100g) sultanas
6 oz (175g) light soft brown sugar
1 stick cinnamon
Place everything into a large pan, bring to the boil then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 45 minutes (less if the fruit has first been microwaved - see above), or until the chutney is thick and pulpy.
Cool for about 5 minutes, then remove the cinnamon stick and pot up into warmed and sterilised jars using vinegar proof lids.   Store for a couple of months before using to give the flavour a chance to mature.  Will keep unopened for a year, but once opened store in the fridge and eat within a month.

Seems the Women's Institute are gaining thousands of new members as home-cooking now becomes popular.   In this instance it is the jam/preserves that everyone now wants to make.  Considering we are supposed to avoid eating foods that are high in sugar and fat, odd that jam and cakes seem to still be the first things we think about making (and pushed in that direction by several TV progs).  On the other hand, no comfort food tastes as good as these when home-made, and the worse the recession the more comfort we need.  As my B says, 'I'd rather enjoy eating what I like than live longer and die miserable'.  Tend to agree with him to some extent, but we can still eat healthily AND enjoy what we eat. Trouble is, sometimes it can become too expensive.

Here's a recipe from my first BBC book and considering the ingredients, expect something similar was made in wartime.  Before then carrots were served only as a vegetable.  Since then used in many sweet dishes (think Carrot Cake...).  Carrots are cheap enough and store well (I keep mine in the fridge), so when cooking some as a veg to go with a main meal, cook extra to use a day or two later to make this dessert.

Carrots are the same colour as apricots, and almost as sweet, so if you wish to add a touch of  'luxury', include a few no-soak apricots to this dish. Everyone will think the 'fruit' is all apricots (and no carrots).

Carrot and Sultana Flan: serves 4 - 6
4 oz (100g) carrots, cooked
1 oz (25g) butter, melted
1 egg, beaten
1 tblsp sultanas
2 tblsp breadcrumbs (brown or white)
2 tblsp caster sugar
grated zest of 1 lemon
pinch of grated nutmeg (or cinnamon)
8 oz (225g) shortcrust pastry
flaked almonds
Mash/sieve the carrots and mix with the butter and egg (or put them into a blender and whizz to a pulp). To this mixture add the rest of the ingredients (except pastry and almonds).
Roll out the pastry and line an 8" pie plate (or quiche tin), the spoon in the mixture, levelling the surface.  Scatter the almonds on top and bake at 350C, gas 4 for half an hour.

Well, that's it for today.  Couldn't blog earlier as had to wait until Norma had left (she was late arriving).  Busy tomorrow (visitors) but hope to be back with you on Friday.  Keep those comments coming.  TTFN.


Monday, September 23, 2013

Changes of Life....

Managed to watch all of '....Bake Off' (repeat) yesterday.  Still found it hard to concentrate.  Earlier  watched 'Sweet Genius' (Food Network) as was hoping to learn some new ways of presentation, but got very confused.  This was a contest between four'chefs, three rounds, one voted off in each round.  One was a lady I recognised from a 'Cake Wars' (or similar prog). She may be good at making cup cakes (who isn't?), but seemed to fall to pieces when having to poach some meringues (to make what we call a 'Floating Island' dish.  Even I can make better poached 'islands'.

What did make me laugh, and I really mean laugh out loud, was when one of the chefs (the most famous one - at least in the US), began speaking.  He was French, spoke English perfectly but with an accent, but easily understandable I would have thought, but not so apparently as subtitles were shown up so that everyone (in the US) could understand what he said.  I agree that this can help sometimes when a lot is being said, maybe quite rapidly,  but when a person says 'Thank You' very clearly, do we really need to see 'Thank You' shown in big print at bottom of the screen?

Apparently when Daniel Radcliffe (hope I've got the name right) was interviewed in the US at a Harry Potter premiere, they put subtitles as his (perfect) English would probably not be understood.  So am assuming they also do this with any cookery programmes hosted by the English such as Nigella, and what about Paul Hollywood who has a slight Liverpudlian accent, when he hosted '...Bake Off' in the US, did they put up subtitles when he spoke?  Did read somewhere that viewers found his accent difficult to understand, and quite honestly never realised he DID have an accent.

Mind you, in Britain we can have difficulty with our own language.  We had to ask our Scottish (from Perth) daughter-in-law to tell us what was being said in a comedy series, think it was H.C.Nesbitt with his Glaswegian accent and we could not understand one word of what he was saying.  DIL would be rolling around laughing, and we kept saying "what did he say, what did he say?" . Also, when staying in Cornwall, several times I had to ask the landlady (who came from London) what her husband was saying (he was broad Cornish).  Charming though his accent was, I couldn't understand a single word.

I'm not very well up with fads and phrases from yesteryear, but after watching the final repeat of 'Downton Abbey' (Yippee - the new series began yesterday), surely the 'don't be such a big girl's blouse' was not said in those times?    How good it was to have 'Downton...' back' but wish Miss O'Brien had not left.  Maybe she will return in a later series.  Do hope so.
What a wonderful actress Maggie Smith is, she has only to move her head slightly (very slightly), or lift an eyebrow, and her face expresses a thousand words.

Quite a lot of my 'free' day yesterday was spent sorting and freezing a bag of plums that a sailing friend of B's had given us the previous day.  When B returned from his day out yesterday, he found another bag of plums on the doorstep, so these need to be sorted today.  Seems that this year has been a very good one for most fruits, so now have to find more room in the freezer to put the plums and blackberries (the latter picked from a hidden bush in our garden that B discovered this year and also from a massive bush in the club compound).  Think jam is on the cards as well.

Probably teaching my grandmother to suck eggs, but the easiest way to remove stones from the larger fruits such as peaches and plums is to use a sharp knife and slit the fruit down the little crease that runs down one side from top to bottom, then follow round to slit the other side.  Give the two halves a twist and they easily come apart. If the fruit is very ripe the stone then falls out.  If under-ripe the stone has to be lifted from one half.  
Some cooks slit the fruits (plums/damsons) etc but leave intact, then simmer the fruit (when wishing to make jam etc), the stones then releasing themselves and usually rising to the surface.  This does work but always best to count the fruit before cooking and count the stones after as it is all too easy to leave a stone there that can often get left in the jam (and maybe break a tooth when eaten?).

Later yesterday I read more of that wonderful book 'Bombers and Mash', the story of the domestic front 1939 -1945 (author Raynes Minns, published by Virago. ISBN 978-1-84408-873-7)'   This should be required (or is it called 'essential'?) reading for schools if only to prove to all how lucky we are now to live in such a (relative) time of plenty and security (even though many may disagree).

This is an interesting statement from the book that comes after giving some sobering percentages of the poor health of children pre-war, as - due to rationing of food when sugar was in short supply - meals then became better balanced (even though frugal to the extreme) and it was said:  "those children who had lived on bread and cakes with jam, cheese and chips, as many of the poor did, no longer had them, and much healthier for it.  There was enough, and it was simple".

It was that statement : 'as many of the poor did...' that caught my eye.  Today, bread cakes and jam, cheese and chips could now be counted as fairly expensive, so maybe not thought of as 'pauper's food'.  We don't now have rickets as were commonplace in first half of the last century (my dad had rickets due to extreme poverty and malnutrition), but we do have an obesity problem caused by eating too much of the same (wrong) things. 
With much of the nation aiming to raise their standard of living, am surprised that the old-time 'food of the poor' still remains a favourite.  If we want to have a better quality of life, then we should also improve our eating.  Nothing wrong with cheese and home-made cake of course, but think you understand what I mean.

Did I read recently that school meals will now be free?  Even if this does happen, are we sure that children will eat them?  If used to eating junk food, doubt very much they will wolf down a plateful of healthy vegetables.  Perhaps if there was a proviso that the meals would be free ONLY as long as they are eaten, otherwise the offer would be withdrawn and the parent then has to provide lunch (even if not the right food, this then would mean extra expense, and that may be enough to change the status quo).

Returning to memories of wartime, my own recollection of meals is vague.  Maybe too young to realise how restricted our mothers were when it came to making the best use of rationed foods, and anyway used to 'eating to live' not the other way round.  The above book really shocked me as to how bad things were.  All I can remember about meals then were porridge for breakfast, and lots of stuffed marrow for the main meals.  We were fortunate (I suppose) in that my Dad grew vegetables in our small back garden (loads of marrows on top of the Anderson shelter, and these could be stored for months), but then meals had never been THAT interesting.  It was only after rationing ended (early '50's) that we discovered the delights of eating convenience foods (and who could blame us), and - as time went on - the huge variety of fresh and processed foods from all round the world, and seem never to have stopped since.

There is plenty in the book about 'the Kitchen Front', and loads of illustrations of the posters of that time explaining how we can make the most of the little we then had.  Massive amount of propaganda, and certainly the women were made to feel they were doing as good a job on the home front as their menfolk were when fighting abroad. 
Prices rose dramatically for almost everything, but most people could afford to pay as there was no unemployment.  All women had to go out to work whether they wanted to or not, only those with children under 14 could stay at home,  expected to 'do their bit' by taking in evacuees/refugees (my mother fitted into this category). 

The book has many wartime recipes, and however much I like to try 'food from the past' even I would not care to eat some more than once, and then only for 'research purposes'.  On the other hand, there are many that are good enough to continue making today, especially as these would (now) be very economical to make.  Anyone living on a very tight budget would be happy to make up many of these dishes, use the suggestions, and improvisations.   The book was originally 'publishers price of £12.99 but sold at 'our price' for £4.99, and well worth every penny.  Having said that, why not ask for it from your local library and copy out the recipes?

Here is one I intend trying, although I can't quite work out how (given the added weight is less than 1lb) it can double in weight, perhaps they mean it ends up looking like twice the amount. In those days the milk would be full cream, not semi-skimmed.  Might give it a try as the end result can always be used when baking.

Turn One Pound of Butter into Two:
Warm 1 lb of butter to a consistency that will permit it being beaten up with a fork to a cream, taking care that it does not oil.  On no account should the butter be whisked with an egg whisk.
Boil half a pint (10 fl oz) milk with a pinch of salt, and allow to cool to blood heat.  Then stir the milk gradually into the creamed butter.  Put in a cool place to set and you will now find you have 2lb butter. 

This next recipe 'an excellent one for the troops. It needs no eggs and makes a good-sized cake', I've included because it has a story to go with it. A footnote says: 'a slab of this cake was sent to the Front in France, travelled round France, chasing the owner.  Missed him and came back. Other things in the parcel were spoiled, but this cake was good after 10 weeks.  It finally was sent out again and was much appreciated'.
Trench Cake:
6 oz margarine
6 oz brown sugar (or white granulated)
2 oz chopped peel (optional)
4 oz mixed fruit
8 oz flour
1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
nearly half a pint of milk
Cream the margarine and sugar. Warm the milk and pour onto the soda. Add the prepared fruit, the milk and the flour. Mix well. Bake in a moderate oven for about 2 hours in a 7 inch cake tin, or in slabs, for about 1 hour.

What a great idea it would be for everyone to have one week a year living on wartime rations and eating meals our mothers (or grandmothers) used to make in those days.  Would anyone wish to try this next one? This 'Oslo Meal' in particular was found to be 'so nutritious that the health of schoolchildren who were given it daily was much improved.  They grew taller, learnt faster and were better-tempered'.  Anything that helps to make anyone better-tempered is worth serving.

The raw veggies suggested for this dish were shredded cabbage, lettuce, chopped parsley, but would change according to what was in season.  Very vague as to the method of prep, but it does seem to have a leaning towards coleslaw. Have a feeling the salad dressing could mean a blend of the milk powder, vinegar, water (how much of that?) and the seasonings.
The Oslo Meal:
4 oz any raw mixed vegetables
grated carrot (if available)
sliced tomato
grated beetroot (cooked or raw)
salad dressing
2 tblsp dried milk powder
2 tblsp vinegar
salt, pepper and mustard
Mix well together. Accompany with wholemeal bread and butter, 2 oz cheese, apple and as much milk as rations allow.

When it came to wartime bread, there was only one type: 'the National Loaf' that although a healthy 85% wholemeal, was a dusty, grey bread that turned mouldy very quickly.  There were many letters of complaint to the Ministry of Food re this bread and 'for a few weeks people indignantly ascribed every minor ailment or malaise from which they suffered to this 'nasty, dirty, dark, coarse, indigestible bread'.
Bread was never allowed to be thrown away, and one woman was fined £10, plus 2 guineas costs, for permitting bread to be wasted. It was stated 'the servant was twice seen throwing bread to the birds in the garden, and it was admitted that this happened every day.'
That fine was probably more than a month's pay (at that time), maybe two - three months, so you can see how waste (of almost anything) was a punishable offence.  For goodness sake, what would they think of the mountains of food waste that is thrown away today?

Whatever we think of how it was then and how it is now, and anyone younger than 50 probably has no understanding of any life other than the now much more affluent times (even though it isn't at the moment), it does help to read a book such as the above to put things into perspective.  It may have been very hard in wartime, and perhaps only to us older folk life seems far too easy now, and I say that even though I know there are people struggling out there to keep a roof over their heads and buy enough food to feed their family. Fifty or so years ago the struggle would have been much easier to cope with because domestic skills had not then all been forgotten.  
As ever, it is the lack of domestic education that we need.   How can we cook when we don't know how to, and no shame in that. I'm not ashamed because I don't know how to use a computer properly.  I don't learn because I don't NEED to, but if I did then I would.  We do (all) need to learn how to cook if we want to both save money and eat better meals.

Perhaps today we have begun to believe the amount we eat matters more than the content.  If we can still survive if we returned to living on wartime rations - which were even more sparse once the war had ended (rationing lasted for 12 years), not of course that I'm saying we SHOULD, maybe we need to put our thinking caps on again.

Children didn't seem to need any persuading to eat during wartime. They seemed to be happy (or should it be even grateful?) to take a sarnie for school lunch made with that dreaded National Loaf, and the filling being grated swede.  Can you imagine a child eating that today?
Pre-war, and for some time after, we were never expected to enjoy our food.  Just eat what was given, so presumably not that difficult to do the same during rationing.  When served anything we really liked, this was a real treat.  Now we have got used to 'treating' ourselves with every meal. 

Seems I am rambling on and on about what many will now seem to be not worth considering.  To me it does seem we should give more thought to food in general, especially now that prices keep rising.  Do we really need to eat so much? Has snacking and nibbling become a habit?  We are not like cows who graze all day. Why not go back to the  good (or bad) old days when breakfast, lunch and supper was all that was needed.  But then there are diets who prescribe 'eat little and often'.  Trouble it is has got to 'eating a lot at meal times, then eating a lot of 'littles' between meals'.  Having your cake and eating it too comes to mind.

As the Hairy Bikers have said recently (on one of their repeats) "at breakfast eat like a king; at lunch eat like a prince; at supper eat like a pauper".  Must remind my B of that as he tends to eat the other way round.  Must remind myself as I often fall by the wayside and end up 'grazing' (yes, I know I can be a real cow at times, but don't have to copy bovine eating as well).

Yesterday made a lovely soup using the same 'holy trinity' of veg:  diced, carrot, celery, onion, with the addition of diced potato. I'd like to have included a parsnip but didn't have any.
Instead of cooking the veggies in chicken stock, and mainly because I couldn't find it in the freezer (it's in there somewhere), decided to use a tub of beef stock.  This being the very 'meaty' stock left after slow-cooking a lot of beef rib trim and cubed stewing steak. Very inexpensive to make, but worthy of being served in a top restaurant.  Smelt and tasted GORGEOUS.

Goodness me, is that the time?  A quick thanks to those who sent in comments (just a couple), and a reminder that anyone who grows veggies (such as Wimmera and her pumpkins) should keep back a few to ripen, save the seeds then they will be able to grow 'free' crops the following year (and forever after...).

The 'autumn instinct' is fast flowing through my veins and it's sleeve-rolling up time ready to make all the preserves and pickles.  Also not forgetting the planting of bulbs, and repotting of plants to bring indoors.  Am hoping to find time to blog fairly regularly, but if I spend a whole morning doing so (as today) am not going to leave myself much time to do what needs to be done.  Expect me when you see me.  Could be tomorrow, might be Wednesday (although that is Norma day), but I'll be back. See you then.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

A quick Chat...

Up early this morning, desserts finished for tonight, so thought I'd catch up with comments, then take the day off...

That pie maker jane sounds good but you mentioned it making 2 pies.  The ones I've seen (Lakeland etc) all make four pies, and the newer version can have a different and smaller changeable insert to make more smaller mince pies.
Taking 10 minutes to bake a pie is quite good as normally any pastry baked in the oven takes at least 25 minutes, and we also have to allow extra time for the oven to heat up.  Incidentally, does your pie-maker cook evenly, or do the pies tend to have 'soggy bottoms' (when baking pies I try to cook the base blind before I fill and place the pastry on top - this then means, overall, they take even longer to cook).

Using tinned meats in pies does help to make it go further, any meat for that matter, and when we take a look at the percentage of meat in a bought pie, we see they use very little anyway.  So we don't HAVE to use a lot more.  Meat is not essential to our diet, as we can get our protein from other foods, and now meat is becoming so very expensive, we should all be cutting down on the portions served - these being recommended - nutritionally - as around 4 oz/100 per person (weight before cooking which normally weighs less after cooking).  Eating meat in casseroles, rather than roasts, we can get away with eating even less as the meat juices remain in the 'gravy' so we retain the full monty.

Myself also hopes the weather is good this weekend as I want to lift all my geraniums, pot them into individual small pots for the winter, and then plant some of the bulbs bought recently.  Was intending to do this earlier, but not quite time for bulb planting (my excuse).
But as the new 'Downton...' begins tomorrow (and earlier the repeat of '...Bake Off', I've plenty to look forward to sitting in my chair, also enjoying having two days to myself as B has a 'sailing weekend' (and club meal) tonight, so I can please myself what I wish to do.

Sounds as though you should start shopping elsewhere Janet.  Do make a strong complaint at the customer service counter at Asda, as having to return TWO purchases in a very few days is definitely not on.  Tell them you are now thinking of shopping elsewhere and I bet they'll give you something as way of apology (voucher) to keep your custom.  Worth a try.

Probably you won't have time to read this Sarina, but do hope you have a lovely holiday in Morocco, and enjoy their traditional cuisine.  Tagine comes to mind.  I just love that.  So looking forward to hearing all about it.  Sad lady that I am, I normally don't visit other blog sites, as use the computer only as a means of writing my own (and that now sounds selfish).  Am so afraid I'll turn into one of those people who can't keep away from reading other blogs, Face Book, and Twitter, because I just KNOW that once I start, I too will get 'hooked'.

My blog originally began as a way to describe my 'cost-cutting life' and give only recipes, hints and tips, but unfortunately it has grown into more of a day to day 'diary', filled with other things that have no bearing on food.  However, readers (or at least some of them) don't seem to mind this, so I'll just keep writing about the good, the bad, and the ugly.  And of course FOOD!

Most of the summer I've cooked only small potatoes, but this week bought a few baking potatoes.  One I cooked as 'roast spuds' to go with B's beef, and yesterday I microwaved one as a 'jacket', and didn't realise how much I'd missed eating these.  It is good to buying some foods for several months as it makes it far more enjoyable when they are eaten again.  Eating fresh foods only when in season (as we always used to) makes a lot of sense as nature has provided us with the right nutrients at the right time of the year.  Having said that, it does make cooking a little easier when we have more (and imported) veggies to play with, all year round.
At one time I thought asparagus was about the only 'seasonal' food sold in our supermarkets (usually late spring for a week or so?), but saw bundles of these on sale the other day, so another 'treat' no longer eagerly waited for. 

Sometimes, being able to buy what we want when we want spoils quite a bit of the pleasure that we used to get looking forward to things, and there are plenty of people I'm sure who are strong-willed enough to wait for the right time of year before they make the purchase.  Me, I tend to get tempted. Not that I like asparagus, but am fond of strawberries.  These, even in season, don't taste as they used to, so why do I bother?  Always hoping I suppose.

Nothing tastes as good as it should any more, even when in season.  Home-grown is better, but not always because EU rules (or whoever makes them) decrees that many old varieties of seeds are not longer to be sold.  Now it seems larger crops of perfect shapes are more important than the flavour (which now seems to come bottom of the list).  Considering we buy fresh foods to EAT and appearance matters not a jot as everything looks the same once chopped, shredded, minced...., you would think flavour has top priority.

Even then, having tried sowing old varieties (still able to be found from specialist outlets) these have disappointed me, and have a feeling a lot could be to do with how they are grown.  My dad used to have a lorry load of manure delivered each year that he would leave to 'mature', digging the previous year's load into his garden.  Worked wonders with the roses, and his tomatoes and veggies all had a flavour to die for.  He would also use soot from the chimneys on his garden, and remember him sprinkling on bonemeal.  'Feeding' the soil in this way seems to give far better results than feeding the plants today using bought products.

Earlier this year we bought a bag of prepared 'farmhouse manure'. Once the bag was opened, it looked much like potting compost and when I was filling the containers this year to plant the geraniums, lobelia etc, being short of potting compost I used quite a bit of this 'manure', and it certainly seemed to work, the plants really grew and grew and the colours were vivid.  I put it down to all the sun and regular watering, but think the 'manure' probably had a lot more to do with it.

Think I once mentioned visiting a mushroom farm in Yorkshire (a group visit by the Leeds Horticultural Society).  We were shown a pile of steaming horse manure that had just arrived from a racing stables.  This was because it was better quality manure due to the food the horses were fed (he said), and this grew better mushrooms than those grown using manure from an ordinary stable.  But whatever, seems that farmhouse manure is something worth using, especially on an allotment.  It would be good to know if Kathryn (who has access to horse manure, and now has an allotment), will find any difference if she uses it.  If she hasn't planned to, then it would be well worth having a trial patch to see if it makes any difference, even if we have to wait for a year to find out. 
Other readers may already grow produce using old methods of 'fertilising' their soil.  Please let us know if it really does work that well.

As there are sometimes requests for meals for one or two, the recipe today make less than normal (most recipes serve four) but of course can be doubled.  This is a good one to make when serving roasted vegetables a day or two previously, as with the advance planning (cooking extra roast veg) most of this dish can be already prepared.  Just reheat up the cooked veg (can be stored for up to two days in an airtight container in the fridge), and continue with the recipe.
Feta cheese is lovely with this dish, but if you have none of that you could use another 'crumbly', such as Wensleydale or crumbly Lancashire (or even goat's cheese).
Have a slight deja vu feeling re this recipe, so apologies if I've given it before.

Roasted Vegetable and Feta Pasta: serves 2
1 small or half a large butternut squash
1 large red bell pepper, seeded, cut into chunks
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 oz (50g) feta cheese, crumbled
1 tsp fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
1 tblsp olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
7 oz (200g) pasta penne (or other shape)
4 oz (100g) baby spinach leaves
Peel the butternut, remove any seeds and pith, and cut the flesh into chunks.  Put these (chunks) into a large roasting tin with the pepper, garlic, feta and rosemary.  Drizzle the oil over the top and season well with pepper. Toss well so that everything is coated with the oil/pepper, spreading the mixture in a single layer in the tin, and roast at 180C, gas 4 for 30 - 40 minutes, giving another toss after 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta as per packet instructions, and when cooked strain and reserve half a mugful of the cooking water.  Add the drained pasta to the vegetables, also adding the spinach.  Stir together until the spinach begins to wilt, adding a splash of the reserved water if becoming too dry.  Serve immediately.

For those who like a taste of 'meat' (in this instance bacon), but can only afford a little, by adding eggs to this dish keeps it both quick and easy to make as well as being inexpensive.  Although Parmesan (not the cheapest of cheeses) is used, as Jamie's prog. showed 'Parmesan as "3p per serving", when finely grated it is not (per portions) expensive at all, so we should use it more often.  
Strictly speaking, spaghetti is the correct pasta for this dish (and Tesco do a very cheap and good spag.), but pasta penne (or other shape) could be used.  If you wish for a runnier sauce then add 2 tblsp crème fraiche or Greek yogurt.  Goes without saying you can use less bacon if you wish, but do use some as the flavour makes all the difference (could use chorizo instead).

Easy Pasta Carbonara:  serves 4
12 oz (350g) spaghetti or linguine
4 oz (100g) smoked streaky bacon, chopped
2 tsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 whole egg
3 egg yolks
2 oz (50g) grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
Cook the pasta as per packet instructions, meanwhile frying the bacon for a few minutes until golden and crisp. Stir in the garlic and fry for a further minute then remove from heat.
Put the whole egg and the yolks into a bowl with half the parmesan and seasoning to taste, and whisk lightly together.
Drain the cooked pasta, reserving half a mug of the cooking liquid.  Return the pasta to the hot pan (still off the heat)  and stir in the eggs plus 1 tblsp of the reserved liquid, mixing gently until the pasta is coated and creamy (the heat from the pasta will cook the egg mixture).  Fold in the bacon and garlic.  Serve topped with the remaining parmesan.

Considering I wasn't intending to blog today, seems I can't keep away.  However MAY take tomorrow off blogging and with B out, may treat myself to a lie-in.  Returning Monday. See you then. 


Friday, September 20, 2013

Have to Laugh!

Firstly thanks for your lovely comments re the recent Anon outburst.  Please don't think I was upset by this, because I know quite well what the person is like, having come into contact with several of this type before (in person).  If anyone else gets sent a comment such as these, then be assured that these are sent by 'psychopaths', people who find real enjoyment in upsetting others.  They can be extremely pleasant when meeting people face to face, normally 'very likeable', any unpleasantness they do later, anonymously. They never seem to be able to tell the truth, always believed until much later when found out because they have forgotten what story they told in the first place, and come up with another version. Sometimes they seem to believe their own lies. Normally they are heavy sleepers, and for some reason have a dislike of older folk.  They don't mind saying they want to get rid of them  (I've heard (when I was still young), adults my age adults say (when in the same car as me "put your foot down and kill that old lady crossing the road. She's no use. Ha, Ha."
"You'll be old one day" I said.  "God, let's hope not" was the reply. But it happens, and then wait and see how suddenly the attitude changes.

In the past psychopaths were the sort of people who enjoyed sending unpleasant phone calls, and anonymous correspondence. When not employed doing this some have the attitude that it's OK to take what they want without paying, because they just wanted it.  They seem to have no understanding of right and wrong. Or perhaps just don't care.
Hours can be spent sending unpleasant comments via their comp.  and this could be a good thing as once they get bored with this, they could go on to worse things.  Like killing for pleasure (often done to insects and small animals).  
Sadly psychopaths can't help being who they are, their brain is just programmed a certain way, and doubtful they could ever change (or even recognise their condition) although the older they get the more they might change for the better. 

The good thing is that even if a comment is sent via a community comp. (library etc) the person who sends the comment can still be traced (there is always a time when an email is sent and CD cameras who know who is around at that time), and of course traceable from a home computer or other electronic gadget.  So anyone who receives a comment that is really bad, they should inform the police who will be able to trace the culprit.

Thanks again to all readers who have sent in reassuring comments, but as I said above, I truly was not that bothered.  Maybe a bit surprised, and - in a way - pleased that it's given me the opportunity to let others know they should never be upset when they receive anything anonymously unpleasant. Be like me.  Laugh it off!

Now to more important issues.  Food.   Am interested in that pie maker you have jane, nearly bought one myself but as B likes larger pies, decided against it.  Does it really only take 10 minutes to bake a pie, and presumably frozen after baking?

Thanks Sarina for mentioning that cleaners also do water-proofing.  Much I suppose depends on how much they would charge per blanket.  Usually it does work out cheaper (for anything) if we do it ourselves.

Know what you mean Janet, about books falling to pieces. Am finding my own books doing the same and left open at a page, the paper soon changes to a coffee colour.  I hardly ever refer to them.  Usually it is cheap paper and cheap glue that causes the problem (the cheaper the book the quicker it falls apart).

Since we moved here, I've taken to copying my favourite recipes in one book (desk diary page-a-day type). Not in any particular order, but I keep it in the kitchen so that it is easily referred to.  When I find a recipe that I wish to use again (and again...) it is copied into the book.   Suppose I really should re-write it so that I can find the recipes in alphabetical order, or under 'sweet' and 'savoury' etc.

Still have not yet decided on the desserts to be made for tomorrow's club meal.  Am starting my working morning by making microwave lemon curd (saving egg whites to make meringues), then will prepare a Tiramisu (it needs making the day before eating), and decide what the other dessert will be.  A Trifle is too much like a Tiramisu (the latter being easier to make anyway), and am toying with the idea of baking a 'Paris-Breste' - this being a big ring of choux pastry, this - once baked - can be split and filled with sweetened cream (and possibly blackberries) then icing sugar sifted on the top layer of pastry. 

Have so many blackberries, think these will HAVE to take part in at least one of the desserts, so could (perhaps) make a 'Morecambe Mess' (variation of Eton Mess) by baking some meringues, then these can be lightly crushed and blended with whipped cream and blackberries.
Or maybe a blackberry cheesecake?  Or even a sort of Black Forest Gateau using blackberries soaked in a little kirsch instead of the traditional black cherries.   Probably bake a chocolate sponge anyway, and then see how I feel.

No blog tomorrow as I'll probably need to sorting out the last dessert, as have to allow time in case it all goes wrong and have to make another, me being the type of person who always travels on the train before the one needed in case there is a delay on the line.  One thing I pride myself on is punctuality.  I cannot bear to be late.  Other than my own funeral of course! 

Gill is away (again!) this coming Sunday, so I'll have time to blog that morning, that is if I can manage to get up early enough and feel in the mood.  Last night I took a hot water bottle to bed with me and also wore a cardi over my nightwear.  Slept like a log, and had some wonderful dreams.  So will do the same again tonight.

Was intending to put the heating on, but the forecast is that it will be a bit warmer next week, so will wait and see.  Had our electricity and gas statements yesterday.  About £10 in credit for the 'leccy' (which will be eaten up now we have a second TV used daily by B no doubt). The good news is that we are nearly £170 in credit with the gas.  This because we have not used the central heating for several months, so have now overpaid.  This credit will soon get used up once the heating is on again, but switched on only when necessary (and not all day as I have done in the past when very cold), hopefully we won't need to increase the monthly payments, even if/when there is a price rise.

Meant to finish by 10.00am, but - as ever - keep rambling on.  If I don't stop now I won't get my lemon curd made in time to use for the Tiramisu.  Hope all my lovely readers enjoy their day. TTFN.    



Thursday, September 19, 2013

Not Again!

Me and my big mouth!  It seems that often people misunderstand what I am trying to say, take offence at the very start so don't bother to read on or try to understand what is really being said.  Being accused of racism because I respect the many different countries and cultures of this world I won't accept.  Read my earlier postings and it will be seen that the qualities and beliefs of each and every race and religion have always been respected and admired.  It seems odd that someone like Anonymous feels so bitter about people even mentioning there are different cultures that he/she would want all nationalities to dive into one big melting pot and end up the same.  Is no-one proud any more of their roots, who they are, and what they are?

Thanks to Sarina and Eileen for fighting my corner. It is sad that when people have a chip on the shoulder (or bee in their bonnet) about something, they close their minds tight shut.  They are right, everyone who seems to go against their views is wrong.  'Nuf said I think. I'll move on...

Hope you manage to waterproof your pony blankets Kathryn.  It sounds as though that tent water-proofing paint would be perfect, and not expensive compared to the cost of reproofing professionally. Do remember buying an aerosol tin of ScotchGuard once, (cheap enough then), that I used to spray on old umbrellas and shoes that had begun to leak.  Probably this would be a lot more expensive now and not enough in a can to cover enough blankets to make it a worthy purchase.
Suppose stitching or fixing a strong plastic cover on top of each rug wouldn't be feasable?  Or cutting up and using a groundsheet (used for camping)? 
Knowing you, you will seek out the cheapest way to waterproof.  Let us know how you get on.

Not quite sure what you meant Les, but be assured once married I've never spent any money on unnecessary waste (food or otherwise). But know what you mean about Jamie, he seems to be showing people who DO waste food, how not to.

Good to hear from you again Pam, and very pleased that you can now get both Corrie and EastEnders, both having strong and somewhat stressful storylines at the moment.  Am sure you'll soon catch up.

Don't know if you've tried my (and it is my very own) version of choux pastry Janet, but it seems pretty foolproof.  Very easy to remember as it is just 'one of everything' (using imperial weights and measures).  I've given it before but here it is again...
choux pastry:  makes about 10 profiteroles.
1 fl oz milk
1 fl. oz water
1 oz butter
1 oz plain flour (pref strong plain flour)_
1 medium egg
Put the water and milk into a pan and heat until the butter has melted.  Bring to the boil then chuck in the flour, all in one go,  and - using a wooden spoon - beat well with a wooden spoon over low heat for one minute, then remove from heat and beat until the mixture has formed a ball and left the sides of the pan.  Leave to cool slightly then beat in the egg.  The mixture should end up forming a thick ribbon that falls from the end of the wooden spoon.  Much depends on the size of the egg, if too large egg you may need to beat in a teaspoon more flour.  If the mixture is too thick beat in a very little warm water.
To make profiteroles, use a teaspoon and put blobs of the paste onto a parchment lined baking sheet, then bake in a hot oven 180C or 200C (gas 4 or 6) for about 25 minutes, by then the choux buns will have risen dramatically and turning golden brown.  Quickly split each close to the base with the tip of a knife and return them to the oven, keeping the oven door open slightly if you can.  This lets the steam out of the oven and helps to dry the insides of the choux buns.  You could also turn out the oven to let them dry out if you have to close the door.   After five minutes the buns should be dry enough to cool on a cake airer. These can be filled with cream or custard when cold, and either dusted with icing sugar or the tops dipped in melted chocolate.
Make eclairs the same way but spoon/pipe in lengths about the same size as a middle finger.

Watched '...Bake Off' this week and this time fell asleep before the first 'traybakes' were even put on display, and I really wanted to see what they were.  Can only think that my lack of concentration might be to do with the contestants.  In the previous series they were all very different personalities, and there was a lot of 'hoping she/he will not be sent off', this time I don't even care who goes or wins as I can't remember them anyway.  Shouldn't feel like that, and it's the baking that matters, but a bit of personality and sometimes downright helplessness adds extra enjoyment to the prog.. Also think that P.H's shenanigans had slightly blighted my enjoyment of the series, but am getting over that, I don't HAVE to enjoy looking at him (like I used to).  Suppose now someone will write in and call me 'sexist'.

Was able to stay awake to watch a programme about materials last night (BBC 4 9.00pm). The first being on knitting.  That's one skill my mother taught me when I was about five I suppose, as do remember being able to knit khaki scarves (but only in garter stitch) for the soldiers when I was six (my mother held a 'knitting circle' in her front room once or twice a week during the war). The other ladies used to knit Balaclava helmets, gloves and socks.  Probably jumpers/sweaters as well.   I remember the khaki wool coming in hanks, and I had to hold the hanks for my mum as she wound it into balls, and it was quite thick and not that soft.  But it was real wool, so gave plenty of warmth (something than man-made fibres rarely do even now, although a 'fleece' seems to be one of the warmest things to wear, but still not as warm as real wool).

Now that our Hoover has gone to the great cupboard in the sky (well it had worked well for over 50 years), we need a new carpet cleaner.  We used to have another (belonged to B's sister), but week's ago B said we didn't have it, it wasn't in the cupboard. 
Yesterday decided to buy a cordless (rechargeable) vacuum that was much lighter, and about to order it over the phone when I asked B to take another look in the cupboard as I could have sworn it was never taken to the tip.  He got very annoyed and humphed and grumphed, but it still wasn't there. Deep inside me I knew we still had it. Somewhere, although B insisted we didn't.
I was in here, ready to pick up the phone to place the order when B came in holding the missing vacuum asking "is this it"?  And it was.  He had - for some reason - put it into a cupboard in the other lobby and forgotten he had.  It needed a new bag, and this I was able to find immediately because I tend to remember where I put things (at least in this instance).  But B was pleased, and it was he who suggested he try out the vacuum to see if it worked (even though he then managed to break the spring that - when pressed - pulls the cord back into the machine, but that didn't really matter).  The cleaner did work, so I suggested B should test it on all the carpets just to make sure there was enough suction (a 'scientific' test for B, but my way of getting the carpets cleaned without me having to do it).  It's giving off a bit of an odd smell that I put down to burning dust trapped in the machine - B agrees with this - it is not the smell of rubber burning.  So let's hope it continues to work.  Saved me a couple of hundred pounds if it does.  B doesn't pay for 'domestic' machinery, that's my department.  He pays for D.I.Y. things like electric drills, and hover mowers.

The other day - trying to make more space in the freezer - brought out a pack of diced lamb that must have been in there for a least two years.  After thawing, fried it with some onions, then poured over a Dopiaza curry sauce and let it simmer for several hours.  It was absolutely gorgeous, and enough for both B and myself (at least he left me a couple of spoonfuls - mainly the sauce - in the pan). Managed to make enough room to freeze 6 portions of Sticky Toffee Pudding, and not all the gaps are filled again, but have not yet had done the 'stock take' that I intended to.

B's sailing club are having a 'do' this coming Saturday, nothing I want to go to (a man talking about sailing with a pie 'n peas meal to follow) but they wish me to make a couple of desserts for them (I would have liked more warning), so these have priority.  Still not sure what I'll be making.  B suggested a Lemon pie. but no point in serving another pie, even a sweet one as pastry is part of the first course. Probably end up making a cheesecake and a trifle.  Or maybe not as 'been there, done that'.  I like to offer different desserts when I can.

The warm weather now seems to have left us, and our hot summer just a distant memory.  The temperatures are now dropping into single figures at night-time (and not a lot higher during the day).  Strangely it is B who is now feeling the cold, and says he is having to wear bedsocks at night.  He puts on a fleece when he sits in the living room, and although I too feel the cold, no colder than normal for me, and am quite cosy in bed.
My Beloved keeps asking for the heating to be put on, but I am trying to hold out until the end of the month, although perhaps may have to put it on for an hour or so during the evening if only to help dry the washing.  This does tend to dry quite well in the conservatory, but only when the sun is shining, and especially afternoons when it shines onto the washing, but  now the sun is lower in the sky it does not have as much warmth, and doesn't shine that much now anyway.

Hairy Bikers were making piccalilli yesterday, and that has inspired me to make some. B doesn't care for it, but I love it.  Maybe make it next week, need to get those desserts made first and do need to watch the repeat of '..Bake Off' at the weekend.  Not forgetting that the new series of 'Downton...' begins on Sunday. Can't wait.

As will be busy over the next few days, expect me when you see me, but keep those comments coming and I'll be back when I have a few minutes to spare, even if only to have a short 'chat'.  See you then.



Tuesday, September 17, 2013


Just popping in for a quick chat to update a few things.   The roast topside was sliced - some thicker for re-heating in gravy, others thinly sliced for sarnies etc (these melted in the mouth they were so tender).  Total weight of the cooked meat was 1kg (not counting scraps that were enough to make into a small pot of 'beef spread'. 
Comparing the cost of pre-packed sliced roast beef (Tesco's roast topside is £3.53 for 100g), that means 'my' sliced beef would have cost me £35.30p.  The actual cost of the raw meat (from the butcher) was just under £14.  So - as Jamie says "if we pay more we can save more".

Jamie cooked salmon yesterday.  One whole 'side' (fillet) he said would be £10 (when at its cheapest).  Here we've paid £12 for a whole salmon (i.e. TWO fillets) which included the filleting.
As ever, Jamie did show how this 'pay to save' would work out, but I still feel he is making/serving meals that are slightly higher in quality than most of us 'ordinary folk' would be intending to cook.  He still keeps the price per portion way above the £1 (averaging £1.50) and when asked on the radio how much (or rather how little) he would need to spend to feed a family (presumably four), for a week he said "about £44" (but then he does pay more for free range etc and "others could pay less". 

Working on his TV budget it seems that the £44 is about right but ONLY for the main course/s that are shown.  What about breakfast, lunch...?
Because of Jamie's life-style and experience, he would normally buy top quality foods and by making the most of his purchases (showing how the salmon skin could be crisped up - I'm going to try that tip), he is sort of working down from the top of his ladder. 
Me, the queen of mean starts at the bottom and prefers to work her way up.  This can be done once the very basic purchases are made and an enthusiasm for cooking is gained.   We don't always have to LIKE cooking (often I find it boring), but we do need to find an approach that keeps us keen.  Mine was discovering that some ingredients are very cheap and then set myself challenges to make a meal (or something) for £1, for 50p, for 10p, for free.... and this I continue to do.  Challenges work for me, just 'cooking things' does not stretch my mind or give me much satisfaction.  Nothing like the sense of achievement we get when we have proved to ourselves we can work magic with 5p!

Thanks to Kathryn for her comment.  I'm so pleased that I might be giving some ideas that work (and maybe even some inspiration). You've really brightened my day Kathryn. Thanks.  

The Madelines today are small shell-shaped cakes Sarina, but in the past we used to make taller sponge cakes (in small metal tins that were the shape of flower pots), and when cooked the surface spread with jam and then rolled in dessicated coconut - a glace cherry then placed on the top.  I still have the moulds so might start making these again.  B would love them.
As you say, cooking for more than one is more interesting, and when B was away on his long holidays (after away for a month), I hardly ever cooked for myself, although did reheat frozen meals such as spag.bol meat sauce (easy enough to cook the pasta), and chilli con carne.  Rest of the time I ate salads or sarnies or had a can of soup. 

Probably because I became involved in cooking for the media that I am still finding anything foodie to keep my interest, especially as I continue to write this blog.  If I gave up writing, who knows what would happen.  Maybe Wilkinson Farm Foods would become a regular visitor to our kitchen door rather than Tesco.

Began reading 'Bombers and Mash' yesterday, starting in the middle of the book rather than at the beginning because (as ever) it was the foodie chapters that appealed to me most.  Have to say that although I've read a lot about wartime rationing, this book opened my eyes to how bad it really could be.  The 'National Loaf' (only one type of bread on sale) was nationally hated.  It was grey in colour and very heavy.  Seems that many people took sandwiches to work to eat for lunch, and often this was the hated bread filled with - wait for it - grated swede!!  And we keep grumbling about some of the meals served today.  Even the cheapest 'readies' are better than that.

There was also some info about what was called 'Basal' rationing, this was a mega rationing of food if the war got worse.  I'll copy out what it said and let you know, for it is pretty grim. Fortunately our country never got to the point of needing this, but it did get pretty close.

At the moment am watching a re-run of 'Lark Rise to Candleford' (Freeview 20 think on Sunday). This too shows how rural life could be pretty bleak when it comes to getting good food on the table. Yet it gives the impression that within the small hamlet of Lark Rise, the community spirit was so good that everyone could find more happiness than many seem to be able to do today.  Money does not bring happiness.  That is true.  As B says 'money means we can be unhappy in comfort'. How sad is that?

Am getting a bit confused these days watching repeats.  'Mr Bates' (valet in Downton Abbey) is also in 'Lark Rise....'.  and has anyone noticed how EastEnders and Coronation Street seem to be running the same story-lines (although some distance apart).  Corrie now has copied the same 'noises off train rumbling' from EastEnders when there is a bit of tension in the plot.  In E.E the noise is from an overhead train that arrives at the Underground station, in Corrie it is the local train that crossed the viaduct at the end of the street.

The Queen Vic burnt down (because a new one was being built for High Definition TV) and the Corrie Pub was burnt down as the 'street' was being moved to a new venue for filming.   We've had young teenage unmarried mothers in both series, a new restaurant, same sex relationships, cancer scares and worse, Asian families (as yet no Muslims in Corrie but am sure this will happen soon). Several murders....

This morning meant to watch Food Network (Freeview 48 and by mistake pressed button 8 and then 4 - channel 84).  Was very surprised to see it was the Aljezeera UK news programme, this it seemed was from a studio in Dohar (or some such name).  Most of the news seems confined to the Asian countries, but interesting enough.   B said it was a Muslim channel, and think it could be interesting to watch in the event of some European 'crisis'  as it is good to get both sides of a story that might be unbalanced if it came from the US or even Britain.

Yesterday made a 'Ticket Office Pudding' , enough to cut into 9 from the 8" tin, and B had one helping for his 'afters' yesterday.  One more portion will be put into the fridge, the rest cut up and frozen (heat up well in the microwave). 
First I have to sort out the contents of the freezer/s AGAIN.  This because I keep thawing meat out in bulk, then cooking and making it into several different meals that are then frozen, so I need to know how many of these I have.

As you say Les, I could keep a 'white-board' record and hang it by the freezer/fridge, and how that name enfuriates me.  'White' board.  Believe that came about because the word 'black' was not to be used for just about anything in case it caused offence to those who had darker skins.  So schools now have 'white boards' and the old 'blackboards' are now obsolete.  Or are they?  Maybe the names has been changed to 'chalkboards'.
The other day I asked for and bought a ball of black knitting wool. What other colour could I have called it?   If we don't mind being called 'white-skinned' (or is that also verboten and 'Caucasian' is what we are now?), then others should not be so sensitive.

Back to freezer contents.  Freezers are supposed to be packed solid, no gaps between packaging so that there is no air that can warm up each time the door is opened.  On the other hand, fridges need space around food for the air to circulate.
My freezer records are kept in a book.  I write down each food bought, in detail (stewing steak; minced beef; spare-rib trim etc....Small prawns, jumbo prawns.... Chicken breasts, quarter chickens, chicken offcuts, drumsticks, thighs, wings etc...   Then write down how much/many of each - not a whole number, but as 1,1,1,1,1,...   The intention is that I cross of each when used, and when buying more, just add more 1,1,1s until the line is full (spare lines underneath to fill up later).  But of course I mislay my book, forget to cross off what has been used, and don't write down what I've added, so have to start again.   Like today.

However, when I read books like Bombers and Mash, this  does make me realise how lucky we are with the food we have now - so many that would have been new to cooks some 30 or so years ago.  I give thanks for the chipotle sauces that are now available, these give me my daily 'kick'.  Presumably the young get theirs from drugs. Chipotle is cheaper!
Main thing though is that discovering more about the dishes cooked in wartime has made me realise that many were really quite good (even though strange), and some of these I'll be sharing with you over the next few days.  If nothing else these are now really cheap to make (food was expensive in wartime, and we are fortunate that we don't have the problem of having to queue up for ingredients and then finding the grocer has sold out just as we reach the counter).

'Great British Bake Off' tonight, and this I'll be watching (I'll try not to fall asleep half-way through), B being happily watching footie on the other TV.  He'd like me to make some Fork Biscuits so that he can snack on them as he watches.  So that's something I'll start making as soon as this is published.

There was me intending to write just a very few words today and then 'get on' and blow me, I've spent a couple of hours chatting to you.  Like old times.  Maybe I'll be back again tomorrow. Have to wait and see.  Have a nice day.  Bye for now...