Saturday, January 04, 2014

Odds and Ends, Bits and Bobs...

Was hoping that B would drive me down to the prom to look at the sea dashing against the rocks, he was going out but said he would be back at high tide.  When he came back he said there was very little spray, and the tide was receding, so not worth going out.  So we didn't.
Luckily, on local news at 1.30pm, there was a shot of Morecambe Bay that showed calmish water at the Heasham end of the prom, and HUGE waves at our end, these dashing over the prom and covering the road, this having to be closed for about half an hour as dangerous to drivers.  So at least I saw it, even if not as it happened.

Thanks for comments.  It was good to hear about the meals you have been making Emma.  You had put some thought into them.  As to the 'Delta' multi-cooker (from Aldi), I looked this up on the website and it seems that almost everyone has had the same problem.  The details given are no use at all.  Some have managed to work out timings and amounts, but we shouldn't need to do this. 
Some details were given that will help:   either contact their sales support on 0161 831 5410 and (seem to help a lot but of course we have to pay for the call?).  Also there was a site (two versions) that apparently solved all the problems...  or  If you click on either of these ou should get straight to the page.

There was also a comment that said 'Don't switch the 'off' button to start, it's all ready to go, just press options button.  Also many people have said they have taken the machine back (even after use) and asked for a refund as the instructions are completely useless.

Frozen cream (as long as it's double cream) should thaw out much as it went in, and will beat up.  Myself prefer to decant cartons of cream into smaller amounts, freezing some in ice-cube trays (to the be bagged up when frozen) for savoury dishes, and stirring in a little icing sugar then freezing in small containers ready to use for sweet dishes.  
Although cream should not be re-frozen, if it is heated to almost boiling, then the same weight of chopped or grated chocolate folded in, stirred until well blended (it will first look grainy), this turns it into 'ganache', and this can be made into truffles or used as cake fillings and toppings.  I've successfully frozen ganache (in slabs) to later thaw for above uses. 

As we are now experiencing the weather recently experienced in the US and Canada (although wetter rather than snowy) snow is forecast here tomorrow, although only in a few places.  So Margie, as you are now having extremely cold weather again, and expecting a lot of snow, we too will probably get that in a few weeks.  Am almost hoping so as snow is so much better than rain (at least I prefer it, but then I don't have to travel each day to work).   Having said that, in my younger days, we had weeks and weeks of snow, and we seemed to manage. Few families owned cars in those day, so we used public transport and the buses/trains seems to keep going.  In those days they were all expected to be on time or there would be hell to pay.  Think we still had steam engines in those days (VERY reliable), and men in signal boxes pulling levers.  Now we have gone electric (and diesel) things have gone from bad to worse.

Had to smile Margie when you said you've had 5 'no shop days' so far.  Even when you say you have no NEED to shop, you still have the urge to go and top up at least 'the fresh'.  But we all do this, and why this particular challenge is hoping to suppress those urges. 
In times past, before fridges, freezers, people used to eat foods in season.  During the winter most vegetables were 'long-lasting' (kept for weeks and weeks), and I think kale was about the only 'fresh' green vegetable available.  During the autumn, cooks stored away as much food as possible by way of bottling fruits, salting some veg, smoking hams, drying nuts and fruits, and storing apples and other fruits that would keep well.  
We have got so used to eating different foods all year round that it never occurs to us to go back to the old ways and have to make do with what we have.  But it can be done.  However, never let it be said that I am aiming to deprive anyone of a decent meal (of the type they prefer) and as long as we keep a tight rein on our budget, we should still be able to eat well but spend a lot less.

Those who a (like me) foodie shopaholics, can both enjoy the hunter/gathering, even ending up with more than they might normally buy, but still end up spending less - IF you use my 'Rule of Four' approach. 
To do this you need to fix your budget slightly below the norm, then divide this into four, each quarter to be spent on meat/fish, fruit/veg, dairy, groceries....  To make it easy I'll work with £100 (lets say for a week for a family of four).  Armed with £25 you then go seeking the best bargains of the meat/fish.  Even though you may already have made a menu for the week, allow yourself some freedom of change, for instance if you had planned to have chops on Thursday, and you find another cut of meat works out cheaper, buy (and cook) the cheaper.   Even allowing for bacon, will probably not need to spend the full £25 on meat.  If you can work in at least one (hopefully two) vegetarian main courses during the week then you will to spend even less in this section.

As we can buy a lot of vegetables and fruit for £25 there will obviously be a lot of money left over.  Same goes for dairy.  The money saved from the first three sections can be added to the £25 left for the 'groceries', but only if you need to, and depending on what you have to spend (and what money you have left over in each section), include canned meats and fish in the meat section, and canned fruits, fresh orange the fruit/veg. section. 
This Rule of Four was introduced to my cost-cutting class when I taught the subject at night-school (in those days I didn't need any qualifications to do this - other than experience), and it worked like a charm.  The students were over the moon, they had bought more than expected and came home with money still left in their purse.  
Once we have used up much of our stores and go back to 'normal' shopping again, this R.O.F. is worth having a go at.  Another challenge if you like, and have to say it does make shopping a lot more interesting and fun to do if we have a reason to work 'outside the box' if you know what I mean.

Am - of course (dare I not?) - still using up what is in my larder/fridge/freezer.  Just a few gaps now showing on shelves, and a bit of room in the freezer where I'm planning to make up some ready-meals for B so that later - when I need to spend more time finding ways to use up bits and bobs, quite a bit of work has already been done.

The other day I finished the last of the Philly 'light'garlic and herb cream cheese. Spread this on rice-cakes (these very low in calories).  The cheese carton held 300g, and this is a perfect size to pack away one portion of curry, spag bol, chilli etc., to put in the freezer, so the carton was duly washed and put with others saved (I save all small cartons and use them - according to size - for meals, stock, cream, and other useful bits and bobs).  I write the contents on the lid with my black marker pen otherwise I forget what is in them.
I've given up using labels (other than for jars of preserves) as marker pens are so useful.  I have always saved the plastic containers/lids from the Chinese take-aways, then fill these with home-mades, using the marker pen on the lids.  This then washes off when the containers are washed, so clear for the next filling and mark-up.   My 200 and 300g coffee jars (I have many, each holding different 'dry goods' such as dried fruits, ground almonds, dried chickpeas, different sugars... you name it, I have it..) and on these write with my marker pen the contents name, very visible and again easily washed off.

B chose his usual 'bacon sarnie' for his supper yesterday, made himself using home-baked baps filled with lots of crispy bacon.  Finished with bananas and cream.  Simple supper because on Friday he always goes to the sailing club (social evening) where there are usually nibbles as well as booze.
Myself made a salad of shredded iceberg lettuce, chopped sweet mini-peppers, chopped cucumber, a few chestnut mushrooms, and some seasticks.  Drizzled over a little sweet chilli sauce instead of my normal mayo.  Tasted very good and filled a gap. 

Today really must make a fresh fruit salad or the fruits I have may soon be past their best.  With the conservatory being fairly cool (but not cold), the fruits (apples, clementines, oranges, kiwi) are kept in there and do seem to keep in good condition for quite a long time.   Lemons and limes I keep in the fridge, each wrapped in clingfilm.  This really does prolong their life and prevents their skins drying out as will happen when kept at room temperature.

Now to recipes.
Just because we use up odds and ends of foods that we have this doesn't mean what we serve is not much more than a plate of 'left-overs'.  There are many dishes where 'bits and bobs' are NEEDED to make a dish. 
Although I bought the makings for sushi (sushi rice, rice wine vinegar...) some months ago, I still have not made these.  Have every intention of pickling some ginger, and I do have wasabi (mustard) powder, so really must make a start. 

The good thing about sushi is that these are made with cooked (or smoked) fish, and sometimes just omelette, NOT raw fish (these are called sashumi - I think).  A very little canned tuna, canned salmon, smoked salmon, smoked mackerel, seasticks, can all be used to make sushi, and for anyone who wants to have a go but hasn't the proper rice or vinegar, no problem.  Just use the 'ordinary' and when you find out how easy it is, you may then want to make them using the proper ingredients. The main thing is, something really special can be made from very little, and that's the sort of recipe we need to make our stores go even further.

Here are the details for making sushi from ingredients we all usually have. You can choose what fish to use according to what you have.  So when using a tin/pack of fish for another dish, just remove a little (which won't be missed anyway), and have a go at making a few sushi.  Smoked salmon is used in this recipe, but use a couple of any of the above (and below) mentioned fish.  Instead of wasabi, use a smear of English mustard (tastes much the same, wasabi slightly hotter and pale green instead of yellow).
Sheets of dried seaweed(aka nori) are normally used to wrap the sushi, and are given in this recipe.  However, it is possible to wrap the sushi in clingfilm to hold it together, then slice and unwrap when ready to serve (discarding the plastic before eating of course).  This way we still get the experience and much of the taste of sushi.
Salmon and Cucumber Sushi:  makes 12
2 nori sheets (or use clingfilm)
4 oz (100g) smoked salmon or vary (see above) 
quarter of a cucumber, thinly cut into ribbons
squeeze wasabi (or English mustard)
for the rice:
4 oz (100g) short-grain rice
7 fl oz (200ml) water
1 tblsp caster sugar
good pinch of salt
1 fl oz (25ml) white wine vinegar
First make the rice.  Rinse the rice in a colander until the water runs clear.  Drain then leave it to stand for 15 minutes.  Put into a pan with the 7 fl oz water.   Bring to the boil, reduce heat, cover pan and simmer for 20 minutes until the liquid has been absorbed.  Remove from heat and set aside - still covered - for 15-20 minutes, the transfer to a large bowl.   Dissolve the sugar and salt in the vinegar, then pour this over the rice, mixing it together.  Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and set aside at room temperature until ready to use.
Put 1 nori sheet (or clingfilm) on a bamboo mat (or sheet of baking parchment) and cover the surface with half the boiled rice.  Lay one of the chosen fish and cucumber ribbons along the length of the rice in a central strip, being careful not to overfill. Using your finger, rub a tiny bit of the mustard over the surface of the uncovered rice.  Roll up tightly (using the mat or clingfilm and parchment) and squeeze to seal.  Repeat with the second sheet, a different fish and remaining ingredients.  When ready to serve, slice each roll into six and serve with extra wasabi and pickled ginger, and soy sauce.   Will keep in the fridge for a day before eating.

Here are suggestions for different fillings:
vegetarian:  slices of avocado, cooked (canned) asparagus spears, tofu strips, omelette strips, sliced roasted bell peppers (from a jar).
seafood: canned crabmeat, cooked prawns, canned tuna, canned salmon, smoked salmon, smoked mackerel, smoked trout, salmon roe (as topping).
meat and poultry: thinly sliced rare roast beef, teriyaki chicken, or cold roast chicken/turkey.

Smoked salmon trimming are always best to buy when using them in a main course dish.  This fish freezes well, so if intending to make sushi, you could always open the pack and remove a small amount to repack and freeze separately ready for use.  Or make up two small packs as a small amount of smoked salmon added to scrambled eggs is something the 'toffs' expect to be served for breakfast.  So why can't we get in on the act?  Did say some time back we can still eat like kings on a pauper's budget when we know how.

The majority of the pack of smoked salmon trimmings can go to make this dish, any pasta shapes could be used although the 'bows' (aka farfalle) do make the dish look attractive.  If you run out of pasta, remember you can still make your own, and can make farfalle by cutting lasagne sheets into thick ribbons, then into shorter lengths, pinching the middles together to make 'bow-ties'.  Myself would use Philly cream cheese with chives (just because I have it), otherwise use cream cheese and add snipped fresh chives (or the finely snipped/chopped green tops of spring onions or onions that have begun to sprout).
Creamy Salmon and Chive Pasta: serves 4
12 oz (350g) farfalle (pasta bows)
1 x 200g tub light soft cream cheese (see above)
juice of half a small lemon
approx. 1 x 145g pk smoked salmon trimmings
ground black pepper
bunch chives, snipped (see above)
Cook the pasta as per packet instructions, then drain -reserving some of the cooking water. Tip the pasta back into the still-hot pan and add the cream cheese, lemon juice, and smoked salmon.  Season well with pepper and mix well.  Add a little of the reserved water to help form a creamy sauce and place back on the hob and heat through.
Add most of the chives (if not already in the cheese), folding them in, then divide between four serving bowls, scattering remaining chives (if any) on top.  Serve immediately.

Despite it being winter, my preference is usually a salad for my supper, perhaps because by then the central heating has warmed up our rooms so I don't need internal heat to keep me comfy.
Here is a recipe that will work for me as I have most of the makings (but of course we can chop and change according to what we have), and would use up the remainder of that tin of tuna had I used a bit to make sushi. 
Although enough to serve four, easy enough to adapt to serve one, two - or a lot more than four.
Rainbow Salad: serves 4
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
1 large carrot, grated
1 x 340g can sweetcorn kernels, drained
4 oz (100g) sugarsnap or mangetout peas
1 pack cooked beetroot, chopped into chunks
1 x 185g can tuna, drained
4 oz (100g) mayonnaise
1 tblsp lemon juice
2 tsp wholegrain mustard
1 tsp water
salt and pepper
lettuce leaves
1 spring onion, sliced
Make the salad by putting into a large bowl the red pepper, carrot, sweetcorn, peas, beetroot, and tuna.  In a separate bowl mix together the mayo, lemon juice, mustard, and water.  Add seasoning to taste.
Line a bowl with lettuce leaves, fill with the salad and drizzle the dressing over.  Sprinkle the sliced spring onion on top and serve immediately.

Final recipe today puts together several ingredients that have been mentioned separately over the last few days (bottled roasted bell peppers, garlic and herb soft cheese, canned tuna....). It also courgettes that I don't have, and as not in season (and no way would I suggest we go and buy any imported from a supermarket) we could use grated parsnip, or think of something else to use.  Not everyone has capers, so they can be omitted. as can the black olives, but the problem is the more we leave out the difference the flavour will end up, and not always as good. 
Mediterranean Tuna Tart: serves 4
1 x 320g pack ready-rolled puff pastry
1 tblsp olive oil
2 courgettes, coarsely grated (see above)
1 x 150g pack of garlic and herb soft cheese
1 x 185g can tuna, drained and flaked
5 oz (150g) ready-roasted peppers, cut into strips
1 tblsp capers
3 pitted black olives, sliced
Unroll the pastry onto a large baking sheet lined with baking parchment.  Score a narrow border around the edges using a sharp knife but not cutting completely through.  Prick the pastry inside the borders with a fork.  Bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the courgettes until tender and quite dry.  Cool slightly the mix in the soft cheese.
Remove pastry from oven (after the 15 minutes) and press down any puffy bits within the border, then spread the courgette/cream cheese mixture over this (leaving borders clear).  Scatter the flakes of tuna on top, then lay on the strips of pepper - lattice fashion if you wish - filling gaps with the slices of olive, then return to the oven and bake for a further 15 minutes or until the pastry is golden, really puffed up (esp the borders), cooked through and golden brown.  Best eaten hot, but still good eaten cold.

Won't be blogging tomorrow, but will be back with you again on Monday.  With the dreadful weather we have already had, and more forecast today (but still calm here), do hope you all have not suffered in any way.  When we see all the news showing the many houses flooded and cars almost submerged in streets, we realise how fortunate we are to escape this trauma.   It's almost as bad as wartime when many families had their homes damaged by bomb blast (or lost them altogether). 
Forgot to mention that 'Housewife 49' was on ITV 3 last night (Nella Last's story).  Do hope some of you who enjoy her books managed to watch it.  It is very much true to life.   As I've seen it several times, only watched a bit of it, but am reading her 3 books again.  Nella and I are so similar in the way we look at life, sometimes it is as if I'm reading about me.

Being Saturday (baking day), most of my time will be spent in the kitchen, thoroughly enjoying myself.  If I end up making anything worth knowing about, I will give details on Monday. I'll even let you know if there is a culinary disaster.  With me you get warts and all!

Look forward to hearing from as many of you who can find time to drop me a line, as then I feel even closer to each of you as individuals, and you feel like my virtual friends.  Hope you feel the same. Until Monday, be good, keep smiling, keep warm, and lock up your purses.  TTFN.