Thursday, February 13, 2014

After the Storm and Before the Next...

Late start this morning due to the severe storms that finally hit Lancashire.  Hurricane force winds of over 100mph recorded in Wales, almost as bad here, and it lasted for HOURS.  We did not get the snow that was forecast, that probably arrived but settled only on the higher ground, and many home is Lancashire had power failure due to the wind blowing over the land lines, with major roads close, to high-sided traffic,  also the main train line in our area. 

After an almost sleepless night (wondering what would hit us next), the wind has almost completely died down, jus the normal light breeze with some sun.  But more hurricane force winds and rain to come over the weekend.  

Thankfully, our high garden fences still seem intact (at least at the back, I haven't yet looked at the front), but even if some had blown down, it would be a small problem compared to what much of the rest of the country is going through. 

However, as by next week it will be two months since I last had a grocery delivery, buying only milk and eggs during that time (spending no more than £10 in total on those), am now wondering if it might be wise to stock up with a few more canned products, just in case we get more bad weather and get caught short.  Not that I haven't enough food still in the larder to keep us going for a week or two, so will hang on for a bit to see what the forecast is.   As I have plenty of bread mixes, and also UHT, plus coffee, tea, butter/marg,  meat and veggies that keep well, there really is no need for concern.  
Anyway (as I keep telling myself), far better to HAVE to cope on very little so that I can (hopefully) be able to pass on any useful hints and tips.   It's no good just thinking we can cope, when a disaster strikes and we have to, then maybe we really need to know more, and the best way is to do it for real.

As you say CTMOM,  it is only a few days, sometimes just hours, when grocery shelves are wiped clean of perishable foods.  Anything that causes a mass panic will send people to stock up, and always it is the bread, milk, eggs, fruit and veg that disappear first. 
Many years ago (think it was in the 70's) when we had a lot of strikes, and so deliveries to shops were stopped.  One time there was no bread, and we heard of people queuing and paying £5 for a loaf of bread (that in those days would normally cost no more than 25p).  
Another time there was a shortage of potatoes (maybe crop failure, maybe van drivers on strike - again), but this did work to our advantage, for then we had to stop traditionally serving potatoes with the main course, and began to cook dishes using long-grain rice and pasta.  Since then have never served potatoes each day as before,  probably only three times a week, and never plain boiled (as we used to).

Do hope your hens have managed to cope with the storms Alison (Essex),and the hen-house remains in place. It must be quite a chore for you to have to travel each day through the bad weather to go and feed them.  The recent weather has made me glad I don't now have to go out into the garden and tend the hens I craved for.  Every cloud....etc.

At one time Granny G, we were always warned that duck eggs should be well cooked, but in those days they were not often eaten, perhaps because ducks are such dirty birds in the nest and their eggs usually soiled.  Nowadays, almost certainly duck eggs are salmonella free, and as clean as a whistle. They have a stronger flavour than hens eggs, and best to serve them reasonably well cooked (not soft-boiled or poached) such as scrambled, omelettes or in quiches.  I believe one duck egg can take the place of two hen's eggs when baking, so be guided by the weight (the standard weight for one hens egg used when baking is around 2 oz).

Was surprised to learn Kathryn, that there are some side-saddles made that are ridden with the legs on the 'off-side', but am pretty sure that the one I saw was due to reverse filming.  If the episode is repeated (and I can remember what it was - I will check through the TV supplement to find out what I was watching), then I will watch it again to see if there are other shots of side-saddle riders, maybe there was only the one, and before they set off, chatting to each other, drinking their stirrup-cups, hopefully I will see the rider again.  Not that it is of any concern at all, but things like that interest me.

In the end decided to cook a Fish Risotto for B's supper, and although it is one of those dishes that needs constant attention (stirring most of the time) as it cooks, find that preparing everything in advance really eases the work. So I chopped an onion finely (or was it a banana shallot?) and put it in a dish with a walnut size lump of butter and a drizzle of oil over.  Measured out the Arborio rice needed and put that by the onion, ditto the half-glass of white wine.   The frozen fish (chunk each of salmon, coley, and smoked haddock) were put into a pan and just covered with water and left to thaw, and the frozen chicken stock also put into a small pan to thaw.
A handful of fresh parsley was taken from the plants in the conservatory to be chopped later.

After I'd watched 'The Best British Bakery', went into the kitchen, put the now-thawed fish on to poach, began to heat up the chicken stock, and then put the onion/oil/butter into the 9" frying pan.  While the onion was gently frying, I began preparing my own supper (salad and tuna), and while slicing some red pepper to add to my bowl, also chopped up a bit to add to the onions in the pan (mainly for added colour).
When the onions had softened (took about 5 minutes) the rice then added, stirred to coat with the butter/oil, and cooked for a couple of minutes before adding the wine.  When that had almost evaporated, began adding the now-simmering chicken stock, a ladle at a time, adding more only when the last lot had been taken up by the rice. 

Although I had added a little pepper to the risotto, it still tasted a bit bland, so decided (just because the small bottle was on the unit by my side) to add a dash of Ouzo. This is a wine (spirit?) that I really don't like.  In fact don't like the taste of aniseed much at all, but have heard that this flavour goes well with fish, so I though I'd try it.  Just enough for it not to be too noticeable, in fact B didn't realise I'd put it in, but I could tell when I had a taste.  It worked though, and as tarragon (a herb that has an aniseed/liquorice flavour) is often served with chicken, might be able to use Ouzo when cooking this poultry.  Seems that some experimenting is called for.

Surprisingly, although I really dislike the taste of liquorice in savoury things, I love eating Bassett's Liquorice Allsorts, and do remember quite liking to eat (caraway) seed cake that my mother used to make.
During that time the fish had poached, so removed that from the pan, peeled the skin from the haddock and salmon, and flaked the flesh roughly, keeping it in fairly good-sized chunks.

 As ever, I've moved from stirring the risotto to talking about something else, so back to making B's supper.... continuing to stir the risotto and adding more liquid (not quite enough chicken stock, so I added a little of the water the fish has been cooked in), after 25 minutes of cooking the rice was tender and creamy, so added the fish, and finally the parsley.  As always, B says this is one of the best dishes he has ever eaten, and am pretty sure this is because I make it correctly, with no short cuts, and however tiring it may seem to have to be stirring the risotto most of the time, I do it sitting by the hob, listening to the 5 o'clock news on the radio, and quite often pour myself a glass of white wine to drink while I'm stirring. 

Two packs of minced beef steak and one of pork mince have been cooking together overnight in the slow-cooker, and today I'll be making up a bulk batch of spag.bol to freeze, also another of chilli con carne, and for tonight will be using some of the meat to make a Cottage Pie for B's supper, as I need to use up several potatoes that have begun to sprout (cooked in the microwave the flesh makes superb mash with no lumps).  I'll probably cook/mash some parsnips and carrots to also use as a topping (in stripes or might mix all the mash together).

Tomorrow is coffee morning and hair day, so will not have time to blog.  Should be back again on Saturday (weather permitting - if the electrics fail I won't be able to use the comp).
Perhaps the high-light of the week has being able to watch the Winter Olympics.  Some amazing acrobatics on snow-boards.  Even the curling has glued us to the screens - I said to B it's like watching snooker on ice.   Then of course my mind went to visualising mobility scooters fitted with skis, and zooming along on those used either in the high jump, or the half-pipe.  Me strapped in turning somersaults.  The mind boggles!

While we are having adverse weather conditions here, so too are the Russians, but only in that their base-camp has almost summer temperatures (but as it is indoor events, the ice-temperature can be controlled). Further north, on the high mountain slopes, thick with snow, used for the outdoor events, the rise in temperature is causing the surface of the snow to become slushy, a condition not good when skiing.
Seems the whole globe is now experiencing unusual weather, and very little of it good.  Even Australia has been suffering with extremely high temperatures.  Let us hope it soon settles down, but if the cause is global warming due to polluted air, then maybe we'll have a long wait.   We will just have to wait and see and cope with it best we can.  Where's the best place to emigrate to?  Certainly not Britain if anyone is thinking about doing so.

Nearly 11.00am, my deadline for 'publishing', although often do carry on until noon (I just can't stop chatting, can I?).  But if I don't stop now, won't leave myself enough time to do all the cooking I wish to do (and usually never do).  Will be back Saturday, hope you can join me then.  TTFN.