Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Be Prepared!

Watching yesterday's episode about World War I last night it, the bit about food and rationing was almost exactly the same as it was in World War II, same queues, same shortages, just different clothes worn.

In Margie's comment (and hope you are feeling better Margie), she says if food deliveries are interrupted for any reason, in 3 days there would be empty shelves in the supermarkets.  The same would happen here, and perhaps worse, as it has been said that there is only enough food in the country to last a week if nothing could be imported.  We now have just too many people living here.

Even without a war, there could be several reasons why food supplies could be interfered with, nature having a hand in this.  Maybe severe flooding (which we are getting now) could cause problems in certain parts of the country, certainly snow (which we now never seem to be able to cope with), would do the same.  The main problem is sunspots and overly large flares from the sun that could cause global electricity failure, and anything that needs satellites or computers to do the work could then not be used, possibly for several days.  One of these solar flares could happen this year or next we are told.

Having been asked to give a talk on food storage (especially good ways to use dried beans), to the Mormons, was interested to know they are told to store at least six months of food (and big tanks of water in their garden), to see them through when the particular disaster they expect arrives. 

So certainly, it IS advisable to always have a well-stocked store-cupboard, but as Les, Eileen, and others have mentioned, keep using what we have, the oldest first, and just re-stock as they are used up.  Not just 'sit on them' until they are too old to be of any use.  Saffron has been checking her stocks and finding foods that have been there too long.  At least with anything with a b/b date there is no need to discard once the date has been reached, they usually will keep well for several weeks/months longer. 

We give a welcome to Virginia (Tennesee), who is glad of her well-stocked larder as she is having a lot of snow at the moment.  Also welcome to Viv (Montreal) who is coping with temperatures of -14C. 

Was concerned this morning when I read your comment Granny G.  You said the Thames is close by, and yesterday it broke its banks in several places, so hope your home is above flood level.  Bottled water is something that we probably don't think about until the need for it, but if we have gaps in our freezer we could always freeze some water, and - of course - use rain water (!!) to flush our loos.

Was shocked, T Mills,  to hear of the price of the Silver Cross prams sold today.  I don't think I've seen a proper coach-built pram in the streets for years, it's all those small buggies that fold up to fit in cars.  Perhaps it is people who have nannies who can push the children in parks who can afford the 'proper' prams. 
Don't think the pram we had was a Silver Cross, but it was exactly the same as the one I saw in the last episode of 'Call the Midwife', a cream-coloured coach-built pram with a pale beige hood and apron..  We bought ours second-hand for £10, and it was used for our first 3 children, then kept in the garage for a few years until we had our fourth child.  Gave it away later, but it was still in perfect condition.  They knew how to make things last in those days.
I used to love pushing a pram, really missed it, but later found that pushing a supermarket trolley felt almost the same, and perhaps why I used to shop more often than I needed to.

Let us imagine that some sort of disaster is about to happen.  Just long enough to cause a few weeks stoppage of food supplies.  Just what food should we have in store to keep us going?  Obviously, if we eat less than normal, the food supply will last longer.  We all eat too much anyway, so it is more a matter of what foods would serve us best.

If we have water and some sort of cooking facilities, then carbos such as rice, pasta, couscous, and esp. quinoa (one of the most nutritional of grains) would be useful.  Also dried or (pref) canned beans and chickpeas.  Canned fish would be essential (they have a very long shelf life compared to other products), and also corned beef.   Dried milk, UHT milk, canned evaporated/condensed milk and tea/coffee (although we can always drink water....as I often do now).
It would be the shortage of fresh foods that would be problem, and so canned vegetables could play a role (although I rarely stock these, preferring to use frozen veg - but do have some canned new potatoes, and some mushy peas in my larder as I speak).   Maybe a jar or two of pickled eggs might be worth keeping on the shelf (but no longer than their b.b. date).

It would be good to hear from our American and Canadian readers (who have a lot more snowstorms than us) as to the best foods they consider worth keeping for times when they can't leave their homes for any reason.   Yesteday we had a glorious spring day, full of sunshine, and I planned to go out today with Norris, but woke to rain, and the forecast is snow in various parts of the country, as well as more rain in the flooded areas.  We could still end up waking to a white world.   So best to be prepared.

Beloved asked me to make a spag.bol for his supper yesterday.  No problem as I have several packs left of Beanfeast (both Bolognese and Mexican chilli), so - after first frying an onion - made up a pack of the Bolognese, adding a carton of passata, a good glug of HP sauce and also Worcestershire sauce, then finally a (thawed) pack of pre-cooked and frozen minced steak.  Added the last couple of mushrooms (finely chopped) and enough made for both B and myself with a couple of portions frozen away for a later meal.

That has now used up all the cooked mince, but I still have two more packs of D.R. minced steak and  so will slow-cook them so they can be frozen in small batches ready to make up into other dishes.  Pre-cooking the meat really does save a lot of time when it comes to making a meal.   Bulk-cooking the meat in the slow cooker overnight also gives a lot of meat stock that can be frozen for gravies etc.

Have already made up a batch of crumble mix so that today I can use up some apples that are turning a bit soft, and fish out some blackberries from the freezer to make an apple and b/berry crumble.  B enjoys that and I haven't made any for some weeks.  Am sure I have a pack of rhubarb in the freezer, so might use that instead, adding some crystallised ginger.    The new season's forced rhubarb should be on sale soon (but of course with the weather we have had we cannot be certain of anything  being 'in season' at the moment). 

The rhubarb we planted in our garden has been a dismal failure, the stalks being so very short and thin, completely unlike that massive crops we grew in our Leeds garden, but then we lived in the right area for rhubarb growing, so either we have bought the wrong variety for planting here, or it just doesn't like the soil conditions. 
Even though our Leeds garden was very slightly smaller than the one we have now, it certainly provided up with many pounds of apples, buckets full of huge, sweet, blackberries, plenty  of rhubarb, and lot so red currants.  Also (until they took over most of the garden, lots and lots of raspberries.
Here, all that seems to want to grow is one red-currant bush.  A goodly supply of the currants (if we pick them before the birds), but not a lot we can do with them except make red-currant jelly or add them to mixed-fruit jams.  Some springs of currants I freeze to use as garnish, but how I miss being able to gather all the other fruits from our previous garden which were 'free'.

At the moment, B seems to be thinking about moving to a bungalow that has a paved garden, he just doesn't like gardening, so does that mean we'll be moving again?  If we do, then I will insist on the new property having two bedrooms so that my friends (and family) can again stay with us, also a better kitchen than we have now, more room to more, and definitely one that has windows so that I can look out onto the paved area (that I will fill with containers filled with flowering plants and also veg).  When in the kitchen here it is almost as bad as working 'below stairs' as in the old days the basement kitchens also had very few (if any) windows.  
It's not so bad here in summer, when the sun shines into the conservatory and during the afternoon then shines down the galley-length of the kitchen, but the square bit of the kitchen never does get any direct light. 

Learned the other day that our 'conservatory' isn't one as it has a flat and solid roof.  It's actually an 'extension', but I'm still calling it the conservatory, not that it is used to sit in as such, B bought a huge and very heavy wooden table before we moved (when we expected to move into a different home that had a much larger and proper conservatory off the kitchen to use as a dining room), and we have nowhere to put it other than in our 'conservatory'.  It has its uses, but only as a work space.  I don't use it as an extension to the kitchen as it is as a higher level than the kitchen floor and I find it difficult to keep stepping up and down without holding onto grab handles, not much use when carrying anything.   At least do have my 'coffee mornings' there, sitting at the table, in the sun, just as long as someone carries the coffee/cakes in for me.

Pork mince is normally cheaper than beef or lamb, and in Italy they cook both pork and beef mince together to make their spag bol sauce.  In fact I've heard that sometimes they use pork only.  As I have some pork mince in the freezer I may add some of that to the minced steak when slow-cooking to make it go further.

Here is a recipe using pork mince that will freeze beautifully, so worth making in bulk.  Most of us probably have ground cumin, not everyone has caraway seeds, but don't stop making this if we are lacking an ingredient that gives flavour.  There is usually something else we have that could use for the same purpose.
As ever, my cost-cutting suggestion would be to use a little less meat and more of the veggies, and of course cooking in bulk we only need to use the oven once for the initial bake, then again for the final cooking, instead of having to use the oven twice every time we make this dish from scratch.  With ever-increasing fuel prices we now have always to consider filling the oven to capacity each time we use it, and freeze away our bakes so we don't have to use the oven again.  At least not for as long. .

Spicy Meatball and Carrot Bake: serves 6
2 lb (900g) minced pork
5 oz (150g) breadcrumbs
1 egg
1 tblsp caraway seeds (see above)
1 tblsp ground cumin
salt and pepper
1lb 10oz (750g) carrots, cut into thick strips
4 tblsp olive or sunflower oil
3 onions, blitzed to a paste
chunk of fresh root ginger, grated
1 x 680g bottle of passata
2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
2 tblsp sugar
1 x 200g pack feta cheese, crumbled
chopped fresh parsley
Put the pork into a bowl with 2oz (50g) of the breadcrumbs, the egg, caraway seeds, and half the cumin.  Add 1 tsp salt and plenty of pepper, then mix well together.   Roll into 30 meatballs and  place in a non-stick roasting pan.
Place the carrots in another roasting tin, reserve one teaspoon of the oil, drizzling the rest of the oil over the carrots and meatballs, tossing to coat.  Place in a pre-heated oven (200C, gas 6) and roast for 35 - 40 minutes, turning halfway through.
Meanwhile, stir-fry the onions in the reserved oil, adding the ginger and remaining cumin,, then stir in the passata, tomatoes, sugar, and seasoning to taste.   Simmer for 15 minutes.
Remove the roasting tins from the oven and divide the meatballs and carrots between both tins, then spoon over the tomato sauce.  Set aside what you wish to serve that day, and portion the rest ready to freeze once cold (can be frozen for up to 3 months, but must be defrosted completely before cooking).
To continue cooking (either the same day or after defrosting), mix the remaining breadcrumbs with the feta cheese, parsley, and seasoning to taste and sprinkle it over the meatball/carrot mixture. Bake at the same temp. as above for 20 minutes until piping hot.

Time for me to take my leave and - perhaps - do some bulk baking now I've talked myself into it.  Do wish I had more mobility, am having to use a stick to walk around the house how - limiting me as to how much I can carry at any one time.  I am not enjoying growing old, certainly not gracefully.  Mind you, growing old disgracefully sounds a lot more fun.  Just how would I go about doing that? You tell me.  Hope you can join me again tomorrow, please try.  TTFN.