Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Little Things Please....

As they say, little things please little minds, so perhaps not surprising I was as thrilled to get this month's delivery from Riverford (organic veggies) yesterday as I used to be as a child when being given Christmas or birthday presents (in those days presents were only given then).

I'd checked the details on R's website for the contents of this weeks box, so surprised that it wasn't as given.  Hadn't noticed that it could differ according to the region, so today typed in my post code (where it said to and I hadn't noticed) and found our local farm (in Yorkshire) had a slightly different list.  Everything on it I received except that 'chard' (doesn't that look like rhubarb?) appeared to look like pak choi (those greens used for Chinese meals). In fact hope it is this as perfect for B's stir-fries.
(Have just checked with R'ford and it is chard but it can be used in stir-fries).

A really good box this week, everything exactly what I wanted and NEEDED!!  Had 10 good-sized tomatoes on the vine, 9 white onions, 6 huge carrots, 7 large beetroot, 9 large baking potatoes, 4 large Portobello mushrooms, 2 Little Gem lettuce, 1 large bag spring greens,  a big stick of celery, a big cauliflower, to big Ramiro red peppers, and the not-quite-sure what. 

The first box (delivered 4 weeks ago) seemed to be just about the right amount for the month.  True I do have plenty of onions already as I do use these almost in every savoury dish I make, and I haven't yet started used all the first lot of potatoes (finishing off those that I had that were sprouting). 
Was very pleased to see the beetroot as yesterday used the last pack of long-life vacuum beetroot that I had had for months (slightly over the use-by date but still OK).

B enjoyed his Cold Meat Platter with lettuce, beetroot, tomato.  I baked more bread yesterday, so with the small amount of cold meat left over, he will use this to fill baps  for his evening snacks. Only the thawed meat he will use, I'm freezing the leftover corned beef and cooked sausages.

Mindful of my 'time-saving' that I rattled on about yesterday, when I made the bread - using a packet of 500g bread mix - then put the empty bag on the scales and into this weighed 250g of strong bread flour, adding it to the bread mix that I'd put in the bread machine.   Decided then to refill the bag half-full with another 250g while I had the strong bread flour and the scales on the table, and now this is ready to add to my next bought mix.  Why didn't I think of doing that before?  It will again save me time (not a lot but every minute counts).

There was a short article in yesterday's newspaper about the time we waste.  Seems that we waste 1 hour 40 minutes each day (or 12 hours a week).  Much of this is self-inflicted (computer games, Twitter, Facebook, TV channel-hopping...), with other things such as waiting in supermarket queues, and those very annoying cold-calling on the telephone.

Although I keep being told I should move with the times, and not keep living in the past so much, there is no difference in the hours in the day than there were when I was a child, or - for that matter - in Biblical times.  Before TV and all the new technology, we seemed to spend our leisure time always doing something useful (apart from the occasional relaxation after a hard day's work).  As we had only the radio or records to listen to (and nothing to watch), we could sit and do this and knit/crochet/sew at the same time.   In fact my friend Gill can watch TV and knit/crochet without dropping a stitch. 

So often we complain we don't have the time to do this, that or the other, but we DO.  They always say that if we want something done, then ask a busy person to do it.  They seem to manage their time wonderfully and can always fit something else in when asked. 
If we had no TV (or computers/tablets/mobile phones etc), we would be able to save loadsa money by just making what we want/need rather than buying it.  But as that is now 'old-style' it seems everyone now prefers to 'go with the flow' and rely on others to make/provide what we need.

Personally, I don't like the road technology is leading us, we appear to be losing most of our skills and also the pleasure that comes when using them.  Could be the reason why there is more boredom/misery around.  Just because we have the doom and gloom of a recession, doesn't mean it doesn't have a silver lining to its cloud.  This being the opportunity to begin being self-sufficient again.  But not all the way.  Use some convenience foods by all means (I do - like opening cans of baked beans instead of making them from scratch, and jars of curry sauce....), but when we can, make instead of buying, and recycle.

In the Great British Sewing Bee last night they gave the contestants shirts to cut up and remake into another garment, and how many of us decide to use up worn out clothes in this way.  At the very least we could make rag rugs with old T shirts, or patchwork quilts from printed fabrics (both could end up as heirlooms). Not to mention smaller items such as cushion covers.   

The interesting thing is that from what I read/hear, decades have past with very little difference in African poverty over the last 30 years despite all the efforts from various charities.  Perhaps none of us like 'outsiders' coming in and telling us what to do (my hackles rise when - say - an American chef comes to this country and pooh-poohs our cakes). 
What does seem to have worked in Africa is the help given by teaching the cultivation of vegetables, providing the seeds, and the rearing of animals.  The saying 'Give a man a fish and it will feed his family for a day.  Teach a man to fish and he can then feed his family for a life-time' makes sense as much here as in Africa.

This brings me back to our own need to learn to be self-sufficient again.  Put our own house in order before we begin pontificating to someone else.  Am I including myself in this?  As a school friend once said to me '..if the cap fits'.  So perhaps I'd better crawl back under my stone.

An easy recipe to make today, this for a moist fruit cake because not only can it use the oddments of fruit in our larder (if using larger dried fruits - apricots, dates, prunes etc - chop these smaller, like sultanas so they can be mixed and matched), but we could also substitute grated carrot or parsnip for the apple. 
Like James Martin, I prefer butter, but you could use soft margarine if you prefer.  Experienced cooks will recognise the basic ingredients (flour, fat, sugar, eggs) are the same amounts as would be used when making a sandwich cake.  The difference being the extra moistness and density - not to mention flavour - of the type of ingredients used.  Of course, if we haven't black treacle, we could use golden syrup.  If we haven't the dark moist sugar, then use a lighter moist sugar.  After all, sugar is sugar, the difference being the flavour and the dampness.  What we choose will change the colour and flavour of the cake, but it will still make a cake.
Although the recipe does not suggest doing this, I would normally sift the flour, baking powder and spices together before adding to the other ingredients.

Simply Made Fruit Cake: serves 12
8 oz (250g) softened butter (see above)
8 oz (250g) dark muscovado sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1 tblsp black treacle
8 oz (250g) self-raising flour
2 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp baking powder
2 eating apples, grated
10 oz (300g) sultanas (see above)
Put the butter, sugar, eggs, treacle, flour, spice and baking powder together into a bowl and beat well together until pale and thick.  Using a large metal spoon, gently fold in the dried fruit until just combined.
Spoon the cake mixture into a greased and base-lined 8"/20cm deep round cake tin, then bake for 50 mins - 1 hr at 180C, gas 4, or until the cake is springy to the touch and shrinking away from the sides of the tin.  To double check, insert a skewer or toothpick into the centre of the cake - it will come out clean when it is ready.  Leave to cool completely.
This cake, once wrapped and stored in an air-tight container, will keep for up to a week. Or it can be frozen for up to a month.  If you wish to ice this cake, cover with fondant icing, but always freeze the cake un-iced.

The other day was able to make a successful batch of caramel.  Maybe have already mentioned this, but worth repeating as - after throwing in roasted peanuts and then tipping it out onto a parchment lined baking sheet, it cooled down to make 'peanut brittle'.
This brittle is much loved by my neighbour who finds it difficult to purchase (in shops), but at least they sell it at Barton Grange, so she buys some when we go there.

As a perfect 'tester' for my home-made batch of peanut brittle, I gave it to her to try and she absolutely LOVED it.  "Most of the time when I've bought it,  the caramel has been too hard" she told me, "This is perfect".  
So easy to make (best using a sugar thermometer to get it exactly right) as all you need is the same weight of caster sugar and the same of peanuts (I used 100g of each, will make double next time).
Just melt the sugar in a non-stick pan, and when this has dissolved (I add a teaspoon of water to help it on its way), raise heat and bubble it up to caramel (150C/300F - and it needs to be exact), remove from heat and immediately add the roasted (or plain) peanuts - can be salted if you wish. Stir together and quickly spoon out onto a parchment lined baking tray.  Place another sheet of paper on top and roll the mixture flat.   If you prefer, chop the peanuts as small as you like before adding to the caramel.   Leave to cool, then wrap in paper/foil.  Eat and enjoy.

That's it for today.  An early finish as I want to listen to Woman's Hour as Jack Monroe is to be one of the guests. For those who have missed this, it will possibly be repeated  on 'Weekend Woman's Hour' (Saturday?). 

Before I leave, must reply to comments...
Having heard residents in Washington DC speak (TV - cake decorating series), they don't sound like Mo Rocca Marjorie.  Maybe it's not his accent that I find odd, just the way he speaks.  All I can say is when listening to him he irritates me so much I just switch to another channel (or switch off altogether).

Your mention of life insurance Treaders, reminds me that Gill has occasionally had a small insurance paid up, and she says she uses this to help pay for her holidays.  So always best to carry on an insurance rather than lose what you have already paid.  Unless you can cancel and have at least some of it back.  You never know when the extra money might come in useful.

However much I wish I still had a car Grub-lover, doubt very much if I could cope with heavy traffic (never did find it comfortable driving on motorways etc).  My trips would be always the 'scenic routes' off the beaten track so to speak.  Can't say I really ever did enjoy driving, always aiming to hit the road at off-peak times, and cross country to miss most of the traffic.  Driving along an empty road, early in the morning, or mid-evening during the summer can be very pleasant. Nose to tail traffic - NOT!!

Must finish, plenty to get on with in the kitchen while I listen to the radio.  Could that be called 'multi-tasking' (for am not wasting time as I listen).  Must think up ideas for B's supper, and also mine.  Should make use of some of the organic veggies while they are still very, very fresh.  Hope you can join me again tomorrow.  If so - see you then.