Monday, February 24, 2014

So What's Next?

Thanks to Barbara (Manitoba - welcome or is it welcome back?).  Thanks for giving details about curling.  This is one sport I'd love to take up if I was younger and certainly a lot more mobile.  It looks a lot like bowls (on grass), but have to say I've never fancied doing that,  the curling looks a lot more fun (I have had practice in sweeping!).

Not heard of the Lohmans Brown breed of hens Alison.  My parents used to keep Rhode Island Reds that seemed to lay well.  Any reader keep bantams?  My B might allow me to have a few of these as 'pets', and even though their eggs are smaller than hens, in baking the weight of eggs used is more important than number.

Yesterday evening watched (for the umpteenth time) a repeat of a series on Italy, presented by Francesco da Mosto ( not sure if I have his surname exactly right - shown on BBC4 7.00pm).  He is the man I could walk off with the instant he asked me (chance would be a fine thing).  He has a lovely voice (I swoon at Italian accents), and handsome in a very rugged way.  Also a lovely head of hair!   Apart from that, his series tour of Italy has shown some extremely old and remarkable towns, villages and single buildings that I envy anyone who is lucky enough to live in Italy.  Quite a different beauty to that of the UK (maybe due to the always seemingly blue skies), but exactly ME!   And that's before even the thought of the regional foods that I know about and would love to keep on eating.   If there was any place I would choose to live on earth, it would be Italy.

Another programme I switched over to watch was on the Food Network (forgotten its name, it was of no interest to me), and was presented by a man who also presents a series on food that grandma's cook.  The name he introduced himself by sounded like 'Molacca',  but although he himself does not appeal to me, am intrigued by his American accent, so maybe a reader could let me know the area of the US this comes from, or is the way he speaks peculiar to him. 
I ask because I'm really interested in accents and at one time could almost place a person born and bred in England to the area in which they grew up.   Loved it when I lived in Yorkshire as almost every town has its own accent, and even some villages. j

We used to have a long-playing record of the accent of each American state, but appreciate many of the states are so large, they probably have a lot of different variations within each, and of course wouldn't be so much different from the next when living close to the borders.   Unfortunately I can now only remember a few, with the Boston, New York, Californian, and Texan accents high on my list.  Can recognise 'the Deep South' accents, but not the states they come from.

Still working my way through my stores, yesterday made a bulk batch of Chicken Tikka curry, the chicken being padded out with the last of the organic carrots and onions (another Riverford delivery expected tomorrow).  B had his portion with rice, myself shredded the last of the organic Savoy cabbage, steamed that with some caraway seeds and ate this - as I would use rice - with the curry piled on top, and found it worked well.

Several days ago I decided to clear on of the small drawer in the little chest that just fits under one end of the kitchen table.  In these drawers I keep everything to hand that I need when working at said table, but - as ever - the drawers held things I don't use that often, so put those into large (now empty) tins that had once held sweets, and put into the drawer all my jars of dried spices and herbs - believe me, they filled the drawer, two layers deep and two (or is it three?) rows in each.   So now I'm trying to use them instead of just admiring them, and why I used caraway seeds with the cabbage (tasted lovely).
I'm going to have to take out the drawer and sit and make a chart of what spices are on the bottom layer, and on the top, also where they are placed, otherwise I'll keep having to remove several each time I try and find them, only on the top layer are the labels visible.   It's a pity the drawer is not deep enough for me to keep the top layer on a separate tray that can be lifted off.  That would make it a lot easier.   
At one time I used to keep all the jars (in alphabetical order), on narrow shelves over the central heating radiator, but the flavour doesn't last when in the light (so it is said, and I believe it), so now keep them in the dark.   Of course I don't need all those I have, it's just me wanting to have as many as possible in case a recipe calls for them. Of course can't bear to throw them away (I rarely - if ever - throw anything away).  However, old 'hot' spices such as chilli, curry powder, paprika, pepper etc are very good for sprinkling on the ground when we wish to keep cats away.  But this only works in dry weather.

More drawers will be cleared today.  Including the three small ones in the desk where I am sitting at the moment.  B has obviously been hunting for an instruction book, taken out much of what was in and then shoved it back (with others from other drawers) and now I can't find what I'm looking for. He will have to keep a drawer just for his own things, not mess with mine.  But then he is only happy when his life is a mess.  You should look at the table in here (that he sits beside when watching TV), covered with empty lemonade bottles, used sweet wrappers,  empty choc. boxes, empty glasses, and several weeks of TV supplements.   Yes, well, suppose it is my job to do the housework and clear it all up, so will do that today.  Or tomorrow.  One more crisp packet and empty plate/glass won't make that much more difference.   As Quentin Crisp said: 'Leave the dust for a few weeks then it never looks any different'. (or words like that).  Like his style.

Although not absolutely necessary, have placed an order with Tesco to be delivered later this week. They have some good offers on fruit and veggies (that are not in the Riverford box in this month's delivery), and also on the canned goods that I'm running out of (by this I mean I've bought only the brands that are on offer). With milk, cream and B's favourite Lurpak butter also on offer, it makes sense to buy these from Tesco.   As expected my order this time round is less than normal, and even lower in price if I use the vouchers saved (but as these are valid for many months may wait until I place a larger order so that I always keep within budget).

Have to say I will very much enjoy unpacking the groceries and restacking my shelves, but hope the pleasure isn't so great that I will feel that I can't wait to do it all again, and so begin the habitual on-line ordering once a month when I don't really need to.   Think there is something in women's genes that make them habitual shoppers.  If enough money it is clothes, shoes, handbags, and when we are forced to cut down, then we still enjoy the shopping, but this time for food.   Perhaps the 'hunter/gatherer' instinct that only the strong-minded of us that can control this urge and - unless I set it as a challenge to stay away from the stores - find I have very little control over many of my instincts.  Not that I try very hard.  Have to admit that.

The problem when writing about cost-cutting is that although experience of 'having to' has given me an advantage, it really isn't too difficult when - as now - living more comfortably.  Even though on just a state pension, we can manage, and manage well, even though - as our domestic bills rise - it will always be the food budget that has to be raided to pay for the rest. 

How much more simple it is to cook economical meals when we already have built up a larder full of 'basics' that help pad out/stretch a dish to feed at least one (or more) for only a few pence extra.  What happens if we have no money of our own, have to live on benefits, hardly any food in the cupboard, maybe even having to rely on the foodbank allocation.   How I wish I could go and live exactly like that to see how difficult it really is. 

I've not been watching the recent series of 'Benefits Street' (is that the name?), but did watch the end when they had a studio debate about it, and there has been plenty written in the papers about it as well, especially one lady.  They don't seem to have too bad a life when it comes to their possessions, and if they can afford to smoke then they do have 'disposable' money.  I'm not getting at smokers, my dad was a chain smoker, my mother nearly as bad, but for some reason I didn't take up the habit, and certainly things would have been very difficult financially if I had.  B doesn't smoke either (the fact that all his many siblings smoked and have died at a much earlier age than B is today may prove that smoking IS bad for your health).

Having been re-reading 'Working Class Wives' and 'Round About a Pound a Week', it shows how different things are today.  Our 'poor' of today would be classed as quite wealthy by those who lived decades ago.   In those days the working class (labourers) would be paid only when they worked.  When ill they had no income and also had to pay for any medical treatment.   At times like this food was often only potatoes and bread and 'scrape'.  Any meat that could be afforded was always given to the father (the breadwinner) so that he would be strong enough to work.  Children often died when very young, so money was also paid each week into a burial insurance, money that was needed for food (which would have then helped to keep the children alive).

The one positive note about the books (these give listings of where every penny was spent, and on what), was that one lady who had previously been working as a cook in a large(er) house, managed really well on the same small income that everyone else in the street had (round about a £1 a week), and her children were not malnourished, and her meals well planned and balanced.  So - as ever - it is what I call 'the Knowledge' that can make the difference between sheer poverty and a life worth living.  
The only way we can gain this knowledge is to have it taught in schools or to read books and teach ourselves.  The worst thing we can do is sit back and not bother.  Maybe some people are born survivors (like to think I fall into that category), and others prefer to have this load taken off their back.  Not everyone enjoys a challenge. 
It may be that I seem to sometimes point the finger, waggling it a bit when something has caused me to have a moan (again!!), but - in a way - it's good that everyone IS so different, it would be very boring if we were all the same, and we can always learn from another's predicament - and this could be the depression often heard about with the children of millionaires (money doesn't always bring happiness), or the 'can't get out of the rut' that may be the 'benefit' way of life.  Maybe we are on this earth to just learn what is the right and proper way to live. 

Seems I am in one of my philosophical moods again.  Sorry about that.  Put it down to being a bit of a solitary person, happy in my own company, and with plenty of time to think about things. The older I get the more I seem to keep thinking, and - like Victor Meldrew - I just can't believe how bad things seem to be these days, bad more in the way people expect more without wishing to work harder for it.  The resentment when a standard of living had dropped, rather than appreciating the luxury when they had it.  The lack of good manners, the respect we old folk deserve....  I could go on but I won't.

Don't worry, I'm found my mojo again (whatever that is but it sounds right), so am now offering a recipe that could use up some of the ingredients that may be lurking in your larders (but plenty of similar substitutes could be used - you will know what these could be).
Make these with fresh fish and they could then be frozen (also cooked from frozen). so if you see a good offer on 'chunky' fish, then worth buying extra to make these.
Although prepared as fish 'fingers', no reason why the fish couldn't be cut into squares to coat, cook and serve in the piece, or cut into smaller chunks as 'bites'.

Use any chunky white fish for these.  Cod/haddock is more expensive than Pollock or coley,  and am sure there are other less expensive fish that could also be used.   For some reason - farmed salmon seems to be one of the cheapest fish on sale, but this could soon change.
The recipe suggests using 'fish seasoning' (Schwartz), but have myself not come across this, so would season the fish using either salt/pepper, or a touch of Cajun seasoning perhaps.  We all have our own favourite herbs and spices, so we are free to flavour (or not) the fish as we wish.

If you wish for an even crunchier coating, then 'double-dip'.  Coat the fish with lemon first, then with egg and then the crumbs, then dip into the egg again, with a further coating of crumbs.
Crunchy Fish Fingers: serves 4
9 oz (250g) chunky white fish fillets
juice of half a lemon
half tsp fish seasoning (see above)
2 oz (50g) polenta/cornmeal
2 oz (50g) dried breadcrumbs
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tblsp olive oil
Cut the piece into 8 even-sized pieces and spoon over the lemon juice, turning the fish so it has the lemon on both sides. 
Mix together the fish seasoning (or your choice) with the polenta and breadcrumbs, then tip this onto a shallow dish.  Put the beaten egg into a similar dish then first dip the fish into the egg to coat, then dip into the crumb mixture, turning it several times to make sure it is well covered (or double dip - see above).
When all the 'fingers' have been coated they can then be frozen. When solid pack and seal and use within 4 months. 
To cook, place onto a baking sheet lined with parchment, drizzling the oil over each.  Bake for 15 minutes at 200C, gas 6 (if cooking from frozen allow an extra 5 minutes) turning halfway through cooking.  Serve with your favourite vegetables, mashed potatoes or oven chips.

And that's it for today.  While still continuing my 'use-it-up' challenge (with modifications), am now trying to think up a new challenge to get my teeth into.  Does it always have to be about food?  Believe it or not, my cost-cutting 'expertise' began with the craftier side of domestic life (think Kirstie Allsopp), before my economies in cooking caught the media eye.  
Hope you can join me tomorrow when I will try to keep things at the culinary level.  TTFN.