Saturday, February 08, 2014

Weekend Starts Here

Sorry about not having time to blog yesterday, but at least managed to tidy up the conservatory, water all the plants, and make the place more attractive for my coffee-with-friend.  Also have to have my hair done there as this is adjacent to the back door and saves Norma having to carry her large salon-type hair dryer further than necessary.   A lovely day yesterday, the sun shining and so very warm where we at (even warmer under the dryer). 
People in the south-west are still suffering with more heavy rain forecast.  All due to the placement of the Jet Stream we are told, it sweeps the bad weather that America had, across the warm Atlantic sea, that then turns what were snowstorms to rain. 

When we get heavy snow it does tend to cove quite a bit of Britain, and worse in some way than rain as it disrupts travel.  However, when it does melt, it tends to do relatively fairly slowly so the water then has a chance to drain away.  Win some, lose some I suppose.

It seems you are able to see on TV (in the US) the serious flooding we have had Pam.  In the Somerset Levels the water covers miles, so goodness knows what harm that will do to our crops.  Some fields should have been already ploughed ready for seed sowing, and it could be weeks/months before the ground is ready.
Myself am fortunate in that the organic box that is delivered to me contains locally grown food, and so far this area (esp. Yorkshire) doesn't seem too affected by the weather, although the price of the organics may raise overall to compensate the growers in the south who will not be able to grow so much produce this year. 

Read yesterday that coffee crops have been ruined due to heavy rainfall, and this will almost certainly increase the price of coffee.  I checked my larder yesterday, still have 5 x 300g jars, but will stock up with some more but only if on offer.  It will last much longer if I change to drinking tea and leave the coffee for B (I have plenty of tea and hardly ever drink it these days, don't know why, I used once to prefer it to coffee).

Forgot to mention a programme shown last night at 9.00pm (Food Network), I'd seen the trailer so wrote a memo to myself to watch it.  It was about Food Hoarders!    Have to say there were times I almost could see my own pantry (same size, shelves filled full), but fortunately this was only the tip of the iceberg, the people shown (filmed in the US, but could be the same anywhere), had a lot more food stored in other rooms of the house, also in the loft, plus two or three huge freezers and fridges.

Help was given to them to control this addiction to buying too much, and I had to cringe when the 'helper' threw a lot of food away as it was past its, although quite a bit went into a 'donation' crate, so this probably went to a foodbank.  One or two items had the date on of 1975!!!  At least, here in Morecambe (arriving foodless), as we have been here just over 5 years, nothing in the larder is older than that, most of it less than 2 years old.

One of the worst lady food-hoarder enjoyed baking cakes, and one of her very large and deep freezer shelves was full of cakes wrapped in kitchen foil, and like everything else she had frozen herself, she had not labelled so did not know what anything was. 

Once the food had been sorted, the amount left in one was not much different to what I have (thankfully), but even then the 'helper' said to the lady that she must make her meals from only what she had and do no shopping for a month.  Where have I heard that suggestion before?  Oh yes, on this site ha, ha.
Once the month was up the lady said it has worked so well that from then on she wasn't going to buy any more tins and packets (until she had used up what she had) presumably buying only fresh food. Another similarity there as well.   All - of course - making sense.

So today I'm going back into the larder and having a real clear-out of what should really be used, but not throwing away - just USING them.   It would probably be a good idea for me to put it all into a basket (or two) and place them on the kitchen table, so that they are clearly visible and a constant reminder.

However, the programme was very enlightening and showed me that there is really no need to store QUITE as much as I normally do, so from now on I'll try not to.  At least my largest purposes are six-packs of (say) baked beans, chopped tomatoes (or 2 x four-packs), whereas the 'hoarders' often bought whole crates/boxes of whatever they felt they were running out of.

Although the south-west has been getting the worst of the storms, quite a lot of the south coast (and south-east) has had a lot of rain and coastal erosion, so not surprised that your allotment is saturated Alison (Essex).  Do hope your home is above flood level.  Pleased to hear that you have been able to gather some leeks etc, and get veggies frozen for future eating.

A welcome to Barb (Canada), who - like Margie (Toronto) able to watch many BBC programmes on Canadian TV.   Myself really enjoy watching 'Escape to the Country' as it really does give a true impression of our countryside and small towns/villages, also the older properties have so much character that it is no wonder people want to own them.  Unfortunately, most that we see are quite expensive compared to the normal suburban (and less interesting) housing.    Here, in Morecambe, the property really is extraordinarily cheap compared to other parts of Lancashire, and also the rest of the country for that matter.   We would have to pay twice as much for the property we have now if we moved back to Leeds.

'Midsomer Murders' is also a programme that gives a good idea of country life, especially our country pubs and some of the larger houses, although have to say that some of the locations have been filmed a lot further away than they are meant to be.  'Midsomer' is supposedly set somewhere in the south-west I believe, yet in one episode they drove a few miles to the sea and were surrounded by houses and buildings faced with flint pebbles - and these are only seen on the east coast (esp. Norfolk where the beaches are full of flint-stones).
The series 'Rosemary and Thyme' I also enjoy, and always watching to catch out the continuity as what we see happening in one day has obviously been filmed over several months as the duo walk down paths lined with daffodils, then we next see tomatoes ripening on the vines, true they are in a small greenhouse on an allotment, but even so...
Then we see the pair driving along an autumn lane, leaves covering the road, and the next shot we are in a rose garden with budding roses, magnolia trees in bloom....  But does it really matter?  It's all good viewing and gives everyone abroad (who has the chance to watch) what a true English garden is like.  We love our gardens.

Thanks also to Sarina for her lovely comment and recipe for the Lancashire Tosset Cake.  I have copied it down and will be making it, but as it is generous with the butter and I'm using as little as possible to make it last longer, will make the cake when I'm back to my normal 'shopping' life.

When it comes to cooking in the Goode kitchen, this has changed dramatically since Christmas. 
Firstly the challenge has taken over (use up what I've got), and secondly - having more unusual organic vegetables delivered - there is a need to find up interesting ways to use them.  These, I have to say, are unusual only to us in that have rarely - if ever- been bought previously.  The good thing is that - thanks to readers who have guided me to the correct way to cook - now lovely the purple sprouting broccoli, and as this had been freshly picked, thought it best to eat this first, along with the watercress and Portobello mushrooms (not all at the same time, over a few days). 

Yesterday decided to cook B one of D.R's pork chops.  A really good size and following the instructions in their very good 'Meat' guide to cuts and cooking (usually sent free with an order for meat, they also have one for game, and fish....) was able to cook it perfectly.  Chops have always been my downfall, overcooking them until they are dry and like shoe-leather, so have only recently begun to cook them again.   For anyone interested it is 4 - 5 minutes on each side when pan-frying a pork chop, then 5 minutes standing time (15 minutes total).

With this was intending to serve roasted veggies, but didn't have much of a selection, so ended up pan-frying onions with the chop, and in another pan fried chunks of red and yellow mini-peppers with some sliced mushrooms.  I'd decided to cook one of the two sweet potatoes anyway, so did this in the microwave (still in its skin), and then when cooled, peeled off the skin and cut it into chunks.  Added it to the pan of veggies and fried with a little added butter until everything began to get slightly caramelised, and then served the lot together.  A lovely plate of colour and flavour.  B was very happy with it.

As I'd thawed out two pork chops, then - after thawing - finding that they were both larger than appeared when frozen - decided to keep on to use today.  Not sure whether to blitz it in the food processor with some onion, apple, bacon, and sage, then make this into a 'fidget pie' (similar to a pork pie), or whether to cut it into strip and marinade it so that B can cook it tonight in a stir-fry.  Perhaps the former as the latter is a bit too much like yesterday's supper (but with an entirely different flavour).
Having just flicked through a few small cook-books (stacked at the side of my desk, ready to read when desperate for inspiration) have discovered a recipe for pork goulash, and that seems perfect for today as the weather is still cold, has turned very windy, and intermittently very dull with occasional bursts of sunshine where the clouds break.  Not a day to step outside (when do I ever do this anyway?) so will enjoy my day working in the kitchen, sorting the larder, making and baking, and preparing supper (the recipe is given below in case anyone would like to try it). 

As this dish freezes well, even if only cooking for one or two it is worth making the full amount.  Today have only enough pork to make one good serving (for B), but will use the rest of the ingredients as given so that I can at least freeze the surplus veggies/dumplings to make a supper for myself to thaw out later.

Pork Goulash with Dumplings: serves 4 - 5
1 tblsp olive oil
1lb 8 oz (675g) pork tenderloin, cut into strips
1 onion, cut into thin wedges
1 -2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp smoked paprika
9 fl oz (250ml) beef stock
1 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
2 tsp sugar
1 - red bell peppers, deseeded and chopped
4 oz (100) self-raising flour
2oz (10g) shredded suet
half tsp baking powder
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
cold water
Heat half the oil in a casserole and fry the pork strips for 4 - 5 minutes until browned, then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Add the remaining oil to that in the frying pan and fry the onions for 8 - 10 minutes until soft, then add the garlic and paprika.  Fry for a couple of minutes more then return the pork to the pan, adding the stock, tomatoes, and sugar.  Bring to the boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for 20 - 30 minutes until thickened.
Meanwhile, make the dumplings by mixing all the dumpling ingredients together, adding enough cold water to make as scone-like dough.  Roll into about 12 - 16 walnut sized balls.
When the goulash is ready, add the peppers and tuck in the dumplings.  Re-cover the pan and cook for a further 25 minutes then - if wishing to freeze - leave to cool, place into a freezer container and then into the freezer for up to 3 months.   Defrost then reheat in the microwave on Medium for 4 - 5 minutes (longer for larger servings) or reheat gently on the hob, covered, until piping hot.
You could chill it overnight in the fridge to reheat on the hob the next day, or - if you prefer - serve immediately once the dumplings are cooked.

That's it for today, as I usually take Sunday off it will probably be Monday before I return, but you never know.  I might return tomorrow.  Just watch this space.   TTFN.