Sunday, March 30, 2014

'Grate' Expectations

It's been a glorious spring day today.  B and I went to meet our daughter to arrange a family get-together later this year (it will be our diamond wedding anniversary in a few months time. Sixty years, and sometimes it feels like yesterday).

Everywhere there are spring flowers in gardens (daffodils, tulips, primulas...) with huge magnolias trees in full blossom, also flowering almond and cherry trees.  In our own garden the butterflies and bees were flying around.  Birds busy with nest building and raising their chicks, and the leaves on the trees are now beginning to break into buds. 
We shouldn't be that surprised, for in just over a week it will be April, close to Easter, but somehow it still feels as though we are still waiting for winter - for we just don't seem to have had any.  It has sometimes been cold, but as I said before - at least here in Morecambe - we've had only a couple of light frosts.  Don't think the temperature has dropped much below 0C.  Minus -1C is about the worst and that was at night.
Other parts of the country haven't fared so well, all that rain, winds and floods, but then they have also had some very warm weather indeed, with 20C being recorded around the London area a few weeks ago. 

Hope jane, that you have good weather next week for your holiday on the east coast.  Think the forecast is good, although some cooler winds expected on that side of the country as the wind is coming from the east (usually the prevailing winds are from the west).

Don't think I could keep going for a month on war-time rations as your daughter did Joy, a week would be long enough for me.  Have to say thought it would do us all good to have a week's trial if only to make us grateful for what we have now. 
Having to manage on one egg (per person) a week wouldn't be easy, and downright difficult if it was one egg per fortnight (as happened during part of the years of rationing - probably in the winter months when not so many eggs were laid).

This Saturday did quite a bit of baking and would you believe that every egg I used had a double yolk.  All NINE of them.  Still some left from the same tray, so perhaps they were all doubles.
These 'doubles' usually occur most frequently in spring for some reason. 

Was watching a bit of 'Food Network' today, and saw a programme called 'The Pioneer Cook' (or something like that.  The cook was the wife of a rancher (in Texas?), and she cooked at the ranch house for her large family, and also the cowboys. 
Today she was cooking 'fried chicken steaks', explaining it wasn't chicken, but beef steaks cooked in batter (a bit like Kentucky fried chicken I suppose).  Was a bit flummoxed by the way she made the gravy, same way as we do - using a tiny bit of oil and the scraps left in the pan - but after adding the flour to make a 'roux' (she didn't call it that), she then stirred in full cream milk and it ended up looking like a rather dingy white sauce.  Apparently the ranchers LOVED it (why?).

The above wife also made cowboy sandwiches for breakfast to take to the men in the fields, this consisted of 'Texas toast' (very thick slices of bread toasted/fried on both sides, topped with a flat slice of sausage (looked like a burger), this covered with a slice of processed cheese, with a pile of fried green jalapeno peppers on that, the sandwich finish off with the second slice of Texas toast.

Pam (Texas) may recognise the above of sarnie, and in her comment she mentions trying not to eat if not hungry, and have to say that I can't really recall every feeling really hungry,  just tend to eat at mealtimes, just because it IS mealtime.  That's probably where we all go wrong, and should eat only when we really ARE hungry (if only I knew what that felt like).

A welcome to Mary from Perth (in Australia).  As mentioned above, the English spring is in full swing and really there is nothing more lovely when it happens in good weather.  We could do with a little rain to help keep the flowers fresh, but think the ground has been wet enough for the roots to be able to still find moisture. 

Understand what you mean Barbara, re food labelling. Perhaps a photo/sketch of the contents would be more easily understood by those who don't understand the language.   I've some packets of 'foreign food' that are printed in what looks like Arabic, and no way can I understand any of it (these were given to me by a friend who saw them reduced in price and 'just knew I'd like them'.  If I knew what to do with them I probably would.  At the moment they are just sitting on the shelf.

Thanks for your Mothering Sunday greetings Grub-lover, hope all readers who fit into that category have all had a lovely day.

It is still Sunday as I write, and with the hour going on it feels earlier than the clocks now show, so still feel lively enough to give a couple or so recipes before I toddle off to bed.

One of the best ways to make food go as far as possible is to grate, finely slice, or chop before adding to the other ingredients.  It not only looks more than it really is, it also spreads the taste of each around so that every mouthful is bursting with flavour.

This first recipe is a basic pasta - using either the tagliatelle, or the slightly thinner spaghetti. Or - if you prefer, us macaroni, or pasta penne.  Most of the ingredients are not actually grated, but coarsely chopped (easily done using a food processor).  The cheese IS grated (and use any hard cheese, it doesn't have to be Parmesan - the staler/harder the cheese, the more finely it can be grated).
Instead of hazelnuts, use roasted peanuts, walnuts or almonds.  Watercress, rocket or baby spinach instead of parsley.

Pasta with Herbs and Hazelnuts:  serves 4
12 oz (350g) tagliatelle
3 oz (or 75g pack) flat-leaf or curly parsley
4 oz (100g) toasted hazelnuts
2 oz (50g) Parmesan cheese, grated
zest and juice of 1 lemon
4 fl oz (100ml) olive oil
salt and pepper
Cook the pasta as per packet instructions. Meanwhile, chop the parsley and nuts and mix them with the Parmesan, and lemon zest.  Drizzle in a little of the lemon juice and a little of the oil.  
Drain the pasta and return it to the hot pan with the remaining lemon juice and the oil, and the herb and nut mixture, add seasoning to taste and toss well so the pasta is coated with all the ingredients. Divide between four individual bowls and serve immediately.

Although this next recipe calls for most of the ingredients to be chopped, I find that by fitting the processor with the grater-disc, this given a slightly different shape/appearance to whatever is being processed, and to all intents and purposes is - grated.  By all means just chop on a board/plate, or even cut into snippets using scissors.

Cauliflower Cheese with Herby crust: serves 4
1 small cauliflower
500ml milk
3 leeks, trimmed
2 oz (50g) butter
3 slices crustless bread, roughly chopped
2 tblsp sage leaves, roughly chopped
2 oz (50g) sundried tomatoes, chopped
2 tblsp wholegrain mustard
3 tblsp plain flour
4 oz (100g) Cheddar or Gruyere cheese, grated
Remove the bunches of florets from the cauliflower stalk and roughly chop.  Simmer in the milk for about 8 minutes or until tender, then drain and reserve the milk.
Meanwhile, slice/chop the leeks and fry in the butter until tender.  Whizz the bread and sage in a food processor until crumbed (or chop/grate by hand).  If using the processor, then add the tomatoes and their oil and blitz until chopped (or do this by hand).
Add the mustard and flour to the leeks and stir to make a 'roux', the gradually add the reserved milk and stir until thickened.  Simmer for a couple of minutes then stir in the cheese.  Put the cauliflower into one large ovenproof dish, or four individual ones and pour the sauce over.  Scatter the herby crumbs on top and place under a preheated grill for 5 minutes, then serve immediately.

As by know you all know I tend to eat a salad for my supper, and what a large amount it looks when a few veggies (and fruit) are first finely sliced or grated.
Iceberg lettuce is the base of my salad, very finely shredded, then - if I have some - chopped watercress is mixed in.  Then comes a cup of grated carrot (about half a whole carrot), plus a chopped fresh tomato, and a grated (or finely sliced) red onion or banana shallot. A big chunk of cucumber also chopped, and half a red or yellow bell pepper either in strips or chopped. 
By now the salad bowl is looking full, so I drizzle over some low-fat mayo or French dressing, give the salad a toss, then throw in a handful of grated cheese.  After another toss the dressing has caused the tiny bits of cheese to stick to every bit of salad making it a lot more tasty. 
This salad I can eat as-is or (without the cheese) I would add half a pack of seasticks, these also chopped into tiny cubes and tossed with the salad. Or a can of tuna, flaked.

It's not unknown for me to add a sliced banana in with the salad veggies, or maybe a few cranberries, blueberries, even strawberries.  Thing is, the more variety the better the flavour, and when all has been chopped or grated the larger the bowl I need.  Takes much longer to eat than if I'd left everything whole and it really does seem 'filling'.   Forgot to mention the seasoning.  A little salt and plenty of ground black (or white) pepper.  All I need then is a fork and I'm ready to start munching (or should it be crunching?).

Tomorrow (Monday) I expect I'll be making another salad for my supper.  I have a big bunch of asparagus stalks, so I'll be steaming these, and they can then be chopped to add to the rest of my chosen salad ingredients for that day.  I'll probably be using the remainder of the 'frilly' lettuce that came in the organic veggie box (have iceberg but that keeps well in the fridge, the other best used a.s.a.p.).

And that winds up this 'Monday' blog, and I'll be back writing one intended for Tuesday this time tomorrow evening.  Only 5 minutes to midnight, so it's nearly Monday anyway.  Not sure if blogger gives the time of publication, but in the past they've not changed to BST so it might read an hour earlier than it really is.  As long as I've blogged something, who cares what time of day or night it is.
With so many readers living abroad in different time zones, what time it is really doesn't matter. 

Hope you've all had a lovely weekend, and am looking forward to 'meeting' up with you all again tomorrow.  TTFN.