Monday, March 17, 2014

I Must Remember!!!

A puzzling day this Sunday.  Decided to cook two lamb shanks for B's supper (one to be frozen), chose the simplest recipe, then began to assemble the dish.  Chopped up some celery, carrots and onions and put them in the casserole, topped it with the two shanks that I'd browned off in a pan on the bob, then went to the cupboard to draw off some red wine from the boxes of wine (one red, one white) that I keep in the cupboard, mainly for cooking - B taking a glass now and then to go with his meal.   What did I find?   No box of red.  B had finished it without telling me.  So had to resort to using white wine - and what did I find? Barely a glassful left in that box.  The air was blue I can tell you (B out at the time).

So made do with using all the white wine that was left and some chicken stock.  Put the casserole in the oven ready to switch on at 1.00pm and sat down to watch Michel Roux series where he chooses two apprentices. 

All I can say is I REMEMBER going and switching the oven on at one, and when B came home  a couple of hours later REMEMBER smelling the meat as it cooked and thinking that it was almost ready to take the lid off (to reduce the liquid) as it finished cooking.   Gave it another half hour then went to sort it out and - would you believe - I discovered I hadn't switched the oven on at all, and so where did that smell come from?  Realised then there was no smell, and all I can say I must have dreamt that I had put the oven on, AND smelled the meat, for that is the only thing that can have happened (I do remember nodding off for a few minutes close to one o'clock.

Luckily the recipe said the meat could stay in the wine/stock overnight before being cooked, so that is what is now happening and tomorrow the meat will be cooked while I still have my wits around me (or let us hope I do). 

Had time to make B a fish risotto for his supper (this was one of the meals on the list he had given me), but again had to do without adding wine, instead sloshed in some Ouzo (worked well).   When B returned to the kitchen half an hour later he said I'd left the gas on under an empty saucepan!  What am I like?  Or getting to be like?  Has senile decay suddenly hit me.  I am wondering, and worrying for recently keep forgetting names (but do remember them shortly after).

Thanks for all your comments.  Have taken note and today hope that Carol and Sarah will be pleased with the recipes given (vegetarian).
Normally Ali, I do try and use seasonal vegetables, but as many that are imported come from countries where their season doesn't always coincide with ours often do include some.  A bad habit perhaps.  I'll try to stick to locally grown (by this I mean in the UK).

Lovely to hear how our hard work Kathryn has paid off.   Am wondering if you still find time to grow food on your allotment.  You are in the right place to get horse manure to dig into some of your soil (this also grows excellent mushrooms if you have a cool, dark shed). 
Was good to read about your half-price sirloin and how it worked out cheaper than stewing beef.  That is what cost-cutting cookery is all about.  Keeping our eyes open for good bargains and improve our meals at the same time.

You are asking what my thoughts are on 'Famous, Rich and Hungry' Margie. Trouble is, I could see how the people, struggling to keep their heads above water, could improve their lot, but always feel I would sound patronising if I started pointing fingers. 
One obvious thing was we should never borrow from a money-lender (astronomical interest), as one had done "to buy presents and food for Christmas".  Again it is a matter of lack of skills or even thought as there is so much we can make (presents, food, decorations) from what we already have (and as I have done in the past - but saying that makes me sound smug).

We all have to learn, and perhaps spend more time reading books that show us how than watching TV unless it is 'sensible' programmes that help such as 'Superscrimpers', Kirstie Allsopp and her crafts, and maybe Hairy Bikers or Jamie Oliver when they cook 'budget meals' (although even these cost more than they should or could).  If people really want to learn how to cope, then they will.  Most people today seem to prefer to have to lean on someone else to get them out of a mess (benefits etc).  I could be very wrong, but we only have to look at 'a girl called Jack' (and there must be many other similar bloggers) who managed to rise from the ashes, purely because she was determined to.

Noticed that the American 'Taste' had it's first showing today (think it was on More 4), and although I only watched the first episode of the English one, and half an hour of the last one, the US version was very similar, but with one extra judge (young man called 'Malarkey'). 
Same thing happened, we saw little of the making of the dishes, but there was a lot more shrieks and squeals in the US version than in the UK one (us Brits being a lot more reserved).  Even the judges were more 'tactile'.  In a way it made more pleasant viewing than the UK version, but not a lot.

Earlier in the day I watched the film 'Rear Window'.  Had seen it before, but it is a good film and I couldn't remember what happened.   One thing said in the film was that 'marriage was all about going to the sound of the dish washer and waste disposal unit'.  I had to look up the date the film was made as I couldn't believe anyone had those appliances until recently.  The film was made in 1954!   Obviously fridges were common in the US (huge ones visible in kitchens through windows), but at that time in the UK not everyone had a fridge and if they did it was a small one.   Husbands were out 'dishwashers', and 'dustbin men' (aka refuse collectors) our waste-disposal unit.

We were one of the few people to own a chest freezer - and these weren't seen much before the late 60's (we bought ours in 1969 when we moved to Leeds). 

Recipes today are vegetarian .  As these can be frozen we could double the ingredients to make in bulk, so we can freeze some to heat 'n eat later.  Or stick to the recipe and freeze in individual portions for 'a meal for one' (many readers live alone). 

With this first recipe the vegetables are seasonal at the time of writing (with the exception of the peppers), but a couple of sliced courgettes can also be added (with the vegetables stock) when we have them later in the year (but available now in supermarkets).  Although I never have mentioned this before, because not everyone likes the smell of garlic (usually on someone else's breath) adding garlic is always optional (but very good for us).   You will notice I always suggest adding the garlic to the onions later, as cooking them with the onions they have too long to cook, will burn and also taste bitter.

You will also note that when freezing sometimes the container should first be covered with cling-film, before adding foil.  This is because if a dish contains tomatoes, and of not protected,the acid from these will 'eat' into the foil, and little holes with then appear.

Veggie Casserole: serves 4
1 tblsp sunflower or olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 - 3 garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 tsp smoked paprika
half tsp ground cumin
1 tblsp dried thyme (or mixed herbs)
2 large carrots, sliced
3 ribs celery, finely slices
1 each red and yellow bell pepper, chopped
2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
9 fl oz (250ml) vegetable stock
9 oz (250g) cooked lentils (pref green or Puy)
Put the oil in a large frying pan and fry the onion for 5 - 10 minutes until softened, adding the garlic a minute before the end.  Stir in the spices, dried herbs, carrots, celery and peppers, and continue stir-frying for 5 minutes.
Pour the tomatoes into the pan, with the stock, then reduce heat to medium-low and cook for a further 20 or so minutes until the vegetables are tender.  Stir in the lentils and bring back to the simmer (at this point it can be cooled and frozen. Cover with cling-film, then foil and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge, then heat through before serving).  Serve hot with rice, quinoa, or a mashed spuds.

Next dish is similar to a macaroni/cauliflower cheese - except the pasta is replaced by potatoes, and the cauliflower by broccoli.  But as we all know, if we use this recipe as a guide, then we can make it any which way we like.  This can also be frozen as individual servings.
If you have no leeks use onions or shallots.  If no Cheddar, use any hard cheese.

Not quite a Mac 'n Cheese Pie: makes 8
1 lb (450g) young leeks, thickly sliced
11 oz (300g) broccoli florets
3 ribs celery, sliced
3 lb (1.5kg) floury potatoes, cut into chunks
salt and pepper
3 oz (75g) butter
170g pot Greek yogurt
1.5 pts (850ml) semi-skimmed milk
3 oz (75g) plain flour
2 tsp English mustard
1 tsp whole-grain mustard
11 oz (300g) mature Cheddar, grated
handful frozen peas
Put a pan of salted water on to boil.  Add the potatoes and place a steamer over the top.  Into the steamer put the leeks, broccoli and celery.  Cook for 20 minutes (or until the potatoes are tender and also the veggies).  Drain the potatoes and mash with 1 oz (25g) of the butter, the yogurt, and seasoning to taste. 
While the veggies are cooking, put the milk in another pan with the remaining butter, both mustards and the flour, then begin to heat - whisking all the time - until smooth and thickened.  Stir in half the cheese and some seasoning.  Then remove from heat.
Stir the steamed veg and the peas into the sauce and divide between 8 individual pie dishes.  Top each with mashed potato and sprinkle over the remaining cheese.  Cool and pack into freezer bags. Freeze and use within 3 months.
To serve, unwrap and cook from frozen by putting dishes onto a baking tray, into a COLD oven then set temperature to 200C, gas 6.  Bake for 50 - 55 minutes until bubbling and hot all the way through.
If wishing to eat after making, place in a pre-heated oven (same temp), and bake for about 20 or so minute until bubbling and golden on top.

As it is getting on for 1.00am (Monday) it's past my bed time, so will take my leave and return again to type the Tuesday blog at the end of today. 

It wouldn't be British if I left without mentioning the weather.  Still very chilly at the moment due to cloudy skies, although a good part of the country has had sunshine with the temperature from the Midlands down to the south being really warm, a temperature of 20C recorded.  Here we expect 0C this evening.  But frost not expected.   Tomorrow it could be a daytime temperature of around 10C, in the north west, slightly warmer again down south.  But a heatwave has been forecast.  I'll believe it when it happens.

Let me know if the above are the type of recipes you are hoping for.  Otherwise point me in the right direction.  TTFN.