Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Keeping a Check on Things

The programme: 'Rip off Britain: Food' is worth watching.  Most of the things we are already aware of, but it doesn't hurt to be reminded of them from time to time.   Today's (Monday) programme spoke about so many things we all have to cope with, and given me a chance to pass on some tips.

The difficulty of opening tins and packets was dealt with.  Don't know about you, but myself find that 'childproof' caps are almost impossible for older people to open as well.  I'm always having to ask B to open the cap of the bleach bottle. 

Is it just me or does everyone have difficulty pushing pills out of plastic foil covered strips?  Sometimes the pills (especially if tiny) shoot out across the room, or if capsules often end up squashed and almost coming apart.

Am not even sure whether cans with ring-pull openers are as handy as they seem.  Have to say I prefer them as they save a couple of minutes getting the can-opener out of the drawer, but quite often the rings themselves break off, or the lid is difficult to pull back.  I do have a plastic 'thingy' that hooks into the ring and makes it easier.  Thank goodness.

One thing to make sure of when buying corned beef is that the key is still attached to the can. More than once I've bought a can (or two) and found a key missing.  I do have a big 'master key' that I bought umpteen million years ago (and only recently found in the bottom of my sewing basket), but it's always worth unwinding a key from a just-opened can and then storing the key in a special place so that it can be used if one is ever missing.

Tearing packets open was shown to almost impossible, even strong men had difficulty.  The answer was to open them using scissors.  Obviously.  This is why, in my apron pocket, I always carry a small pair of scissors around with me so wherever I am in the kitchen (or anywhere else for that matter, I hardly ever take aprons off during the working day), along with a pen, notebook, tape measure, tiny calculator.... 

Seasticks are like Marmite, we either like them or hate them.  I love them - don't know why, they don't have that much flavour (then neither does Spam, another of my pleasures).  Those who do eat them may have had the same difficulty as me - removing the plastic that wraps each individual stick. Normally I slide the pointed end of a knife between the plastic and the fish to rip it open.  Silly me, no need to do this at all for I have discovered that if the plastic is held at one end between thumb and finger then rubbed, it falls open.  Oddly, it doesn't do this at the other end, and it seems that usually I have been trying to open the wrong end most of the time.

Have been checking a few prices after the recent programmes re the difference between size/weight etc of products.  Not so long ago we could buy a whole cucumber for a certain price or half a cucumber for half that price (with perhaps a penny or two added).  Today I see that a whole cucumber on Tesco's site is priced at 49p (not given as being on offer/reduced) and the half (portion) cucumber at 40p.  A bare 9p difference.  Fortunately I eat a lot of cucumber so in a way the larger one is a real bargain - this week.

It's the time of the month when I begin writing up my Tesco order - then adding/subtracting as the days go buy until close to delivery date.  This month am spending less than usual (and that's without taking into account any price reductions).  Maybe it is because I now have most of my veggies from Riverford (and even taking the extra cost of paying for organics, this still means overall I will have paid out less for food this month.
Surely this can't be the store lowering prices, for so far they don't seem to (unless we count the cucumber as one).  Some things have been reduced, but not what I normally buy. 

Sadly, sardines have gone UP in price again.  Not so long ago was paying 35p for Tesco's sardines (very good sardines too), then they went up to 45p, and this week are 60p.  I've ordered a tin just to check the date on the can as most of the recent purchases all have the same date, and I want to make sure I'm not being charged for sardines that the store bought in bulk and have now 'price-raised'. 

Wanting to order a pack of Doritos tortilla chips, noticed that the 200g pack was £1.10p (55p per 100g), and a smaller 40g pack of the same cost 50p (£1.25p 100g), making the smaller pack more than double the cost - by weight - of the larger.
Thankfully, buying on-line, sitting in a chair, makes it far easier to browse the site and check prices before I decide what I will buy (or not).  It is very useful when the 'price per 100g' is given with many items.   Noticed that although the price of fresh chicken varied by size/weight, and the smaller chickens appeared cheaper (but the flesh bone ratio less than with a larger bird) both the medium AND large chickens were the same price per 100g.  This doesn't mean they were cheap - far from it. To buy the larger birds we'd have to pay around £7 (or more),  but the larger the bird the more flesh it has.

Only one comment came in - this from Kathryn who is very busy at the moment.  Her request for high-protein/high energy foods to 'eat on the hoof' (as I call it), has given me food for thought.
High protein foods are usually of the meat variety, but also include eggs and cheese, so a quiche (can be baked in oblong tins to cut into squares/fingers for easy eating, especially if including bacon or ham) would be packed with protein and the pastry - being carbohydrate - is an energy source.

Other suggestions could be hard-boiled eggs, or - even better - Scotch eggs.  Sandwiches made with wholewheat or granary bread (giving slow-release energy), then filled with a protein (ham, beef, chicken, cheese...) would provide the necessary nutrition.  These could also be made in advance as the bread and protein fillings freeze well.
My thoughts went on to meat 'n pastry (again protein and carbos), so a choice of pork pie, or Cornish pasties perhaps, and maybe the Bedfordshire Clanger -  an oblong version of the pasty, one end holding the savoury, the other the fruit (like apples).  These really are made to be eaten at the wander.

Home-made muesli-bars could give extra energy without being too unhealthy.  We are told that the dark chocolate (72% cocoa solids and upwards) is good for us, so we could coat the muesli bars with this type of chocolate to make them even more sustaining.
Musn't forget the banana - this coming in its own wrapping so to speak, and have recently read that banana skins are also edible, the suggestion being we sling it into the liquidiser along with the banana flesh and other fruit/milk etc to blitz together when making a smoothie.  And there was me thinking the only thing we could do with banana skins was use them to polish shoes (this does work).

Just had a sudden picture in my mind of a Calzone, this is a 'folded' pizza.  Make like a pizza, same dough, same toppings, but then folded over into a half-moon shape before being baked.  Sort of an Italian version of the Cornish pasty.  Depending on the topping, pizzas eat as well cold as when hot, so maybe a Calzone could be another 'eat in the hand' meal.   The bases (smaller than the average pizza) could be made ahead and topped with tomato puree/passata, then frozen, to later thaw and cover with whatever you wish just prior to folding and baking.  I always keep a box of grated cheese (mixed hard cheeses with or without mozzarella) in the freezer so that it saves grating when I wish to add it to a dish I'm making.

When in Tunisia had my first 'brik' - this being a disc of thin pastry (a bit like filo) topped with an egg, then folded and fried, and just loved it.  Flicking through my recipe books as I write (yes I do have four pairs of hands),  I've come across a recipe that could be adapted to a similar version.  As normally made as an open (flat) tart, the filling could be put on one side of the pastry, the other piece then folded over before baking to make a 'packet' easy to hold in the hand.   Although puff pastry is used, possibly rough-puff, flaky or even short-crust could be used and less 'messy' than puff when bitten into (if outdoors it doesn't matter).
An alternative to tomato paste would be to use red pesto.  The bell peppers could come from a jar, and if so drain well before using.  Instead of chorizo use another spiced cooked meat, or we could use cooked ham/chicken.  If folding the tart, then omit scoring the pastry, spread with the tomato paste, top with a mixture of bell peppers and chorizo, and place an egg yolk in the middle before folding(save the whites for something else - they do freeze) then cook for the total time given.

Chorizo, Egg and Pepper Tarts: makes 4
1 x 375g pack ready-rolled puff pastry
2 tsp sun-dried tomato paste 
4 roasted red bell peppers
8 slices chorizo, torn into shreds
4 eggs
Cut the pastry into four rectangles and score a border a finger's width around the sides (you don't need to do this if folding the pastry).
Lay the pastry on a baking sheet and spread the tomato paste within the scored lines. Cover with the peppers and bake for 10 minutes at 200C gas 6, to allow the pastry to rise and turn gold (but not cook through). Tuck the chorizo into the peppers and break a (whole) egg into the middle of each, then return to the oven and bake for 5 or more minutes until the yolk is set but still runny (if you prefer the yolk firmer, cook it for a further 3 - 5 minutes.   Can be eaten hot or cold.

That's it for today.  Weather still cold and they've had snow in Cumbria and further north.  Tucked up warm indoors it looks much more like a proper spring day here in Morecambe now that so many of the spring flowers are in bloom.  But who knows what we'll wake up to. 
A nice day to look out but spoiled slightly by the electric company doing some road work to try and sort out the breakdown that happened last week (fortunately not our house but many surrounding us had no power for quite a long time).  Once the repairs had been done, this set off several burglar alarms in the road,  all seemed to have a set time to run (like half an hour) before stopping, but would shortly all start off again, and I had to stay in the kitchen to get away from the noise, and even then could still hear it.  Now that the residents have returned home from work all is quiet again.

It always seems, on a really lovely day when we can sit out in the garden, someone is using a drill or a chain-saw (sawing down trees, or through paving slabs), and we can't just sit and enjoy some peace. Oh for those days when all we would hear was the sound of birds and the church bells in the far distance across the fields.  Even the push-me pull-me lawn mowers and the hand-held hedge clippers gave a much more pleasant sound than the motorised/electric implements used today. 
With all the technology today, life should be easier (and quieter), but all it seems to have given us is more stress, and a life that is nothing more than a rat-race it seems.  At least I have my memories of times when life was worth living.  Must be thankful for that.

It's now Tuesday, so time for me to toddle off (or rather stagger off) to bed, reading for 'dream-time' and have to say I'm having really lovely dreams these days.  Often about food (mostly about food). Wonder why?  TTFN.