Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Keeping it Simple

Another late evening blog.  This really seems to work for me as it feels as though the days are far longer - in other words I have given myself at least four hours 'work' time than previously.  As the best time for me to do anything is in the morning, now get loads done leaving me the afternoon to 'potter'. 

Today had a good change round in the larder as having plenty of gaps on the shelves (even allowing for some replacements) this has given me a lot more room to store baking tins, metal sweet/cake/biscuit tins that used to clutter up the kitchen, and get rid of a lot of plastic boxes (saved from the Chinese take-away) that I'd never find a use for.   B says he can use these to store his screws/nails etc in them both in his workshop (aka our garage where our car has never set foot), and also at the sailing club that is having an extension kitchen built and B is one of the volunteer 'workmen'.

Have also asked B to screw in several cup hooks under the end of our kitchen table (no room for anyone to sit there), so am now able to hang my hessian bags containing an assortment of kitchen accessories (anything from rolls of clingfilm, baking parchment, freezer bags, and even rolling pins...)  The kitchen is really beginning to come together, so maybe it'll be easier to work there.  As a galley kitchen, that does an 'L' turn at the dark end (the only windows being at the other end and then only in the conservatory) it's not the most pleasant place to work.  I need windows, something to look out of when I'm working.   Still, it could be worse I suppose.  A lot worse.

In Leeds our kitchen was given the 'farmhouse' look, or at least I tried to make it seem like that.  In fact it was almost identical to the one in the TV series 'The Goode Life',  with the back door where ours was, also the kitchen sink under the window.  Before we moved there, there was a recess where a range had once been fitted - same place as in the above TV kitchen.  We even had the same type of kitchen table and chairs in the centre of the room.   Here in Morecambe our table has one end pushed up against a wall to give us room to walk past. 

I'm going to try caramelising onions in the microwave now that I've read what you said Cheesepare. Quite often I do microwave cauliflower, and always reheat/cook frozen peas in the m/w, and - sadly - now also 'jacket' potatoes although the skins never crisp up and taste as good as those done in the oven, but in the m/w they are done in 8 minutes, whereas in the oven they take well over an hour.

It is true, canned new potatoes are really low cost, and having experimented with them when writing up recipes for the foodbank, did find that once heated, they mash up as well as 'normal' ones.  Also they are quite good when drained and rinsed, then diced and mixed with onion and mayo to make potato salad.  Tried roasting them, and they also turned out quite well, not as good as when made from scratch, but not bad either, and when 'crushed' they fry up in a hash as though they were born to do the job.

Although not many lists of readers 'basics' have yet been sent, already am getting an idea of the few (and they are few) ingredients that we all tend to keep.  Also how different our tastes are, and what one reader would always keep in the larder, some of us never do.

My own basic list is what would be essential to my world of cooking.  This means having the necessary to make what others might normally buy.   With flour, milk, eggs and fats (either butter, marg, lard, or cooking oil), plus sugar this then means an impressive variety of things can be made from just these:  pastry, pasta, pancakes, bread loaves, bread rolls, pizza bases, breadsticks, biscuits, scones, cakes.....
Just having a few more (canned) basics in stock: tuna, sardines, chopped tomatoes, and beans (baked beans and haricot etc), means that a variety of meals can then be made.
There are a few other things on the shelves that I can't make (such as rice), but generally my 'basics' would be what I call 'survival rations', just ingredients that mean a meal can be made.
For the fresh 'basics', the eggs, milk, fats etc already mentioned, I'd add hard cheese, and with veggies it would always be onions, carrots and celery, plus white cabbage, and suppose it makes sense to add potatoes (although the way my mind works I think of them as carbohydrate, so as long as I have flour I could omit the spuds and serve a meal with pastry or pasta etc. 

Suppose now my cookery needs go a bit further than the above short list, so HP sauce, Branston Pickle, Worcestershire sauce and Heinz mayo/salad cream are now a must.  Plus Heinz Fiery Chilli Ketchup that I'm finding almost indispensable as it adds that 'kick' (that I'm now addicted to) to a lot of things.  I add it to tomato soup, or to mayo when making a 'Marie Rose' sauce for the prawn cocktail, and only this week blended it into a small tub of  Philadelphia Light Cream Cheese, and it turned out to be gorgeous.  I spread it on oat biscuits as a snack,  realising that with a tiny bit of cream or yogurt added it would also make a wonderfully tasty 'dip'.  Liked it so much made some more to spread on oat biscuits and I've been eating these as I write.  Well, if I'm going to stay up late to write my blog, might as well enjoy some cook's perks at the same time.

Beloved is enjoying the cheese baps that I made, especially the four large pancakes that he had with lemon and sugar after his supper.  It really is worth making a lot of pancakes then freezing them (interleaved with greaseproof/baking parchment before bagging up).  After wrapping the four pancakes (still interleaved) in kitchen foil, left for a few minutes they then thawed, put into the oven set at 100C they heated up in less than 5 minutes. 

Quite a few cookery mags,  newspaper supplements etc have been giving suggestions for making and using pancakes, and all have tried to move us away from the traditional serving of caster sugar and lemon juice.  Far too simple it seems, but what's wrong with that? Given the choice, B would always opt for the lemon/sugar.  Pancake Tuesday just wouldn't be the same.
If we wish to serve pancakes in a different way (either sweet or savoury) then we can always do this on other days, but let's eat pancakes on Shrove Tuesday as we have always done for generations.

Am sure some readers will have watched the first of Mary Berry's new series.  She also kept things very simple, and a novice cook would understand what she was talking about, and also want to instantly make what was shown.  Nothing complicated at all, but how mouth-watering it all looked, I could almost smell and taste what was made.  To me that was one of the most perfect cookery demonstrations I've seen on TV for a very long time.  Can't wait to see the next one.

Have also been enjoying watching James Martin's series (BBC1 3.45pm), sadly now almost at the end, and he also keeps things simple, although not concerned about how much his ingredients might cost we thrifty folk.  But do love the way he uses lots of butter and cream, and licks the spoons and really does promote our very traditional meals that have been made for centuries.

With both the above cookery series I've already learned something.  Mary B. showed how there are many sandwiches that can be made a day ahead of serving, and how to keep them fresh during the wait. With James M. that fruit cheeses keep almost 'forever' (but am sure that is debateable), and that mashed potato keeps well in the fridge for a couple or so days. 

Several readers have mentioned they plan menus for a week (Barb in Canada has just mentioned she does this) so think it's worth giving a try.  Until now I've never planned ahead what I'm going to make until the actual day, although quite often, if I don't feel much like cooking, I will reheat a home-made 'ready meal' that has been frozen.
If I plan my meals then probably quite a bit of preparation can be done a day or two ahead, and this alone will save me time.  So - once this week is over and my kitchen just about ready to roll (or good to go as they say in the US), will - on Sunday - write up a menu and if B is happy with that, maybe it will prove to be another useful change to the Goode life.  More about this when it happens.

See that it is now just after midnight, and time for me to go to beddybyes (well, that's what my mother used to say to me when I was little, there are some words that stick in my mind).  Strange thing is I'm now finding it harder to write up a recipe than when I used to blog in the mornings, not sure why, but must get my head around this small problem as food is really what my blog is about, not always me, me, me.  Always shoving myself in where I'm not wanted.

Hope sooner rather than later I'll get myself back on track again, so please keep reading and not wander off to pastures new.  Hope you can join me again tomorrow, if so - see you then.  TTFN.