Friday, March 21, 2014

Keeping Watch.

Have not seen Frugal Queen's blog you mentioned Margie, hope to take a look at it tomorrow.  Am in agreement with what was said as although I am buying organic veggies, this us mainly to support local (British) farmers, (and when so very fresh - as those that are delivered are - really do taste better).  Same reason I buy quality meat for this too is always British, and properly reared.  But am not so picky that I wouldn't buy lesser quality if I couldn't afford it.   Also do buy vegetables that are grown abroad if I am needing them (and Riverford don't supply them).

Am sure all readers are of the 'live and let live' community.  Even though we may feel that someone shouldn't do something, it is not for us to say.  Maybe we could give advice (and hope that is how my blog comes across with no finger wagging), but then leave it to the individual to make their own choice.
Hope you pointed out to your friends Margie, that the books you were shown on Vegan living were almost certainly held together with the use of animal glue.  And you are quite right that those who restrict their diets to avoid meat and animal products will need to take supplements to keep healthy.  Alone that should prove we are meant to eat a wide variety of foods if we want a long life. 

A good friend of mine - from a family of life-long vegetarians, so has never eaten meat products in his life - has to take iron supplements or he becomes anaemic.  Maybe others don't, but we all differ in what our body needs to keep well.   This week have read of another U turn re nutrition, and allegedly it's now OK to eat saturated fat, it doesn't do us as much harm as was first thought.  Seems that sugar is the one that causes the most problems.

Don't know if anyone has been watching Rip off Britain: Food each morning.  This has been most enlightening, and today (still Thursday as I write), much was said about the cost of vegetarian meals compared with similar ones containing meat, and in many cases the veggie ones were more expensive.
The excuse for this (in restaurants) was that it took longer for the chef to make (say) vegetarian burgers, as the beef-burgers were bought ready-made-to-cook.  It is true that some vegetarian meals do take longer to prepare (called 'labour intensive'), but when the same excuse is given, plus 'cost of overheads' etc, this really shouldn't cause higher prices.  Whatever foods are served/prepared etc, the chef is not going to be paid more or less, he has a set wage.  The same goes for the overheads. Same whatever food is served. 

There is definitely a rip-off when it comes to the soft drinks served in pubs.  Ask for a pint of Cola and it seems we would have to pay well over £3 for it (about the price of a pint of beer?  When I was a barmaid beer was 11d a pint - just under a shilling!).  But the cola served starts off as a small amount (15p worth) of cola concentrate drawn from a big carton, the glass then topped up with sparkling water.  At over £3 a glass profit, bet the landlords are laughing all the way to the bank.
It was suggested to the innkeeper that as a large proportion of the cost of beer was paid to the state by way of taxes, and that soft drinks were not taxed, he/she was then asked why were they so expensive?  Same old excuses.  Customers pay for the 'ambience' (and overheads).  And why not? All of this can be very expensive,  but when it comes to paying for food/drinks in restaurants/pubs, then we do need to be sure we are getting good value for our money.

There was an email today from Morrison's showing lots of reductions.  My eye was caught by one for a certain meat pie that B loves.  Offered at half price: 99p.  It was only the other week that these were on sale for full price at £1.50p (reduced to £1).  Makes me feel that stores might start upping the prices of some products, then in a very short time reduce them to make us think we are getting a bargain, when really we are not.  If the food prices are supposedly going to go down by 25%, then this should be on the full price. 
We should all watch and see what happens.  If we are fortunate, then maybe we will get more for our money, with the stores (maybe) not being quite so generous with their offers.

Despite me asking B to give me a list of the meals he would like me to make over two weeks, this 'menu' idea isn't really any different to how it was before, even though then it was more a not-sure-until-the-day what B would ask for, but he's getting the same meals.  In fact, working to a plan I'm finding a bit boring. But then if I had to go out to work each day, it certainly would help me to plan ahead, now I have all the time in the world to do the cooking.  Even then try and keep it as short as possible (I can make most of the dishes with my eyes shut, have made them hundreds of times - apart from those devilled kidneys, so worth trying something new now and again).

At least today was a bit different (for my meal).  As I had some cooked beef left over from B's Tuesday meal of roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes, Brussels sprouts, gravy (shade 5), suggested B made himself a stir-fry.  As always, laid a tray with the necessary ingredients: two cloves garlic, one chunk ginger, piece of red bell pepper, couple of mushrooms, an onion (these ready for B to chop - he likes playing with the cleaver and garlic press), and in a shallow container put the carrot matchsticks, the tiny cauliflower florets and the sugar snap peas that I'd partially cooked/drained.
To the latter I added the stalks from the 'springs greens' that came in the veggie box.  The leafy part I shredded and steamed over the stir-fry veggies.   These leaves were for me.

Maybe because - as a child and always told to 'eat your greens', and because in those days cabbage was cooked to within an inch of its life - I've always hated dark green cabbage. However, not one to throw away anything, gritted my teeth and decided to eat these with some Heinz Five Beanz.  To make the greens more palatable, sprinkled them with some caraway seeds, and these did make the cabbage taste really good.   From now on I'll be eating more dark green leaves.

Instead of a savoury recipe, today am giving a couple of sweet ones (and yes, they do contain sugar, so I'm now the wicked witch of the west).
Although the Fork biscuits are my favourite to make (because they are so easy), the recipe below comes a close second.  Traditionally made with plain flour, I've several times mistakenly made them with self-raising and this didn't harm them at all - in fact, at the time, thought they turned out fractionally better.

Lemon Butter Biscuits: makes 4 dozen
4 oz (100g) softened butter
3 oz (75g) caster sugar
1 egg, beaten
grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
few drops of vanilla extract
6 oz (175g) plain (or s.r.) flour, sifted
4 oz (100g) cornflour, sifted
Cream together the butter and sugar, then beat in the egg, lemon rind and juice, and the vanilla. Blend in the flour and cornflour then knead lightly to form a smooth dough.  Roll into the shape of a tube, then wrap in clingfilm and chill for at least a couple of hours.
There are two ways to turn the dough into biscuits.  Either cut the tube into thin slices, or roll the dough out thinly on a floured board, then cut into shapes desired.  Place on to ungreased baking sheets and bake at  180C, gas 4 for 5 - 7 minutes or until just beginning to colour.   Cool on a wire rack and then store in an air-tight container.
Tip: these cook well in 10 minutes if you use the residual heat in a just-turned-off oven that had been set at 200C gas 6.

Palm Sunday is the Sunday before Easter (yes I know this is a few weeks away), and the tradition on this day is to serve a dish containing figs. Now this fruit is another food neither B nor I care for, yet - when made into Fig Rolls (my dad's favourite biscuit), they really do taste good - at least my version does, maybe because of the chocolate included (and believe me - this really is worth including). 
There are two parts to this recipe, first comes the filling (as this can be made ahead as it keeps for up to two weeks in the fridge), then the pastry (slightly different to normal short-crust).

Baking these biscuits in long uncut rolls works well as cutting after baking prevents the filling from oozing out and gives a neater effect. 
Use the larger dried fruits (apples, pears, dates, apricots, figs of course), and if lucky you may find these sold in mixed bags (but make sure they contain figs - otherwise change the name of this recipe).
Fig Rolls: makes 26
8 oz (225g) mixed large fruits (see above)
2 oz (50g) candied peel
4 tblsp runny honey
2 oz (50g) grated chocolate
1 tsp cinnamon
Mince or process the dried fruits and candied peel. Blend in the honey, chocolate, and cinnamon. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours.  This mixture will keep well for up to 2 weeks in the fridge.
2 oz (50g) softened butter
1 oz (25g) caster sugar
1 egg
1 tsp grated lemon rind
6 oz (175g) self-raising flour
Cream together the butter and sugar, beat in the egg and lemon rind, then stir in the flour. Knead lightly until a smooth dough.  Cover and chill for at least an hour.
Divide both the pastry and the filling in half.  Roll out one of the pieces of pastry into an oblong measuring 13" x 6" (33 x 16cm).  Take half the filling and form it into a tube to the same length of the pastry and place it in the centre, then roll up as though making sausage rolls.
Repeat with the second piece of pastry and filling.  Then gently flatten the top of each using the rolling pin.
Place both rolls onto a greased and floured baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes at 190C, gas 5 or until the pastry is golden.  Remove from the oven and leave on the baking sheet for a few minutes to cool slightly, but while still warm slice into 1" (2.5cm) portions (or larger if you wish). Then remove to a wire rack and leave until cold. 

It's now half an hour after midnight which makes it Friday.  Must make sure I am up in time to watch 'The Wright Stuff' (9.15am Channel 5) as Les has told us Jack Monroe will be a guest.  Then later will watch 'Rip off Britain' (the following programme 'Watchdog' also deals with consumer affairs and also worth watching).

Weather has turned very cold and am hoping we don't get frosts as next door's magnolia is just starting to flower, the tree is covered in blossom, lovely to see at this time of the year.  Our forsythia is also flowering, and it won't be long before we see the wisteria and lilac in bloom, although no sight of any buds yet.  
Today is the spring equinox (does that mean the clocks go forward this weekend?).  Read the other day that although we think of the four seasons beginning around the 21st of March, June, September, and December, it is also accepted that these really begin on the first day of the above months.   I've always thought that December was a winter month, so it seems to make sense that this should start at the beginning.   Just over a week and it will be April.  Doesn't time fly?

Must go or I'll not get a good night's sleep (writing at night tends to keep my mind active and it takes me longer to nod off). So TTFN and back again this time tomorrow.