Monday, April 07, 2014

Spoilt for Choice

From the comments sent it does seem that we have plenty of choice when it comes to fruit and vegetables, with many being fairly low in price.  Loved hearing about Alison's (Essex) assortment, most coming from her allotment (with some being frozen).   Just shows how an allotment can produce almost all we need to see us through the year. 

In fact that was what the first allotments were meant to do - enough land to grow food for the year to feed a family (of at least four people). 
Nowadays, this amount of land seems too much so usually let off in half-allotment sizes, and often these are shared between two friends - still providing plenty of produce (weather permitting).

Although I tend to find it difficult to eat five a day when cooking a basic meal (meat and two veg), when making a salad it really is easy-peasy.  No problem there at all for it can contain quite a large number of veggies that we keep in the freezer (or onion basket).  If short of veggies then include fruits such as avocado, grated apple, pineapple chunks, banana, blueberries. 

Nothing much of interest happening in the Goode kitchen at the moment, I've sort of gone off the boil when it comes to cooking.  Did make B a Fish Risotto for supper, but as I'd run out of frozen (fresh) salmon, used canned salmon instead, and it seemed to work well.  Enough in the standard size can to use for the Risotto and also to add to my salad.

Having tried banging the loaf tins on the table as soon as the bread was taken out of the oven, and - like shown on TV - it really did work.  Normally I take the bread out of the tins as soon as they are baked, then leave them to cool on an airer where the crust seems to crumple/shrink a bit.  Banging the tins kept the crust beautifully rounded on top.  I'm always going to do this in future.
For those that missed the 'why', the baker on TV said it was the atmospheric pressure in the room being heavier than that in the loaf (or something like that), and by banging the tins on the worktop it balanced it out.  Don't ask me how this works, but it seems to, and that's all that matters.

Emailed Tesco customer services yesterday, they said they'd get back to me, and although I haven't heard, maybe I missed a phone call when out of ear-shot.  No change yet, the £1 eggs still are not able to be ordered from my local branch.

Morrison's have been giving a '£10 Easter bonus' voucher in the run-up to Easter when a customer spends £40 or more for the next two weeks (last week and this week I think).   First thought was that each voucher was worth £10, but obviously not and even with two vouchers these can only be used if a further £40 (or more) is spent between the 14th and 19th April, when £10 will then be taken off that bill.  Sounds a good discount, but not when we consider that at least £120 (or more) has to be spent to get this, and within a set period. 

Latkes are little potato pancakes traditional to Jewish cookery.  Normally made with matzo meal they can also be made with fine breadcrumbs, with our without added flour.   Instead of potatoes this version is made with carrots and shallots (or we could use parsnips and or sweet potatoes, and red or white onions instead of shallots...).  We could include red or green cooked lentils or any of the cooked beans varieties (mashed).
These pancakes are cooked in the same way as drop scones (aka Scotch pancakes), and they can be small (heaped teaspoons of the mixture) similar to blinis in size, or use tablespoons to make larger ones.

Carrot Latkes: serves 4 - 6
1 lb (450g) carrots, grated
2 shallots, grated
2 eggs
salt and pepper
3 oz (75g) matzo meal (see above)
oil for frying
4 - 6 tblsp sour cream or crème fraiche
When the vegetables have been grated, place on kitchen paper, covering with more paper and press to extract as much moisture as possible.   Beat the eggs in a bowl with seasoning to taste, then add the vegetables and matzo meal.  Stir well and leave to stand for 10 - 15 minutes.  Stir again to make a firm dropping consistency - adding a little more matzo meal (or flour) if necessary.
Drop spoonfuls of the mixture into shallow, very hot oil in a large frying pan, and fry until golden on both sides - approx. 3 minutes each side.  Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.  Serve while still warm with sour cream.

Considering we are supposed to eat vegetables for the nutritional value they have (vitamins, anti-oxidents, minerals etc), am surprised that potatoes don't count for they do contain a lot of vitamin B. But then I'm hearing that other countries don't always follow the same guidelines as ours - we count baked beans as one of the five a day, others don't.  Same thing with fruit cake, we include it, others do not.  All this info can get very perplexing at times. 

Seems the best way to eat well is to eat a 'balanced meal', and have to say when I first started cooking for my family I nearly wanted to scream every time I heard/read these words.  The last thing I wanted to do was 'balance the foods out', cooking should be more fun that that.  Still, as we were still living in the 'meat and two veg' type of cooking, supposed the balance was there without having to think much about it. 
It's only in recent years when I have learned more about correct nutrition, and begun to understand its importance that I now stop and listen (or read), as always something new to learn, although have to admit to taking some of it with a pinch of salt.  Most cooks have enough common sense to know what is good for us and what isn't.   It's learning to like some of them that is the problem.  "Eat your greens" is something our mothers always used to say, and probably never really knew why, except that greens were good for us.  In those days they probably weren't as they were always over-cooked to almost a mush.

Even those who normally don't like eating cabbage - especially the darker leaves - will enjoy this next recipe, a variation on Dolmades - traditionally made with vine leave.
As the leaves are rolled around a filling, this can include meat (usually cooked minced beef/lamb) or omit the meat altogether.  Once cooked they can be served warm or cold with tzatziki or a pasta sauce.
As the dolmades in the recipe below are fairly small, they can be served as 'tapas', or 'meze' and as a starter when entertaining,

Grub-lover has given us a great idea whereby we can blend a good selection of vegetables together to make a thick sauce that can be cooked and served with pasta - or the above dolmades.   If we have only a mix of green veggies, then these could be blended to make a pesto (green sauce if you like).

Dolmades: serves 4 as a starter
20 cabbage leaves
4 shallots, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tblsp olive oil
4 oz (100g) long-grain rice
2 oz (50g) sultanas
2 oz (50g) toasted pine nuts
juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper
6 fl oz (175ml) vegetable stock
8 spring onions, chopped
1 tblsp each chopped mint, marjoram, parsley
half pint (300ml) tzatziki or passata
Remove the tough central stalk from the cabbage leaves, then blanch the leaves in boiling water for 2 minutes.  Drain and refresh until cold running water, then pat dry with kitchen paper.
Gently fry the shallots and garlic in the oil until just softened, then stir in the rice, sultanas, pine nuts,
and lemon juice and fry for a further minute.  Add seasoning to taste then add the stock.  Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.  Leave to cool then stir in the spring onions and herbs.
Put 2 heaped teaspoons of the mixture in the centre of each leaf and roll into a tight parcel, tucking ends under (or fold sides in to middle and then roll up).  Place in a steamer, fold side down, and steam for 5 minutes.  Serve warm or cold with chosen sauce.

Final recipe today is for Tzatziki (to go with the above dish).  It's almost identical to the Indian Raita and have to say this is how I make both (sometimes omitting the garlic).  Call it Tzatziki when serving with grilled lamb, kebabs, dolmades etc (with Greek dishes) and Raita (always with mint) when serving with curries. Call it either name when serving as a dip.
Tzatziki: make half a pint (300ml)
half a cucumber, peeled
2 tsp salt
1 clove garlic, crushed (opt)
1 tblsp olive oil
9 fl oz (250ml) Greek yogurt
salt and pepper to taste
dash of white wine vinegar
1 tblsp finely chopped fresh mint (opt)
Remove seeds from cucumber and finely chop the flesh. and put into a strainer placed over a bowl and sprinkle with the salt, then leave for a couple of hours for the salt to extract some of the moisture. Rinse under cold water, and then wrap in a clean tea towel and press out excess liquid.
Put the cucumber, garlic, oil, yogurt and seasoning into a bowl and mix well together. Stir in vinegar and mint.  Chill before serving.  Keep covered and it will keep for a few days in the fridge.

That's my Tuesday blog finished.  As this week is busier than usual am not sure what time I'll be writing my blog, it could be late at night, or early morning - or maybe even miss a day.  So this week expect me when you see me.  I'll try and make it almost daily, but am getting to the age when I can't now do as much as I used to.  Have to pace myself and if I'm tired all I want to do then is sit and nod off in my chair, and leave the computer for B to play games on.  How sad is that? 
As my main pleasure is to read your comments, please keep sending me some - that way I feel together we are what I call 'my happy band of thrifty munch-crunchers'.  TTFN.