Sunday, May 18, 2014

Points to Ponder Over...

It was an interesting evening at the spiritualist church this Saturday.  Was desperately hoping the medium would have a message for my neighbour who accompanied me, but again she missed out.  Unfortunately I was focussed on (again!), and what was said was very accurate.  Including a similar message received before, something on the lines of 'you've learnt a lot over the years and you must keep passing on this information' - this I take to be 'me thrifty bits'.  

Trouble is, there are so many cookery blogs now (have to say I view very few because when I do they seem to be adaptations of meals that most of us know about.  Suppose to younger folk they do seem new, but the older we get the more we realised that there is really nothing new when it comes to the meals we eat.  Just slight variations.  But then that is how cookery writers make their money, take a recipe make it their own, and Bob's your Uncle.  And am not even wagging fingers, because I suppose that it's what I'm doing all the time (tweaking recipes, NOT making money - that's not what I wish to do).

But as I've said before, it's not recipes that help us save money - unless they provide extra info that can help us move onwards and upwards.  Sometimes it is what a cook might mention as an aside when cooking - as this week when watching a repeat of 'Nigella Bites', when she was making chicken soup (aka Jewish penicillin).  To this she was adding little dumplings that she made with Matzo meal - and this made me think that perhaps Matzo meal might make a good substitute for those Panko crumbs that are all the fashion now, probably expensive and almost certainly the same as the crunchy crumbs we can make ourselves when we blitz up bread crusts that we've dried off in the oven.

But it wasn't the Matzo meal that caught my attention, it was the fact that the dumplings had melted chicken fat added.  That really pleased me for I ALWAYS save the chicken fat that rises to the surface when the home-made chicken stock has been chilled.  I scrape it off and use it for frying or for making pastry, and now I will be able to use it when making dumplings.
Worth mentioning that to gain enough chicken fat to be worth saving, always add the chicken skin to the pan with the bones when making the stock, as a lot of the fat lies on the underside of the skin.

There is a new series on BBC 1 about food issues.  First episode was food hygiene in the supermarkets and they showed how the handles of the shopping trolleys were covered in bacteria.  That had never occurred to me before, but have to say it's unlikely that germs would spread much onto the food, most of it is wrapped in some way, and the 'fresh' that isn't usually is washed or peeled/prepared by the cook before use.

Are we getting too concerned about the contamination that always seems to be around - and has been for centuries I suppose?  Food poisoning these days seems to be caused by bacteria that has developed in food that has been left lying around too long, especially in warm areas.   In the old days most meals were eaten as soon as they were cooked, and large joints of meat made to last several days because they were kept in a cool place (usually on a marble slab in a north facing larder), and - I believe - flies kept off by covering with a vinegar-soaked cloth. 
I remember our home (and most homes in those days) had a 'meat safe' - this being a large box, fitted to an outside wall with an air-brick letting in a flow of air (this air-vent and front door of the meat safe both covered with a fine metal mesh to keep the flies off).  This kept the raw meat cool, the cooked meat usually then kept in the larder.  The joints would only be carved when the meat needed slicing, that way it had a longer 'shelf-life'. 

Thanks for comments.  My sympathies go to Pam (and all others who live in tornado areas).  Would expect that all home would (by law) be built with deep cellars to climb down into when a tornado is forecast, for even if the main part of the house was blown apart, at least those underground would be safe.  Maybe it is 'everyman for himself' and each person has to be responsible for their own means of making their home safe.

Was surprised to hear Les, that your butcher (and presumably many others these days) turns the shin beef into mince.  Shin beef has a lovely rich flavour, and the thick 'chunks' make a good casserole. 
Another 'cut' that seems to now also be used for mince is 'beef skirt'.  This has never been at the forefront of the butchers counter as it's a know fact that the butchers prefer it (great flavour), and so normally take it home to be cooked for their own meals.
I recently asked whether skirt would be in their catalogue when ordering from Donald Russell, and they said they had recently been asked the same question by a well-known chef, so were considering it.  Possibly if more people ask, then they will include it.

Your mention of 'albacore' puzzled me Carol.  I was going to ask you what it was, but decided that's what Google was for, so did my own searching and discovered it was a type of tuna.  We don't have it on sale here as far as I know.
I was extremely impressed to hear how you began cooking at such an early age, how many youngsters in this country could have supper on the table ready for the family to eat on their return from work.  Probably 'elf and safety wouldn't allow it anyway, just in case little fingers might get cut or burned.  Enough adults in the UK cut and burn themselves due to the fact they never had the chance to learn from an early age how to take care.

Most people seem to prefer to buy fresh vegetables, but it has been proved that most frozen vegetables are as good as - if not better - than fresh, as when harvested the freezing is done in a very short time, losing virtually no vitamins.  The 'fresh' produce, especially in supermarkets, can take several days (being packed, transported etc) before being displayed for sale, and then maybe on the shelves a few days longer.  After the 'display-by' date has been reached a lot of it gets chucked away.

Farmers' markets and organic veggie boxes have usually the freshest vegetables, but sadly these are then more expensive to buy.  Usually with frozen veg we do get our money's worth.

Have not really noticed the price of potatoes these days Granny G.  Probably because the ones I buy now are part of the organic veggie collection (another due this coming Tuesday).  We eat so few potatoes these days that I still have some left over from the previous month, and probably a couple from the month before that.  I keep having to rub the shoots off them, even though they are kept in a cool place in a light-proof bag. 

Thinking about it, suppose that B (who is the only one who eats 'proper meals' now, due to me being on a permanent salad diet) is the one that eats potatoes, and he seems to prefer rice or pasta based meals at the moment.;  I do occasionally buy a bag of small new potatoes/salad potatoes, that I cook in their skins and that he likes to eat with (say) lamb shank, or liver and bacon.  Otherwise it is oven chips.  Any larger potatoes would be cooked as roasted, or included in a casserole, and never if pastry is part of the dish (meat pie etc).

Your mention Hazel of lager/ale being used to make pancakes, has reminded me that a similar batter can be made using lemonade or sparkling water.  It is the 'fizz' in the liquid that helps the batter to rise.  The Japanese tempura batter is made using only egg whites, flour, and a sparkling liquid I think, so although this is for coating and then deep frying, suppose diluted it might also make a type of pancake. 

This brings me back to where I begin.  How recipes are adapted.  Today it is more adding another (or different) ingredient, rather than go back to removing something (like milk) and substituting this with a cheaper alternative (like water).  We are so used to using milk (when a well-known recipe calls for it) that we would never think of using water (or any other liquid) in its place.  Most of the time it isn't necessary that we do this,  but as long as we know what we CAN do, then we will always have another string to our bow, so to speak.   Although I was never a Girl Guide, I still believe in 'Be Prepared'.  It makes life so much easier.

As there are so many cookery blogs around now, I feel that I'm not able to keep up with current trends as my way of cost-cutting doesn't seem to fit in with 21st century budget cookery.  So am asking readers what they would like me to write about.  Especially readers (and there are thousands) who have never written in, so I have absolutely no idea what type of cookery they are seeking to know about.   So hope some will be kind enough to send in their suggestions, and then hopefully I can come up with something to suit each and every one. 

It could be that there might be some problem with the way certain dishes turn out.  Like they end up a disaster (and we've all had those).  Do we have to throw these away, or could they be turned into something else (they usually can be)?  

Here are a few tips to save time, fuel and/or waste:
Reduced the amount of time it takes to bake large potatoes in the oven by first boiling them in their skins in water for 15 minutes before finishing them off in a hot oven.

To speed up roasting potatoes, boil until almost done, then drain and shake them in a colander so that the outsides become 'fluffy', then roast them in a little hot fat in the oven until crisp.

Lemons will store well for weeks if kept in a fridge, and last even longer if kept away from the air, so wrap each in clingfilm before chilling.

Stale bread is useful.  First remove the crusts then dry these off in the oven.  Stored in an airtight container/jar they will keep for months and can be used as 'bread-sticks' for dips, or crushed to make dried breadcrumbs. The crustless slices left can be crumbed, then bagged up to freeze as 'fresh breadcrumbs' (use for coating, bread sauce, Queen of Puddings etc).

It is said that thawing frozen fish in milk gives it a 'freshly caught' taste than simply defrosting it. Then boil the milk to make up a sauce to serve with the fish.

Whether it was because I spent a couple of hours sitting on the garden bench under the wisteria on Saturday, but I ended the day with a very 'scratchy' throat, and this got worse during the night.  My Beloved has had a bad throat for a few days, I put this down to dust that he would have breathed in when he was helping to clear up the club-house after major building alterations.  Seems it could be this or it could be a virus going around.  Mine might have been caused by hay-fever as today I've been sneezing like made. 
Throat is a bit better (both B and I have been eating plenty of honey), and B is definitely better since I made him a pot of Jewish Penicillin (without dumplings).  Two helpings of that and he's almost back to normal.  I've been eating honey on toast and large oranges.  Also my tomato soup with extra chilli ketchup - the chilli hits the back of my throat and seems to help ease it.  

Neither of us feels ill, its just the sniffles and coughing that keeps happening, but we are both improving.  As I write I'm working my way through a box of paper tissues, so hope that by tomorrow (that's in 15 minutes) I'll be on the mend.    The weather has been so nice it is a pity to stay indoors and they say it is warmer than in Italy.  In some places we are getting 23C. 

It doesn't seem THAT warm at night (although they said it would be) as still need to cuddle up under the duvet.  Was expecting to lie ON the duvet and had a lighter cover all ready to throw over me, but still needed the extra warmth.  Perhaps due to my 'summer cold'.  Off and on do have a bit of a temperature (well, my forehead feels hot), but a couple of Paracetamol soon sorts that out.

Had another thought the other day.  We've spoken about food we used to like when children, and toys we used to play with, but not mentioned nursery rhymes.   Probably all familiar with the favourites, I remember being bumped up and down on my Dad's knee as he sang '....the Galloping Major', and so sang the same to our children.  Also 'The Grand Old Duke of York...'.   However, there is one lullaby that no-one seems to know about.  My mother's step-mother sang it to her children (circa 1920), my mother sang it to me, and of course our children were sung to sleep with it, and also their children.   I can't give the music, but the wording goes like this:

Spotty and Dotty were two little dogs
They sailed away on some floating logs
The logs rolled over the doggies fell in
They got very wet for their coats were thin
Bow wow, bow wow, bow wow, bow wow
Oh a lackaday, oh bow wow.

Spotty and Dotty got out again
They said the river was full of rain
And they'd never no never go boating again
bow wow, bow wow, bow wow, bow wow
Oh a lackaday , oh bow wow.

Has any reader heard of this?  And what are your favourite nursery rhymes/lullabyes?  Am assuming these are still being sung.   Do children still have a story read to them at bed-time or do they now have 'tablets' they take to bed and read or play with? 
My memory of a perfect bed-time was having a mug of warm Ovaltine, being tucked in tightly with sheets and blankets, and having a story read to me.   Do remember once, when my mother was wanting to rush as she was going out, she missed out a paragraph of the story, and I immediately told her, so she had to go back and read it to me properly. Seems it didn't matter how many times I'd had the same story read to me, it had to be all of it, or as much of it as I could hear before I fell asleep. 

How often I wish I could go back and start my life all over again (but without those dreadful war years).  Would I make the same mistakes.  Probably.  Maybe the life we live is more to teach us something rather than just be alive.  Have I learnt my lesson?  I'll never know until too late.

That's it for today (well, tomorrow as it is now Monday), and all being well should be tapping the keyboard again in 22 or so hours ready for the Tuesday read.  Hope you are all enjoying the good weather, and keeping cheerful (life always seems better when the sun shines - unless we get hay fever).  Love to hear from you, so send a comment when you have time.  TTFN.