Friday, May 23, 2014

We Are All Similar

As you point out Les, with new technology, communications become easier and faster.   Nothing wrong at all at being able to contact someone by text/email and get an almost instant reply.  Far better (and cheaper) than the old 'snail mail'.  Even in the 'old days' I remember chatting to friends for about an hour on the telephone (cost only 1d however long we spoke), but don't think anybody kept on talking to different people for hours (or text/tweets) for the amount of time they do today.  It just seems that every youngster seems to have a mobile clamped to their ear, or they are tapping on it to send a text, or sitting in restaurants messing about with 'tablets' (or whatever they are called) while waiting for the meal to arrive.  Even worse is for their phones to ring while they are eating and they then sit and have a chat, or text a reply.  It seems as though there is nothing else in the world that is more important than what comes up on their screens. 

But it's not all mobiles and laptops etc.  We are all becoming obsessed with 'the new'.  Even people who don't go out to work and have all the time in the world to cook, still prefer to buy ready-meals to pop in the microwave to heat up.  We open cans and packets, without ever considering it would be cheaper to make things from scratch.  I'm even moaning now when I have to search for the can-opener because the tin I'm wanting to open hasn't got a ring-pull.  We seem to want every kitchen appliance and gadget to do jobs we could do ourselves, but prefer to save the labour, time and blow how much they cost.  Isn't that what money is for?  To make life easier for ourselves?

It's just that I can remember how life was when a teenager, and even younger than that.  We seemed to be able to find ways to enjoy ourselves without feeling the need to have to keep communicating with someone all the time.  Our friends were 'real', someone we could talk to when we were with them and have proper conversations, not just casual talk that had no depth.  We could stroll together, in pairs or groups, enjoying the warm summer evenings, or just sit and chat in our homes. 

As I write this I'm feeling I'm doing much the same, my form of communication being this blog, but at least I don't feel I'm chatting to thousands of unknowns, each reader who sends in a comment, esp the regular ones I do feel are very much my 'friends', even though we have never met.  Perhaps because every one of you has said something worth reading and often giving useful information.

My mother used to say to me 'if you can't say anything good, then don't say anything at all', and that is something I've tried to keep to, although do find the older I get the more critical I seem to become about the youth of today (and technology in general). If we could avoid getting addicted to such things, and use not abuse, then maybe life would improve.  Less chatting/texting/tweeting, and more socialising with real people.  Less buying of convenience foods and much more D.I.Y.

Mobile phones ARE very useful.  Only today I suggested to my neighbour (who has one but never uses it) that she keeps it charged up and close to hand in case she is taken ill (she lives alone in an upstairs maisonette).  She can always use her land line in the normal way, but at least she will be able to call someone if her mobile is kept by her bed, or in her apron pocket.  She is going to give me the phone number of a relative who lives about five miles away, and also a key to her front door just in case she is unable to open her door.  

The Glasson Smokehouse phoned me (on my mobile!) today to let me know that they had just had a delivery of fresh salmon.  So off went B to collect one (£15 for the whole salmon - and they filleted it for free).  B phoned our daughter (who is away) to see if she wanted one (he used his mobile and she used hers - so they are useful I admit), and she also wanted a whole filleted salmon. 
When B brought them home they were HUGE.  Our daughter wanted her fillets frozen as whole sides, and I had to fold them over (interlined), or they wouldn't have fitted into our freezer.  Our two sides were first trimmed, the trimmings and tail ends saved for fish risotto/fish cakes etc, and the rest cut into big chunks - giving me 12 chunks and two bags of trimmings.  The chunks were larger than normal, one would feed two if used in certain dishes, but I always cut sizes to suit B's appetite.

At first I panicked, thinking I had no room in the freezer even for mine, let alone our daughter's fish, but somehow managed to fit them all in. 
Today also cooked a big gammon on the hob, and now that it has cooled, have drained it, wrapped it tightly in foil and put it in the fridge to chill.  Tomorrow I will slice it using the electric slicer. Then have to find freezer room to store some of them.  Hopefully our daughter will have returned by Sat/Sun so will have collected her fish, leaving me room for the sliced ham and other things I wish to freeze (such as many tubs of chicken stock).

Having slowly stocked up the larder over the last few months, the fridge now bursting at the seams and both freezers full, it is now time for me to stop shopping and begin 'making do with what we have'.  The only food that needs to be replaced is the 'fresh' (eggs, milk...) and will continue having the monthly delivery of organic veg.  Let's see how long I can make things last.

A few simple recipes today, these useful for me as I will have all the ingredients.  But with plenty of opportunity to adapt, use alternatives etc, am hoping that most readers will have a go at making these.

This first dish is spiced with 'harissa' - a hot chilli flavoured spice used in North African Arabian countries, and this can be bought as a powder or as a paste. We could use another spice if we wish.
The recipe uses a lidded casserole dish as a cooking pan (for hob cooking) but a deep frying pan or saucepan (with lids) would work just as well.  

Spicy Carrot, Chickpea and Almond Pilaf: serves 4
1 tblsp olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
3 large carrots, coarsely grated
2 tblsp harissa
11oz (300g) basmati rice, rinsed
1.25 pts (799ml) vegetable stock
1 x 400g can chickpeas, rinsed
salt and pepper
1 oz (25g) toasted, flaked almonds
1 x 200g pot of Greek yogurt
Heat the oil in a lidded casserole dish, and add the onions. Cook for 8 minutes until softened, then add the carrots, harissa, and rice.  Stir-fry for a few minutes then add the stock.  Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
Tip in the chickpeas and fork these through the rice, then continue to cook over low heat for 3 - 5 minutes, until the rice is tender and the liquid has been absorbed.   Add seasoning to taste, then remove from heat, cover and leave to sit for a few minutes.  When ready to dish up, sprinkle the almonds on top and serve with a dollop of the yogurt.

Next recipe is more a winter warmer, but as today has turned chilly enough to put the central heating on again, with not much chance of better weather until after the holiday weekend, this will be one I'll be making for Saturday supper.   As it will be made for just two, then will need to use only half the ingredients, and as there isn't much meat in the first place, this is turning out to be another low-cost meal.  The root vegetables could be potato, carrot, parsnip, swede.  Or turnip, sweet potato, always use what we have.

Lamb and Barley Soup: serves 4
1 tsp olive oil
salt and pepper
7 oz (300g) lean lamb, cut into small chunks
1 onion, finely chopped
2 oz (50g) pearl barley
1 lb (450g) mixed root vegetables, cubed
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1.75 pts (1 ltr) lamb or beef stock
1 sprig thyme
4 oz (100g) green beans, chopped
granary bread - to serve
Heat the oil in a large saucepan.  Season the lamb then add to the pan and fry for a few minutes until browned all over, then add the onion and barley and fry gently for a minute.  Tip in the prepared vegetables and stir-fry for five minutes, then add the W.sauce, stock and the thyme.  Cover and simmer for 50 minutes.
When everything is cooked/tender, remove about a quarter of the soup into a separate pan, then blitz the rest using a stick blender (or put into a food processor/blender and whizz to a puree).  Stir this into the rest of the soup.  Add the beans, simmer for 5 minutes, then ladle into bowls and serve with crusty bread.

Final recipe is another soup, this time with an Indian flavour.  Not a million miles away from the first recipe (for a pilaf), or for that matter the lamb soup (both shown above).  Proves that with a bit of tweaking almost any recipe can be turned into another.
So you could adapt all today's recipes by just using swapping the faovurings around..

Indian Chickpea and Vegetable Soup: serves 4
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 tsp finely grated root ginger
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tblsp garam masala
1.5pts (850ml) vegetable stock
2 large carrots, chopped
1 x 400g chickpeas, drained
4 oz (100g) green beans, chopped
salt and pepper
naan bread - to serve
Heat the oil in a saucepan and fry the onions for a couple of minutes, stir in the ginger and garlic and fry for a further minute, then stir in the garam masala.  Fry for one minute more and then add the stock and carrots. Simmer for 10 minutes, then add the chickpeas.
Use a stick blender to blitz up the soup a little (not too much), then stir in the beans. Cook over low heat for 5 minutes then ad seasoning to taste.  Serve hot with naan bread.

Have a busy weekend ahead, so won't be blogging again until towards the end of the Bank Holiday, it might be Sunday night, but more likely sometime on Monday - not yet sure what time.
Next week too is busier than normal, the gas man comes to service the boiler and other equipment, and also expect someone to see about repairing the oven.  Also all my medical appointments seem to be falling close together (two at the surgery, blood test then diabetic nurse), eye check (also for diabetics), and foot check (ditto).  Plus my two visits a week to the spiritualist church.  My neighbour doesn't want to go any more, but she is urging me to as it appears that I am very psychic and she feels I ought to continue.   I'm not wishing to become a medium, but would like to develop my 'talents', mainly to discover a bit more about 'what's up there'.  I'm so close to 'connecting' with whatever it is, that it seems foolish to stop now.   However much I like to believe that what we hear/read about is true, it is only when I experience things for myself that I can truly take it as a fact.  Otherwise it could be just wishful thinking.

Last Tuesday I asked a lot of searching questions, and wasn't able to get very positive replies, don't think the mediums there knew the answers themselves.  But it certainly gave something to discuss and have to say it ended up with us all learning something.  So hoping the same will happen next Tuesday.  More about that on Wednesday.

Hope you all have a good weekend despite the miserable weather.  Keep those comments coming. TTFN.