Friday, June 27, 2014

Behind Closed Doors

However lovely those kitchens look in magazines and advertisements, nearly always the food is kept hidden behind closed doors.  If I had my way there were be few cupboards with doors, but lots and lots of open shelves.

When we lived in Leeds, most of my 'dry goods' could be seen, shelves full of glass jars (contents of packets usually decanted into recycled orange juice jars (now I use coffee jars).  We are far more likely to use our stores when we are constantly reminded that we have them.

Here in Morecambe I have a walk-in larder, shelves round the three sides, all full.  At least two long shelves full of glass jars, on the other side are canned foods and those in glass jars.  Packets are kept towards the back of the larder.  All very visible but only when I go into the larder.  One reason why I keep the larder door open, and the light on inside - this way I'm much more inclined to trot in and see what takes my fancy that day.

However, have noticed I'm far less inclined to bake, or use what is in the larder, just because the products are not 'in my face'.  Even though the frozen food and contents of the fridge ARE behind closed doors, somehow I tend to move in that direction rather than any other. 

So today's recipes are based on store-cupboard ingredients, which do include some fresh (or frozen) foods that would be kept in the fridge/freezer, as that seems to be the 21st century way of storing.

Having read how things could be in the not so distant future, am inclined to think that if we don't put our foot down now, the supermarkets will end up having complete control over us.  Even now there are fridges that let us know when we have run out (or running out) of regularly bought products.  Supermarkets are planning to have trolleys that will display details of  'items of interest' as soon as we start pushing them round the aisles.  Tesco send me money-off and points-off vouchers on foods I regularly buy, so I buy them (well I can use them). Once supermarkets have regular customers, all the details of what they buy are computerised, they know exactly what will appeal to us and probably get their trolleys to move in that direction and stop right in front so we will be more than tempted. 

Some people may like their shopping all worked out for them,  if they don't, then somehow the rest of us will be persuaded I'm sure.  If it has been so easy to wean us away from home-cooking ('let us do all the work for you') it is only one small step to them doing the shopping for us too.

First recipe is an easy dish to make, speedy too if you use 'quick cook penne' (as I always do - as it saves both time and fuel).  Eat as a warm supper dish, and any leftovers can be kept in the fridge and eaten cold the next day (at home or at work).

Hot Pasta Salad: serves 4
10 oz (300g) pasta penne (see above)
4 tblsp mayonnaise
juice of 1 lemon
1 x 200g can of tuna in oil
2 red bell peppers, seeded/thinly sliced
1 red onion, halved and thinly sliced
handful of rocket leaves or watercress
Cook the pasta as per packet instructions. Meanwhile, put the mayonnaise into a bowl and add 1tblsp of the tuna oil, and the lemon juice, and mix until blended. 
Drain the rest of the oil from the tuna, then flake the fish into the mayonnaise dressing and gently fold together.   Drain the pasta and add this, with the peppers and onions also to the mayo mixture. Serve immediately (or it can be left to get cold), and garnish with the rocket or watercress.

Next recipe also uses pasta and not a million miles away from the above dish, but this time uses frozen or canned veg.  Fromage frais is similar to crème fraiche, but lighter.  Yogurt could be used instead.  Or a little cream cheese - this when heated melts down to make a creamy sauce.
We are not fond of runner beans, so I use frozen long 'string' beans and snap them into short lengths while still frozen..  Defrost the prawns before using.

Prawn, Sweetcorn, and Green Bean Pasta: serves 4
10 oz (300g) pasta tubes (penne or macaroni)
7 oz (200g) fresh or frozen runner beans, sliced
1 x 400g can sweetcorn (or use frozen)
5 tblsp fromage frais (see above)
5 tblsp green pesto
7 oz (200g) frozen cooked/peeled prawns
Cook the pasta as per packet instructions, adding the runner beans and sweetcorn for the final 4 minutes of cooking. Drain well, tip into a bowl and set aside.  Keep the pan (still warm) ready to use again.
Meanwhile, mix the fromage frais and pesto together and put into the warm pan with the prawns, warm through over a low heat, then return the pasta and veg to the pan.  Remove from heat, toss everything together, and serve immediately.

With overcast skies, the weather has been a great deal cooler today, and not improving much up to and over the weekend.  However, if lucky, we could get warmer weather again, maybe even hot, so here is a speedy chilled soup, perfect for a scorching day. 
This recipe makes just one serving, but easy enough to double, treble or quadruple if you wish to.
Either char the bell pepper under a grill or on the hob, then place in a plastic bag until cool and the skin will then easily be peeled off.  Alternatively, remove the skin from the pepper using a vegetable peeler.
It is the membrane in a chilli pepper that has most of the heat, not the seeds, so keep this soup mild by scraping the inside cut surface of the pepper to remove the membrane before using.

Speedy Gazpacho: serves 1
1 red bell pepper, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 red chilli, cut in half, seeds/membrane removed
8 fl oz (250ml) passata
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp sherry vinegar
juice of half a lime
salt and pepper
Prepare the bell pepper and the chilli (see above), and chop both into chunks, then put into a blender or food processor with the passata, garlic, vinegar and lime juice, and whizz until smooth.  Alternatively, put the lot into a bowl and use a stick blender.  Add seasoning to taste, then chill until cold.  Traditionally served in soup bowls poured over a few ice cubes.

Do agree with you Jane, there is nothing nicer than seeing a shelf full of home-made preserves.  The ones I made yesterday filled a small (card) table I'd set up in the kitchen, but now they have been packed away in the boxes the jars came in.  They look very professional with different coloured lids to make it easy to find the different flavours.  B will take them to the club this Friday evening, then he has less to carry on Saturday (gingerbread and scones).  Only scones on Sunday thank goodness, so a fairly easy weekend for me as regards 'catering'.

Enjoyed hearing about the Australian deserts Kate.  What we tend to take for granted (our environment), is usually completely different to other countries, so the more readers tell us about their own habitat, the more we want to hear more (at least I do).
Cannot for the life of me remember the name of a film (it might have been called 'Walkabout') that starred a young Jenny Agutter, who - with her young brother - was in a car crash (think her father was killed) and they were a long way from civilisation in Australia.  They set of walking across the desert, and met up with an Aborigine boy who looked after them and led them a great distance.  This was one of the films I can watch again and again, and it does give a good idea of the Australian wilderness.

Thanks to Kate and Sairy who mentioned the reason why we can't now feed our chickens/pigs on household waste.  Am sure there are thousands of people who do what we they shouldn't, as long as it is behind closed doors (or at least within their own property).  It was once considered that every man's home was his castle, and we were entitled to pull up our drawbridge (or shut the gare) and do what we wish within our own confines.  At least it used to be like that.  Now I'm beginning to wonder.

Bedtime again (comes round so quickly often wonder if it's worth getting up in the morning). Back gain blogging in 24 hours.  TTFN.