Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Days Pass By...

Time seems to move so fast these days.  No sooner am I up than it is time to go to bed again.  Yet, when younger the days seemed endless, especially school days.  A lesson that I disliked - lasting an hour, seemed an eternity. 

When we have a lot to do in one day, we seem to be able to manage to do it, so why does time fly by now when I'm not really doing much at all?  It has to be old age.

Can't do much oven-cooking at the moment due to the small oven being so tiny - think it's main purpose is using as a grill, but it does heat up as an oven.  The larger oven (above it) also has a grill, so why two grills? 
After contacting the insurance, this leading me then to contact the Smeg people, these then contacted me to tell me they would be contacting their local repair services, so I'd be getting a phone call to arrange a time for the repair man to visit.  Had the local people (Preston, not that local) call me today and 'they had a repair man be a man in the Morecambe area on Saturday', so have to wait until then to see what happens.

Still reading the 'Food and Drink in Britain' (through the ages), it is interesting to discover that oven cooking did not happen until fairly recently (by recently I mean since Neanderthal times), and a lot of dishes we eat today - even cakes and biscuits - were cooked over an open fire.  Some of these we still can make today using a griddle or strong flat frying pan on the hob.  Placing a domed cover over the pan (or lid as some pans have today), will allow trapped steam to help the 'cakes' rise slightly.

Thanks Les for suggesting a substitute for suet (grated butter/lard). Not sure if butchers sell suet (in the block - this is the fat around kidneys), normally then grated to use in cooking.  Normally supermarkets sell shredded suet (granules), and Atora is the manufacture that comes to mind.  They also make a vegetarian suet that works in the same way.  I've used both (not together) when making suet puddings, but suppose the veggie one could also be used to make pastry.

Hope you manage to make Sussex Pond Pudding Maz. Are suet pudding able to be made in a pressure cooker? Possibly they could be cooking in a microwave.  Anyone tried this (I haven't)?

Have been putting my thinking cap on Hazel re your Dad's 70th birthday party.  You seem to have already got a good selection.   Quiches came to mind - made in an oblong or square tin.  Best made the day before eating, then cut into small squares as 'finger food'.  Samosas can be made in advance as they freeze well, just need oven cooking (or frying) just before serving, although they eat well cool.
Canapes make attractive finger food.  These are just small 'bites', usually served on a lightly toasted base (cut into squares or circles), spread with a little cream cheese and topped with a little bit of smoked salmon.  Or could be spread with smoked mackerel pate, or any toppings you fancy.  Little vol-au-vents are also good.  I always use a Campbells Condensed Chicken or Mushroom soup (straight from the can) as the base for the filling, adding shredded cooked chicken, or chopped mushrooms (to either).  Vol-au-vent cases can be bought ready to bake, and these too can be baked up to two days in advance, then- unfilled - layered between sheets of kitchen paperand kept in an airtight tin. If salt is sprinkled in the tin, covered with kitchen paper, and then start layering the pastry cases, these keeps the pastry very crisp (the salt absorbs any moisture).

If using a block of puff pastry to make our own vol-au-vents, I normally cut them into squares and fingers (leaving no pastry trimmings), and this reminds me that any pastry trimmings (shortcrust or puff) can be rolled out, cheese sprinkled over (I like to add pepper and salt), and then folded and rolled again, cut into thin fingers and baked for about 5 - 7 minutes to make cheese straws (also good for party food). 

Dips/hummous also good buffet fare, along with sticks of fresh veggies (I slightly cook the carrot sticks as B doesn't like things too crunchy), and/or served with tortilla chips.  The dips/hummous can be made a day in advance, and the veggies prepared and bagged up separately earlier in the day to lay out when ready to serve (my choice of raw veggies would be strips of red/orange/yellow bell peppers, sugar snap peas, carrot strips, celery strips, cucumber strips, baby courgette strips, little cauliflower florets, baby mushrooms (or halved/quartered slightly larger ones), and if no tortilla chips I toast (in the oven until dry) the crusts cut off the bread that I'm going to use for sarnies.
Hope readers will send in other suggestions.

Well remember 'Listen With Mother' Mary, reminding me now of the children's TV progs that our youngsters always used to watch: Andy Pandy, The Woodentops, Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men, Tales of the Riverbank, and other names I've forgotten at the moment.  Pinky and Perky (pigs) come to mind, and a donkey puppet that a lady used to work, think she was John Mills sister?
Later it was the Trumpton series that we used to love to watch (me too), and even later (with the grandchildren) it was Pingu - my own favourite that I would watch even when there were no children in the house.

Champion the Wonder Horse was a particular favourite, especially for one of our children who would always hide behind the couch the minute the titles came onto the screen, peeping over the top to watch.  The name was never pronounced properly (due to the young age of the child) and so it came out as 'Champion the Wonder Whore', and since then have always remembered it as that. 

I've never read the books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Mary, but the Little House on the Prairie series did seem to start when the family left the little house in the Big Wood where they lived with the grandparents and aunts.  I always used to watch the series - and also the Waltons - some many years ago now, but the few I have seen recently I don't remember seeing before.  At the moment they seem to show them out of sequence, for today the Olsen children were at school, a week or so ago they were older.

We have (somewhere still) a huge AA road atlas of the USA, and am sure I saw Walnut Grove and Sleepy Eye shown as being still there.  Probably large townships now, and am wondering if there is a museum or actual house where Laura Ingalls used to live, where people can visit (like the Bronte Parsonage at in Yorkshire where Charlotte Bronte and sisters used to live - this house seen as the doctor's house in that lovely film 'the Railway Children').

Was the Walton family real, or were they just fictional.  Today, switching on the TV at 11.45 to watch 'Little House...', (the TV supplement shows the progs begin at noon), was able to see the final 15 minutes of 'The Waltons' (so obviously progs start earlier) where also the youngsters were becoming young adults.  I'd prefer to see the earlier ones when they (or some of them) were still children.   If I had my way I'd probably sit in front of the TV all day watching series I used to love, and that includes 'Prisoner Cell Block H'.  No doubt, if we had Sky, I could probably do that, so just as well we only have Freeview, and can only get some of their channels (but enough).

Today's recipe is something a little bit different.  The healthy aspect appeals to me, as does the chance to use up what I have in the fruit/veg basket/fridge.   This is surprisingly delicious and tastes just like blackberry and apple.  So why not use only those two fruits I hear you ask (could work out cheaper).  Well, beetroot really is good for us (lowers blood pressure) and when we are fed up of serving it any other way, why not try this?

Blushing Fool: serves 6
1.5lb (675g) cooked beetroot, raw or cooked
grated zest and juice of 1 large orange
1 large cooking apple, peeled and grated
knob of butter
3 tblsp honey
half pint (300ml) cold custard
Peel then coarsely grate the beetroot and put in a pan with the orange rind and juice.  Simmer for 10 minutes, then stir in the apple, butter, and honey.  Put in a blender/food processor and whizz to a puree. Chill for an hour in the fridge, then fold in the custard to give a ripple effect. Spoon into individual dishes for serving.

Another day gone and hardly noticed.  Maybe the high point was using the kohl rabi that was in the veggie box.  Only a little one, and with no idea how to cook it, I just trimmed off the shoots, cut it into wedges and microwaved it as though it was a potato.  The main part was OK, the outer bit tough, so I removed that bit, had a sample taste (bit boring actually - didn't taste of anything much) then cut it into smaller chunks and added it to the pan of (ready-cooked ) beef rib trim that was simmering in gravy, along with cooked carrots and parsnip.  All B had to do was throw on a small tub of frozen (thawing) peas that I'd left by the hob, and reheat the lot to serve as his 'casserole'. Myself - of course - back in my chair watching TV.  Immediately after B went out again, this time to the club to 'help' with the decorating.  It was only a week ago that he said he wasn't going to do any more work at the club because he was being taken for granted.  Since then he has been there every day!!! And working during the day this week elsewhere.  Mind you, I am enjoying having the house to myself, I used to love that, although now it's not as though time moves slowly, no sooner has B left (9.30am), than he returns at his supper time (5.30pm).  Hardly as though he's been away at all.

Oh yes, did manage to do a load of laundry in the washing machine, but that looks after itself, so I probably sat and watched TV until ready to unload it.  You are getting an idea of what my life is at the moment.  Hardly a life at all.  Today I would normally have been at the spiritualist 'circle' and have to say I now wish I had gone after all.  It makes a change, and I enjoy the company of like minded 'spirits'.  Although I'm not getting any further with my medium work, have to say that now the flickering lights and electric problems have now ceased, now seem to be 'seeing' people just out of the line of sight (is this called peripheral vision or something?).  I see movement, then when I turn my head there is no-one there.  The other day I could swear I saw the living room door open (when I was watching TV!), and as I turned I saw the door open and a ladies face peeping through smiling at me, but when I blinked it was gone and the door was closed.  Let's hope that is as far as the apparitions go, I don't want to share my home with almost transparent people wandering around, but believe that only if I wish to see them they will appear.  And I had wished, but now wishing I'd not. So maybe they will stay away until I know what to do next.  It is all very interesting indeed.

That's it for today (it is now Wednesday I think - not only does the time go fast, the days also so can never remember what day it is).  Next blog probably this time tomorrow, but only if I feel like it. I'm in that sort of mood.  Doing things when I feel like doing them, meaning that most of the time the things don't get done at all.  This blog is the only things I really do intend doing.  How sad is that?

Hope you all have a good day, weather set to improve, so hope we all get a chance to enjoy it.  With a shower of rain last night, everything in the garden seems to have grown six inches in a few hours. So time for me to wander around with the secateurs.  No more rambling from me.  Time for bed. TTFN.