Thursday, June 12, 2014

Keeping an Open Mind

Shall I have my say now, or shall I first reply to comments.  No, think I'll say first what I think about an article I read in the newspaper today.  This about mobile phones and some sort of 'app' (?) that will possibly be included in these phones/tablets to prevent youngsters constantly texting/tweeting on whilst sitting at the table while everyone (including them) is eating a meal.

For goodness sake, have 'house rules' and family discipline flown out of the window altogether? All a parent has to say is 'switch the damn thing off while we eat' and that's the end of the matter. Or is it that teenagers (and even younger children) just won't do as they are told any more?  If so, then heaven help the future generations.

Some 15 or so years ago our grandson was living with us for a couple of years to finish his education (parents having moved to Ireland), and the first meal he sat down to eat with us his mobile rang and he got up and left the room to answer it.  On his return I firmly - but nicely - told him that never again must he leave the table in the middle of a meal to chat to his friends on the phone, and if possible, switch it off or leave it in his bedroom until he had finished.  He understood, and we never had that problem again.  Maybe I was the wicked witch of the west in his eyes, but I'd spent a lot of time cooking a lovely meal, and for it to be left on the plate to get cold in favour of a 'chat' was criminal in my eyes.

So that's my moan.  Onto comments.  Are you sitting comfortably?  Then let's begin....
Yes Kate, your comment did arrive, and I don't mind at all comments being sent as 'anonymous' as long as a name is given, usually at the end.  It is the comments that give no name at all that I sometimes don't bother to reply to.  Perhaps not fair, but being given a name I then picture that person in my mind as I write.  Just 'anonymous' could be male, female, young, old.....

What an interesting comment from you jane.  So many coincidences.  The spiritualist church does not believe in coincidences, but I tend to keep an open mind about that.   Even though I firmly believe there is 'something out there' that we don't yet understand (having had plenty of psychic experiences during my long life), still feel I need more proof.

Forgot to mention that on Tuesday three times heard something from the back of the room where we were sitting in our circle.  Just before we had all settled in our chairs (I was already in mine), heard someone playing a mouth organ (aka harmonica), and as the lady who played the piano for our hymn singing wasn't there that day, thought it was a member who was going to give us the note for starting, so said nothing.  Then twice during the meeting I heard a lady saying something (couldn't make out what) from the same (back) part of the room while we were meditating.  But there was no-one there, I looked.  Should have mentioned it at the time but didn't, but will do when I go next Tuesday.  Maybe it will happen again.

It's the same old story when it comes to baked goods.  The more difficult they are to make (or they lead us to believe they are), the more they charge.    So when you mentioned the price of profiteroles in Australia Mary, it brought back to mind that Croquembouche that I made for B's 80th birthday - a very tall pyramid of 80 profiteroles, filled with cream and held together with caramel.  Because I'd been able to buy the cream on offer, also butter, and the rest of the ingredients were cheap enough, the cost worked out at exactly £5!!   Even if paying full price for the ingredients, it probably wouldn't cost much more than £6 today.  
B has asked me to make another Croquembouche, this time withy 60 profiteroles, so that he can take it to his Friday club social night in July (as the previous day will have been our diamond wedding anniversary).  Fortunately the cream-filled profiteroles will freeze, so I won't have to spend my anniversary or day after baking the  'croc' for B.

Am pleased Pam, that reading blogs-from-England keep you in touch with your homeland.  Most of the time my comments re the UK are to do with the weather.  We are back to flooding in parts of the north-west due to severe storms over the past few days (we got away with just a few showers and one rumble of thunder). 
More general news is that many of our old traditions are now being stopped due to 'elf and safety'. The centuries old Morris Dancing in one area cannot now take place due to the dancing through the streets meaning roads have to be closed, and it 'costs too much to put up signs'.  Cheese rolling also I believe can now not take place.   Do they still do that pancake tossing race in that place whose name I have forgotten (but will remember after publishing).  I may have already remembered it as Olney comes to mind.  Could be wrong.  Someone please let me know.

You are doing everything right Hazel.  It's incredible how things really work well and easily when lists are made.  My own memories of catering for over 100 people always began with the main list (the menu), then working out what could be cooked in advance and frozen, what could be cooked a few days before, the day before, and on the day itself.  Also all the ingredients needed, a list of what could be bought in advance, and what fresh foods needed to be bought close to the day.
Lists also of what needed to be brought out from the freezer and when to give it time to thaw.

The dishes to be served also need listing in order of making, so once the lists are complete, the shopping done (or expected later), it is just a matter of working through the lists in the right order. This cuts out all the 'should I have done that'?  Or, 'I've forgotten to buy the pickles'.... and so on, and so on. 
Once begun it's a bit like tunnel vision I suppose.  Concentrating only on the job in hand with no thought to the next until the job in hand is done. 

Usually the only way I can get any housework done is to write a list of 'things to do', often late at night ready for the next morning.  Start at the beginning, tick off when accomplished and - goodness me - what a lot I can achieve in just one morning.  Probably more than in a whole week (or month) without having a list to remind me.

Everyone enjoys cheese on toast, even better is Welsh Rarebit, although sometimes this takes a little time to prepare.  So here is a 'toast-topper' that is even tastier than the Rarebit in my opinion.  Sort of a hot 'ploughman's' (hence the name).   Normally I use the 'banana' shallots as they are larger than the small round ones, use more or less according to taste.  Onion chutney works well with this, but any favourite chutney or relish could be used.  As usual, we can use any hard cheese, and if using Wensleydale or Lancashire these are better used crumbled.  We don't - of course - have to use baps. Ordinary toasting bread works just as well.
The recipe below serves two, easy enough to halve for one, or double to serve 4.

Ploughman's Melts: serves 2
1 small rib celery (or half a large)
1 eating apple, peel left on, grated
1 shallot, grated
juice of half a lemon
3 tblsp chutney (see above)
2 baps (flat rolls) sliced in half
4 oz (100g) Cheddar or Stilton. grated
Heat the grill to high, then very finely shred the celery, and put into a bowl with the apple, onion, and lemon juice, toss together (the lemon juice stops the apple going brown).  Set aside, then put the baps onto a baking tray, cut-side facing up, and toast under the grill until just beginning to crisp on the surface.
Spread each with a little chutney, then top with the celery/apple mixture, finishing off with a covering of grated or crumbled cheese.  Grill for a few more minutes until the cheese begins to bubble and the edges of the baps are beginning to brown.  Serve hot with a green salad.

The good thing about an egg is that it comes in two parts - the yolk and the white.  Although often used together, each part can be used independently, so finding recipes that use more yolks than whites can be a boon, especially when left-over whites are very necessary for some 'eats' (such as meringues, macaroons...).
The recipe below is what I call 'posh nosh'.  In other words suitable to be served at a dinner party.  Yet has very few ingredients (and NO egg yolks). 

Chocolate Mousse: serves 4
6 oz (175g) plain chocolate, chopped
7 egg whites
half tsp lemon juice
2 oz (50g) caster sugar
Put the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water, then leave it alone until it has melted.
Put the egg whites in a large clean bowl, add the lemon juice, and begin to whisk.  When very frothy, beat in the sugar until it has formed fairly firm, soft peaks.
Remove the bowl from the pan and spoon in about one-third of the beaten whites, and whisk these into the chocolate, then - using a spatula - gently but rapidly - fold in the remaining whites, until fully blended.
Spoon into serving glasses (martini glasses work well) and chill for 2 - 3 hours before serving.
If you wish to eat these hot, like a soufflé, spoon into small buttered ramekin dishes and bake for 8 - 10 minutes at 180C, gas 4, or until 'puffy'.  Serve with cream or ice-cream.

One of the simplest (and cheapest) puddings has great man-appeal.  Don't know why, perhaps it reminds them of what mother (or probably now grandma) used to make.  My B is always asking for one, so perhaps I'd better make it for him, even though it is more a winter pud than a summer one.

Traditionally this pudding was wrapped in a cloth, then put into the copper to be boiled (like B's mother used to do),  myself used to wrap it up the same way but steam it.  Nowadays I prefer to oven-bake it - as shown in the recipe below.

Jam Roly-Poly: serves 6
2 oz (50g) butter, chilled, cut into chunks
9 oz (250g) self-raising flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 oz (50g) shredded suet
5 fl oz (150ml) milk
4 oz (100g) jam, pref raspberry
First put a roasting tin on the bottom shelf of the oven, placing another oven shelf on top of the tin. it.  Fill the tin two-thirds with warm water, then switch the oven on to 180C, gas 4.  This will also heat up the water to very hot.
Start to prepare the pudding by taking a sheet of foil (approx. 30 x 40cm), and place a sheet of greaseproof paper (the same size) on top of the foil, buttering the paper.
Put the butter, flour, and vanilla into a food processor and pulse until the butter has disappeared (or rub together with the fingertips).  Put into a mixing bowl, add the suet, then pour in the milk and work together to make a sticky dough.  Add a drop more milk if necessary.
Tip the dough out onto a floured board, and very gently knead until smooth, then roll out to a square approx. 25 x 25cm.
Spread jam all over the dough, leaving a gap along one edge, then roll up from the opposite side. Pinch the jam-free edge into the dough where it meets, also crimping the ends together to roughly seal.
Carefully lift onto the greased paper, join-side down, then loosely bring the paper and foil around it, folding together at the edges to seal, but allow room for the pudding to spread.
Put the parcel directly onto oven rack immediately above the tin and cook for 1 hour.  Leave to sit for 5 minutes before unwrapping, then carefully unfold the foil/paper and cut into thick slices for serving.  Traditionally served with custard.

Well, I'd love to chat for longer, but have an early start tomorrow (annual visit for my free foot check). It is now 1.30am.  So off to bed I go.  Should be back again this time tomorrow, give or take an hour.  Hope to see you then.  'Bye for now.