Sunday, June 22, 2014

Make the Most of It...

For the moment we are blessed with good weather.  Almost a heatwave.  With Wimbledon starting next week I have much to look forward to, although will be fairly busy part of the time.  A big weekend next week as Morecambe has a two day 'water festival', so my Beloved will be busy with the sailing, and I've been asked to bake scones, desserts etc, for the two days.   B is also helping out his upholstery mate all next week as well, although I have twisted his arm and requested he take me to the church meeting on Tuesday (and bring me home later).

The following week I will be taking the end of the week off due to having Gill to stay, and family members and friends are coming to our anniversary meal (that thankfully is at a restaurant, and I - for once - am not expected to cook).  But more about that later.

Although quite a bit of today was spent outdoors, tidying up the garden, pruning some overgrown bushes etc, I did switch on to the Food Network (don't ask me why, I just needed an excuse to sit down I suppose), and it was Guy Fieri with his 'three D's', but as the first was in Toronto, Canada (where Margie lives), thought I'd watch, and he went to 'Hey Meatball' (or was it 'hen', can't even read my writing).  It showed the preparation of some chicken meatballs, and what they called 'the gravy' (that we in the UK would call mushroom sauce).  Have you eaten there Margie, and it is a good as Guy F said?  One thing I did notice was that all the eggs used had almost red yolks.  Guy F remarked on this.   The next place visited was back in the states, so didn't watch.

Not many comments at the moment, and am not surprised as very few people would want to waste the lovely summer days/evenings sitting at the computer.  Even thought I had planned to write my blog earlier today, the weather tempted me back outside.

If the weather is bad for your grandchildren's party Granny G, then it could still be fun held indoors, especially if they were allowed to make/cook/decorated a lot of the food they would eat.  My mind went back to indoor games such as 'Hunt the Thimble'.  Do children play this these days?  Musical chairs was fun for younger children.

Because tennis rules OK over the next two weeks (at least for some of us), today am giving the recipe for Tennis Cake that was in the Harmsworth's Household Encyclopedia.  Because these six huge books were published well over 100 years ago, the recipes are written old style, and this is the way it will be shown today.  It's pretty obvious they expected ladies knew how to cook as some of the details that are always given in today's cookbooks are missing.  But in those days meals/cakes etc were always home-cooked.   The weights and measurements are given in lbs and oz, and only because I was able to look at a page showing coloured sketches of some of the recipes in the book was I able to see that an oblong tin was used for baking, and the marzipan covered not just the top but also the sides (not the base) of the cake.  The icing covered the marzipan. 
The temperature of a moderate oven would be about 170C, gas 3 in today's ovens, but as no time is given, best to do the skewer test to make sure the cake is cooked, and cover the cake with a tent of foil if browning too quickly.

Tennis Cake:
This cake can be made in the following way:  Beat together 5 oz of sugar and 1/2 a pound of butter or margarine until they are like cream; then add 3 eggs, one by one, beating all the time.
When they are well mixed, stir in 1lb of flour, 3/4 lb of sultanas, 2 oz of peel, a little milk, and a few drops of essence of lemon.
Turn the mixture into a greased tin and bake it in a moderate oven until it is lightly browned, then let it cool on a sieve.   When cold cover the top with almond paste or marzipan, and over this put some fondant or royal icing.  Decorate the borders of the cake according to taste, writing the word 'Tennis' using pink icing and complete it with a design of two tennis racquets.

These household encylopedias cover just about everything to do with domestic life, and even more. Such a wide range that includes games (both indoors and out), craftwork, carpentry, dressmaking, cookery, gardening, metal work, animal husbandry etc, etc., and everything comes in alphabetical order, so 'Tennis Cake' follows 'tennis ball', but comes before 'tennis court'.  And yes, instructions on how to make a tennis court are given, beginning by saying:  'Where space is available in the garden a tennis court makes a charming addition  to the amenities of the house.' then five and a half pages are taken over telling us how to make one.  With diagrams and photos. 

Myself find the descriptions of many things quite strange by today's standards.  I will really have to read through some of the books so that I can give a few more examples.  Especially interesting when they talk about fashion (clothes/hair etc).

There are several sketches and some photographs of houses built in those days, with architects ground plans to show the layout of the rooms.  Some addresses were given, and I'm wondering if these houses are still standing.  Maybe I can look them up on Google Earth.

Two recipes today, one based on cous-cous, the other uses sweet potatoes (because I have a bag of those I want to use).  We need to make the most of what we have, or perhaps better put as 'make the best of what we have' and these two dishes are that little bit different.

First meal is fritters made with couscous, and as this is something I often make too much of, it is a good way to use the left-overs.  The word 'fritter' means something flat and fried (my versions anyway), same as fish-cakes, patties, or rissoles (although those are usually sausage shaped).

Couscous Fritters with Feta: serves 2
6 oz (175g) couscous
7 fl oz (200ml) hot vegetable stock
1 egg, beaten
3 tblsp natural yogurt
salt and pepper to taste
3 oz (75g) feta cheese, cut into 1cm cubes
2 oz (50g) semi-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
3 spring onions, finely chopped
2 tblsp sunflower oil
Put the couscous into a bowl and pour in the hot stock.  Cover with a plate or clingfilm, and leave to stand for 5 minutes or until the stock has been absorbed.  Add the egg and yogurt and mix well, then fold in seasoning, cheese, tomatoes, and onions.  Divide into four and shape into patties.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the fritters for 5 minutes on each side until golden.
Serve with a crisp green salad and chutney of your choice.

Second recipe is for soup, and when you have sweet potatoes it is worth making this in bulk as it freezes well.  As neither B nor I like the taste of fresh coriander, I would leave it out,  choosing another fresh herb.  As the coriander stalks are used for flavouring the soup (leaves for garnish), then watercress could serve the same purpose, also parsley.

Sweet Potato and Lentil Soup: serves 6
2 tsp medium curry powder
3 tblsp olive oil
2 onions, grated
1 eating apple, peeled, cored, grated
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 x 20g pack coriander
one inch piece root ginger, peeled/grated
salt and pepper
1lb 12oz (800g) sweet potatoes, peeled/grated
2 pts (1.2ltrs) vegetable stock
4 oz (100g) red lentils
half pint (300ml) milk
juice 1 lime
Sprinkle the curry powder into a large dry pan, and toast for 2 minutes, then stir in the olive oil, adding the onions, apple, garlic, chopped coriander stalks, and the ginger, plus seasoning to taste. Stir-fry for 5 minutes, then add the sweet potatoes, stock, lentils and milk.  Bring to the boil, cover pan, and simmer for 20 minutes.  Blend until smooth, then stir in the lime juice and serve with a sprinkling of chopped coriander leaves.

That's it for now, back again this time tomorrow.  Hope you've all had a wonderful weekend and maybe even been able to eat outdoors, either a barbecue or picnic, or just sandwiches sitting on a blanket on the lawn.  TTFN.