Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Weighing up the Possibilities

As so often happens when someone sends in a query, this gets my little brain cells working again.  So a bit of further info re fishcakes and for that matter all bought prepared foods. 

Due to being an old(er) lady, I still tend to use imperial measurements when cooking, but have to say that the metric system really does make it easier for me when calculating the costs of small amounts as everything now is sold by gram weight. 

So, when looking again at the ingredient details of the fishcakes mentioned recently, it gave 33% as the amount of fish used for the pack of (4 x 100g) fishcakes.  The same percentage of fish should be in each fish cake, so 33% of 100g is about 1/3rd,  and this works out at approx. one and a half ounces.

So - if we plan to make fishcakes of the quality (!) and weight of the fishcakes bought, then the cost of the fish used could be really quite low.   Easy to work out as whatever the price per can, the price per 100g is also shown. 
Here are some examples of the lower price range of canned fish (taken from Tesco website), the cost shown is per 100g, but as each tin would contain enough fish to make 3 fishcakes, it is easy enough to work out the cost of the fish used for each 'cake'.   Value Tuna Chunks in brine: 67p per 100g;  Oriental and Pacific Tuna chunks 49p per 100g;  Pilchards 36p per 100g.
We have to take into account the difference between the pack weight and the 'drained weight' (usually shown on the tin. 

Although I don't now go to the supermarkets due to mobility probs, preferring to order on-line and have the food delivered, it really is useful - when tempted - to read the ingredient list on the back of packs of ready-meals or meat products (even soups and sausages), as the percentage of meat used will be shown, and this is a percentage of the weight of the complete meal (or product).   You will be amazed at how little meat there is in some casseroles, meat pies, even in some sausages.  Yet we expect so much more when we consider the price charged.

Much is written about the amount of food thrown away over a year, and how much it costs the average family a week when they do this, yet very little is said about the packaging, and when it comes to buying ready-prepared meals, the price charged covers not just the ingredients (on average these work out about one fifth of the total cost), the rest of the money goes on providing the packaging, the advertising, the transport, and all the other overheads.  Why pay money for something we can't eat?

A welcome to Julie Gray, who keeps chickens and due to this has no waste food (given to the hens?).  As she calls them 'chooks' am wondering if she lives in Australia (or the US?), in this country we don't use that name, and anyway it is now illegal in the UK to give kitchen waste to hens.   The same with pigs.  Don't know why as in war-time all waste food (and there wasn't that much due to rationing) was always saved for the street collection to be given to pigs.
I've got a Penguin war-time book (re-print) on how to feed rabbits and chickens on scraps, and think my mother probably had the same book when she kept chickens during the war, I certainly remember her boiling up potato peelings and mixing these with special chicken 'mash' to feed the hens.

Wish I was like you Margie, you seem able to cook properly for yourself.  Maybe if I did end up living alone I probably would. I do enjoy cooking, especially for B.  It's just years (and years, and years) of cooking for others putting myself last I suppose.

Most canned foods and packets in this country still have b/b dates, although (I looked specially) one jar of honey had a date, another didn't.  Some 'foreign' foods (those that are packed abroad, mainly for the people of that country, words not always in English) don't have dates (or at least not recognisable).
Several years ago I was giving a demonstration to a bee-keeping society (so every food shown had honey in it),  and was told by one man that he had been asked by the people - who decide the b/b dates) as to how long honey will keep.  He told them it would keep forever, and honey had been found in the tombs of Egyptian pharaohs, and it was still fit to eat (by now probably very crystallised).  They said it had to have a date, so they settled for 5 years after bottling. 
It just goes to show that with many things, dates are not necessary at all.  Certainly sugar products (of which honey is one), is said to keep indefinitely.
As I was making preserves today I looked on the 5kg bag of sugar I had bought (a few pence cheaper per 100g at that weight),  and there was no date on it, so someone had some sense.

Know what you mean Hazel about lack of space in a small freezer.  When we lived in Leeds we had a huge chest freezer, and it was usually full, but with a little room to spare when needed.  When B decided to get rid of it (and our old retro fridge also still working), just because he fancied a large American style fridge freezer, although the fridge space was roomy enough, the freezer space was limited due to the cabinet motors fitted in that side.
Although there are only two of us, still found I needed to buy a smaller freezer,  it would fit under a unit, but doesn't, and it has three large roomy drawers, and one half size (as the motor is fitted behind that).  You can guess I've filled that up too!

For anyone thinking about buying a new freezer, it is worth thinking about what you said Hazel, as it is very true.  We store frozen meat, then once it has been cooked with other ingredients,  much of it is then returned to the freezer in individual portions, taking up more space than the meat did originally.
So we need to allow for more room than we think we need.

Have heard before Kate, that night falls in an instant in Australia.  Presumably dawn suddenly lights the sky as though someone has switched it on?   Do wish I could visit Australia, there have been several travel-type progs about Oz on the TV recently and it looks a wonderful place, even the deserted parts.   The ground in the 'out-back' and sandy areas always looks very red.  Is it the same in the cultivated parts (gardens etc), and why it is such a bright colour?

Today has been spent making marmalade and jam.  As I start with the cans of concentrate (bought from Lakeland),  it doesn't take too much time once the mixture is in the pan with added water.  As mentioned before, I use 2kg of sugar and 1 pint of water when making marmalade, this way I get an extra jar and it still sets well.  The strawberry conserve I use the measurements as recommended.

With the lemon marmalade I add the zest and juice of 3 or 4 limes (heating the limes in the microwave for a few seconds so they give out more juice.   To the thin cut orange marmalade I add finely chopped crystallised ginger.    To the strawberry conserve I add the juice of 1 lemon to give it a firmer set.

Because these are sold for charity, I have to buy new jars and lids (although I think now that for charity we are allowed to re-use jars that have been sterilised), so now have a table full of potted up preserves, all labelled, ready for B to take to the social club this Friday (they are having two days of activity, also serving meals and selling marmalade).  Tomorrow I will be making the gingerbread.

The preserve making took longer than I expected, due mainly to me having to find the jars I'd put away and forgotten where, needing to then put them in the oven to heat up and sterilise (even though they were new), also re-using old jars that needed washing, rinsing and heating. 
Then had to zest and collect the juice of the limes, measure out the water, and thankfully yesterday had measured out the sugar for all three batches or I'd have had to have done that as well.

Make the lemon and lime, washed out the preserving pan, ladle, jam funnel, wooden spoon, and then set to making the strawberry preserve.  When that was finished had to wash the pan, ladle, funnel, and spoon again.  All of a sudden it was time to go and watch Wimbledon because Andy Murray was playing, thankfully he won in short sets, so was able to return to the kitchen to make the orange marmalade, having to spend a bit of time chopping the ginger. 
When potted up, and labels on all the jars, set about the final wash of pan and utensils as B returned from 'helping' his sailing mate.  It was 4.30 and for no real reason I felt exhausted. 

Was cross with B this evening, as I went out to water the plants he had reversed the car down the drive as he usually does, but closer to the end of the conservatory as normal, so I had to squeeze past and as I did so tripped over a broken slab that laid on top of the path and the end of it was sticking out.  I fell over, but luckily the wheelbarrow was in the right place, so I fell on that, so no real harm done, although now my back has begun to hurt, and I think I must have twisted it slightly when I fell.
( I couldn't go round the other side of the car as 'upstair's park their car at the side of ours, B reversing sort of diagonally back, so the front end of our car is further away from the house than the back end).

My face also seems to have swelled up slightly, perhaps there was something in those fishcakes I was allergic to.  It was due to have an allergic reaction (it happens fairly regularly), and I took 3 anti-histamines yesterday in time to stop it really puffing out my face.   Took 3 more this evening and my face seems to have returned to normal. 
I'm very glad it has happened for my worst fear is that I would have a full-blown reaction the day of our anniversary meal, and surrounded by family and friends with a face that looks like a puffer fish is not how I wish to look. 

My Beloved brought in another 'bargain' today, this being chicken gougons (reduced from £2 to £1), so he had them for his supper with oven chips and a can of mushy peas (my suggestion as he was perfectly able to prepare/cook his supper all by himself).  Asked him what the gougons were like. He said "much the same as the fishcakes, no flavour at all".    It will take time, but he will learn.

Myself had my usual salad, adding some grated cheese for the protein content.  Normally I use a reduced fat salad cream, but had run out so used some very low fat Heinz mayo, and - like all mayonnaise - this was very 'gloopy'.  Much prefer my salads to have a dressing that coats most of the food, rather than in 'dollops'.
So, having some vinegar in a jar (left over after I'd eaten the pickled onions), plus the dregs left in the small plastic bottle of Heinz Fiery Chilli Ketchup, I poured some vinegar into the bottle of ketchup, gave it a good shake, the poured this into a dish where I'd put a heaped tablespoon of the mayo.  Took a bit of beating with a fork to get it combined, and it still needed a bit more vinegar to make it thin enough for my liking, but it made a lovely flavoured spicy dressing, not a million miles away from the Marie Rose one I make when serving Prawn Cocktail. 

Although I prefer to use salad cream rather than mayonnaise, and the low-fat/low calorie version due to me trying to cut calories and still eat the same amount of dressing (because I like it), probably would not make my own salad cream, at least not for myself, but certainly would if I had guests.
So here is a lovely recipe for this that will keep for up to a week in the fridge, so perfect for those salad days of summer.

Home-made Salad Cream: serves 10
1 tblsp plain flour
1 tblsp caster sugar
2 tsp mustard powder
salt and pepper
2 eggs
4 fl oz (100ml) white wine vinegar
5 fl oz (150ml) double cream
squeeze lemon juice
Mix together the flour, sugar, mustard, and seasoning to taste.  Put the eggs and vinegar into a bowl and beat together, then place the bowl over a pan of simmering water (base not touching the water), and stir continuously until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon (this takes from 5 - 10 minutes).
Remove from heat and leave to cool, the add the cream and lemon juice to taste.  Cover and chill until ready to serve.  This will keep well, covered as long as it is kept chilled in the fridge, so remove only the amount you wish to use at any one time.

Watched a bit more of Jamie today (on Food Network).  He is one of those cooks that are worth watching.  Not everything he makes is economical, for when making 15 minute meals, often he has to use some ready-prepared foods.  Even so, he is a delight to watch, so enthusiastic, and I always end up wanting to make what he has just prepared (sadly, never have done so far), but there are always hints and tips to learn.
Noticed that a repeat of 'Delia through the Decades' is being shown again on Sunday's, can't remember when it is at 3.00pm, or 8.00pm.  Have seen it before, and as B will be out that day/evening, will probably watch it again.

That's it for today.  A cloudy day, and when I went out to water the plants almost felt as though it was trying to spit with rain, but only just.  Do hope we get a shower as I am fed up of carrying the watering cans around, not easy to pour when I have my walking stick in my other hand.  Can't leave the job to B, he is hopeless in the garden, he would probably drown them, or not give them enough, or flatten the plants by pouring the water on top instead of under the leaves into the pots.

Off to bed then up in the morning to make the gingerbread and anything else I can think of.  Should be back blogging again later in the evening.  See you then.