Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Keeping it Simple

When I was a youngster meals were eaten not necessarily to be enjoyed.  Readers old enough will remember the over-cooked vegetables, soggy cabbage, and stewed prunes 'to keep us regular'.   In those days we 'ate to live' not as today 'live to eat'.  

Sometimes I think we spend far too much time thinking about what meal to cook next.  I certainly seem to do (but usually for B, I just serve myself what needs using up), and it was a comment from a new reader called Kevpembs - to whom we give a welcome - who mentioned that chefs today seem to play around with the food too much.  I agree.  Mary Berry is the only cook who says it as it is.  Her baking is simple yet delicious, and really there is no reason to go beyond that.

The problem with cookery progs publications is that the cooks/writers have now run out of ideas.  All they can do is just give yet another version of a tried and tested recipe, or 'deconstruct' a traditional one.  In desperation they turn to 'crushing' potatoes and peas instead of mashing them, and serving 'pulled meat' (shredding it to bits) instead of serving it in slices. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm not against dishes from other countries for where would we be today without a curry, stir-fry, or pasta dish to whet our appetites?  I'm thankful that spicy sauces/ketchups etc are now commonplace for where would I be without my daily 'kick' of chilli?  Sometimes though we can have too much of a good thing, and going back to dishes our mothers (or in your case probably great-grandmothers!!!) used to make in the early 20th century will probably both sooth our stomachs and plump up our purses, for none of them would have been expensive then to make, and hopefully not always now.

Before I offer some recipes, must first reply to comments - quite a few have arrived during the last 24 hours for which I thank you. 

Yes Jane, the duck confit did come from Donald Russell, and the veggies from Riverford.  B said the duck had LOADS of meat on it.  He was well pleased.
Moving away from food for the moment, the lavender talcum I chose from the raffle table yesterday was used this morning.  A brand new tub, sold at Marks and Spencer and still sealed.  I was well pleased - until I used it.  It seemed to have virtually no scent of lavender at all.  I read the label:  Made In Thailand it said. Perhaps the lavender over doesn't smell as strongly as the English.  Was surprised that M & S didn't stock products that used English lavender - we have plenty of it.
I decided to use my favourite instead as I just love the smell of that - Johnson's Baby Talcum Powder.

Agree we should all support our local butcher (so why do I buy meat from D.R?  Because it is even better quality and no dearer when on offer).  Between times I do buy meat from our local shop, and am able to get plenty of free bones, fat (for dripping) etc, and chicken carcases (usually free because I sometimes take them a big bunch of rosemary that they share out to customers when they buy lamb).

Thanks to Julia and Anna who mentioned shopping across borders (Switzerland/Germany etc).  It was today (on a quiz prog) that I heard a question about how many languages were spoken in Switzerland, I thought it was 3 (French, German, Italian) but didn't know about the Romansch. Is that similar to Austrian, or is Austrian the same as German?  (my knowledge of that area is based mainly on The Sound of Music).

Although I haven't now got a crystal ball Pam, I found all I had to do was put it on a table in front of me, on a plain dark cloth so it didn't pick up any reflections, and then just gaze into it.  After a very few minutes it was as though I was looking at a moving picture, like a tiny TV screen set inside, and so I just used to say what I saw.  This always seemed to match something in the life of the person who was sitting close to me, but in this life, nothing to do with those who had 'passed on'. 

Like most things, once I've done something fairly satisfactory, I move on to try something new.  Also got quite good at reading tea-leaves at the bottom of cups (can't do that with tea-bags of course), and am extremely good at dowsing (not necessarily 'picking' up water, usually metal pipes etc that would be underground.

Haven't yet tried out my new camera.  It has a rechargeable battery (my old one used ordinary bought batteries), so I have first to do the recharging.  Then there is a disc to put in the comp that presumably tells me what else I can do with the camera.  Am waiting until I have a few hours to sort it out (wish things weren't so difficult to understand).
At the moment all my spare time is spent sitting and practicing how to crochet.  Can't say I could follow a pattern, but as I now know a couple of so different stitches, am going round and round (and round and round) making different patterns, and the circle is getting ever larger.  I can even crochet while I watch (or rather listen to) TV, certainly when the adverts are on.  Am really getting hooked on it (excuse the pun).

I'd never heard that about the pleats in a chef's hat showing how many different ways to cook a egg Granny G.  What happens if he learns a new way, does he have to refold and iron his hat to make an extra pleat?
While the south of England has been having very hot weather, today - here in Morecambe - it has been relatively chilly.  Overcast all day and a considerable amount of rain this afternoon.  This evening it was dark by 9.00pm, due mainly to clouds, but the nights are drawing in of course.

Tomorrow the weather is said to be even hotter in the south, Midlands and the east - 30C plus!  Very, very humid, and the chance of some severe thunderstorms.  We in the north west should get it slightly cooler.
The mention of eggs 'frying on the pavement' brought back memories of when my dad fried an egg on one of the paving stones in our garden when I was young.  It must have been very hot then.  He also showed me how to make a fire using a magnifying glass and some dried grass.  I found that very useful when role-playing Girl Guides in the garden (my mother would not let me join a proper pack as they were connected with the church and she didn't want anything to do with churches.  "Women go to church only to show off their new hats" she would say.

Earlier this evening I had a real 'thunder headache'.  It has eased off a bit, but this weekend I expect we will get storms, maybe even some sooner.  Do hope so, it feels as though I have a ton of bricks sitting on top of my head.

Went to the health centre this morning to have my blood checked (won't find out the result until next week).  Mentioned our wedding anniversary to the nurse and she said she couldn't believe it, said I looked so much younger than the age she knew I was.  Have to say that when I do see other ladies (70 years and in the 80's - like me) many do seem to look 'old'.  One good thing about being overweight is that we don't get many wrinkles on our faces, so suppose that helps to keep the years at bay.
Us 'older folk' all agree that our minds don't age, we still feel 35 - 40 whatever age our bodies have grown to.  Just wish the younger folk would realise that.  Our daughter is older than I feel (in my mind), but she treats B and myself as though we are really old. 
Can't blame her, when I was in my teens, anyone over the age of 40 seemed really REALLY old. And don't I wish I was 40 now!

The other week B brought in some 'mix and match' pork pies from Morrison's.  Apparently they did several flavours, and these were sold five to a pack (customers choice).  B brought home some pork, apple and cheese pies, and these are really lovely.  Much larger than the other flavours, so better value.  M's got wise to this, and now sell only the small ones as 'mix and match', the pork/apple/cheese sold four to a pack (£1.29).  I love 'em, so am going to try and make my own.

Here is a recipe for a porky pie that could easily be adapted.  I'd just omit the ham and use more apple and grated cheese, mixing this into the sausagement rather than place in layers..  Skinned sausages can be used instead of sausagemeat.  Have found that it is just as good made using short pastry, so you can use either.
Similar to a 'fidget pie', this is a variation on that traditional English picnic pie.

Picnic Pie: serves 6
1 x 500g block puff pastry
6 oz (175g) pork sausagemeat
1 - 2 apples, peeled, cored and grated
1 onion, grated
1 tblsp thyme leaves
8 thick slices cooked ham
2 tblsp Dijon mustard
1 egg, beaten - for glazing
Cut two-thirds of the pastry off the block, then roll this out and use to line a buttered 8"/20cm springform tin (or a deep loose-based cake tin).  Leave a good amount of excess pastry hanging over the sides of the tin.  Roll out the remaining pastry to a circle to fit the top of the tin.
Make the filling by mixing together the sausagemeat, apple, onion and thyme.   Line the base with a third of the ham, then spread over a third of the mustard, followed by a third of the sausagement mixture. Press it down firmly then repeat the layers, finishing with the sausagemeat.  Level the surface then put the pastry lid on top and brush with egg.  Fold the excess pastry back to cover the sides of the lid, pressing gently to seal, then trim to neaten.  Brush again with egg and make a hole in the centre.
Bake at 190C, gas 5 for 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted through the centre comes out very hot.
Leave to cool in the tin for 20 minutes before releasing the sides of the tin, then place - still on its base - onto a cake airer and leave until cold.
Serve cut into wedges and serve with salad and pickles.  If you wish you can remove it from its base, wrap tightly in foil and freeze it for a couple or so months.

Next recipe is a tastier version of one my mother used to make.  Having watched many American cookery progs on the Food Network (esp. the 'three D's'),  'Mac and Cheese' seems very much a favourite dish in the US, whereas here it is not considered very special.

When we used a variety of cheeses we also add more flavour than if just using a mild Cheddar.  Although bacon is not included in this version, have found adding some crispy crumbled bacon really gives this meal a lift.
As it is not a million miles away from Cauliflower Cheese, why not include some cooked cauliflower with the macaroni before adding the sauce?

Macaroni with Three Cheese Sauce: serves 4
11 oz (375g) macaroni (or pasta penne)
half pint (300ml) cream
3 fl oz (80ml) vegetable stock
5 oz (150g) grated mozzarella cheese
3 oz (75g) grated Stilton or other blue cheese
3 oz (75g) grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
1 tblsp chopped fresh chives
freshly ground black pepper
Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until just tender, then drain.  Meanwhile make the sauce by heating the cream with the stock until hot.  Remove from heat, add the mozzarella and blue cheese, but only HALF the Parmesan.  Stir until melted, then fold in the mustard and herbs.  Season with the pepper, then mix this into the pasta.
Pour into a 2.5ltr ovenproof dish and top with remaining Parmesan. Bake at 180C, gas 4 for 20 minutes or until browned.

In the old days, chutney was always made at home, so why don't we start making it ourselves again. Here is a very easy recipe that uses ingredients in our larder that we can vary according to what dried fruits we have.  The recipe suggests:  dried apricots, dates, figs, peaches, prunes, sultanas....all cut into evenly sized pieces.

Storecupbaord Chutney:  makes about 5lbs
1lb 7oz (675g) mixed dried fruits (see above)
3 lb  (1.3kg) cooking apples, peeled, cored, chopped
1 lb (450g) onions, chopped
1 lb 7oz (675g) light brown soft sugar
3 - 5 cloves garlic, crushed
2 oz (50g) fresh root ginger, finely chopped
2 - 4 chillies, crushed
1.5 pints (850ml) cider vinegar
Put everything into a large pan and bring to the boil, stirring as it does so.  Then reduce heat and simmer until thick, stirring regularly - this takes about 45 minutes and  thick enough so a wooden spoon should leave a path across the base of the pan when it is dragged across.
Spoon into warm sterilised jars and seal with vinegar-proof (rubber lined or plastic) lids.  Label and store for at least 6 weeks before using to allow the flavour to mature. 
This chutney can be stored for up to a year, but once opened keep in the fridge and eat within 3 - 4 weeks.

That's it for today, see I'm already into Thursday, so looks like I'm back to writing late at night again.  Hope to get back to afternoon chatting again after my usual weekend break.  But that will be then, this is now, so expect me back sometime late tomorrow evening.  Hope you managed to avoid most of the storms that are forecast.  TTFN.