Sunday, July 20, 2014

Mad Dogs and Englishmen....

Some readers may remember that song:  'Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noonday sun... and when my neighbour came for coffee on Friday she said she had been to the local park where she met a lady who had large and beautiful white fluffy dog with her, but was warned not to go near it as it 'didn't like strangers'.  Neighbour wondered why it wasn't muzzled, especially as there were so many children running around, and the fluffy coat of the dog would attract them.

When I was small and the summers were normally hot (as is this one), remember hearing on the wireless (as it was called then), a warning that all dogs should be muzzled when taken out as the heat affected them and made them very 'snappy'.  Really good common sense, so why isn't this given as instruction to people with dogs today?  We can't blame dogs for getting stroppy when hot weather makes them ill-tempered, as it so often does with us humans.

Yesterday I felt really 'off'.  Hot weather I can stand, even very hot as it has been lately, but only dry heat.  High humidity and I feel exhausted.  It was high yesterday and when like that I find difficulty in breathing (not enough oxygen in the air?) and when I went to bed the humidity reading in the bedroom was 73%!  B said it was higher during the day.  Just checked it a few minutes ago - before I sat down to write - and thankfully it has gone down to 68%.   Temperature still high though.  In the 70's. 

You can guess that yesterday's planned baking ended up with me not doing much cooking. At least managed to grate a lot of cheese (taking care this time to not include part of my thumb knuckle), and then made a four-cheese quiche, and lots of cheese biscuits for B.  He ate half the biccies last night, the rest this evening. 

Also sorted out my veggies and decided to cook all the 'value' carrots I had in the fridge (the organic delivery included a big bunch of freshly picked young carrots that I will use later this week), and so chopped the 'oldies' into chunks and boiled them until tender.  Some I ate yesterday, the rest I will eat tomorrow with some going into B's stir-fry.
Also make a big bowl of trifle for B:  Trifle sponges soaked in lemon jelly, then when set topped with a can of fruit cocktail (the juice from the can helping to make up the jelly),  Then covered these with the remaining jelly. 
Meanwhile I'd made a pint of custard, and when that was cold used half to top the trifle.  Asked B to serve his portion and then add double cream - saved opening a new tub of cream - hoping he would use up the one already opened before he began another.  More than once I've gone into the fridge and found two tubs of cream that he had started, and once he had three on the go. Don't ask me why he does this.  He just does.

Another fairly dry day today, and think it did rain during the night as the leaves on the bushed in the front garden were sparkling with drops of water.  Later I went to sit in the garden where it was quite breezy, but obviously much windier at cloud level as they were whizzing past.  Didn't get much strong sunshine due to clouds, but noticed that by the time they had passed over our house they had almost disappeared and if I had sat in the front garden would probably have been in full sun. 

Didn't feel like eating, so ended drinking a litre carton of chilled tropical fruit juice during the evening.  B didn't feel like eating either, but managed to get himself some boiled eggs and 'soldiers'. Then eating a good helping of the trifle yesterday, and the last of the cheese biscuits.  When he does feel like eating you can imagine how much he can wolf down.

As the weather forecast tells us it is set fair for the next few days, and warm with it, I will almost certainly go out with Norris tomorrow as I want to go to the local shops and buy more wool to practice my crocheting.  A thank you to Sairy for her comment re this, and I will shortly be taking a look at the link she sent.  Feel that I will become as addicted to crochet as I am to having a 'chilli kick' each day, and my plan is to crochet covers for each of the cushions in our living room.  Then may even make myself another 'throw' to keep me warm in winter, either in bed or when sitting in my chair.

As I sat outdoors, being me, my mind wandering as usual, thought about crochet and wondered if I cut spare material I have, diagonally, into very narrow strips, then pulled these tight, they would roll up into a sort of string and I could use this for crocheting.  Maybe could cut plastic bags into narrow strips and do the same thing to make mats for the bathroom (or bags)!!  Even wondered if it was possible to crochet cooked spaghetti.  What a sad lady I am turning into. 

As you can imagine, food has not been top priority on my mind this week.  Has it been with anybody's?  All we want to do is laze around and drink plenty of liquids.  A salad with cold meats is about as far as we get when it comes to making a meal.    However I will try to come up with some tasty nibbles that we might like to try making when the weather gets cooler.

Courgettes are in season at the moment and as B doesn't like them as a vegetable in their own right am hunting out ways to use them, so here is one way to use them that I know I will enjoy and am sure my Beloved will also. 
As usual I suggest we omit what we don't have (in other words don't go out and buy them) such as the sesame seeds and the chilli (I would add a dash of chilli sauce or dry paprika when mixing).  As we don't like the flavour of fresh coriander I'd probably use parsley.   Fresh breadcrumbs are used when preparing the balls, and dried breadcrumbs for coating, but for the latter we could use finely crushed savoury biscuits, cornflakes, or potato crisps.
If you prefer to shallow fry in a little oil, you could flatten the balls to make small 'cakes' and fry these until browned on one side, then turn to brown the other.

Lentil Balls with Tomato:  serves 4
7 oz (200g) red lentils, cooked until tender
2 tblsp olive oil
2 courgettes, coarsely grated
1 small onion, grated or finely chopped
1 small red chilli, finely chopped (see above)
3 oz (75g) stale breadcrumbs
1 oz (25g) toasted sesame seeds (opt)
1 tblsp chopped fresh coriander (see above)
1 - 2 oz (25g -50g) dried breadcrumbs (see above)
oil for frying
5 tomatoes, quartered
1 clove garlic, crushed
Strain the lentils well after cooking, pressing out as much liquid as possible.  Meanwhile heat half the olive oil in a large frying pan and stir-fry the courgettes, onion and chilli until just soft.  Remove from pan using a slotted spoon, and set the pan aside to use again.
Put the lentils in a bowl with the courgette mixture, stale breadcrumbs, seeds, and coriander, and mix well to combine.  Roll teaspoons of the mixture into balls, then toss these in the dried breadcrumbs.
Heat about an inch of oil in a deep frying pan and fry the balls - in batches - turning them often, until browned on all sides, then drain on kitchen paper.
Using the first frying pan add the remaining olive oil and stir-fry the tomato and garlic for a couple of minutes, then return the lentil balls to this pan, and stir until heated through. Remove from heat and serve with a crisp green salad and a herby dressing.

Fennel is also seasonal and I have several bulbs in my fridge (courtesy of Riverford). They have fronds growing from the tops that can be used, so will definitely be making these fritters.  Probably serve them with fish (fennel and fish go well together).
Fennel Fritters: makes 16
1 tblsp finely chopped fennel fronds
1 or 2 fennel bulbs (approx. 1lb total) finely chopped
3 spring onions, finely chopped
1 carrot (approx. 3oz/75g) finely grated
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 oz (75g) ricotta cheese
2 oz (50g) plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
oil for frying
Mix together all the ingredients (except oil).  Put enough oil for shallow frying into a large frying pan, and when hot, fry heaped tablespoons of the mixture until golden brown on both sides and heated through.  Flatten slightly during cooking, turning once, then drain on kitchen paper.  Serve with mixed salad leaves or what you will.

Here is a recipe from the Riverford collection (they send recipes with each delivery).  This is one of their top seasonal favourites, making a tray-bake that cuts into 10 - 15 squares, and a great way to use up a glut of courgettes.
Because the recipe gives only metric measurements, difficult to convert to imperial (120g is more than 4 oz, less than 5oz etc), this time I giving only the metric.  However have worked out the baking tin measures 8" x 10", and if cooking by gas it will be at regulo 5. 
Chocolate and Courgette Tray-bake: 
120g softened butter
125ml sunflower oil
100g caster sugar
200g soft brown sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
130ml milk
350g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
4 tblsp cocoa powder
450g courgettes, peeled and grated
1 tsp vanilla extract
Put the butter, oil, caster and brown sugar into a bowl and beat until light and fluffy. Gradually whisk in the eggs and then the milk.
Sift the flour, baking powder, and cocoa together, then fold them into the above mixture, finally adding the courgettes and vanilla.  Spoon into a lined 20 x 25cm baking tin, and bake at 190C for 35-40 mins, until a skewer inserted comes out clean.  Cool in the tin for a few minutes, but cut into squares while still warm.

While I'm at it, might as well include a recipe that children will love, despite it being made with a veggie (just don't tell them).  Use either peeled fresh or pre-cooked beetroot.  Good news is that once made it can also be frozen.
Maroon Fool: serves 6
1.5lb (675g) raw or cooked beetroot, coarsely grated
grated zest and juice of 1 orange
1 large cooking apple, peeled and grated
knob of butter
3 tblsp honey
half pint (300ml) custard, cooled
Put the grated beetroot into a saucepan with the orange rind and juice and simmer for 30 minutes.
Stir in the apple, butter, and honey, and simmer for a further half hour, then put into a blender or food processor and blitz until a puree.   Pour into a bowl and chill before stirring in the custard.
To serve, spoon into individual serving dishes.  To freeze, put puree into a polybox leaving a 1cm headspace, cover and label. Use within 3 months.  Thaw overnight in the fridge, then serve as above.
For a special treat serve topped with a dollop of cream, and sweet biscuits.

Finished before midnight for once and enjoying the cooler air - this room has no windows that will open.  We do have patio doors but B has mislaid the key!!  As the patio doors face south, and the two other windows (one either side of the fireplace) face west, this room can get very warm during the summer (but also keeps warm during the winter even though it has no central heating radiators, just a gas fire that we rarely use).

Speaking to Gill this morning, she tells me it was raining hard, and also pelted down yesterday.  Had thunderstorms too.  So here in Morecambe we have got off lightly.  But then we usually do.  Possibly it is the way the Bay is situated, the bad weather seems to split when it approaches, some going further south (Manchester) and some further north (Lake district).  Not surprised that Morecambe is said to have the most hours of sun in the country.  Having said that, suppose we will now have high winds, lots of rain, then heavy frosts and snow during the winter.  Nature likes to let us know whose the boss!

Do hope you all managed to have a good summers weekend despite any adverse weather you may be having in your area.  Comments have been few (understandably during summer weekends) but do hope to have more come in over this next week.  It's the only way I know you are there!  That I know is being silly and selfish, lots of people read loads of blogs and never send a comment at all.  So why should I be so lucky? 

Now off to my bed to a cooler room for once.  Probably able to lie under the duvet instead of on top of it, or half under and half out.   Never have really taken to duvets, my feet get tangled up in the cover (that always seems too loose).  Much prefer the old way of making beds - cool strong white cotton sheets, freshly ironed, with - in summer - a light 'counterpane' over the top, and in winter, one or two blankets, then topped with a quilt.  And a mum to always come and tuck me in (we can never tuck ourselves in, and that is such a pity).  Those were the days.  However bad they really could be at times, always remembered as the best of days.  TTFN.