Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sunny Sunday...

An early blog this Sunday.  The football final is live on BOTH BBC and ITV this evening, so B will want to be in this room watching on the larger screen, so thought I'd write and chat while he is out sailing.  The sun has been out all day but it suddenly got quite windy, so hope not too many boats capsize.

When Gill phoned me this morning she said it had been raining all night (Leicester), and was teeming down as she spoke, so was expecting we might get some later.  Not so far.  Apparently we did get some rain last night, but that had cleared and dried by the time I got up this morning.  Wouldn't life be wonderful if the rain fell only at night and we could spend our days in sunshine?

It has been very hot this week, and last night was very humid, making it hard to sleep, not sure whether to sleep on or under the duvet.  A light sheet or blanket on top would probably be better than a duvet.  Will try that tonight.

Only two comments to reply to at the moment, although more may come in once I've written this and published, if so, will reply to these in my next blog.

Baked bread again yesterday, different sized loaves to see which one B prefers (the others put in the freezer).  Before he went out he said he fancied corned beef for his supper (presumably with salad?) so fetched a can from the larder and put it in the fridge to chill.  At room temperature canned corned beef is difficult to slice cleanly, and I find the best way is to mash it with a fork (maybe with a bit of Branston Pickle) and use this as a 'sandwich spread'.

With the microwave speedily drying my 'smalls' yesterday, thought I'd try drying off some rose petals this afternoon.  Each of our children had bought us a bunch of flowers - all the same sort, and these were most unusual as they were roses where each had several different colours of petals (on the same head).  Pale yellow on one side, working round through pale green, to bright pink, blue, red and orange.  Apparently to get this effect the rose stems had been split at the base and each stem part had been stood in a different coloured dye, so the rose soaked the colours up into the petals.  It worked very well (if you like that sort of thing), and have to say that now the first bunches are past their best, and today I removed the petals, after drying them in the microwave (single layer on a sheet of kitchen paper for 4 minutes), they still kept their colour, so I'll be doing the rest over the next few days and then they'll go into a bowl with some orris root powder and rose oil to make a lovely scented pot-pourri.

Some many years ago I also coloured some daffodils in the same way,  standing the stem of one flower into coloured water (used food colourings), and the veins in the petals/trumpets took on this colour, so I had yellow daffs with green markings, yellow daffs with red markings etc,  and although I much prefer flowers to look 'au naturel' sometimes changing the colour works well - especially in flower arrangements.

And extra huge bunch of flowers that we had given to us is still looking as perfect as when given, although the lily buds have now opened up.  Had to move it from the living room to in here (dining room) as the scent of the lilies is very strong, especially in the evening.  Forgot B would be in here at that time, but I don't think it bothers him.  The scent makes me sneeze.

One reason these flowers are lasting well is - I am sure - because I topped up the water with some of B's diet lemonade (the bottle was handy), and I've heard more than once that flowers in vases do enjoy a drink like that.   Also the flowers have never stood in full son (as the others had done), that also helps to make them last longer.

There was an article in yesterday's paper about Lidl and Aldi now competing with the larger supermarkets, having moved on from just the cheaper products to foods that 'yuppies' would normally buy.   The person who wrote the article had asked a few customers in the London stores, and certainly the food was much cheaper - things like lobster, smoked salmon, Parmesan cheese.....and a whole lot more.  When asking (in Aldi) for the Wagyu beef (£9.99p for an 8oz steak) the manager told her they were 'sold out'.  In fact that Aldi store didn't get a good write up at all.  Customers surly (the opposite of 'yuppie') so I'm wondering if those steaks ever did reach that particular store.  Or any other for that matter.
Occasionally I've seen a 'good buy' in a Lidl flyer and asked B to go and buy it on the first day of the offer (and early in the day), and each time he was told they were 'sold out'.  Makes me believe that they show offers to tempt people in but never intend selling them anyway.  Could be wrong of course, but if sold out very soon after the store opens, why didn't they order more?  The reason why is pretty obvious.

Thankfully I've lost all the weight I put on over the 'party days', plus a couple more lbs, so am hoping to keep losing.  Next week I have my six month's blood test, the results I'll find out just over a week later when I see the diabetic nurse.   I've tried very hard to reduce by bad cholesterol, keep my blood pressure down, and hopefully my blood sugar count will also remain low (it has been under the diabetic level for the past 18 months).  Hoping to persuade the nurse/doctor to reduce some of my pills.  I take so many each day I am sure I rattle when I move. 

As you say Sarina, caraway seeds have been used for flavouring for many years (many generations). I first had them in 'Seed Cake' that my mother often made.  Whether the younger generation are aware of how well they go well with cabbage etc, I don't know, I never see caraway mentioned in recipes these days. 

When you mention the weather where you live Margie (Toronto) it always seems very much the same as we have at that time.  Maybe we are getting milder (or wetter winters) as you do seem to get the snow, but your 25C is the same as many parts of the country here,  it is usually in the south-east and particularly the London area where it his hottest, but we too have had very close to that, although expected to be 'fresher' over the next day or two due to a cooling breeze off the sea.

Traditional English puddings are making a come-back - by this I mean in top restaurants.  Sticky Toffee Pudding (fairly new compared to many older trad puds) is always a favourite (esp. with men), as is Treacle Pudding, and Roly-Poly Pudding.  Bread and Butter Pudding, Rice Pudding, and steamed Sponge Puddings.  Am sure Apple Pie would be on the menu as well. 

I like looking at and keeping menus,  gives me great joy when I realise that I could easily (or should that be hopefully) cook the same meals for B and for guests and it would cost me only a tiny amount compared to the menu price (to be fair I don't have all the running costs/overheads that a restaurant has, and I don't have to pay a wage to myself (that seems a bit unfair, but then I do it for love).

I've even got a very posh menu showing the meal/s served at Royal Ascot.  This B brought to me when the Ascot races were held at York a few years ago while the race-course and stands etc, sown south were having a make-over.   Nothing really elaborate, but looked good as a lot of the dishes were given a French name!!  That really does make a difference.  'Crème Anglaise' sounds so much more upmarket than just 'custard'.  And 'game chips' are really potato crisps.

B has just returned home, very fed up.  No sailing as the sea too rough due to the wind.  The sailors still wanted to go out on the water, but B - who was 'officer of the day' - wouldn't allow it (they do not race when the wind reaches a certain level on the Beaufort (?) scale.  So cross words floated through the air.  If B had let them officially race and there had been an accident, then he would have been in serious trouble for allowing it.
Due to his fedupness he has suggested he open a bottle of champagne and we ahare it (that means 10% for me, 90% for him, but that's all I want anyway).  Think will keep the champers (free from Barbar) for another time but open the Proseccio (?) instead.  Almost same thing.  First it needs chilling.   Perhaps I can work out the French name for 'corned beef sarnies' as that is all that B says he wants now to eat, and methinks a can of lager would have been in keeping.

Ah, as I write B has come back and just asked if he can have oven chips with his corned beef instead of a sarnie, so suppose that is one step highe up the social ladder.  There are only a few chips left, I don't want any as I'm keeping away from carbos), and thin enough to be called 'Pommes Frites' (aka French Fries) so 'Corned Boeuf and Pomme Frites' it is.  B added he also wants a couple of fried eggs as well, so 2 'oeufs frites' it will be.  If I can persuade him to eat it with a 'salade vert', then it's almost Little Chef biting the heels of La Gavroche.  Or so I like to think.

As B is competently 'cooking' his supper (chips on metal plate in the preheated oven, corned beef removed from tin and sliced, eggs fried in a pan, salad already in the fridge to take what he wants) I can safely sit and continue chatting.  That is if you wish me to.  I've even be given a champagne (flute) glass full of bubbly to keep me company (half of it already drunk).  If I drink too much I'll be incapable of continuing blogging.  Even the smallest amount of booze goes straight to my head, especially as I have not eaten much today (just a wee salad).  Forgive me while I have another slurp!

Suppose I should give a few recipes, that's what this blog is about after all (but I keep forgetting). Problem is when the weather is very warm, I don't feel like eating much and suppose few of my readers do either.   If I could afford to eat what I wanted, think I'd settle for a platter of sushi,  really do enjoy that, but expensive to buy.  I have all the makings, so really no reason why I can't make some for myself.  The old story, just can't be bothered to take the time when it's only just old me tp feed/

Last week, the day after our anniversary banquet, all the family met up again at our daughter's home in Lancaster.  She had laid on a wonderful buffet (she is an excellent cook), and as 'starters', she served warm bruschetta (slices of toasted ciabatta) that she had spread with a chilli pesto (lovely!), topped with sliced tomato, and then a slice of Leerdammer cheese, popped under the grill until bubbling.  These were wonderful, all gobbled up in a matter of minutes.  I must buy some chilli pesto (you know I like chilli) and make some for myself (maybe also for B).

I'm now on my second glass of Proseccio (not sure if that is the correct spelling) and I said to B I won't need another.  He said "I wasn't going to give you another", adding "two glasses and your anybody's", and I have to admit this is just about right.    I've never go the hang of drinking, always knocking it back as though it was just a glass of water drunk all at once when thirsty.  Ladies are supposed to sip their wine.  Well then, I'm no lady!  That's why I hardly ever drink. 

The above 'starter' has led me to a similar recipe, and comparing the two see no reason why a bread dough base (a la pizza) could not be used for the following recipe instead of the pastry. Or blend chilli pesto into the curd cheese to add a little extra 'bite'.  Whenever we get the chance we should always adapt a recipe to suit our personal tastes and also to use up what we have.
This tart serves 8, so we could halve the ingredients to serve 4, or make individual tarts to serve at a buffet.  We could also make it in an oblong tin to cut into fingers - again to serve as 'finger food'.

The pastry is made from scratch as grated cheese is added to the dry ingredients, but we could use bought pastry, roll it out thinly, spread with grated cheese, then fold over into three and repeat several time (as per recipe) before using.
If you prefer, you could use (bought) puff pastry and mix the grated cheese into the curd cheese and then follow the recipe.
Instead of curd cheese, use ricotta or strained greek yogurt, or crème fraiche, fromage frais, strained quark.  Plenty of alternatives when curd cheese is not available, and most supermarkets now don't seem to sell it anymore..

Tomato and Cheese Tart: serves 8
8 oz (225g) plain flour
half tsp salt
4 oz (100g) butter, chilled and cubed
2 oz (50g) mature cheddar, grated
100ml ice-cold water
handful basil leaves, roughly chopped
6 oz (175g) curd cheese (see above)
salt and pepper
8 ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced
olive oil for drizzling
handful of mixed soft herbs (mint, parsley etc.)
Put the flour, salt and butter into a food processor and blitz until roughly mixed. Tip into a bowl and stir in two thirds of the  grated cheese, then the cold water. Mix until combined then knead gently together.  Wrap in clingfilm/foil and chill for half an hour.
Mix together the basil with the remaining cheddar and the curd cheese, then add seasoning to taste.
Roll the pastry out into a long rectangle, then fold the top third down, then the bottom third up and over. Repeat 3 times. Chill for another 10 minutes.
Roll the pastry out to a size large enough to cut a circle about the size of a large dinner plate.  Place this on a floured baking sheet, prick all over with a fork, then bake at 220C, gas 6 for 15 minutes. Coo, then spread over the herby cheese mix, almost - but not quite - to the edge.  Lay the tomatoes on top, overlapping.
Add seasoning and bake (same temp) for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 130C, gas 2 and bake for a further 40 minutes.  Leave to cool a little before drizzling with olive oil.  Toss the mixed herbs with a little more oil and spread these over the centre of the tart before serving.

As I can never assume that everyone buys/eats the same foods as I use/cook, am hoping that most of you do, and apologise to all readers who find my recipes don't suit.  Am always happy to include recipes using ingredients you DO have, so just let me know.
But for the mean time I am returning to my personal store-cupboard (our larder is my comfort zone, I spend a lot of time in there), am pleased to find this next recipe is one that can be made from foods many of us will have in store (this includes food from the fridge and maybe even the freezer).  The original recipe used asparagus, but to me that is what I call an 'expensive' ingredient, so am substituting another green veg (in this instance string beans but you use what you want/have).  The beetroot should be cooked, but not in vinegar. I always keep a couple or so vacuum packs of long-life cooked beetroot in the fridge, then they are always ready for us.
The pappardelle pasta is like wide ribbons, sometimes called noodles (not the same as Chinese noodles, these resembling spaghetti).
Cheshire cheese is good to use as it has a strong sharp taste, but any crumble cheese would do.  My favourite would be Lancashire (this comes in both creamy and crumbly, so make sure you buy the right one).
If you don't have pine nuts then use crushed toasted almonds, or chopped roasted peanuts.

Roasted Vegetable Pasta 'n Pesto: serves 4
1 large bunch basil, use both leaves and stalks
2 tblsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
splash of water
8 oz (225g) string beans, halved (see above)
1 x 250g pack cooked beetroot (see above)
14 oz (400g) pappardelle (or other long pasta)
4 oz (100g) Cheshire cheese, crumbled
2 tblsp toasted pine nuts
Put all the basil stalks and half the leaves into a food processor and add the garlic with a little water, then whizz to a rough paste.  Put the beans at one end of a roasting tin and the beetroot at another. season well, then rub them with a tablespoon of the basil mix..  Roast at 200C, gas 6 for 7 - 10 minutes until the beans are tender (or time it depending on veggies used).
Meanwhile cook the pasta as per packet instructions, then add half the cheese to the remaining basil mix and whizz again to make a cheesy herby pesto. 
Drain the pasta, then toss with the pesto and remaining cheese.  Add the pine nuts and the roasted veg.  Serve sprinkled with the remaining basil leaves.

As the sun is now shining directly at me through the small window in front of my desk, and causing me to constantly sneeze (why does it doe this?), even though the blind has been pulled down it affects me, so probably best I now finish (and still half a glass yet to drink!).  At least I have not yet got past being coherent with my chat (or at least hope not). 

A couple of hours to go before B comes and settles down in here in front of 'his' telly.  Me, I have to find a channel worth watching.  Perhaps I will end up in the kitchen cooking some biscuits or gingerbread or something.  On the other hand I could sit and practice my crochet.   Did contemplate on going out to have a scoot with Norris, but it is so windy that I think I wouldn't enjoy it.  I hate having to wear a hat/scarf, and hate even more having my newly set jair (nearly newly) blown out of place as I want it to look respectable for the Tuesday meeting.  Am I vain or what?  My hair used to be the best bit about me, and now it is almost the worst, and as the rest is unmentionable, then what chance have I got?   Who cares.  One thing about old age, no-one takes any notice anymore.

Will be back again tomorrow, maybe writing during the afternoon (I've enjoyed this early chat, so why not continue?  As long as I do have the free time, otherwise it will be late evening again).  Hope you will be free to join me for our next 'get-together'.  If so - see you then.  TTFN.