Monday, September 15, 2014

Finding Time...

Another early start to my blog, so apologies to readers who may not yet have read yesterday's blog.  Worth checking to make sure you haven't missed it.  Not that I suppose there was anything written worth reading (I seem to have lost my blog mojo at the moment - if I knew what a mojo was).  Will try to do better today.

Reason why I'm able to write at just after midday is that "Little House...." that I normally watch at this time I've discovered is a repeat of the one shown on Saturday's so as already seen that one, I have a free hour, or even longer if I chose to miss the one-o'clock TV news which is usually depressing anyway.

Gave my container plants a good watering yesterday, and blow me - this morning woke to find out it has been raining during the night.  Nothing heavy and possibly the foliage in some containers would have prevented much rain getting soaked in.
It's obvious, after rain, how much the plants seem to perk up, and expect this is due to the dust that could have settled on the leaves has then been washed off.  Leave need to breathe, and perhaps we forget we should give these a wash as well as watering the roots.

An interesting bit in the newspaper today how the Chinese government is so concerned with the way children are getting more and more attached to 'the electronics' (computers, tablets, iPads, and mobiles), have now set up a large number of what I call 'boot camps' for a sort of 'detoxing', to wean them away from using these products.  Think the same thing ought to happen in the Western world as if this 'social media' continues it will cause more problems than pleasure (well, that's what my crystal ball is showing).

As this is an early blog, only a couple of comments to reply to, and apologies to those who send any in later today hoping for a reply.  These I will answer tomorrow.

Loved reading your comment Sarina, proof positive that a little knowledge of a great many things is not - as the saying goes - a dangerous thing (unless we dabble in electronics and chemicals), but can get us through life very comfortably and at low cost.
Could you please let me know how you preserve those pears, we have only a few pears on our pear tree and they are not very large, also rather hard.  More use to me if preserved than waiting for them to ripen one at a time.

The wide-screen TV that we have in this room has a flat screen Margie, and personally I prefer to watch the smaller, old-fashioned TV that we have in our living room even though not all the picture is able to be shown (we lose a bit at each side).   We don't have any means of recording TV progs although I suppose we could watch some on the various iPlayers via the comp.  Am not fond of doing that, don't know why.  Perhaps I prefer to watch in comfort, snuggled up in my chair under one or more of my 'throws'.

Our weather remains warm, and I believe will be getting warmer later this week, but in the shade, and also during the night, it certainly is cooler.   The leaves are fast changing colour and many falling from the trees, so we have to constantly sweep our drive due to the many horse-chestnut trees that line our road.  Not too bad at the moment as there has been no wind to blow the leaves around, and once enough have fallen (to be followed by more), the council send a little street sweeper up and down the road and men fills bags with the leaves to keep the pavement clear.  This could be because - if there is rain - the leaves would get slippery and residents (many of the elderly) could slip and fall, break a leg/hip and then sue the council.

Noticed three very ripe bananas in my veggie basket (still in a bag), B had bought in some more bananas and placed them on top, so I mussed seeing the older ones until too late.  However, they will be used as today I intend making the following cake.  The icing is basically a 'ganache', and omit the banana chips if we have none.  Myself would probably omit the icing as I KNOW B will pour cream over it anyway. 
This cake will freeze, preferably un-iced although I have frozen ganache (on its own) and it causes no problems once thawed.

Chocolate and Banana Cake:  serves 8 - 10
6 oz (175g) caster sugar
6 oz (175g) self-raising flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
4 tblsp cocoa powder
4 oz (100g) chocolate chips/chunks
6 oz (175g) very ripe bananas (peeled weight)
3 eggs
4 fl.oz sunflower oil
2 fl.oz. milk
4 oz (100g) milk chocolate
4 fl oz (100ml) soured cream
handful dried banana chips, chopped
Mix the sugar, flour, bicarb, cocoa, and chocolate in a bowl.  Using another bowl, mash the bananas, then stir in one whole egg, and 2 yolks (reserving the 2 whites). Add the oil and milk.
Beat the egg whites until stiff then quickly fold the wet banana mixture into the dry (flour, etc) mix, followed by a quarter of the beaten whites to slacken the mixture.  Finally, gently fold in the remaining whites
Spoon/scrape into a greased and fully lined 2lb loaf tin (allowing the baking parchment to come about an inch above the top of the sides. Bake at 160C, gas 3 for 1hr 10 minutes or slightly longer until a skewer comes out clean   Cool in the tin, placing this on a wire rack.
To make the icing, melt the chocolate and cream together in a heatproof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water.  When the chocolate has softened, stir with a spoon until combined, then chill in the fridge until spreadable.  Remove cake from tin, swirl the icing over the top and scatter over the chopped banana chips.

Here is a gorgeous recipe using pears.  Have chosen this because the ingredients sound sort of luxurious, so this could be worth serving to guests as well as just family fare.  We don't all have spiced fruit-flavoured tea-bags, if not use an ordinary tea-bag lightly brewed preferably in a pint (600ml) of diluted apple juice (in place of the water) and add a pinch of cinnamon.
A bit late to do this now, but if you grow redcurrants, then always pick some in 'the bunch' and freeze them this way.  When thawed these can then draped onto or beside a suitable dessert as an edible and very attractive garnish.

Poached Pears in Spiced Tea: serves 4
2 oz (50g) caster sugar
1 tblsp runny honey
1 tblsp redcurrant jelly (or cranberry jelly)
2 spiced fruit tea-bags (apple and cinnamon?)
1 pint (600nl) water
4 firm pears, peeled/halved and core removed
handful fresh cranberries or redcurrants
yogurt or crème fraiche for serving
Put the sugar, honey, jelly and tea-bags in a pan with the water and bring to the boil.  Stir to dissolve the sugar, then add the pear halves.  Cover, reduce heat to a low simmer and poachfor 12 - 15 minutes until the pears are just tender - test with a skewer, cocktail stick or tip of a knife.
Using a slotted spoon, remove pears and place in a dish. Turn up the heat under the pan, throw in the cranberries or redcurrants and boil for a few minutes until syrupy. Discard the tea-bags and serve the pears with the warm syrup poured over.  Serve withy yogurt, crème fraiche.

This is a variation of Apple Crumble. Useful in that we can cut down quite a bit of the prep - as no need to first peel the apples.

Baked Stuffed Apples with Crumble: serves 6
6 large eating apples or medium Bramley's
2 oz (50g) sultanas
1 tsp cinnamon
3 oz (75g) butter, chilled
4 fl oz (100ml) cider or apple juice
3 tblsp plain flour
4 tblsp Demerara sugar
2 oz (50g) hazelnuts, walnuts, or almonds
custard for serving
Remover the apple cores (using an apple corer), then make a slit around the middle of each apple using a sharp knife - just deep enough to cut through the peel This stops the skin splitting when the apples are baked, then place the apples into a baking tin of a size where they fit snugly.
Toss together the sultanas with the cinnamon and push these into the holes where the cores were, adding a small knob of butter to each (save the rest of the butter).
Pour the cider (or apple juice) round the apples and bake at 200C, gas 6 for 30 minutes or until the skin is loose.
Meanwhile, put the flour, sugar and nuts into a food processor and pulse together until the nuts are coarsely chopped (if you have no processor then chop nuts by hand and mix everything together in a bowl).  Add the remaining butter and whizz (or rub in) until end result is like coarse breadcrumbs.
After the half-hour of cooking, carefully slide off the top half of skin from each apple and sprinkle with the crumble mix, pressing it onto each apple.  Bake for a further 30 minutes.  Serve with custard.

Final recipe today is a fruit loaf, not a million miles away from the Welsh 'Bara Brith', and am including this as a way to use complementary flavoured spiced fruit tea-bags that we may have (was given several once, didn't like them as tea but PERFECT for flavouring cakes - so use when a recipe uses a normal tea-bag, as in the recipe below).  This will freeze, so could be cut to eat half now, and freeze the rest for later.
Use all white flour or a mixture of whole-meal and white, and instead of using dried cranberries, we could use any dried fruits such as blueberries, cherries, dates...

Welsh Fruit Loaf:  serves 12
14 oz (400g) mixed fruit
1 x 75g bag dried cranberries (see above)
1 mug (8fl oz) hot strong black tea (see above)
4 oz (100g) butter
2 heaped tblsp orange marmalade
2 eggs, beaten
1 lb (450g) self-raising flour (see above)
6 oz (175g) light soft brown sugar
1 tsp each ground cinnamon and ginger
4 tblsp milk
Mix together the fruit and cranberries in a large bowl, then pour the hot tea over.  Cover with cling film and leave to soak overnight.
Next day, melt the butter and marmalade together in a pan, then leave to cool for 5 minutes.  Beat in the eggs.  Drain excess liquid from the fruit.
Mix the flour, sugar and spices together, stir in the fruit and butter/marm/egg mix, also adding the milk, and mix until well combined.  The mixture should drop softly from the spoon, if too firm mix in a little more milk.
Spoon into a greased and base-lined 2lb/900g loaf tin, and bake at 180C, gas 4 for one hour to one and a half hours - until dark golden and a skewer comes out clean.   Cover loosely with foil (shiny side up) if the loaf darkens too much before the centre is cooked.   Cool completely in the tin before turning out.

Am now discovering the secret of getting through all the work that seems to keep piling up is to make time for them.  Perhaps finding the time is the hardest part, but if I'm firm with myself and allow no more than two hours to write a blog (pref less) the work will (eventually) get done.

Off now to make my lunch, then back to 'the culinaries' again. B requests Kedgeree for supper, so need to hard-boil some eggs, the rest is simple enough. 
Hope you all have a good day.  TTFN.