Monday, September 29, 2014

Nostalgia Time....

Cannot believe how busy life is, every moment seems accounted for.  If not in the kitchen, then in another room sorting things, with some time spent in my 'sit-up-and-beg' chair watching TV (or listening to it), keeping my hands occupied with knitting cushion covers and crocheting squares to make a throw to keep me warm during the winter months.   Almost relieved to come in here now and sit down to relax and have a chat.

The 'Taste of Britain' prog the other day was a mite disappointing as the only bit of Berkswell we saw was a brewery and a farm where they made cheese.  However, the surrounding countryside looked unspoiled, and it was lovely to see Warwick Castle (where I had spent many happy hours when we lived in that area - during war-time).  My main delight, and I have to say it unlocked a memory that I had forgotten about since war began (1939) was the ice-cream shop in Henley in Arden where my parents used to take me occasionally because it was the best ice-cream in the area (probably still is today).  Seeing the shop and the buildings surrounding it brought it all back.  It was as if I was there again.

Berkswell was still haunting me, so I typed in 'Berkswell, Warwickshire' on Google Earth, and it brought up the area, with the name in two places as though there is now an upper and lower Berkswell.  When we over-night slept there it was a very tiny village. 
Closer look showed that the area had been built up with more modern property, and it wasn't easy to find where we used to stay, but I was determined, and decided to centre my search around the church as churches usually were the focal point of a village.   There was a little orange 'church' symbol on the map, on the northern part of Berkswell, and a closer view showed a road leading to it from the main road, passing by a small village green en route to the church (think the village road was called Church Lane).

Then clicked onto the little man to slide him down to the right-hand side of the green to get 'street view', and then it did look very familiar.  Was able to move the camera view to the right to see the building where I discovered I'd 'parked' right outside the village store - this being the little shop where we slept each night during the Coventry raids.  I nearly wept when I saw it.  It hadn't changed a bit, other than it looked a bit cleaner/whiter.  There are two little windows above the shop (that had, at that time, one long room over that was normally used as a store-room), and it was behind those windows I used to stand as a little girl and look across the green to the old houses that are still there now.  Truly a very old English village that doesn't seem to have changed for perhaps centuries - at least that part.  So if anyone wants to take a look, follow the directions above. 

Am having to gird my loins (if you will excuse the expression) ready for a busy weekend.  Next Monday will the church Harvest Supper.  Won't be going to that but have offered to make quiches for the buffet, and also cook fresh bread rolls to serve with the soup. Today was told the numbers are expected to be about 40.  Can cope with that easily, but it will need planning and a bit of organising so that I can deal with it.  Quiches are always best made several hours (or a day) before serving as this gives them time for the filling to settle (fresh quiches can sometimes be a bit 'spongy'.  The bases are always blind-baked (then brushed with beaten egg while still warm to fill in any cracks - returned to the oven until set, then left to get cold).  Can make these early Sunday.  Then bake the quiches later in the day/evening. 
Bread rolls will be baked during the day - in batches as will be making both brown and white.   Delivery will be late afternoon (they eat at 6.15pm), and will be told when someone will have opened the building to start laying the tables etc.
The next day (Tuesday) it will be my day/week to supply cake for the Wednesday afternoon 'tea and biscuits (incl. coffee and cake). 

That means this week I need to really clear the (kitchen) decks and make sure I have all the ingredients needed by Saturday (they have asked me to use free-range eggs, so B can get me some from M'sons, and I'll need at least 3 pints of double cream as well!!!).  I do have enough cheese, and short pastry in the freezer.  Plenty of bread mixes (both brown and white), so not a lot to get concerned over.

Your area of Canada seems to be having the same weather as we are having Margie.  Down south, particularly in the London area, we have been told the temperature will rise up to 23C, however it does cool down in the evenings, and some areas are getting a few autumn mists and fogs early morning.
Liked the sound of your sardines on toast Margie. That's how B likes to eat them.  Myself tend to mash them with a little vinegar and have them in sarnies.   As you say, simple is often best.

As you say Jane, restaurant food can be pricey and home-made is often as good, if not better.  Not sure about all readers, but myself enjoy eating out ONLY because someone else has done the cooking, so it is a treat. However, I always work out how much it would cost me to make what I've chosen from the menu, and - of course - it would always be cheaper.  But then we don't just pay for the food, it is the 'overheads' that add to the cost, including the skills of the chef.  As well as the ambience of the place and attentive waiters (here I'm thinking about quality/top restaurants).

In all honesty, there are places where the food is top quality, beautifully served, but not a lot of it, and remember around the time that 'nouvelle cuisine' came in,  B and I dined out in Harrogate where the portions were so small that after we had left the restaurant we went and bought fish and chips to satisfy our hunger.

Regarding the lack of fat on bacon, not sure about back bacon, but B and I prefer smoked streaky bacon, and - dare I say it - Tesco's cheapest streaky bacon has quite a bit of fat, with the rashers thin enough to crisp up beautifully.  We fry it over low heat to get the fat running free before we raise the heat slightly to crisp it up.  Have tried the more expensive 'dry-cured', and the different brands, but none taste as good or give out as much fat as the one mentioned above.    Readers am sure will have their own favourite cuts/brands.

It isn't that difficult to make our own un-smoked bacon.  Just buy a chunk of belly pork (if you want fat, choose a piece that has the most - and get the butcher to remove any bones).  Then 'cure' it with salt (details of 'how to' can be found on the internet).  I did try once, but forgot about the bones, so couldn't slice it on my slicing machine, so the 'rashers' ended up quite thick and not the right shape anyway, so I ended up using it as 'pancetta' (the little chunks of bacon fried and added to various dishes).  In any case we much prefer smoked bacon, and also smoked gammon (I do cook smoked gammon to then slice into ham).

Double crust fruit tarts, especially at this time of year, do make good eating, far preferable to cake. Not sure that I'm over-fond of cake anyway, prefer savouries, although offer me an ├ęclair and I'd wolf it down.  In my opinion a gateau is more a dessert than a cake (such as Black Forest Gateau), and if I had a favourite plain cake it would be Lemon Drizzle, or gingerbread.

Incidentally, a tart always has a pastry base, but the filling is uncovered.  When it has a pastry lid (then called double-crust) it becomes a pie.   A quiches is a savoury tart.  Lemon Meringue Pie is really a 'tart'.  Treacle tart IS a tart. 
'Tarte Tatin' looks like a pie as the filling is covered with pastry, but as it is always served upside down, it then becomes a true tart.  But who cares?  Let's enjoy what we eat rather than bother about what it is called.

Those energy bars you have made sound good Alison.  We are told today that eating chocolate with high cocoa solid content (72% or over - I have some 85%) is good for us.  So maybe adding a little grated dark chocolate to the bars would make a change, or melt the choc and spread a little of the base of each bar. 
It is the oats in energy bars/flapjack that is also good for us, I sometimes add desiccated coconut when making these, also chopped non-soak apricots/dates/prunes....
Home-made toffee, yum-yum!  Was it golden toffee made, or treacle toffee?   People sometimes get mixed up between syrup and treacle, and in some recipes they could mean the same.  Myself always put golden syrup and/or black treacle when used in my recipes to show the difference.

There are very few store-cupboard foods that are still packed in the original style containers.  Bovril remains the same, Colman's dry mustard also.  Golden syrup and black treacle still in those iconic tins that don't seem to have changed since I was small.  When empty I wash the tins and use them to store pencils and things, the larger sizes I use to hold small plant pots. 
Have to admit I now often buy Tesco's own syrup as it is cheaper than the well-known brand. But that's life.

Am pleased that Downton Abbey is back on TV, especially as it is now set in the mid twenties (there was a mention of it being 1924 in the recent episode).  My mother would have been 22 then, and I can imagine her wearing some of the dress styles as worn by the younger members of the Grantham family. 
Today is the date of my father's birth, he being born in 1896 (died in 1973),. and have to say that these last few days have been very nostalgic for me, what with Downton reminding me of my mother in her youth, and Berkswell the war years. 

To the young generation of today, the 1920's would seem like distant history, to me it is as if I only just missed being there.   My dad remembered the first cars, the early flights of airplanes,  probably early radio, and my mother used to talk about 'silent movies'.  Electric gadgets were few and far between, as were cars.  Fridges only appeared in middle-class homes in the 50's, also TV (and that had a very small picture in black and white).  

In a way, count myself as very fortunate in that I've been able to live - and remember - times when people had very little compared to today, and realise just how much has happened in my own life-time.  If I include my dad's life, probably the first planes were bi-planes and flew very slowly (he used to fly these in World War I), and now we have sent rockets to the moon, men have walked on the moon, rockets sent and landed on Mars.....  Atom bombs, and nuclear bombs. Too much, too quickly, too soon.  Shouldn't we first learn to walk before we can run?

Just about midnight, so must toddle off to bed.  Cooking tomorrow morning (prepping B's supper etc) as will be off to the 'circle' meeting in the afternoon. Hope to be able to grab an hour to write my blog later that evening.  Finding time to fit everything in is becoming a bit of a problem.  But as I said before, am enjoying still being able to do things after many months of almost crippled with arthritis. The pain in my knee has just about gone, as have all the twinges that I had in my joints, just a slight stiffness in my knees after sitting too long, this wears off when moving around..  Muscle pain in my back at the moment probably due to lifting something heavy (that usually sets it off).  Without the bad back I would feel like a new woman, someone about 20 (maybe 30) years younger.  So can't grumble.

October starts this week (Wednesday?), so we will soon be putting the clocks back.  Then planning for Hallow'een, then the count-down to Christmas (with Guy Fawkes/Bonfire night in between for those who bother with it).   Enjoy the good weather while we have it.  TTFN.