Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Old versus New

Even though I'd only been taking those pesky pills for two weeks, think I am having withdrawal symptoms.  Not that I mind too much as the effect is opposite to that when I took the pills.  Then I would find it hard to keep awake most of the day, then fall asleep the moment my head hit the pillow.  Yesterday, the first time I didn't take the pills, when I went to bed I couldn't get to sleep at all.  Just lay there feeling quite happy (that was another effect - the happy feeling I had), and it was 5.30am before I managed to nod off (I'd been checking the bedside clock every half hour so know I hadn't slept),  woke at 8.30am so decided to get up with the feeling of 'wanting some action'.   It almost made me want to keep taking the pills occasionally just to feel like that.

So today has been quite busy - in the kitchen of course - and started to have a 'stock-take' of all the foods I have in the larder (still lots of gaps on the shelves, but have no inclination to fill them at the moment), cooking some minced beef, then turning it into spag bol and chilli con carne (for freezing), also making more chicken stock from a saved carcase and wings. 

Did take some time off to watch 'The Chef's Protégé', and some of 'A Taste of Britain', but the urge to carry on working took me away from the TV and back into the kitchen.
I checked the TV guide and saw there were at least seven cookery (or at least 'foodie') progs on the four main terrestrial channels, and even though one (above mentioned) was a repeat, because it had my favourite chef - Michel Roux jnr - wanted to watch it again.  
As 'Hotel India' will be repeated, chose to watch '...Bake off' this evening (which is also repeated), my Beloved watching a footie match on the other set. 

There was an article in the Good Food mag about arthritis and recommendations of food to eat that may help.  Most of the foods I already eat, but the two that might cause problems were tomatoes and oranges, and I love both.  Maybe it is not a coincidence that the arthritis in my knee (and now in several other joints) seemed to flare up after I began eating tomato soup for my lunch (a can of chopped tomatoes with a good squirt of Fiery Chilli Ketchup).  Not occasionally, but almost every day! 
Stopping the soup for a couple of weeks gave no real lessening of pain, so when I began taking the pills began making it again.  This week the top knuckle on my right little finger is now hurting, the top part of the finger bending inwards and the knuckle red and inflamed.  Could that be caused by the tomatoes?  Seems I'll have to stop eating them for at least a couple of months to see if it helps. 

Both B and at least one of our daughters have very arthritic-looking knuckles on their hands, yet - so far - they don't get any pain.  My fingers are straight and not at all 'knobbly', yet it is me that gets it.  Still, it is a complaint that can start at any age, but usually over the age of 50, so as I've had a further 30 years without any trouble really shouldn't grumble.  It could be a lot worse.

It was good to hear from CTMOM (New England, USA) about the seasonal produce over there. As America is such a large country, I suppose the cantaloups, watermelons, and bananas don't have to be imported.  The seasonal fruits here (at this time) will be blackberries, sloes, apples, pears, plums, and damsons.  Many people now grow blueberries, but don't think these are native to this country.  Believe I read somewhere that America sent several blueberry bushes over to this country after the war (or was it cranberries?), but it took many years before we got a taste for them.

Was interested to read that you prepaid for your produce the previous winter - something to do with the CSA (whatever that is).  Would like to hear more about that scheme.

Yes Mary, we always used to store our apples in trays, each wrapped in tissue paper, usually they were just wooden crates, but as the supermarket apples often come packed in those 'dented' fibre trays, they usually give the empty trays away.  The tissue paper is to protect the apples from becoming affected by the next apple if that was accidentally bruised, one bruised apple can turn the whole lot rotten if they touch or even just get a whiff of the mould. 

With the Sunday being a day of rest and when a big joint of meat was roasted, this was then served sliced cold, usually with jacket potatoes on Monday because this was always washing day - even though the rain could be pouring down.  No washing machines then, most kitchen had a copper in the corner that would be filled with water and a little fire lit underneath, the washing done in that.  Lots of rinsing in a big sink, and a mangle to squeeze as much water out as possible. 
Washing would then either be hung outside to dry (if fine), or hung on rails high up close to the ceiling where the warm air would rise from the cooking range beneath.  We also had standing clothes airers and a big tall nursery fire-guard that had a brass rail round the top, and near-dry clothes would be hung on there.   We also had big hot water tanks that had wooden racks where washing could finish drying (called 'airing cupboards'). 

In those days people wore clothes more than once, not changing to fresh every day as happens now. 'Smalls' would be washed more often as easily wrung out by hand and dried wherever there was some warmth. Men had separate and very starched collars for their shirts, so one shirt would last all week, and the collars changed when soiled.  These collars were usually washed and starched at a laundry. Many people did send their bed linen and towels to laundries as the cost was pretty low.  Or there was always someone who 'took in washing' who would do the job for you, and send it back dry - again charging only a few pence.  Not sure if they did the ironing as well.  Traditionally, Tuesday was 'ironing day' when Cottage (or Shepherd's) Pie was served at dinner time (this being lunchtime in many houses, if the main meal was served later it was called 'supper').

You mentioned cortisone injections Margie.  Don't think that is what I'm having, the doctor said it would be a steroid injection, and he could only do it 3 times a year.  Maybe it is the same thing? Don't care what it is as long as it works, but do hope I don't blow up like a balloon as I've hear can happen when some people take steroids.  Have to wait and see.

Being reminded of times past (when I was young), meals really were different than they are now. Different because it seems today we are supposed to choose then follow a recipe from the thousands of cookery books and mags that are now on sale.  In my mother's day she had only one cookery book - the little Be-Ro book, this mainly about making cakes, scones, biscuits using the Be-Ro flour. Every other dish she prepared she knew how to make by heart as mothers, aunts, grandparents had been making the same things for generations and just past down the knowledge by word of mouth.
Meals then never seemed to have the importance that they have now.  It was only Easter and Christmas that we expected to have something special to look forward to - other than the seasonal 'treats' that were short-lived such as fresh raspberries, strawberries, asparagus, tomatoes...
We were fortunate to be served a meal that we really enjoyed, for in those days most of the green vegetables' were well over-cooked and tasted awful.  But we always had to clear our plates and 'eat your greens' was the order of the day.  We were never asked what we would like to eat as so often happens now (each day I ask my B what he fancies for his supper, and then make it for him) we just had to eat what we were given.  But at least that - and no snacks between meals either - certainly helped to keep obesity at bay. 

It is true that many of us do 'eat for comfort', and the way the world is today what with global problems and the credit crunch/recession on our doorstep, we probably are in need for comfort, and the only way we can get it is to eat what we fancy and especially what we shouldn't.

The good news is that we're now getting fed up of all the convenience foods, ready-meals, and the over-processed/  Good old traditional British cooking is making a comeback.  Especially in restaurants where they charge too much for it (considering how cheap it is to make).  Most of these recipes are still to be found in old cookery books, but no use to anyone who has been brought up using 'the metrics' as old recipes use imperial weights and measures or - even worse - just a 'spoon' of this, a 'pinch' of that, and 'cook in a slow (or hot) oven'.

It would be interesting (for me) to know how many readers still use (or at least understand) the imperials, and how many can only work with the metrics?  As you know I do give both when accuracy doesn't matter that much.  An ounce is normally given as 25g and why most recipes say this.  However, as an ounce isn't 25g (more like 3.5oz), 4oz can be shown as 100g, 110g or 112g.

When working out portion control the variations above can make quite a difference in the total cost of a dish made.  The recommended serving of meat per person - for nutritional purposes - is 100g (remember this is slightly less than 4oz), and as many recipes can't be bothered to fiddle with tiny amounts when giving ingredients to make a meal to serve four they either suggest using 1lb (450g) of meat or - as so many metric-only recipes now do - round it up to 500g.  It may be only a few ounces of extra meat but this could mean paying 50p (or more) than if we had used an old recipe using imperial weights..

Most of us don't want to have to bother about how many extra ounces (or not) we should be buying (or even eating), but it does seem that in 1971 when we took on decimal currency, and in more recent years when we have had to accept metric weights and measures, both times we have ending up paying more and now buying/using more because we follow these new recipes.

Thankfully, most savoury recipes can be adapted to use what we have or can only afford.  The best guide is to add up all the weights of ingredients used, and then use more of the cheaper ones (vegetables/pulses/grains etc) and less of the meat.  As long as the total weight remains the same, then it will feed the same number of people it is supposed to.

Am feeling I should apologise for today's 'pound-stretching', blame the pills, my mind feels as though it has gone into over-drive.  But then I'm always interested in little details like the above and get quite excited when I work out that although it is so easy to go with the flow and buy, cook, and serve in grams, find out that returning to the oz/lbs can make quite a saving.  But then with me 'every penny saved is a penny earned' and I don't expect readers to feel the same. 

Just one recipe today and it isn't one of the cheapest, but it is extremely good, easy to make, perfect for dinner parties, and as it contains one egg per person, look on it as part of the daily protein requirement. Similar to Chocolate 'Fondant's, these are left in the containers for eating so don't need to be turned out.  If you haven't ramekin dishes, use tea-cups and serve with the cup standing on its sauce with a teaspoon for eating.
Another bonus is that these can be made several hours ahead and can be stored in the fridge until ready to cook (again perfect for that party).

Because this is one of the metric-only recipes and accuracy is needed I'll keep to the one set of weights.  If using a fan oven set it to 160C.
Chocolate Souffles: makes 6
200g dark chocolate, chopped
150g butter, cut into cubes
6 eggs
175g sugar
125g plain flour, sifted
Put the chocolate and butter into a bowl set over simmering water and leave until melted (or can be melted in a microwave oven).
Beat the eggs with the sugar until very light and fluffy, then fold in the flour then the melted chocolate mixture.
Divide between 6 well greased (buttered) ramekin dishes and put them in the fridge if wishing to bake later.  Bake for 8 - 12 minutes at 180C, gas 4.  The soufflés should rise and have a firm crust on top but should be slightly runny in the centre.   Serve with cream or ice-cream.

Next time I write I'll be able to tell you about my knee injection, and if it has worked.  Let us hope it does and I'll be able to move around more easily again. 
Still good weather although today was overcast, but it looks like being a lovely autumn.  Leaves now fast changing colour so if we don't get too much wind to bring them down, they will make a good display to cheer us up before winter begins.  Not that we get any proper winter any more.  We grumble when we get snow and we grumble when we don't have any.  Are we never satisfied?  TTFN.