Tuesday, September 02, 2014

'Tis the Season....

 Fifty years ago we had just reached the end of war-time rationing and just about to discover the delights of convenience and I bet some of us can still remember Vesta curry and Chow Mein! Although these have never crossed the threshold of our kitchen since those early days, Spam certainly has - and still does (if I let it).

There was a time (probably prior to World War I) when oysters were so plentiful that they were eaten by the barrel load by the poor in London.  Prior to World War II a roasting chicken was eaten only on special occasions even by the wealthy, while huge roast joints of beef or pork, lamb or veal....were cooked as the Sunday joint each weekend, large enough to serve as a roast, and again in various forms throughout the rest of the week with vegetables in season (but always fish on Fridays).  All produce had its 'season', and normally 'organically' grown, so for that reason we had to wait until the right time of year for it to appear and enjoyed it that much more.  How sad it is that we never appreciated what we had when we had it.  For things are so different now..

Today we can eat the same foods all year round (thanks to imports and mass production) and when we want quality we have to pay almost double for it.  Quality I suppose has more to do with the palate (and moral issues) than nutrition, for an egg is still an egg whether it comes from a caged bird or one that runs freely.

When it comes to cooking, I suppose we can make things a lot easier for ourselves if we go back to eating seasonal produce.  Being cheaper (because it's in season) doesn't always apply now for much imported produce is sold at a lower cost than that organically grown in this country.  But that's the way it is, and in a way it would be much simpler for us to go back to the old ways, buy a joint for the Sunday roast, then work our way through it for the rest of the week. 

That's how my mother cooked - all her life - and in those days it did seem that we didn't consider our meals worth getting interested in.  We just ate what was served to us, knowing what it would be anyway (cold meat Monday, cottage pie Tuesday.....).  The only thing I remember looking forward to were the first gooseberries, the first tomatoes, strawberries, and probably peas (we had to pod them in those days, not my most favourite occupation).

Thing about foods 'in season' is that they are exactly what we should be eating at that time of year.  Nature has sorted that out for us.  We have the longer keeping produce for the winter months (carrots, potatoes, onions, parsnips, marrows....) many of these with the carbohydrates that help to keep us warm, then in the summer we eat the salads and soft fruits, full of vitamins to help build up protection against winter ailments. 

Suppose what I'm trying to say (why do I always fill two pages with words when one paragraph would do?) is when wondering what to cook today, tomorrow, and the next day - is use seasonal produce then we won't get it wrong.

Of course now I've said all that, the recipes today come from the store-cupboard as another of Nature's little miracles is that many fresh vegetables can be dried and so last for weeks (sometimes years), and as these are some of the cheapest foods we can buy it makes sense to use them. 

Although a recipe will give a special ingredient (such as chick peas), there is no reason why something similar cannot be used instead.  Mashed chickpeas are much the same as mashed beans (pulses not the green ones), or cooked lentils (green or red), or yellow split peas (these are the cheapest of all) - so use which one you have the most of.  They are, after all, just used as a 'base' in most instances as they have little flavour of their own.  We just add more flavour by way of spices and herbs.

Here is an example.  Chickpea burgers, but - as said above - use any cooked pulses you may have, and choose your own flavourings - just use the recipe as a guide.  It's cheaper to use dried pulses, then soak before cooking, but quite often supermarkets sell canned pulses quite cheaply, so I often use these.

Chickpea and Herb Burgers: makes 4
1 x 400g can chickpeas, drained
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
zest and juice of 1 small lemon
1 tsp ground cumin (or spice of your choice)
handful fresh coriander (or chosen herb)
salt and pepper to taste
1 egg
2 slices bread, crumbed
1 tblsp sunflower or olive oil
If you have a food processor, whizz together the chickpeas, onion, lemon zest and juice, chosen spice and herbs, and some seasoning (if you haven't a processor, mash with a fork).  Put the mixture into a bowl and stir in three-quarters of the breadcrumbs.  Form into 4 burgers, and press these into the remaining crumbs to cover both sides, then chill for 15 or so minutes.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat, and fry the burgers for 4 minutes on each side.  Serve them stuffed into burger-buns with added sliced tomato and salad, or plated up with salad of your choice.

Here follows another recipe for burgers, similar in many ways to the above, but tasting quite different.  There are several varieties of canned mixed beans on sale, and have to say I'm hooked on the Heinz Five Beans.
Bean and Chickpea Burgers:  makes 8
1 x 400g can mixed beans, drained
1 x 400g can chickpeas, drained
2 oz (50g) grated cheddar cheese
1 x 195g can sweetcorn kernels, drained
4 roasted peppers (from a jar), chopped
1 egg, beaten
1 tblsp chopped fresh coriander (or chosen herb)
2 tblsp sunflower oil
Put the beans and chickpeas into a food processor and blitz until smooth. Put this mixture into a bowl and fold in the cheese, sweetcorn, peppers, egg, and the herbs.  When well combined form into 8 burgers and chill for 15 minutes.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat, and fry the burgers for 4 minutes on each side - if doing this in batches, keep the cooked ones warm until you have cooked them all.  Serve with a crisp green salad and a relish of your choice.

Here is an extra recipe to use up the rest of the roasted red peppers from the jar.  If you don't wish to use the pesto within a few days, it can be frozen.
Roasted Pepper Pesto:
half a jar of roasted red peppers, drained
small handful parsley
2 oz (50g) blanched almonds or cashew nuts
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tblsp olive oil
salt and pepper
1 oz (25g) grated Parmesan cheese
Blitz the first four ingredients together in a food processor, then add the oil and seasoning to taste, whizzing it to a pesto consistency.  Spoon into a bowl and fold in the cheese.
If putting into (clean!!) jars, cover the surface with a little oil - this will prevent the air reaching the pesto.  Best potted up into small jars/containers, and keep in the fridge.  Freeze the surplus.

Thanks to all for your comments.  It's surprising how much better I feel now that I've stopped taking the pills. Instead of blankly looking at something and not really seeing it, I'm now able to concentrate on what is in front of me. 

Although not replying to every comment (but of course grateful for all of them), there are some that I would like to respond to.

That Damson Ketchup you make sounds lovely Frugal Queen.  Is the recipe on your web-site? (and yes I suppose I should look to see for myself, but have left it too late this evening).

Despite the possibility of the injection not working or doing more harm than good, I'm trying to feel positive about it.  Don't think it can make it any worse than it already is.  Just have to wait and see.

A 'no spend, low spend September' jane, sounds a very good challenge.  Of course I can't now do it as I've today had a delivery from Tesco.  But as it is still only the 2nd of the month, suppose I can still have a go, just adding a couple of days on at the beginning of October.

The supplements mentioned by Alison and Sarina sound worth taking, so I'll probably try those as well because it's not just my left knee that hurts, quite a few of my joints do - but nothing like as bad as the aforementioned knee. 

Your mention of hoping to ripen off the last tomatoes this week Eileen has reminded me of how I was once given a huge box of green tomatoes (must have been about 100), with about four ripe ones on the top.  The gardener who gave them to me said as long as a few red tomatoes were kept with the unripe ones, they would all eventually ripen - and they did.  Think I kept the box in the kitchen as they ripened, probably on the floor under the kitchen table - not having any space other than that.

I do remember 'Houseparty' Ali, don't think it was the same producer as Bazaar (perhaps not even a BBC prog).  The producer I always worked with (but not at Pebble Mill) was Erica Griffiths, and think one of the first progs she was associated with was 'Wheel Tappers and Shunters...." anyone remember that?  It was a bit like a working men's club.

Although I enjoy watching 'foodie' programmes, am certainly giving a miss to  'Whose doing the  dishes?' (or a similar name).  It's like the worst bits of 'Through the Keyhole' and 'Come Dine with Me.'  However, there is a very pleasant programme that started this week on BBC1 at 3.45pm where chef Brian Turner (I do like him) and Janet Street-Porter are travelling the country sampling and cooking the food of each region.  Of course seasonal foods are used.  Which takes me back to what I began writing about today.  What a very busy season it is turning out to be.  The mild winter, early spring and hot summer has given us huge crops of soft fruits as well as the harder ones (apples, pears, plums....) all to be preserved to last us through the winter. 

So tomorrow sees me dealing with more apples and plums, and also finding more freezer space (still haven't sorted the freezers, but have to do that tomorrow as well as I need to make room).  Using up frozen foods will - I hope - mean that this could well be a 'low-spend' month for me.  Shall we all give it a go?  TTFN.