Thursday, October 02, 2014

Chill in the Air..

Definitely a lot cooler, although wall to wall blue sky all day, almost a touch of frost in the air this evening.  I can smell it!  Breathing it the cold air as I went into the bedroom, catches the back of my throat.  Must bring the geraniums in this weekend.  They are lined up by the side of the garage wall at the moment where they are protected by the reserved heat the south-facing wall soaked up during today, so should be OK.  Tonight there is clear sky and a bright (half) moon.  That is when frosts strike.  We don't get frosts on cloudy nights - at least don't think so.

Thanks to all who sent in comments. It was lovely to have them to read.  First reply is a welcome to Nell, who enjoys my blog.  Hope you keep on reading and would love to hear from you again.

Never heard of bread being added to Shepherd's Pie Jane, although am sure that many cooks used to add breadcrumbs to many dishes to help eke out the meat and also give body to a dish, and some books do have recipes using bread(crumbs), but not for that particular dish.

A memory has come flooding back as I write.  My mother used to, and I always did run a slice of bread or the crust through the mincing machine once the meat had been minced as this is an excellent way of cleaning it - although of course it still needs washing, just gets rid of any meat that still sticks to the insides.  Am sure we used to add this to the minced meat due to the bits of meat mixed into it, so maybe that is what happens.

As I've had a butternut squash in my 'onion' basket for months Margie (and these do keep for months if uncut), also some sweet potatoes, think I'll make some soup with those.  Don't have turnip, but do have parsnips so will add those as well.  That's tomorrow night's supper sorted!
Must have a go at making mushroom risotto (for me) as Tesco now sell family 'Value' packs of mushrooms that were normally white, but now chestnuts - these much nicer as they are firm, last longer than the whites, and very 'meaty'.
Once sliced - for frying etc - they don't collapse and soak up fat like the 'whites', they remain firm but do absorb flavours quite well.  Like to add them to the pan when I've been frying meat, as can then use less meat.  Works well when making Stroganoff.

Thankfully Eileen, due to me ordering on-line, I don't get to see all the sweets and Christmas 'goodies' that now seem to be piling up on the supermarket shelves.  However I usually do order one box of Quality Street or Roses as a treat for B.  Myself use the tin for storing things, only now rarely do they pack the chocs in tins, this now made of strong cardboard (which is also good for storing).
In the kitchen have several tall plastic bottle that Christmas chocs used to be sold in, these now hold pasta penne, caster sugar.... am always on the look out for more.
At one time we used to be able to buy (very cheaply) the big glass jars that held sweets in a proper sweetshop, but these were very heavy so later got rid of them preferring the plastic ones.

Interesting to hear Granny G, that now our shopping habits are changing to 'little and often'.  Myself still send one on-line order once a month to Tesco, although B does sometimes bring in a few things from Morrison's for me when he goes.
Up until we moved to Leeds (1969) shopping was always 'little and often', as it was usual then to go to the local shops (no supermarkets at that time - although there was a Woolco if I remember), and buy fresh food for the evening meal.  This almost daily although we were lucky to have a baker deliver three or four times a week, a greengrocer twice a week, milkman six days a week, even a butcher and a fishmonger would deliver, but I tended to prefer to buy meat/fish/poultry from the respective shops.
It was a bit of a shock when we arrived in Leeds and found the only deliveries would be the milk (although the milkman also carried cheese, cream, yogurt, butter, orange juice, lemonade, and potatoes, as well as several types of milk).  We had a shopping parade a few hundred yards from where we lived, and at that time it was old-style with a sweet shop, haberdashers, two butchers, a greengrocer who also sold fresh fish, a bakery/tea rooms, a toy shop, a fish and chip shop.  A newsagents with the Post Office at the back of it, a shoe shop, a cobbler's, a Sketchley laundry, and a Lipton's grocers, also a Co-op grocery fairly close by.  Oh yes, a betting shop on one corner. Other shops that were of no interest to me (clothing, building societies, estate agents, travel agents...)

There was even a small branch of the then Midland Bank where my money was saved (not that often), and compared to today was so old-fashioned. I would go in with a small amount of cash to save (or draw out), and my account would be in a big ledger where the man behind the counter would carefully write in the details using a proper pen and ink while I stood and waited.

Pleased you enjoy my tales of yesteryear Mandy, my thoughts are now often in that direction, perhaps because I prefer the old days, the old ways to many of the new (although I give thanks every time I use my washing machine.  Years of having to wash and wring out (by hand) clothes for four children (and husband), and having the first three children so quickly - our son not quite three when the third was born - you can imagine the amount of nappies that had to be washed.  No disposables in those days, just terry nappies and same-size muslin nappies we used as liners.  Every day the washing line was full.

Am trying to remember what type of clothes the children wore when tiny.  Vests were made of 'chilprufe' material, and they had very clever necks where the front and backs overlapped at the shoulders.  This made them very easy to slip on over tiny heads without leaving a wide amount of next to get cold.
Vyella and Clydella were two materials especially good for frocks/shirts as this too was warm to the touch, probably a mixture of wool and cotton.  Do remember a silkish sort of fabric called 'shantung', it was made of silk but a bit coarse as it had roughish bits in it.  Difficult to wash silk, so hardly ever used it.

There was no baby-grow in those days, so the babies wore nighties made from Vyella I think, and in cold weather they would also be put into a sleeping bag that folded up at the bottom, fastened with buttons.  These of course got damp due to the rubber/plastic knickers worn over nappies never really holding in all the wetness.  That meant more washing and being thicker material took longer to dry.

Cot bedding was usually Vyella sheets with one or two blankets on top,usually cellular ones as these kept in the warmth, then tucked in with a fairly light quilt on top.  Bedrooms then had no central heating so we used to warm the beds first with a hot water bottle, nighties and pyjamas would be warmed on the nursery fire-guard in front of the fire, and after a warm bath, be dressed in these and then straight into bed, tucked up nice and warm ready to listen to the bed-time story, where they were usually fast asleep before I got to the end.  Little ones would have lullabies sung to them.

That toffee you are making sounds lovely Ali. Myself love Werthers Original toffee but due to me being diabetic (below the level now but still try not to eat much sugar) had stopped eating them. Recently discovered they make Werthers Original sugar-free, and so allowed to eat those. Have to say they are rather small, but it's lovely to have the real toffee taste without the need to feel guilty.

Food memories are a bit vague, but do recall some wonderful Kunzle cakes that my mother used to send me to buy from the local cake-shop.  Think they were like elaborate Bridge Fancies, small iced cakes, maybe with a type of truffle inside, and chocolate and icing coatings. Anyone remember these?
There were also large cakes sold at the same shop, can't remember the name but they had a lovely icing, think it was called 'American Frosting', sort of firm on top (like royal icing) but softer underneath, like marshmallow.   Today's easy-to-roll-out fondant icing is not the same.  In fact I really dislike eating fondant icing, it is far too sweet and would be better if much more thinly rolled. Give me royal icing any day. 
Not sure if people make royal icing any more, but if they/you do, one way to make it easy to cut (as it can get very hard), is to add a very few drops of glycerine into the icing when beating it.  The icing will still set firmly, but can much more easily be cut through with a knife.

Always on the look-out for 'healthy' baking, came across the following and thought it fitted the bill. Although the biscuits, once cooked, are best not frozen (they will keep for a few days in an airtight container), the uncooked dough can be frozen.
Walnuts are now one of nature's 'wonder-foods', said to help lower cholesterol, as do oats, so a double whammy with these cookies.  Use sultanas if you haven't raisins (or no-soak apricots or dates, also chopped).
I don't have rolled oats in my larder - unless this means what I call porridge oats.  So I use porridge oats. They work.  Oats are oats are oats after all (Scots would not agree).

Walnut and Raisin Oatcakes:  makes 40
half teaspoon baking powder
4 tblsp milk
6 oz (175g) softened butter
4 oz (100g) caster sugar
11 oz (300g) rolled oats (see above)
5 oz (140g) wholemeal flour
2 oz (50g) raisins, roughly chopped
2 oz (50g) walnuts, roughly chopped
Dissolve the baking powder in the milk.  Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, then mix in the oats, flour, raisins, walnuts and milk to make a stiff dough.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll out to about 1cm thick.  Cut into circles using a 5cm scone cutter (or cut square ones or fingers if you prefer). 
Place on a greased baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes at 180C, gas 4 until lightly golden.  Leave to cool on the tin before removing.   Eat the day of making or store in an airtight tin for up to 3 days before serving.

As so often happens, another recipe catches my eye when some ingredients are the same (or could be) as another I've chosen to give. It is useful to be able to make something completely different at the same time when the oven is at the same temp..  This tea loaf can be frozen when cooked and cooled.

Date and Walnut Tea Loaf: serves 10-12
7 oz (200g) stoned dates, chopped
pinch of salt
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
half a pint (300ml) hot water
10oz (280g) self-raising flour
4 oz (100g) butter, chopped into small pieces
2 oz (50g) chopped walnuts
4 oz (100g) dark muscovado sugar
1 egg, beaten
2 tblsp Demerara sugar
Put the dates, salt, and bicarb into a large bowl and add the hot water. Stir well and leave until cold.
Place the flour in another bowl and add the butter, rubbing together until like breadcrumbs. Stir in the walnuts and dark sugar until well combined.
Tip the flour mixture and egg into the dates, beating well to mix, then pour into a fully greased and lined (base and long sides) lined 2lb (1kg) loaf tin.  Give a shake to level the top, then sprinkle the Demerara sugar evenly over the surface.
Bake at 180C, gas 4 for 1hr - 1hr 15mins (or until a skewer comes out clean).  Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
For best results, after cooling, wrap in baking parchment or clingfilm, then overwrap in foil before storing in an airtight container.  Keep for a couple of days before eating. 

Almost midnight, and there is a late prog on TV that I want to watch, so think I'll not have an early night.  Not a lot to do tomorrow other than my usual coffee morning with my neighbour and getting B's supper.  My bakeathon starts (mainly prep) on Saturday, then Sunday, and also Monday.  This should mean I'll manage to fit in a blog tomorrow some time.  Hope you can join me then.  TTFN.