Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Now it's October....

One of the few days when no comments have arrived for me to answer.  However, I will try to find something to talk about.  First is a mention of the Cottage Pie made yesterday for B.  Asked him today what he thought about it (my version was 'dreadful') and he said it was lovely, and he'd like me to make it again for him.As it happens I'd made enough for two meals so one has been frozen.

Reason why I disliked it was the texture.  In the 'old days' my mother would mince up cold beef from the Sunday joint to make Cottage Pie, and as the shredding disc part of my food processor has broken, I had to crumb the sliced cooked beef I wanted to use.  It really did end up as fine crumbs, and even though I mixed these into a pan of fried onions, plus a little gravy (thickened) and a dash of HP sauce, it was more like baby food.  Not to my taste at all.

Perhaps, even worse, I topped the Cottage Pie using instant potato.  B has always said he dislikes this, but decided to make it anyway - with milk, butter, and plenty of seasoning.  Once piled onto the meat I knew it would crisp up in the oven, although B's choice was to re-heat in the microwave and then pop it under the grill to brown.  I'd suggested he might like to sprinkle grated cheese on top before grilling, and did hear him grating some cheese, and suppose this did add extra flavour to the potato. Anyway, he liked it and that's all that matters.

Today I remembered I had a very old mincing machine that belonged to B's mother, never used it myself, but am sure it will work just as well now as it did then.  Still have a lot of sliced beef (now frozen), and next time will try mincing it properly. 

Now that I can't grate cheese using the food processor, do it the old way using my mother's grater, and having seen the same type/shape in a book of antique 'kitchenalia' am wondering if she used it before I was born.  But it still works which is more than can be said of more recent graters that have now gone blunt.

Trouble with grating by hand, I have to be careful of my thumb knuckle as more than once a bit of it has ended up in the grated cheese. Pity they don't make metal protectors for thumbs like they make thimbles for fingers.

Tonight B had his favourite Fish Risotto.  It really does taste wonderful, mainly because I take the trouble to make it correctly.  Like all cooks/chefs I do taste as I cook, checking the seasoning etc, and today I wished it was me eating the risotto.  One day I will make enough for both of us. 

I've noticed in Italian restaurants that risotto is never on the menu (or at least not in the restaurants I've visited).  This probably because this dish needs to be cooked to order and it will take half an hour from start to table, making this one of the very best dishes to serve at home because we are unlikely to be able to order it when dining out.

Today is the 1st of October, and the newspaper today says that already mince pies are appearing on supermarket shelves despite there being 12 weeks to go before Christmas.  But like Hot Cross Buns, do mince pies ever disappear?  Some seasonal 'treats' seem to be sold most of the year. 

Am not wishing to think Christmas at the moment, although now it will be cooler up towards the northern part of the country, the south still keeping fairly warm during the day.  We also will be getting strong winds, this will bring down the remaining leaves on the trees, not to mention the last of the apples.  In a week or so the clocks will go back to GMT and time to pack away summer clothes and bring out the warmer ones.

That's what we USED to do in my youth, winter clothes packed away, many with mothballs as quite a lot of winter clothes contained wool (and how warm they kept us).  Now it seems that, due to central heating, cars with heaters etc, many of the clothes we wear are suitable all year round.

My concession to winter clothing is to bring out the long sleeved sweaters, but still keep sleeveless and short-sleeved T shirts to hand as they can be worn as vests under the jumpers.  Do ladies wear vests these days?   Do children wear Liberty bodices any more?  I wore those, my girls wore those, and they had rubber buttons. 

Still knitting and crocheting am remembering my youth (again) when wool was sold in hanks and I'd sit for ages holding these in my hands, arms outstretched, while my mother used to wind the wool in balls.  In those days it was wool, and how soft it felt compared to the yarn sold today.  Wool is still sold but SO expensive, nearly £4 a ball (the yarn is under £2).

What I have noticed is that with many of the balls of yarn I'm using, these contain knots.  One ball I had had three knots, and I thought this might be because I bought the yarn from the 'reduced price' basket.  When I mentioned it to Gill, she said she has had knots in the fully priced yarn and wool that she has bought and used, so standards are slipping.  Perfection is disregarded these days.  Or we have to pay over the odds for it.

Think I've now made enough squares to stitch together to make a throw, just need to lay them out to make an attractive pattern.  It would - of course - been cheaper for me to buy a throw, but I don't care - it is so nice to be able to pick up where I left off.  Many years ago I seemed to be always knitting, and although then I couldn't crochet, it is never too late to learn. 

In times past, nothing was wasted.  Worn out clothes/materials were washed and then cut up to make patchwork quilts and cushions, heavier fabrics (coats etc) were turned into rag rugs. 
Although my mother didn't make clothes or quilts, she always saved worn out sheets, shirts etc, and these would be torn up and put into her 'rag bag', used with polish for shoes, shining silver, cleaning windows etc.
Old jumpers would be carefully unstitched and unravelled, the kinks in the wool washed out and after drying would be knitted up into something else.
My dad had a shoe 'last', and would sole and heel our shoes himself, and - during the war - would cut up old rubber car tyres to use for the soles/heels.

Older readers will remember the lovely nylon stockings that came into fashion after the war.  These were 'fully fashioned' with a seam stitched up the back, and often very sheer.  Many had patterned heel.  At that time nylons were very expensive, some could be £1 a pair, and so easily could become laddered if a thread was caught (maybe by a broken fingernail).  We used to be able to take the laddered stocking/s to a dry cleaners (maybe Sketchley's?) where a girl would sit in the window, using a very tiny crochet hook, and from the bottom of the ladder would painstakingly hook up the loop over each strand until she reached the break, then would stitch it closed. 
If we managed to catch a ladder before it began to 'run', a dab of nail varnish would anchor it, or even a bit of soap left to dry on the break. 

Before the war stocking were mainly lisle or rayon, also worn years after, nylons kept just for 'best'. The stocking came in many shades of brown (as well as black), and it made sense to always buy the same shade so that when one laddered, the remaining one could be matched with the rest.
When left with a pile of stockings of various shades of brown, we used to put them in a pan of water on the stove and boil them up,  the dye probably wasn't fixed at that temperature, so the stockings would then end up all the same shade.

Men's socks, often hand-knitted using four knitting needles (stitches held on three, one to knit with), would be made from wool, and soon the heels would wear out.  Many hours have I spent darning the heels of socks, and got quite good at it.  Darning  I found enjoyable, though have little or no reason to do it these days.  Not quite true, just remember I've darned the heels of my support stockings more than one, thankfully still having kept my wooden darning 'mushroom'.

One recipe today, worth filing away ready for Hallow-een/Bonfire night.  A box of these also good to give away as a gift at Christmas. 
Only four ingredients - how good is that?  Use a darker sugar if you want a more 'treacly' flavour, and jumbo oats if you want a crunchier finish.
If you have half a lemon (well you just might), then use this, cut side down, to press the mixture into the tin and level the surface.  This also helps to give a subtle lemon flavour to the flapjack.

Oat Flapjacks: serves 12
6 oz (175g) butter, diced
5 oz (140g) golden syrup
2 oz (50g) light muscovado sugar
9 oz (250g) porridge oats
Put the butter, sugar, and syrup into a medium saucepan.  Stir over a low heat until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved.   Remove from heat and stir in the oats.
Line the base of a shallow 9" (23cm) square tin with baking parchment, then press the above mixture into the tin, levelling the surface.
Bake at 180C, gas 4 for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown on top.  Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then - while still warm - mark into bars or squares with the back of a knife.  Leave to cool in the tin completely before cutting through and removing.   If removed while still warm the flapjack will break up.

That's it for today, busy weekend coming up but am hoping I'll be able to drop in for the daily chat over the next couple of days, then will have to take both Saturday and Sunday off to bake for the Harvest Supper (Monday), and also make cakes for a meeting on Tuesday.  Being of some use to someone helps to keep me feeling young(er).  TTFN.