Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Year Moves On

Can't believe that it will be the 1st March on Saturday, meaning that in a few weeks we will be putting the clocks forward an hour.  How quickly winter seems to have passed, perhaps because we are still waiting for the snow.  Some parts of the UK (certainly Scotland) have had snow, but the temperatures in the main have been unseasonably warm most of the time (at least above freezing).  Not that we haven't had bad weather - all the high winds and rain, worst since records began etc.  But not in Morecambe (although we have had the winds), and suppose I'm getting to the point of all I'm concerned with is my immediate surroundings and comfort therein.  How selfish is that?  Put it down to old age.

As another sunny day has dawned, my spring-cleaning instinct is rapidly increasing and I'm determined this year to get our home sorted, plenty of books that have been read and re-read can go to the charity shops, also quite a few other 'clutter'.  Now that we have down-sized and only one bedroom (we had three big bedrooms in Leeds, with linen for one double and three single beds), still have a lot of bed linen/towels that are now not needed, so these could be useful to a charity. 

Yesterday I was mentioning how much time we waste these days (due to technology etc), and have to admit I'm almost as bad (if not worse) that many of todays younger generation.  They may spend a lot of time texting etc, but I spend several hours writing my blog in the morning, and before I go to bed like to play a few games of chess on the computer now that I've discovered this can be done.  Began dismally, losing most games, now I am winning most of them.  Practice makes perfect.

The rest of my morning is always spent in the kitchen, then into the living room to watch lunchtime news on the TV, taking my mug of soup with me.  Stay to watch 'Doctors', and - depending on whether anything else culinary needs to be done - then sit and watch 'Perfection', followed by 'Escape to the Country (as long as the price is not too high, then I can imagine I just might be able to buy one of the lovely homes should I win the Lottery - and how gorgeous some of them are, esp. the kitchens).  Still continuing to sit as - at the moment - the next programme is with James Martin.  Only when that has finished am I likely to stir my stumps and move back into the kitchen to cook B's supper.   If lucky, this can be timed so that I can watch at least the last half of 'The Chase' (ITV), then comes the BBC news (headlines only so that we can then watch Eggheads - or the current spin-off), and Portillo.  Half an hour then before the start of the soaps, so hardly worth me moving from my seat for the rest of the evening.   When is there time to do anything else?

Am seriously thinking of writing my blog late evening (instead of playing chess) then can use all the morning in more productive work, this possibly turning out to make more interesting reading when I come to write up my 'daily diary' (blog).   Don't think this will make much difference to those who read the blog anyway, just ignore any date/time that may appear (blogger used to use US west-coast time anyway - 12 hours behind us).   For that matter I could write my blog late at night, keep in in 'draft', then publish it first thing after my morning coffee.  But as I really wish to keep away from the comp at that time (old habits die hard) not sure.  "Write (publish) and be damned" don't they say?

Next Tuesday will be Shrove Tuesday/Pancake Day, so am feeling smug as I've already made a batch that is ready and waiting in the freezer to re-heat and serve the traditional way with lemon and sugar.  Does anyone need a recipe to make pancake batter?  Can give one (or more - there are several variations) if you wish.  The main thing to remember is, once the eggs, flour, milk have been whisked together, is to add a little melted butter to the batter, this help to prevent the pancakes sticking to the pan (that itself should have been lightly greased before heating.

After Shrove Tuesday, comes Ash Wednesday - the start of Lent.  Perhaps a good time for me to begin giving up some TV, start writing my blog in the evenings, and beginning the spring-cleaning. Having a good reason (in this instance - religious,if only for six weeks) to have a less easy life-style might put me on the right track to continue, although I don't think this is what is meant to happen.  I'm not supposed to enjoy my 'hardships' (but then I usually find I do).  Perhaps I should give up TV altogether. 
If the extra household chores don't get done and I fall by the wayside, then will have to start wearing my assortment of hats and begin role-playing again. This really DOES work.  Pretending to be a cleaning lady, or a cook (Mrs Bridges type, even a professional chef), certainly focusses the mind and I zoom through all the work that needs to be done as though I was fully trained and experienced in 'the trade'.  Don't know why I don't role-play more often as it can be extremely enjoyable (memories of role-playing 'au pair' come to mind as B was able to take part in that. Say no more!!). Sadly that was when I was much younger.  Don't think this would work now.  No, stick to cleaning lady and professional chef, with a bit of horticulture thrown in.  Time now to sow quite a few seeds. I've got the seed compost, got the seeds, just need the mojo.

Just one comment to reply to.  In the UK Marjorie, the Little Gem lettuce (a mini-Cos variety), is normally sold two to a pack.  Thes keepswell in the fridge (as does iceberg - my favourite as it is slightly less bitter than cos lettuce).  The nice thing about Little Gem is that their leaves are spoon-shaped, and perfect for holding a filling (could be Prawn Cocktail, Waldorf Salad, Coronation Chicken, etc....) making them ideal to fill and display on large platters when giving a buffet party.  Just pick up a filled leaf and eat as 'finger-food'.

Beloved requested 'some sort of beef' for his supper yesterday, so thawed out a portion of already-cooked stewing steak to make a hob-top casserole.  As I wished to watch afternoon TV (how sad am I?), decided to pre-cook the sliced carrots, parsnip wedges (I remove the core), and chunks of potato in the microwave - saving me having to stay in the kitchen to make sure they didn't over-cook when in a pan on the hob.  I have a microwave bowl that has an inner perforated bowl, so put in a little water, then placed the prepared veggies in the inner bowl, covered it with a plate (I'd lose the original cover) and set the microwave for 8 minutes.  Then left them to cook while I watched the news.

When I came to make the casserole, the veggies were perfect.  Why I've never cooked them this way before defeats me.  Just shows how we can get into a rut when it comes to cooking.  'If it works, then don't fix it' can sometimes be ignored, especially when we find 'a change is as good as a rest'.

The casserole then easily made.  First fried a chopped onion in a little beef dripping, added the small amount of water from the microwave veggie container, a spoon of Bisto Best beef granules to thicken to make a gravy, then into this went the veggies, and finally the thawed meat.  Left to simmer for a few minutes whilst I steamed some shredded (organic) spring greens.  Then plated it up and called B in to eat his supper - that he thoroughly enjoyed.  It certainly saves me a lot of time to pre-cook meat and freeze it ready to make casseroles/spag.bol/chilli con carne/Cottage pie/curries....  Time saved to watch more TV?  Perhaps not such a good idea after all. ' Use the time wisely Shirley' (I talk to myself quite a lot these days), 'make it work for you, not against you' (if I sit too long my joints seize up and I need exercise to help me lose weight).   Always there is that inner me telling me what I should be doing, and what I should not be eating, and do I listen?  Do I hell!  Suppose this inner voice is what is called a 'conscious'.  Another Lenten task.  Listen to it and obey.  Just can't wait for next Wednesday. Not!

Still mindful of this current 'use 'em up' challenge, here is another recipe that makes good use of what might still be in your larder.  If you haven't a jar of roasted peppers, we could still roast them in the oven, to peel and use, or - for that matter - halve and roast tomatoes and use for the same purpose. Mozzarella is the traditional cheese for making pizzas as it melts easily and is delightfully 'stringy' when cooked and sliced. but we could use an alternative (grated) hard cheese. 
Many of us keep a pack of tortillas in the larder or freezer, but we could also use pitta bread, naan bread, or chapatis. Come to think of it, we could also make a slightly thicker than normal egg pancake next Tuesday and use this as the base for this meal.

Although rocket makes a good accompaniment to this dish, we could instead serve mixed salad leaves (home-grown of course), or watercress/baby spinach etc.   Use the recipe as a guide then you could end up making several variations.
Speedy Tortilla Pancakes: serves 2
4 flour tortillas (see above)
1 ball mozzarella, sliced
1 jar roasted peppers (use about 150g)
1 tblsp olive oil
rocket or chosen salad leaves
Put the tortillas onto a large baking sheet, and scatter them with the mozzarella.  Drain the peppers and chop them up into large chunks, tossing these in the oil, then put these over the cheese (reserving any oil left over).  Bake at 200C, 400F, for 5 - 7 minutes (or grill them if you prefer) until turning golden at the edges and the cheese is melting.
Serve with the chosen salad leaves drizzling with the reserved oil.

This next recipe makes good use of seasonal vegetables (that may need using up) plus spices (that we may have lurking in our larders).  In a way it is Bubble and Squeak that is more Bubble and Shriek. It's that good.
For the 'green veg' use Savoy Cabbage, spring greens, or Brussels sprouts, even spinach if you wish. Or why not a mixture (a good way to use up small amounts of a lot of different veggies). Instead of parsnip you could use butternut squash or swede/turnip, or a mixture.
If you don't have the given spices, then just use an anonymous curry powder/paste.   Neither B nor I like the taste of fresh coriander, so I'd probably use mint/chives.  Or even parsley/dried mixed herbs.  As ever, make according to personal tastes.

As a main dish this will serve four, as a side dish will serve eight.
Spiced Parsnip 'Squeak': serves 4 or 8
1.75lb (800g) parsnips, chopped into chunks
half a Savoy cabbage, shredded.  OR...
...10 oz (300g) Brussels sprouts, shredded
handful frozen peas
juice of half a lemon
2 oz (50g) butter
half tsp ground cumin
1 tblsp garam masala
1 red chilli, seeded and finely chopped
salt and pepper
bunch fresh coriander, chopped (see above)
Cook the parsnips until tender, then drain and set aside.  Blanch the greens  in boiling water for 3 minutes (or less) until tender, adding the peas for the final minute. Drain and set aside.
Mash parsnips with the lemon juice and HALF the butter, then mix in all the other ingredients except the remaining butter and fresh herbs.  Add seasoning to taste.
Melt reserved butter in a large frying pan and tip in the parsnip mixture, pressing it down well to make a large, thick 'pancake'.  Cook over medium heat until crisp underneath, then flip it over using a fish slice.  It doesn't matter a jot if it breaks, just press it back together again until crispy on both sides (and possibly broken bits in the middle as well).   Serve hot, cut into wedges.

Final recipe today makes good use of canned beans.  Butter beans are the best to use, but most canned white beans work well when making this spread.  Also a good way to use up a tub of cream cheese (Philly type, but own-brand is cheaper).  If you have herb/garlic flavoured cheese in your fridge, all the better, otherwise blend in a little garlic and finely chopped fresh (or dried) herbs to the unflavoured cream cheese.  Being me, I'd probably blend in some chilli ketchup as well.
Using the recipe below, this can be spread on cheese biscuits as 'nibbles', or onto the inner lining of pitta bread (instead of butter) before filling with salad (sliced tomato, cucumber, celery, lettuce etc) for a packed lunch.  Or use instead of butter/marg when making salad sarnies.

Always work with cream cheese at room temperature as it then blends in easily to whatever else is added.  When used chilled it remains firmly 'lumpy' even when whisked with cream.
Bean Spread: serves 4
1 x 410g can butter (or other) beans, drained
2 tblsp olive oil
2 tblsp lemon juice
good pinch of salt
125g garlic and herb cream cheese
Whizz the beans in a food processor (or mash well with a fork), then pour in the oil and lemon juice, also adding the salt. Blitz well together to make a smooth paste, then add the cream cheese.  Put into a covered container and chill.  It will keep for up to 3 days in the fridge.

And that's it for today.  It is very nearly 11.00am, so you see what I mean about my blog taking up much of the morning to write.  Considering I speed-type, and often begin before nine, and it takes only a few minutes to read it back, why does it take so long to write it?   Does the same happen with other bloggers?  Ages to write, quick to read?  Or is it that time moves faster now I'm older (it really does), and my fingers (and mind) work much slower than I believe?   All I know is that I need to take myself in hand, sort out my priorities and make the best use of the time I have left.  Pity to waste any of it.  There was a time - when much younger - I used to get up at first light, work solidly through the day, go to bed (exhausted) close to midnight, and achieve in that one day more than I probably manage to do in a whole year now.  Well, it feels like that anyway.   As I am sure you are now realising, I'm finding that growing old is not turning out to be very pleasant.  After Lent I'm going to have a go at growing old not gracefully, but disgracefully.  Might as well grab a bit of enjoyment while I can.  So watch this space, who knows what I'll begin doing next. 

Friday tomorrow - coffee morning followed by Norma the Hair (it should be the other way round to look my best), so won't be blogging.  Will be back on Saturday, but - as usual - again taking Sunday off.  By Monday back again and into March with the hope that we might even get a heat-wave towards the end of the month (over the past six or so years we have been having really hot weather for a week either end of March or from mid-April).  So had better get on with the spring-cleaning and other chores so that I will have real time to spend sitting in the garden soaking up the sun.   If the sun doesn't shine then I will sit and sulk in front of the TV.  And eat chocolate.  TTFN .


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Little Things Please....

As they say, little things please little minds, so perhaps not surprising I was as thrilled to get this month's delivery from Riverford (organic veggies) yesterday as I used to be as a child when being given Christmas or birthday presents (in those days presents were only given then).

I'd checked the details on R's website for the contents of this weeks box, so surprised that it wasn't as given.  Hadn't noticed that it could differ according to the region, so today typed in my post code (where it said to and I hadn't noticed) and found our local farm (in Yorkshire) had a slightly different list.  Everything on it I received except that 'chard' (doesn't that look like rhubarb?) appeared to look like pak choi (those greens used for Chinese meals). In fact hope it is this as perfect for B's stir-fries.
(Have just checked with R'ford and it is chard but it can be used in stir-fries).

A really good box this week, everything exactly what I wanted and NEEDED!!  Had 10 good-sized tomatoes on the vine, 9 white onions, 6 huge carrots, 7 large beetroot, 9 large baking potatoes, 4 large Portobello mushrooms, 2 Little Gem lettuce, 1 large bag spring greens,  a big stick of celery, a big cauliflower, to big Ramiro red peppers, and the not-quite-sure what. 

The first box (delivered 4 weeks ago) seemed to be just about the right amount for the month.  True I do have plenty of onions already as I do use these almost in every savoury dish I make, and I haven't yet started used all the first lot of potatoes (finishing off those that I had that were sprouting). 
Was very pleased to see the beetroot as yesterday used the last pack of long-life vacuum beetroot that I had had for months (slightly over the use-by date but still OK).

B enjoyed his Cold Meat Platter with lettuce, beetroot, tomato.  I baked more bread yesterday, so with the small amount of cold meat left over, he will use this to fill baps  for his evening snacks. Only the thawed meat he will use, I'm freezing the leftover corned beef and cooked sausages.

Mindful of my 'time-saving' that I rattled on about yesterday, when I made the bread - using a packet of 500g bread mix - then put the empty bag on the scales and into this weighed 250g of strong bread flour, adding it to the bread mix that I'd put in the bread machine.   Decided then to refill the bag half-full with another 250g while I had the strong bread flour and the scales on the table, and now this is ready to add to my next bought mix.  Why didn't I think of doing that before?  It will again save me time (not a lot but every minute counts).

There was a short article in yesterday's newspaper about the time we waste.  Seems that we waste 1 hour 40 minutes each day (or 12 hours a week).  Much of this is self-inflicted (computer games, Twitter, Facebook, TV channel-hopping...), with other things such as waiting in supermarket queues, and those very annoying cold-calling on the telephone.

Although I keep being told I should move with the times, and not keep living in the past so much, there is no difference in the hours in the day than there were when I was a child, or - for that matter - in Biblical times.  Before TV and all the new technology, we seemed to spend our leisure time always doing something useful (apart from the occasional relaxation after a hard day's work).  As we had only the radio or records to listen to (and nothing to watch), we could sit and do this and knit/crochet/sew at the same time.   In fact my friend Gill can watch TV and knit/crochet without dropping a stitch. 

So often we complain we don't have the time to do this, that or the other, but we DO.  They always say that if we want something done, then ask a busy person to do it.  They seem to manage their time wonderfully and can always fit something else in when asked. 
If we had no TV (or computers/tablets/mobile phones etc), we would be able to save loadsa money by just making what we want/need rather than buying it.  But as that is now 'old-style' it seems everyone now prefers to 'go with the flow' and rely on others to make/provide what we need.

Personally, I don't like the road technology is leading us, we appear to be losing most of our skills and also the pleasure that comes when using them.  Could be the reason why there is more boredom/misery around.  Just because we have the doom and gloom of a recession, doesn't mean it doesn't have a silver lining to its cloud.  This being the opportunity to begin being self-sufficient again.  But not all the way.  Use some convenience foods by all means (I do - like opening cans of baked beans instead of making them from scratch, and jars of curry sauce....), but when we can, make instead of buying, and recycle.

In the Great British Sewing Bee last night they gave the contestants shirts to cut up and remake into another garment, and how many of us decide to use up worn out clothes in this way.  At the very least we could make rag rugs with old T shirts, or patchwork quilts from printed fabrics (both could end up as heirlooms). Not to mention smaller items such as cushion covers.   

The interesting thing is that from what I read/hear, decades have past with very little difference in African poverty over the last 30 years despite all the efforts from various charities.  Perhaps none of us like 'outsiders' coming in and telling us what to do (my hackles rise when - say - an American chef comes to this country and pooh-poohs our cakes). 
What does seem to have worked in Africa is the help given by teaching the cultivation of vegetables, providing the seeds, and the rearing of animals.  The saying 'Give a man a fish and it will feed his family for a day.  Teach a man to fish and he can then feed his family for a life-time' makes sense as much here as in Africa.

This brings me back to our own need to learn to be self-sufficient again.  Put our own house in order before we begin pontificating to someone else.  Am I including myself in this?  As a school friend once said to me '..if the cap fits'.  So perhaps I'd better crawl back under my stone.

An easy recipe to make today, this for a moist fruit cake because not only can it use the oddments of fruit in our larder (if using larger dried fruits - apricots, dates, prunes etc - chop these smaller, like sultanas so they can be mixed and matched), but we could also substitute grated carrot or parsnip for the apple. 
Like James Martin, I prefer butter, but you could use soft margarine if you prefer.  Experienced cooks will recognise the basic ingredients (flour, fat, sugar, eggs) are the same amounts as would be used when making a sandwich cake.  The difference being the extra moistness and density - not to mention flavour - of the type of ingredients used.  Of course, if we haven't black treacle, we could use golden syrup.  If we haven't the dark moist sugar, then use a lighter moist sugar.  After all, sugar is sugar, the difference being the flavour and the dampness.  What we choose will change the colour and flavour of the cake, but it will still make a cake.
Although the recipe does not suggest doing this, I would normally sift the flour, baking powder and spices together before adding to the other ingredients.

Simply Made Fruit Cake: serves 12
8 oz (250g) softened butter (see above)
8 oz (250g) dark muscovado sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1 tblsp black treacle
8 oz (250g) self-raising flour
2 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp baking powder
2 eating apples, grated
10 oz (300g) sultanas (see above)
Put the butter, sugar, eggs, treacle, flour, spice and baking powder together into a bowl and beat well together until pale and thick.  Using a large metal spoon, gently fold in the dried fruit until just combined.
Spoon the cake mixture into a greased and base-lined 8"/20cm deep round cake tin, then bake for 50 mins - 1 hr at 180C, gas 4, or until the cake is springy to the touch and shrinking away from the sides of the tin.  To double check, insert a skewer or toothpick into the centre of the cake - it will come out clean when it is ready.  Leave to cool completely.
This cake, once wrapped and stored in an air-tight container, will keep for up to a week. Or it can be frozen for up to a month.  If you wish to ice this cake, cover with fondant icing, but always freeze the cake un-iced.

The other day was able to make a successful batch of caramel.  Maybe have already mentioned this, but worth repeating as - after throwing in roasted peanuts and then tipping it out onto a parchment lined baking sheet, it cooled down to make 'peanut brittle'.
This brittle is much loved by my neighbour who finds it difficult to purchase (in shops), but at least they sell it at Barton Grange, so she buys some when we go there.

As a perfect 'tester' for my home-made batch of peanut brittle, I gave it to her to try and she absolutely LOVED it.  "Most of the time when I've bought it,  the caramel has been too hard" she told me, "This is perfect".  
So easy to make (best using a sugar thermometer to get it exactly right) as all you need is the same weight of caster sugar and the same of peanuts (I used 100g of each, will make double next time).
Just melt the sugar in a non-stick pan, and when this has dissolved (I add a teaspoon of water to help it on its way), raise heat and bubble it up to caramel (150C/300F - and it needs to be exact), remove from heat and immediately add the roasted (or plain) peanuts - can be salted if you wish. Stir together and quickly spoon out onto a parchment lined baking tray.  Place another sheet of paper on top and roll the mixture flat.   If you prefer, chop the peanuts as small as you like before adding to the caramel.   Leave to cool, then wrap in paper/foil.  Eat and enjoy.

That's it for today.  An early finish as I want to listen to Woman's Hour as Jack Monroe is to be one of the guests. For those who have missed this, it will possibly be repeated  on 'Weekend Woman's Hour' (Saturday?). 

Before I leave, must reply to comments...
Having heard residents in Washington DC speak (TV - cake decorating series), they don't sound like Mo Rocca Marjorie.  Maybe it's not his accent that I find odd, just the way he speaks.  All I can say is when listening to him he irritates me so much I just switch to another channel (or switch off altogether).

Your mention of life insurance Treaders, reminds me that Gill has occasionally had a small insurance paid up, and she says she uses this to help pay for her holidays.  So always best to carry on an insurance rather than lose what you have already paid.  Unless you can cancel and have at least some of it back.  You never know when the extra money might come in useful.

However much I wish I still had a car Grub-lover, doubt very much if I could cope with heavy traffic (never did find it comfortable driving on motorways etc).  My trips would be always the 'scenic routes' off the beaten track so to speak.  Can't say I really ever did enjoy driving, always aiming to hit the road at off-peak times, and cross country to miss most of the traffic.  Driving along an empty road, early in the morning, or mid-evening during the summer can be very pleasant. Nose to tail traffic - NOT!!

Must finish, plenty to get on with in the kitchen while I listen to the radio.  Could that be called 'multi-tasking' (for am not wasting time as I listen).  Must think up ideas for B's supper, and also mine.  Should make use of some of the organic veggies while they are still very, very fresh.  Hope you can join me again tomorrow.  If so - see you then.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Time Saving?

Another lovely spring-like start to the day.  Will it stay, or go downhill from here?  Have to wait and see.  Certainly cheers me up to see blue sky and sunshine, and as it is not now so cold (bur rarely has gone below freezing point anyway this winter), we don't need the central heating on so much.
A bit too late for the colder months this winter, I've discovered that wrapping a crocheted blanket round me before I get into bed makes me feel so very cosy I've been sleeping for longer, even want to go to bed for the cuddly feeling it gives me.
(I've given up cuddling B, the last time he did this was when he was having a dream and he called me Lesley!  At my age (thankfully) all it did was make me laugh, until I then thought that this was also a man's name.  Not that this would have mattered anyway. 

I'm sure we've all someone for the first time, maybe just seen them across a room, and been instantly attracted to them?  It could be either a man or a woman.  We can also take an immediate dislike to someone as well. 
When we get on well with either sex, this is called 'being in harmony' when both are 'playing the same tune' so to speak.  When we are 'out of tune' this is when we just don't 'get on'.
Certainly, when I meet someone I've met previously, whether I like them or not, I can instantly tell their state of mind, especially when they are cross or unhappy about something.  They don't have to speak, it's almost as though they have an aura surrounding them that I pick up.  Some people call these 'vibes'. 
As I believe in reincarnation, my belief is that when we get that instant feeling we 'know' a person we have just met, we have met them in previous lives, even a different sex, so they could have been a parent, child, lover.... 

Once I did meet someone like this (well over the years met several), but this one was unusual in that we were both in Civil Defence, and worked together for some months. We were assigned to a stand at a local exhibition promoting the CD, dressed in full uniform, and taking a break after several hours we both went outside the very hot hall for a breath of fresh air, and instantly the door was closed behind us we were walking around an oblong pool with columns at the side of us.  My 'stand partner' was then seen as dressed in a long gown (Roman style), I too was dressed in similar attire.   We just strolled happily in the moonlight, until time to enter our villa.  As we went through the door into the exhibition hall, was instantly back in real time.  I didn't say anything about it to my working 'partner', but the memory has stayed with me.   Maybe I will meet him again in the next life.  He was quite special.

Your mention Janet of the Love Food, Hate Waste tutor being patronising reminded me that my daughter once said that I sounded patronising when I'd offered to help someone to manage their food budget.  Apparently the word 'help' could sound patronising, so I've been very careful since to try and avoid being this.  Preferring to think (and hope) that what I do/say is informative.  To me the two words mean the same thing, but then what would I know?

Think I remember Jamie Oliver once giving cookery demonstrations in a town where he was hoping to encourage people to manage their finances and take up cooking again.  Several ladies (maybe also men) were to take advantage of the demos and cook alongside Jamie, so something like that would work well in your Valley Janet, perhaps run by your foodbank.  As well as watching demos, when people can do hands-on cooking at the same time, then either eat there as a lunch (or supper), or take home their work, then am sure many more would take up home-cooking.

There are many social clubs for people, whether knitting, playing bridge, learning a new language, music appreciation, writer's guild etc, and am puzzled why - especially now - no-one has started a national cookery club.  Maybe it is the old 'elf and safety aspect (and insurance to cover accidents) that prevent this.  Such a pity. 
Maybe there are evening classes for cooks at Adult Education centres, normally not cheap to join, but surely those on benefits etc could go for free?  Pensioners usually do get a discount, but as older folk already know how to cook, hardly worth them bothering (but they could always share their knowledge - teachers today being of a younger generation and quite often don't know what they are talking about.   I believe all social workers should have brought up children so they can understand and NOT decide - by the book - that someone is not a good parent, and remove the children from their care.  How often do we read about this happening, then some months/years later they found they were wrong in the first place?

Here I go again, moving off into another subject when I began starting about food.  So I will continue thinking edibles, but first finishing with my reply to Marjorie who might be right in thinking that 'Molacca' bloke (he is at present fronting 'Foodography' at the weekend (Food Network), is the one I mentioned.  Can't place his accent as being Canadian, but it could be as am sure that country has as many variations in accents as do others.
Regarding living on a pension.  Almost certainly those who find it most difficult are living in rented accommodation, or still have a mortgage to pay off.  Many older folk have by pensionable age paid off their mortgages, so don't have this to worry about.
Also the standard of living may - to many - seem depressingly low once they have only their pension to play with. B and are lucky, we never -  as many people of all ages seem to do these days - dined out regularly.  Occasionally we do now, but always when it is 'Happy Hour' (reduced prices) and only when celebrating something (birthday etc).  We don't go to the cinema (always watching films on TV), or even drop in to our local pub for a drink.
If I still owned my own car (and really wish I did), this would probably mean our pension would not cover the costs and - as before - I'd have to take on some work to help pay for it (I used to write a cookery column in our local newspaper, and do a weekly radio chat - ~£5 for the column, ~£10 for radio - this being  but enough to pay for running my Fiat Uno as 'he' was a darling, hardly needed any repairs, and kept me on the road for over 20 years before the bodywork needed too much attention, and too costly for me to cover.  Cars are much more expensive to run and insure these days so I'll have to settle for Norris.   We can't have everything we want.

Maybe pensioners who live alone would find it slightly more expensive to feed themselves, than if they had someone to share the food with.  Also keeping warm can be a problem, especially if living in a bed-sit that has no double-glazing, and the paid-by-coin electric/gas meters are fitted by the landlord.  From looking at our property guide in our local paper, the cheapest rented properties for apartments/flats are in the region of £500 p.c.m.  Over £100 a week is a lot of money to pay out from a pension.

My friend Gill (who phones me each Sunday), lives alone, on a state pension, with a little extra work pension, and she seems to manage extremely well on this.  Her only form of central heating is night storage heaters, and she does have a gas fire in her through living room.  Her fuel bills are much less than ours.
Mind you, Gill is hardly ever in the house during the day (hating her own company), so drives out to visit friends and family every day of the week.  She also does a little voluntary work.
Several of her friends don't have cars, so appreciate a day out where they usually pay for a pub lunch for Gill (so her weekly food budget is then quite low - she admits to preferring a carvery where she can load her plate overfull so she doesn't need to eat anything more when she gets home, now that is clever.)  Some friends even pay for the petrol. 
Gill manages to take several mid-week coach trips a year with one or more friends, usually off-season, so low-priced.  Normally it is Eastbourne, Scarborough, York, and a couple of weeks ago went to Cardiff. 
At one time Gill aimed for one major holiday a year abroad, and several times visited Canada and America,  but think she has pulled in her horns a bit now, and never seems to go much further than Bruges (Belgium) one of her favourite places (as well as the regular coach trips in this country).   Don't know how she manages this as well as she does, but she is very astute when it comes to money, and she says she wants to enjoy her life, her pension is secure so she can spend all her disposable income.  Why bother to save?  She owns her own (small) house, and this is her legacy for her children.   She is one of the lucky ones.  Me I just sit on my savings.  Maybe I should try taking a coach trip.

Beloved chose to have a Fish Risotto for supper yesterday.  Have written this up in an earlier blog so no need for further info re this.  Am hoping he will settle for Cold Meat Platter with salad today (have corned beef in the larder, ham and pork pie in the freezer, and also sausages.  Might also make a quiche (or cook hard-boiled eggs).   He hasn't had that since last autumn (because the weather has been too chilly to serve a cold meal), but if I include a hot jacket potato, then am sure he will find it satisfactory.   Otherwise it will be home-made veggie soup. 
Need to bake more bread today, B loves the home-made baps and even though I now make a dozen at a time (freezing most of them away, two to a bag), he will eat as many as I thaw out (usually two a day) but often he will go and get out more (they thaw rapidly).  Just as well I learned how to extend the bread mix by adding more strong flour (and water).  Makes the bread so much cheaper.

Am having to re-think my kitchen work, think it is called 'time and motion'.  This morning, as I was about to make my morning mug of coffee, instead of going to the fridge and getting out the milk, then adding it to the mug, and then putting the milk back into the fridge (that's 4 trips: to the fridge, taking milk back to the coffee, milk back to the fridge, me back to the coffee) decided to take the little milk jug to the fridge and fill it there, then back to the coffee.  Two trips instead of four.  It crossed my mind that as I really need to take exercise, I wasn't doing myself any favours by walking less distance, but it did save time (like 20 seconds).   Even so, we do spend a lot of time gathering ingredients even before we start preparing a meal (then having to put a lot of them back on the shelves again), so I remind readers that if we spend a relatively short time weighing then filling bags with (say) 4oz/100g self-raising flour (or plain - but mark the bags so you know which it is),  do the same with caster sugar, the same with butter/marg (keep this in the fridge) then all we have to do then when we wish to make a cake is take a pre-measured bag of flour, ditto sugar and butter. All we need then is the right amount of eggs (I keep these close to my work table).  Then mix the lot together in the normal way.  Speeds up the backing and saves an incredible amount of time (and labour on the day).

When I used to bake bread from scratch, needed to measure out the flour, salt, dried milk powder, sugar, fat etc, then put into the bread machine before adding the yeast and water.  Very soon worked out that I could make up my own bread mix by putting the correct amount of each ingredient (but not yeast) into a bag, even adding a cube of butter/lard.  I made up a dozen at a time, kept them in one large container, then when I wanted to make a loaf (every other day), just put the yeast in the base of the bread machine pan, tipped the mix on top, and then poured the correct amount of liquid over that. Closed the lid, pressed the right buttons and job done.

This reminds me - time for me to make up more crumble mix, scone mix, and grate more cheese to freeze away. I could even make pastry mix (adding sugar to turn it into crumble mix), and with boxes of these in the fridge and freezer, another lot of time saved. 

This reply was supposed to be higher up, but must have gone and added something to the end of another, and then carried on - as I do - writing about something else.  Sorry Cheesepare, I'de not forgotten you.
We don't have primroses in our garden, and any in the council beds along the prom would be raised in greenhouses, and so ahead of their time.  These are not proper primroses anyway, they are 'primulas'. 
How wonderful to eat at Georgio Locatelli's restaurant.  He is a chef I like to watch due to his personality as well as him being a gorgeous Italian.  Can't say I recognise G.L's Cassata as being the traditional type, it sounded more like sloppy trifle.   The true Sicilian Cassata is layers of cake (I use trifle sponges fitted into a 2lb loaf tin lined with cling-film) this then drizzled with a little liqueur (I use Cointreau), topped with a mixture of ricotta cheese, candied peel and grated chocolate.  Three layers of sponge, two of the filling.  Then a weight put on top and left to chill in the fridge overnight.  The sponge has then absorbed some of the moisture from the cheese, making the filling firmer.  It cuts like a cake.  Once chilled/compressed the Cassata can be frozen.

Because at that point in the preparation the Cassata makes a good dessert in it's own right,  I don't continue with the traditional coating of the Cassata with a ganache.  This would - of course - make it sublime, but a bit too rich for most  people.  However, impressive when entertaining and fairly economical as then a little would go a long way.

Your mention CP of herbs with salt makes me wonder if we are telepathic as yesterday, when in the larder, picked up a jar to see what it was and on it I'd written 'Adriatic salt with herbs'.  Think I may have bought these from Lakeland, many years ago.  Myself don't really care for the herb flavour, so probably why it still stays on the shelf.
My favourite salt at the moment is Himalayan Pink salt.  Also use Maldon sea salt and rock salt.  Welsh salt when I can get it.  All the salt I use now is the large crystal type, we keep the free-flow fine running table salt to sprinkle on the many slugs that keep wandering around our house at night. My B has now a habit of getting up in the night, taking a torch (why doesn't he put the light on?) and the tub of salt, then going into the kitchen, living room, and conservatory, chasing slugs.  I've even found them in the bathroom - this being fully tiled and with no obvious place of entry for the slugs.

Have to go now as expecting a delivery from Riverford, and also need to sort out more things in the kitchen, especially with time-saving being given priority today.  Need everything to hand to make my work easier, but first must find the space, or make the space, and that means putting things somewhere else.  But where?  I hate this kitchen.   TTFN.


Monday, February 24, 2014

So What's Next?

Thanks to Barbara (Manitoba - welcome or is it welcome back?).  Thanks for giving details about curling.  This is one sport I'd love to take up if I was younger and certainly a lot more mobile.  It looks a lot like bowls (on grass), but have to say I've never fancied doing that,  the curling looks a lot more fun (I have had practice in sweeping!).

Not heard of the Lohmans Brown breed of hens Alison.  My parents used to keep Rhode Island Reds that seemed to lay well.  Any reader keep bantams?  My B might allow me to have a few of these as 'pets', and even though their eggs are smaller than hens, in baking the weight of eggs used is more important than number.

Yesterday evening watched (for the umpteenth time) a repeat of a series on Italy, presented by Francesco da Mosto ( not sure if I have his surname exactly right - shown on BBC4 7.00pm).  He is the man I could walk off with the instant he asked me (chance would be a fine thing).  He has a lovely voice (I swoon at Italian accents), and handsome in a very rugged way.  Also a lovely head of hair!   Apart from that, his series tour of Italy has shown some extremely old and remarkable towns, villages and single buildings that I envy anyone who is lucky enough to live in Italy.  Quite a different beauty to that of the UK (maybe due to the always seemingly blue skies), but exactly ME!   And that's before even the thought of the regional foods that I know about and would love to keep on eating.   If there was any place I would choose to live on earth, it would be Italy.

Another programme I switched over to watch was on the Food Network (forgotten its name, it was of no interest to me), and was presented by a man who also presents a series on food that grandma's cook.  The name he introduced himself by sounded like 'Molacca',  but although he himself does not appeal to me, am intrigued by his American accent, so maybe a reader could let me know the area of the US this comes from, or is the way he speaks peculiar to him. 
I ask because I'm really interested in accents and at one time could almost place a person born and bred in England to the area in which they grew up.   Loved it when I lived in Yorkshire as almost every town has its own accent, and even some villages. j

We used to have a long-playing record of the accent of each American state, but appreciate many of the states are so large, they probably have a lot of different variations within each, and of course wouldn't be so much different from the next when living close to the borders.   Unfortunately I can now only remember a few, with the Boston, New York, Californian, and Texan accents high on my list.  Can recognise 'the Deep South' accents, but not the states they come from.

Still working my way through my stores, yesterday made a bulk batch of Chicken Tikka curry, the chicken being padded out with the last of the organic carrots and onions (another Riverford delivery expected tomorrow).  B had his portion with rice, myself shredded the last of the organic Savoy cabbage, steamed that with some caraway seeds and ate this - as I would use rice - with the curry piled on top, and found it worked well.

Several days ago I decided to clear on of the small drawer in the little chest that just fits under one end of the kitchen table.  In these drawers I keep everything to hand that I need when working at said table, but - as ever - the drawers held things I don't use that often, so put those into large (now empty) tins that had once held sweets, and put into the drawer all my jars of dried spices and herbs - believe me, they filled the drawer, two layers deep and two (or is it three?) rows in each.   So now I'm trying to use them instead of just admiring them, and why I used caraway seeds with the cabbage (tasted lovely).
I'm going to have to take out the drawer and sit and make a chart of what spices are on the bottom layer, and on the top, also where they are placed, otherwise I'll keep having to remove several each time I try and find them, only on the top layer are the labels visible.   It's a pity the drawer is not deep enough for me to keep the top layer on a separate tray that can be lifted off.  That would make it a lot easier.   
At one time I used to keep all the jars (in alphabetical order), on narrow shelves over the central heating radiator, but the flavour doesn't last when in the light (so it is said, and I believe it), so now keep them in the dark.   Of course I don't need all those I have, it's just me wanting to have as many as possible in case a recipe calls for them. Of course can't bear to throw them away (I rarely - if ever - throw anything away).  However, old 'hot' spices such as chilli, curry powder, paprika, pepper etc are very good for sprinkling on the ground when we wish to keep cats away.  But this only works in dry weather.

More drawers will be cleared today.  Including the three small ones in the desk where I am sitting at the moment.  B has obviously been hunting for an instruction book, taken out much of what was in and then shoved it back (with others from other drawers) and now I can't find what I'm looking for. He will have to keep a drawer just for his own things, not mess with mine.  But then he is only happy when his life is a mess.  You should look at the table in here (that he sits beside when watching TV), covered with empty lemonade bottles, used sweet wrappers,  empty choc. boxes, empty glasses, and several weeks of TV supplements.   Yes, well, suppose it is my job to do the housework and clear it all up, so will do that today.  Or tomorrow.  One more crisp packet and empty plate/glass won't make that much more difference.   As Quentin Crisp said: 'Leave the dust for a few weeks then it never looks any different'. (or words like that).  Like his style.

Although not absolutely necessary, have placed an order with Tesco to be delivered later this week. They have some good offers on fruit and veggies (that are not in the Riverford box in this month's delivery), and also on the canned goods that I'm running out of (by this I mean I've bought only the brands that are on offer). With milk, cream and B's favourite Lurpak butter also on offer, it makes sense to buy these from Tesco.   As expected my order this time round is less than normal, and even lower in price if I use the vouchers saved (but as these are valid for many months may wait until I place a larger order so that I always keep within budget).

Have to say I will very much enjoy unpacking the groceries and restacking my shelves, but hope the pleasure isn't so great that I will feel that I can't wait to do it all again, and so begin the habitual on-line ordering once a month when I don't really need to.   Think there is something in women's genes that make them habitual shoppers.  If enough money it is clothes, shoes, handbags, and when we are forced to cut down, then we still enjoy the shopping, but this time for food.   Perhaps the 'hunter/gatherer' instinct that only the strong-minded of us that can control this urge and - unless I set it as a challenge to stay away from the stores - find I have very little control over many of my instincts.  Not that I try very hard.  Have to admit that.

The problem when writing about cost-cutting is that although experience of 'having to' has given me an advantage, it really isn't too difficult when - as now - living more comfortably.  Even though on just a state pension, we can manage, and manage well, even though - as our domestic bills rise - it will always be the food budget that has to be raided to pay for the rest. 

How much more simple it is to cook economical meals when we already have built up a larder full of 'basics' that help pad out/stretch a dish to feed at least one (or more) for only a few pence extra.  What happens if we have no money of our own, have to live on benefits, hardly any food in the cupboard, maybe even having to rely on the foodbank allocation.   How I wish I could go and live exactly like that to see how difficult it really is. 

I've not been watching the recent series of 'Benefits Street' (is that the name?), but did watch the end when they had a studio debate about it, and there has been plenty written in the papers about it as well, especially one lady.  They don't seem to have too bad a life when it comes to their possessions, and if they can afford to smoke then they do have 'disposable' money.  I'm not getting at smokers, my dad was a chain smoker, my mother nearly as bad, but for some reason I didn't take up the habit, and certainly things would have been very difficult financially if I had.  B doesn't smoke either (the fact that all his many siblings smoked and have died at a much earlier age than B is today may prove that smoking IS bad for your health).

Having been re-reading 'Working Class Wives' and 'Round About a Pound a Week', it shows how different things are today.  Our 'poor' of today would be classed as quite wealthy by those who lived decades ago.   In those days the working class (labourers) would be paid only when they worked.  When ill they had no income and also had to pay for any medical treatment.   At times like this food was often only potatoes and bread and 'scrape'.  Any meat that could be afforded was always given to the father (the breadwinner) so that he would be strong enough to work.  Children often died when very young, so money was also paid each week into a burial insurance, money that was needed for food (which would have then helped to keep the children alive).

The one positive note about the books (these give listings of where every penny was spent, and on what), was that one lady who had previously been working as a cook in a large(er) house, managed really well on the same small income that everyone else in the street had (round about a £1 a week), and her children were not malnourished, and her meals well planned and balanced.  So - as ever - it is what I call 'the Knowledge' that can make the difference between sheer poverty and a life worth living.  
The only way we can gain this knowledge is to have it taught in schools or to read books and teach ourselves.  The worst thing we can do is sit back and not bother.  Maybe some people are born survivors (like to think I fall into that category), and others prefer to have this load taken off their back.  Not everyone enjoys a challenge. 
It may be that I seem to sometimes point the finger, waggling it a bit when something has caused me to have a moan (again!!), but - in a way - it's good that everyone IS so different, it would be very boring if we were all the same, and we can always learn from another's predicament - and this could be the depression often heard about with the children of millionaires (money doesn't always bring happiness), or the 'can't get out of the rut' that may be the 'benefit' way of life.  Maybe we are on this earth to just learn what is the right and proper way to live. 

Seems I am in one of my philosophical moods again.  Sorry about that.  Put it down to being a bit of a solitary person, happy in my own company, and with plenty of time to think about things. The older I get the more I seem to keep thinking, and - like Victor Meldrew - I just can't believe how bad things seem to be these days, bad more in the way people expect more without wishing to work harder for it.  The resentment when a standard of living had dropped, rather than appreciating the luxury when they had it.  The lack of good manners, the respect we old folk deserve....  I could go on but I won't.

Don't worry, I'm found my mojo again (whatever that is but it sounds right), so am now offering a recipe that could use up some of the ingredients that may be lurking in your larders (but plenty of similar substitutes could be used - you will know what these could be).
Make these with fresh fish and they could then be frozen (also cooked from frozen). so if you see a good offer on 'chunky' fish, then worth buying extra to make these.
Although prepared as fish 'fingers', no reason why the fish couldn't be cut into squares to coat, cook and serve in the piece, or cut into smaller chunks as 'bites'.

Use any chunky white fish for these.  Cod/haddock is more expensive than Pollock or coley,  and am sure there are other less expensive fish that could also be used.   For some reason - farmed salmon seems to be one of the cheapest fish on sale, but this could soon change.
The recipe suggests using 'fish seasoning' (Schwartz), but have myself not come across this, so would season the fish using either salt/pepper, or a touch of Cajun seasoning perhaps.  We all have our own favourite herbs and spices, so we are free to flavour (or not) the fish as we wish.

If you wish for an even crunchier coating, then 'double-dip'.  Coat the fish with lemon first, then with egg and then the crumbs, then dip into the egg again, with a further coating of crumbs.
Crunchy Fish Fingers: serves 4
9 oz (250g) chunky white fish fillets
juice of half a lemon
half tsp fish seasoning (see above)
2 oz (50g) polenta/cornmeal
2 oz (50g) dried breadcrumbs
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tblsp olive oil
Cut the piece into 8 even-sized pieces and spoon over the lemon juice, turning the fish so it has the lemon on both sides. 
Mix together the fish seasoning (or your choice) with the polenta and breadcrumbs, then tip this onto a shallow dish.  Put the beaten egg into a similar dish then first dip the fish into the egg to coat, then dip into the crumb mixture, turning it several times to make sure it is well covered (or double dip - see above).
When all the 'fingers' have been coated they can then be frozen. When solid pack and seal and use within 4 months. 
To cook, place onto a baking sheet lined with parchment, drizzling the oil over each.  Bake for 15 minutes at 200C, gas 6 (if cooking from frozen allow an extra 5 minutes) turning halfway through cooking.  Serve with your favourite vegetables, mashed potatoes or oven chips.

And that's it for today.  While still continuing my 'use-it-up' challenge (with modifications), am now trying to think up a new challenge to get my teeth into.  Does it always have to be about food?  Believe it or not, my cost-cutting 'expertise' began with the craftier side of domestic life (think Kirstie Allsopp), before my economies in cooking caught the media eye.  
Hope you can join me tomorrow when I will try to keep things at the culinary level.  TTFN.



Saturday, February 22, 2014

Beginning of the End, or End of the Beginning?

My first written-about 'see how long stores will last without doing more shopping' was the winter of 2006/7.  Details still are in archives if you wish to take a peek.  A slightly different challenge to the current one, although 'no more shopping' was still the aim.   At that time I bought £250 of food from various sources (supermarket, local butcher, and included the money spent on the almost daily delivery of dairy products (we had a milkman then, and hadn't yet bought on-line meat in bulk, so bought what I felt I would need and froze it myself.

What I wanted to do was find out how long all this food would last.  No food was taknen from any in that was already in the store-cupboard or fridge etc, only the food bought for the challenge was used.  As mentioned before, it lasted 10 weeks with a little left over, also a little money left (had to keep a bit of the budget back to pay the milkman each week and didn't need it all). Could probably have lasted another week (maybe two at a pinch), but it was then I got cellulitis and had to be rushed to hospital.   Even so, it worked out at £25 a week for the two of us, and we really did eat good meals for that.

Yesterday worked out that - at the end of next week - it will also be 10 weeks since my last big grocery order (just prior to Christmas).  Even allowing for festive food, not as much money was spent at that time, and very little since (probably no more than £50 max to top up the milk, eggs, salad etc.  Am including the £20 + Riverford organic veggie box in this, but even so the total averages out at only £5 a week).  As this time I did allow myself to use foods that were already in the larder, it proves how a good stock can work out extremely useful when we decided to luck up our purses.

If we estimate the cost of the store-cupboard food (should have done this but didn't), am guessing it wouldn't be much more than £50, and this means this time round the overall expense would have been less than the original challenge mentioned above.  Not bad considering that over the past six years food prices have continually risen.

So as 10 weeks have now past since the start of 'use up what we have', do I continue or count it as proven to work?  There is still a fair amount of dry goods and a few cans and bottles in the larder, also loads of meat/fish in the freezers and bits of this and that in the fridge.  With Riverfood delivering, do have enough veggies to keep going (also some in the freezer).   Is this the beginning of the end, or the end of the beginning? 

My common sense tells me that I should again buy foods (but only when on offer) of stocks that have been almost depleted.  Have only one can of baked beans left, but then do have a pack of dried haricot beans so - at a pinch - could make my own baked beans (have done it before, and they are very good, but admit to preferring the flavour of a certain brand - but then beggars can't always be choosers). Usually find I can make what I used to buy, but now I'm much older tend to take the easy way out.

Have to say that when watching James Martin's series yesterday, fell in love with his elaborate pasta making machine.  "WANT ONE" I shouted out loud.  But it would be horrendously expensive (being catering size), but oh, so tempting.   As I already have a pasta machine (the one that rolls out pastry and then cuts it into various shapes (using a couple or so clip-on 'cutters') and now rarely use it (although used do when 'catering'), no point now in me buying anything more as should be down-sizing my kitchen appliances and gadgets, not add to them.

James M is a man after my own heart, just love the way he lets us know that we should use lots of butter and cream (and eggs) in the food we prepare.  As a young man he has an old-fashioned approach to cooking, the good 'farm-house' way, probably due to his up-bringing and memories of his grandma's cooking.  All power to his elbow I say.   Only problem is he doesn't seem to care about how much the ingredients cost. 

Saw a trailer yesterday about a new cookery series to be presented by Mary Berry 'giving lots of hints and tips to save time'.   One probably well worth watching as she is very down to earth, a proper 'housewife' cook, and aware of the cost of things.  

Lots of comments sent in since Thursday, and thanks to everyone, even though today not all are replied to individually.  Just those who I felt urged to.

Was interested in the 'Love Food, Hate Waste' cookery course that you went to Janet.  Was that run by the local foodbank?   Sorry you had to miss eating the finished meal due to various reasons, but 'the washing of hands' gave me food for thought.  Of course I always do wash my hands before starting to prepare a meal, and usually wear plastic gloves when handling a bulk amount of raw meat for freezing, also when slicing cooked meat for freezing.  It's not that I'm over picky, but when serving food to others, it's become a habit to make sure that food - as B puts it - is never touched by human hands.

Do remember once A.W.T. said he'd had a letter from a viewer who complained that he hadn't worn protective gloves when demonstrating on TV, and this just a sandwich!  He said that he never wore gloves when buttering bread, his hands were clean anyway, and as it was filmed in his own kitchen, he could do what he liked in it.   (James says the same thing when he licks the spoon or dips a - clean - finger into something to taste - 'it's my kitchen, I can do what I like').  I feel the same - but preparing food in other kitchens for other people is a different matter.  We do need to be careful..

Have to say I don't always wash veggies when preparing them (although do with the organics as root veggies have an earthy covering).  Maybe this is because I realise that when they are cooked, this kills off anything that could cause food poisoning.

Are we too cautious when it comes to cleanliness?  My B has always been one of those people who - after dropping his toast or sarnie onto the floor, will just pick it up and continue eating it (after knocking off any fluff).  We are more likely to become immune if we do 'eat a peck of dirt' in our lives, than keep everything pristine and germ-free.  But that's my opinion, it doesn't mean to say it is right.

Was sorry to hear about your muddied hens Alison (Essex), but good to know they are still laying well.  Winter time they usually slow down quite a lot, although it depends on the breed.  The Warrens are the most productive layers (these being the breed used for commercial egg-laying).  Believe that April is the month when hens produce the most eggs.

A welcome to Lisa Dodd, who sends a great tip:  use one of those 'needle holders' (used by florists) as a 'pricker' for pastry/biscuits.  Many years ago did use one of these, and they work really well.  Make do with a fork now, but the end result is not so professional.

Morecambe must be fairly sheltered Cheesepare as our rosemary bush is also in flower, and normally this would be at least a month later.  I have miniature daffodils in flower, and also snowdrops, with a few crocus beginning to show, and the daffs and tulips planted last autumn also showing their tips above the soil.  l
All the geraniums brought in prior to the first frosts have bloomed constantly in the conservatory throughout the winter, a mass or red/pink blooms as I write. Even without any added heat, and as we've had only a couple of frosts anyway they might have managed to stay alive outdoors in a sheltered spot.  But wasn't taking the risk.

The thought of doing a few video cookery demos that could be shown on YouTube is a bit tempting C.P. but am going to confine myself to setting up that new (proper) website that's been on hold since I have no camera to take photos of the dishes.  The website will just be recipes and some hints/tip, not the ramblings that I do on this blog.
The camera I need is one that can take really good close-ups, and possibly also one that can take a video as that could also go onto the new site.  Keep meaning to get one, but time moves so fast and my mind keeps thinking about other things.

Thanks to all who mentioned my allergy.  My face has now just about returned to normal, but don't mind a bit about the very slight swelling of my cheeks as it makes the crease between my nose and the corner of my lips disappear and like to believe this makes me look years younger.  Who needs Botox when you have an allergy like mine?

B chose spag.bol for his supper yesterday, so make a bulk batch using some pre-cooked beef/pork mince that I'd frozen away, plus a pack of Beanfeast bolognaise and a carton of passata.  All I needed to do was first fry an onion, add the passata and Beanfeast, then when this was part-cooked, add the boiling hot reheated mince (this takes 8 mins in the microwave to reheat from frozen to boiling).  Added the usual dollop of HP sauce and a few shakes of Worcestershire Sauce to give it the flavour that B prefers. 

Cooked the last of the pasta penne (but believe I do have another unopened pack in one of the kitchen cupboards), and with grated Parmesan this made a lovely meal that we both enjoyed (leaving enough spag.bol meat sauce to freeze away for another day).

It's the time of year when the birds are much more active (also the squirrels), as I awake to a lovely dawn chorus of birdsong each morning, and yesterday heard the seagulls calling as they flew over the garden, so probably they will shortly be making their nests between the chimneypots on the house at the back.   Last year they reared three hatchlings, and with no room for them between the pots, very shortly after their 'nursery' had to be the sloping house roof facing ours, so they were visible to us from almost their birth to their maturity, when they had their first flight on exactly the same day as the previous year.  Am hoping the same will happen again this year as it is lovely to watch 'our babies' grow up.

Don't dismiss today's recipe because the ingredient list is long.  I give it in its entirety as some readers do prefer to make curry from scratch. But with one fell swoop I can swipe off the first six ingredients (even though I have them), and instead us a ready-mixed curry powder, or (even easier) just throw in the contents of a jar of curry sauce.  And why not? We all like to take short-cuts, save precious time, and my way of cooking now seems to be take advantage of at least some convenience foods just as long as the basic ingredients are 'fresh' and meals are always home-cooked (or nearly always). 

By all means, use the individual spices, and the correct cut of meat if you want to be a 'proper cook', but don't forget we can juggle around a bit with the other ingredients if we wish to cut costs, cut corners.  Myself would thaw out some boneless pork steaks/chops that I have.  Would use white (cooking) onions instead of the milder red, and maybe even use a can of beans (red, white or even baked) if I had run out of chickpeas.  White vinegar instead of red.  Spoon of black treacle instead of dark sugar. But it's YOUR kitchen, YOUR larder, so use the recipe as a guide, then make the dish any which way you choose.

Because this curry freezes well, worth making the full amount (or even double). Or reduce by half if wishing to make a meal to serve 4 with nothing to save.  Best make this the day before eating as the flavour will improve.  Just reheat when ready to serve.

Pork and Chickpea Curry: serves 8 - 10
1 tsp black peppercorns
2 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp turmeric
2 whole bulbs garlic, cloves separated
4 fl oz (100ml) red wine vinegar
2 fl oz (500ml) sunflower oil
3 large red onions, very finely chopped
3lb 5oz (1.5kg) pork shoulder, cut into chunks
2 red bell peppers, deseeded and chopped
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
2 tsp dark muscovado sugar
1 x 400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
16 fl oz (450ml) chicken stock
Put all the spices into a small food processor with the peeled cloves of garlic and whizz to a coarse paste, drizzling in the vinegar while the processor is still turning.  Alternatively crush the lot using a pestle and mortar. Mix this spicy paste with the cubed pork and set aside for 15 minutes (or longer if you wish).
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large pan and fry the onions until just beginning to colour, then raise the heat and add the pork , frying this until darkened.   Stir in the peppers, tomatoes and the sugar and continue cooking for a further 15 minutes until the tomatoes have cooked down to make a thick sauce.  Add the chick peas and stock, cover and bring to the simmer, then transfer the pot to the oven and cook for 1 1/2 hours at 150C, gas 2, until the meat is really tender and the sauce has again thickened.
Serve with freshly boiled rice, or cool and freeze (as individual meals or larger helpings).  Freezes will for up to 6 months.   Defrost completely before reheating, then reheat thoroughly.

Cancelled my hair appt. yesterday so that I could watch Team GB in the final of the curling.  Needn't have bothered, it was doomed from the start, but at least we got a silver.  Team GB it may have been but it was all Scottish, and so congratulations should go to Scotland for getting a bronze and silver (the bronze won by the girl's team).

Can any Scottish reader (or anyone who 'curls') tell me how the brushes work?  They look as though they are polishing the ice to make it easier for the stones to slide, but the sweepers also seem to be able to control the way the stone moves, turning in slightly in another direction.  Also if moving too fast through the 'target area' (as I call it), furious sweeping seems to slow it down.  So can the brushes both polish the ice and also rough it up?
Also the shoes worn seem to slide very easily, almost as though they wear skates.  So what sort of soles do they have?

That's it for today - turning out to be very sunny, but also windy, more wind and possibly rain forecast for tomorrow, especially over the western side of the UK (where we live).  But nothing abnormal.  You could say perfect weather for this time of year, and mild with it.  Unless we are extremely unlucky and get some of the snow that America/Canada is getting,  we could have seen the last of our winter. 
Won't be blogging tomorrow being Sunday (I now don't blog on Sundays), but will be back with you again Monday.  Hope you all have a good weekend.  TTFN.


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Not One of My Best Days

So it was Wednesday yesterday, giving me today to write another blog which will be shorter as had a bad allergy attack that began around midnight, discovered slightly too late for the treble dose of anti-histamines then taken to hold it back.  After a night of bad dreams, woke to find my face completely swollen up to the eyes with trout lips, the lot.  Can't eat, can't drink, can barely speak.  Really don't feel like writing today, so hope you will forgive me.  Can't take more pills yet, so it will be several hours before the swelling recedes (can only drink through a straw anyway).

At least did enjoy the men's curling yesterday,  made B wait for his supper until the end of the match (he was cooking his own stir-fry by needed me to prepare some of the veggies first, one day he'll grow up and be able to do some of the prep himself). 

The curling match was so close had to wait for the last stone to settle before the winning team could be announced - this being Britain, so now we are in the final and guaranteed a gold or silver medal.  Sadly the women's team didn't fare so well, losing their semi-final match, but at least have a play-off with the other losers, so could well bring home the bronze.

For my own supper yesterday had salad with some Morecambe Bay shrimps that I'd bought as a treat for myself from the Smokehouse at Glasson some months back, and being frozen they were still in their use-by date, Once thawed added them to my salad, with a dressing made from mayo and Thai sweet Chilli sauce.   Now it could be I've suddenly become allergic to these particular shrimps (although seem to be able to eat prawns OK), or it could be the chilli sauce as although have had no problem with other brands before However this bottle was on offer this week at Lidl so asked B to bring me one. 
As my last major outbreak (full facial swelling) happened after we'd eaten a meal at a local Chinese restaurant, it could be MSG or something used that is causing this.  Have eaten there before with no problem, but not always the same dishes, and as it was a family gathering and everyone sampled each other's choice, it could be one (or more) contained an ingredient that I am allergic to.   Just have to wait and maybe try the sauce again in a couple or so weeks and if it happens again, will have discovered at least one cause (am sure there are several).  At least, since the doctor removed one of my pills from my prescription (that he said would cause this allergy), the attacks have been far less, and any I have had barely noticeable.

Thanks to Grub-lover, T.Mills, and Treaders, for their comments. And to Eileen would suggest she tries freezing surplus olives, either drained or with a little added oil (the oil can be used for cooking after thawing).

Was feeling a bit cross with myself yesterday. Why is it that every other blog looks so professional, with loads of photos, and mine is just boring print? At least did put up photos once, but my camera has not yet been returned after being taken for repair, and not sure whether to buy another.  It would only be for taking photos for this blog, and cameras that take good pictures in close-up are very expensive.  Do know that the top of the range mobile phones can be used to take photos and also used for sending the printed word, but these also cost a fortune.  My mobile is one of the cheaper ones, takes no photos, and is pay as you go (£10 lasts me for months). Never use it for direct phoning (more expensive than a land line - that we need for the computer anyway), so just for receiving calls and texting when necessary (not for chatting).

I've such admiration for people who I've read about that manage to blog without even having a computer (or are not able to afford such a useful mobile).  So we should give thanks to local libraries that have computers that people can use for free (are they free?).  And they are thinking about closing libraries down now that we can read books on Kindle/tablets.  Give me a proper book that I can curl up with to have a good read.  We need libraries.  Let's make sure they stay.
But when it comes to some things, young minds are better at sussing out technology than old ones and can do a lot with it.  Me, I can barely work this computer and have been 'comping' now for about 10 years.

At least it made me think about past photos I've taken and still stored on this comp.  Maybe worth showing one or two again.  Would readers be interested?

That's it for today.  No blog tomorrow, but should be back with you again on Saturday.  TTFN.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Balancing Act

Without wishing to bore everyone, do feel the need to continue with yesterday's 'chat' about the actual cost of our meals versus the true cost of having to first go out and buy all the ingredients (as there will always be surplus left - and we need to be aware of this and find a use for it.   Am aware this is teaching a grandmother to suck eggs, but we can often be put off making a recipe when the cost is given and it appears (and still could be) too expensive.

Having yesterday read through one of the mags that give price-per-portion, most meals seem to be in the region of 1.50 a head, give or take a shilling or two in either direction.  There are also some 'cheapies' (under a £1) and I did see one at £5.48!!  Even then we could afford the occasional luxury meal if we do a balancing act, maybe plan the menu for a week ahead (sadly, this is something I rarely do - because it takes away some of the 'what shall I make today?' interest), serving (say) four inexpensive meals, a couple of middling ones, and one 'treat'. 

As ever, this is all to do with how much money we have to spend in the first place.  Living on the bread-line means almost that (but considering the rising cost of bread we could buy a lot of fresh produce for the price of one loaf today).  On the other hand, if we can slowly build up a store-cupboard of 'useful things' - if starting from scratch read recipes to find out the most used - then we will have most of 'the makings' already, with no need to go out and spend more.

Although (at least to me) any meal that costs over £1 seems excessive, I have to admit to not really costing a dish out these days.  Just as long as I can keep within my monthly food budget, that's all that matters.  It helps to know just how much (or little) money we do need to spend on food.

We all know that it is cheaper to feed two (costs per head) than one.  A family of four (if two are small children then call that three) will - or could - work out even cheaper.   This means that a person living alone is more likely to pay the most for their meals.  But not necessarily, there are plenty of bargains around.

Working on the average cost of a one-portion main meal (home-cooked) as £1.50, then this works out at £10.50 a week.  That's £42 a month - per person.   When cooking for two or more the monthly cost, again per portion, would be less.   Four a family of four (two adults, two children), we might be able to bring the cost down to an average of £1 a head, especially if alternating the more expensive with the far cheaper, but even then this means a total of over £100 for the month, and that's just for the main meal each day.  We have to then add the cost of breakfast, lunch and any other snacks that might be eaten.  At times like this I think cookery-mags live in cloud cuckoo land as many families don't have £100 to spend on food in the first place.   

This week B keeps asking me if I'm having a Tesco delivery soon,  he seems to feel slightly insecure without a regular delivery.  It's now two months since my last order was delivered from T, but as I have had the first of the monthly organic veg-box delivery, and B has brought in some fresh milk/eggs from Morrison's, plus one or two other items (all well within the £10 a week top-up budget I'd set myself), an knowing I can still keep going for another month at least.  But will I?  Haven't I proved the point of the challenge already?  But if I do order, it won't be until next week, and as then the second of the monthly deliveries from Riverford will arrive on Tuesday, my Tesco order will certainly be less than normal.

If anything, this current challenge of mine is proving that once we have built up a good store-cupboard, then use what we have, spending a small amount each week on 'fresh' to top-up, it should be possible to eat well for a lot less than we expect.  It's just building up the stocks that can often be difficult.  Ideally, from the start, buy a few of the dry goods each time we shop (those with a long shelf life where we use only part of a pack at any one time), in a very few months we should then have a quite a bit in store that we can then keep using.  Trouble is (and this includes me) we often forget these dry goods are bought to be used, and so leave them on the shelf while we go out hunting for more food to cook/eat that we really didn't need if we'd thought it out first. 

I have packs of lentils (green and split red), dried cannellini beans, a jar of dried chickpeas, and umpteen other jars containing all sorts of things (walnuts, desiccated coconut, preserved lemons, various sugars, flaked almonds, broken biscuits.....and the rest, all waiting to be used, and rarely are.  Time for me to take myself in hand and work through the lot.

For some reason yesterday kept throwing up 'things worth chatting about', so I kept writing them down as I discovered them.  We start with a small jar of fresh rosemary that I had cut a couple or so weeks ago from a bush in the garden,  I had too much at the time, so just shoved the remaining stalks into a small jam jar full of water.  Whether it is because the jar was put a the back of the kitchen unit under the back-light, giving it extra warmth and light, or whether this would happen anyway, but noticed yesterday (when I went to top up the jar with water), the little stems had begun to throw off roots, so will be able to soon pot them up.   We have a huge rosemary bush in the garden, so I can give the pots of rosemary away as gifts...OR (good idea this) give them to the butcher to sell (he also has a fruit and veg counter under his window outside) for him to sell, in which case he can pay me back in kind (chicken carcases, sausages etc...!!!).

Watched James Martin again, and quite liking this series (he has the most lovely eyes).  Was interested in his way of making crème fraiche -  the same way I made sour cream the other week.  Just mixed lemon juice into double cream (the mistake I made was to use double instead of single cream).   When I did this it thickened the cream so much it could be cut with a knife, but tasted absolutely wonderful, so served it with scones and jam. 

The other day made some EasiYo fruit yogurt that hadn't set as firmly as I thought.  If I'd noticed this when removing it from the flask I could have put it back with more boiling water to surround it and left it for longer.  But once chilled didn't wish to do this.  Not a problem as nowadays we can buy 'runny yogurt' for drinking, and so was able to do this with mine.  Unset yogurt is also good poured over cereals instead of milk.  Or used like buttermilk when baking.

My neighbour occasionally goes with us when we visit Barton Grange, and always treats herself to some peanut-brittle from the sweet counter, she says she cannot find it elsewhere.  I've tried the supermarkets, but they don't seem to stock it.   So yesterday decided to try making some.  I'd already got some dry-roasted peanuts in the larder, so - using the easiest recipe I could find - set about making some.  All that is needed is the same weight of peanuts and caster sugar. 

The sugar needs putting into a pan to melt, and - using 100g of each - found the sugar needed a teaspoon of water adding to help it on its way, the water would then boil away as it cooked.  When hot enough for caramel (150C/300F), remove from heat, add the nuts, then tip onto a parchment lined baking tray, press flat and leave to get cold.   It will then (and did) set perfectly.
The only problem with this is getting the temperature right.  Only experienced cooks can gauge this  without needing a thermometer.  I treated myself to a very useful one, looks like a little bedside clock, and normally used as a clock, it has a long thin wire that can be plugged in, the end being thicken metal that is either pushed into meat or put into boiling sugar syrup/preserves etc to register the heat.  Useful when roasting a large joint of me (not that I often do this), as the wire-end can be pushed into the raw joint, then placed into the oven, the wire thin enough to go outside where it will then be fitted into the little clock.  It can even be set to bleep when the internal temperature has been reached.  I have (over the years) bought three other cooking thermometers, and this one is by far the best and most accurate.

During the evening, managed to watch all the first half of 'The Taste', but nodded off during the second half.  But it was the first part that was most interesting, only in that it did discuss the use of left-overs and was pleased that the chef there mentioned how full of flavour a cauliflower stalk/core has.  I always grate this core (also the core of white cabbage) to use when cooking, it makes good cole-slaw as well, and with cauliflower leaves makes an excellent soup (when cooked in milk and blitzed).
If I can find an old-fashioned fish-monger, then will hope to be able to buy cod's heads as have often heard chefs mention using cod 'cheeks'.  We forget that cheeks are full of muscle and lots of creatures have enough useable cheek.  Ox cheeks are gorgeous when cooked with a little red wine, and pig's cheeks were always a favourite (known as 'Bath Chaps'), but rarely sold these days.  Time perhaps to start using these cheaper, but really tasty, foods before they become fashionable and the price rockets.

Was pleased to see the first of the new series of  'The Great British Sewing Bee' last night. It's good to have a change from cookery, and has got me thinking about buying myself a sewing machine.  I did have one - a big and very heavy Singer that did everything and paid for itself over the many years I used it (making the girl's clothes, and things sold to craft-shops).  Far too cumbersome for me to lift I gave it away, but miss it, and want to buy a light-weight one, then get sewing again (probably cushion covers and of course make-over my old clothes).  

My Beloved did have chicken for his supper yesterday.  I 'butterflied' a chicken breast and seasoned it on both sides with Cajun mix before frying in a little butter/oil.  When about ready I added some cooked peas, with oven-roasted vegetables (parsnips, celery, onion, red bell pepper) to complete the meal.  Colourful and well-flavoured and enjoyed by B.  
Myself had a salad of coleslaw, plus tomato, bell pepper, finely sliced shallot, and a can of tuna. Made a salad dressing from low-fat mayo with a dash of Fiery chilli ketchup.  As I'd made a lot, ate half for lunch (after I'd had my tomato soup) and half for my supper.   Weight remains the same, but at least no gain.

With me always seeking recipes that can use up what I have, and although do have dried porcini mushrooms in the larder, having dried a lot of surplus fresh mushrooms over last year, these could be used instead.  Haven't at the moment got fresh mushrooms  (B can bring me in some, or there may be some in the Riverford box next week.  Whatever - this is a good recipe to keep as it can turn 'oddments' into something that can either be used as a simple 'toast-topper' snack, or served as a starter (with more toast) when entertaining. 
If you are lucky enough to be able to buy mushrooms (often sold very cheaply in markets at the end of the week), as this will freeze, then worth making.

Mushroom Butter: serves 8
1 x 30g pack dried porcini mushrooms
1 pack butter (250g), softened
1 onion, very finely chopped or grated
2 - 3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 sprigs fresh thyme
9 oz (250g) chestnut mushrooms, finely chopped
2 tblsp brandy
juice of half a lemon
handful of fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper
Put the dried mushrooms in a bowl and cover with boiling water.  Leave to soak, then drain and chop.
Put 2 oz (50g) of the butter into a pan over medium-low heat and fry until softened.  Add the garlic and thyme and fry for a further minute.  Stir in all the mushrooms, making sure all are coated with the butter.  Raise the heat to high and cook for 5 - 8 minutes until soft, then pour in the brandy and lemon juice.  Continue cooking for a couple or so more minutes or until all the liquid has evaporated.  Remove from heat, add the parsley and seasoning to taste, then remove the sprigs of thyme, before leaving to cool.
Mix the mushroom mixture with the remaining butter, then divide between four ramekin dishes. Chill until firm, where it will keep in the fridge for up to three days.  Or - if you prefer - cover with cling-film, place into freezer bags, and freeze for up to three months, defrosting completely before serving.
Serve each ramekin to share between two, along with freshly toasted bread and some dressed salad leaves.

Myself tend to prefer using a recipe that has few ingredients as a long list always seems so daunting (and also expensive), yet it really is the other way round.  The more ingredients, the cheaper a dish could turn out to be as most of these are added to give flavour to the main foods that perhaps have little of their own (so are inexpensive because of this).

Because I keep a fairly wide variety of both fresh and stored foods in the kitchen, am always pleased to find a recipe I can make - like today, only it probably won't be today -  but this doesn't mean to say if I haven't got all the 'makings' it still can't be made, I'd just use alternatives/substitute ingredients.

Have so say the following recipe brought Eileen to mind as I know she loves olives and also has courgettes in her freezer.  Neither are my most favourite foods, but wouldn't dismiss them if served to me. No point in always giving recipe that I enjoy when others may prefer to eat something different, so let's hope that many readers will enjoy this one.

Although the recipe shows the way to make the cheese sauce, I'm not going to slap anyone's hands if they prefer to use a packet of cheese sauce mix (but add extra grated cheese to give more flavour). I don't care what people say, if there is a convenience food that cuts the amount of cooking time away, then I'm prepared to use it just as long as the main part of the dish is made using unprocessed (like fresh) ingredients and is home-made.

Because this can be frozen for up to three months it is worth making the full batch.  Otherwise pare it down to make only as much as you need.
Cheese and Pasta Bake: serves 12 
2 tblsp olive oil
1 bag mini-peppers, cut into chunks
6 cloves garlic, chopped or crushed
1 x 500g pack mushrooms, quartered
1 ltr carton passata
16 fl.oz (450ml) vegetable stock
2 tsp dried oregano
1 jar pitted black olives, drained
1 lb (450g) courgettes, halved and sliced
freshly ground black pepper
1 x 500g pack pasta penne (or other shapes)
cheese sauce/topping:
2.75pints (1.5 litrs) milk
4 oz (100g) butter
5 oz (150g) plain flour
10 oz (300g) mature Cheddar, grated
3 oz (75g) chunk stale bread, torn into pieces
Heat the oil in a large frying pan and stir-fry the pepper for 5 minutes, then add the garlic and mushrooms and continue frying for five more minutes, then pour over the passata and stock, adding the oregano, olives and courgettes, seasoning well with pepper.   Reduce heat and simmer, stirring often, for 10 - 15 minutes, until the veggies are just tender and the sauce has thickened a bit.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta as per packet instructions, then drain and add to the above mixture..
Make the cheese sauce by putting the milk, butter and flour into a pan, heating gently, and whisking all the time until smooth and thick.  Fold in half the cheese, stirring until melted into the sauce.
To assemble the dish, pile the mushroom/courgette/passata mixture into several baking dishes, packing it down well before pouring the cheese sauce on top.   Mix together the remaining cheese and bread pieces then scatter this on top.  At this point it can be chilled and then frozen for up to three months, then thaw before baking (or allow longer baking time if from frozen).
To serve:  bake at 200C, gas 6 for 40 minutes until bubbling hot and golden on top.

Off now to watch Winter Olympics as it is the final for the women's curling (men's this afternoon). Think it is worth giving up a little of my cooking morning to enjoy watching this.  Might be able to persuade B to have sausage, eggs, beans and oven-chips for his supper, then I won't need to spend so much time preparing something more elaborate for him.  Myself will have my favourite tomato soup for lunch and salad for supper (with either canned fish, sausages or hard-boiled eggs...). 

Is it Wednesday today or Thursday? I cannot remember. All days are much the same to me now. How sad is that?  As long as I know when it will be Friday as this is the day I won't be blogging.  So if Friday is tomorrow, then you'll have to wait for Saturday before I return.  Suppose this means 'see you when I see you' (which might be tomorrow - or could be the day after).  Stop rambling Shirley, the curling will have begun, so get up and go.   Bye for now.