Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Say Cheese!

Another fairly busy day today.  Decided not to go to the spiritualist church but will be going on Saturday evening.   B delivered the cakes/mags etc to the foodbank this morning and I then had the rest of the day to myself pottering around.  The sun still shines and the wisteria is now flowering, not as many blooms as I'd hoped for but hopefully more to come.

As ever, thanks to all who write in and we give a welcome to Susan who lives in Austria.  It's lovely to have readers from so many different countries as we get to hear the differences in the meals we eat and also the varying prices of the foods we buy. 

Pleased that you are finding minced lamb is more easily available Margie (Toronto), and as it is cheaper at the moment, this is the time to buy several 1lbs (kgs) and freeze it away in small quantities (or make up burgers/meatballs to freeze).   Liked your idea of using pesto instead of mint with lamb.
Ina Garten (aka the Barefoot Contessa) was making a Greek version of lasagne on the Food Network the other day, in this she used a mixture of minced beef and minced lamb.  I've heard of mixing minced beef and pork together, but never lamb.  Basically after frying the meats together with some onion (probably added a sauce - I wasn't taking that much notice) she tipped in a load of tiny pastaq shells, mixing them all together, putting them into a dish and covering with a cheese sauce and grated cheese on top, then into the oven (or under the grill) to finish off.
We have not heard about the tornados in the US Midwest, or I missed hearing/reading about those.

How lovely to wander in the bluebell wood AND hear a cuckoo Alison (Essex).  It must be thirty years ago when I last hear a cuckoo - and that was in Scotland.  When a little girl, standing by the front gate with my father, a cuckoo flew right down the drive, low over our heads 'cuckoo-ing' all the time as it flew. An ugly bird but its song brings back happy memories.  As does the sound of a skylark - another sound we never hear now.

The bulb in the light fitting began flickering again as I finished writing last night, and as I left the room I stood under it and told it either to stay properly lit when switched on or to not light at all next time.  It did go back to full light when I said it, but this morning it didn't light up.
Problem is it is so easy to believe that there is some paranormal reason for this when almost certainly the bulb was just ready to go.  A coincidence.  Only the physic group say there is no such thing as a coincidence, and that I feel could lead me to believe 'there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio...' than their truly are.   Although I have truly had many psychic experiences in my lifetime, I can still be sceptical.  I need real proof, not just what might be my vivid imagination.  But I will persevere for a while, just in case there is something out there wishing to communicate with me.  But first I need to know I need have no fear of it (if there is).  I can't do with having to feel there is something looking over my shoulder all the time.

Back to food.  Well, that's what I'm here for really, trouble is my fingers and thoughts have a mind of their own, hence all my rambles (the group might call this 'automatic writing' and sometimes I do wonder when I read past blogs back as I can't remember at all saying some of it....).  Must now concentrate on the recipes for today, these based on cheese - mainly because this is something most of us have in our fridge, and these come into their own when we find we haven't much else with which to make a meal.

First dish is pasta based and the three cheeses don't have to be the ones mentioned, but preferably something similar that has a similar flavour or texture.  Myself leave a strong flavoured cheddar out of its wrapper on the fridge shelf and when it has become really hard, then it will grate down really finely and can be used exactly as we do Parmesan.  It doesn't have to be Cheddar, any hard cheese can be left to go hard and then grated.   Sometimes I mix this with real Parmesan, it makes it go further and still get the flavour.
The Gorgonzola cheese is a blue cheese, so we could use St.Agur (my favourite), or Stilton (or any similar blue cheese).  At a pinch use grated Feta instead of mozzarella, or freeze a block of cream cheese and then grate that as a substitute for the 'mozzie'.
Think by now we all know that we don't HAVE to use the pasta in the recipe.  Pasta penne is very similar to macaroni, but most pasta shapes could be used.
One or two of my onions have begun to sprout, and I'm letting them grow so that I can use the green bits, finely chopped as a substitute for chives. 

Baked Pasta with Three Cheese Sauce: serves 4
12 oz (350g) macaroni
half pint (300ml) whipping cream
4 fl oz (100ml) vegetable stock
5 oz (150g) grated mozzarella cheese
3 oz (75g) crumbled gorgonzola cheese
4 oz (100g) grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tblsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tblsp chopped chives (see above)
salt and pepper
Cook the pasta as per packet instructions, and when al dente, drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, put the cream and stock into a saucepan and bring to the simmer, then remove from heat. Add the all the mozzarella and gorgonzola cheeses, but only half the parmesan, stirring until melted. Fold in the mustard and herbs, adding seasoning to taste, finally adding the cooked pasta.
Pour this mixture into a shallow, ovenproof dish and sprinkle the remaining parmesan over the top. B Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes at 180C, gas 4.

Although I've given this next recipe before (or one very similar) as this particular recipes uses canned new potatoes this makes this dish what we call a 'store-cupboard meal' (the other 'fresh' ingredients we normally always have in our fridges or veggie racks). 
As this dish can be eaten hot or cold, it is perfect for almost any occasion: main meal with salad, or including in a packed lunch/picnic, or - for a buffet' - cooked in an oblong roasting dish and then cut into chunks to spear with cocktail sticks to serve cold.

 Spanish Tortilla: serves 4
1 tblsp olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 x 750g can new potatoes, drained/sliced
5 large eggs, lightly beaten
4 oz (100g) feta cheese, chopped
1 oz (25g) parmesan  cheese, finely grated
2 oz (50g) cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
Heat the oil in a frying pan and cook the onion until softened.  Put the rest of the ingredients into a bowl and mix together.  Pour this over the onions in the pan and cook - over low heat - for about 10 minutes until the egg has set on top. 
Cover the pan with a large plate and invert so the tortilla falls onto the plate, then slide the tortilla back into the pan (the underside will now be the top). Place back over the heat and cook for a further 5 minutes or until cooked through.  Remove from heat and if eating cold, leave to cool in the pan before removing.

Believe, in the US, American muffins are regularly eaten as a breakfast dish, or am I thinking of pancakes - the type we call 'drop scones'.  But whatever, this next recipe would make a good starter to the day, and I like these because quite often I have yogurt that I need to use up, and also the last pesto in the jar. The rest of the ingredients (of course) are in my larder.
Best eaten while still warm and on the day of making.

Cheese Muffins: makes 12
1 lb (450g) self-raising flour
2 oz (50g) butter, chopped coarsely
15 fl oz (430ml) buttermilk or yogurt
2 tblsp basil pesto
4 oz (100g) cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
1 teaspoon sweet paprika pepper
1 tablespoon plain flour
Put the s.r. flour into a large bowl and rub in the butter.  Using a fork, stir in the buttermilk to make a soft, sticky dough.  Swirl in the pest and the cheese. DO NOT OVERMIX!
Divide the mixture between paper lined (or greased and floured) 12-hole muffin tin, then sprinkle with the paprika and plain flour.  Bake at 180C, gas 4 for approx. 20 - 25 minutes.  Leave in the tin before removing to finish off cooling on a wire rack.

As you know I use the EasiYo yogurt (dry) mix to make my own yogurt.  It really is exceptionally good and out of all the different varieties my preference is the Greek yogurt.  I've always got a container of this in my fridge.  After a couple or weeks (or even three) I start another batch and strain the last of the previous batch to use as mayonnaise, or a dip, or even turn into cheese. 

This is how to do it....
Place the yogurt into a sieve lined with several layers of damp muslin/cheesecloth or a clean damp and new J.cloth.  Set over a bowl to catch the whey, then leave to drain for several hours.

To use as a substitute for mayonnaise or sour cream, drain for 2 hours.
To make a dip, drain for 4 - 5 hours.
To make a soft cheese, drain for 8 - 10 hours.

Once drained  to the required consistency, remove from the muslin and place in a covered dish. Kept in the fridge it will keep for up to a week.

I've all the necessary (rennet etc) to make my own cheese, both hard and soft, but not yet got around to it.  Really do want to make my own mozzarella, so must leave myself a note to remind me, and if it works then that will give me something new to write about.  

The good thing about learning how to make things is really something we should all have a go at, for even if we don't need to keep on doing it, when times get hard (or even harder) it really makes money go a lot further when we can turn our hand to making what we normally would buy, we don't then feel so deprived and almost certainly end up eating far better meals than anyone would ever expect. 

Quite simple food like bread, jam, marmalade, biscuits, cakes - and cheeses - always taste wonderful when compared to those bought from a shop/supermarket.  So why don't we cook more often?  Perhaps we feel we have better things to do with our lives than cook.  But the way to a man's heart etc, etc....
Yet, am pretty sure all readers do a lot of home-cooking, otherwise why read this site?

My Beloved had a Pukka Pie tonight (he sometimes buys himself one) and to go with that I cooked some carrots, parsnips and string beans, also make a small amount of gravy.  No potatoes as I considered the puff pastry (under and over) gave enough balance of carbohydrate.  B agrees with this.
He later got himself some toast and jam!!  Must bake another loaf tomorrow,  one loaf lasts him only 3 days (I don't have any), but as I freeze the baps, bringing out a couple a day, these last 4 days.
At a pinch there is enough of the loaf to do for tomorrow, and four more baps in the freezer, so I may wait another day before I bake.  See how I feel.

My own meal (the main one eaten at lunch-time) was my usual mult-veg salad, this time with grated cheese added.  The good thing is that now I've got into the habit of regularly eating salads and not a lot else, I'm now losing 1lb a day. 
Although I had got into the habit of having a snack at night (not a lot, but not necessary) my weight had gained a bit and then stuck.  Now I've stopped eating after 4.00pm, think that has helped, so let's hope I can keep control of my appetite.  As long as I eat nothing sweet (other than fruit), it shouldn't be that difficult.  But then I've said all this before.  The amount of diets I've been on over the last 60 years I must have lost a total weight of at least four adults (and large ones at that).  And my shadow still hasn't shrunk.

Goodness me, nearly 1.00am (Wednesday I think it is).  Hope to be back again late evening to write the next edition of my Goode life, and between now and then (after a good night's sleep) hope to do something interesting worth chatting about.  You'll have to watch this space to find out.  TTFN.


Monday, April 28, 2014

Not Enough Time....

Very short blog, also written earlier than normal.  This due to me having to spend time catching up with what needed to be done today - and wasn't.  Most of my day was spent baking cakes, also making B's supper (Fish Risotto).

Unfortunately B will be out most of Tuesday (helping to cut down a tree in Lancaster), but will be able to deliver the cakes and cookery mags to the foodbank on his way there.  As my neighbour is away until the end of the week, am not sure whether I'll be going to the spiritualist meeting in the afternoon (will need to take a taxi there and back), depends how I feel nearer the time.  There is always another day, another week.   Do wish I had my own transport then I can be independent again. But suppose it will always be cheaper to use taxis for occasional local trips than have the cost of buying, running and insuring a car. 

Thanks to Grub-lover for her comment (the only one sent - where are you all?).  Cooking the crumble mix in advance really does help, both in saving time and giving a better effect.  All too often the fruit used is either not cooked enough (sometimes with apples) or over-cooked (rhubarb and soft fruits) when the crumble and filling are baked together.   Cooking both separately means the fruits can be exactly the firmness/texture we want, and once the pre-cooked crumble is placed on top it can be served immediately.  If both are first cooked, then cooled before assembly, best then reheated for a very short time in the microwave (only in the oven if it is on cooking something else).

Is it me or am I just too picky for words?  Was watching a programme on the Food Network where they were showing wedding cakes being made.  They were absolutely stunning.  Amazing, brilliant, superb, and some quite magnificent.  Others very beautiful.  But the only adjective given to all (and heard more than 12 times in less than a minute - for all cakes)  was 'awesome'.  Have to admit that occasionally someone says OMG (fully spoken) followed by 'this is awesome'.  It's funny how some words, some overly used words can really irritate.  Well, irritate me at least.  It must be the Englishness of me for if 'it ain't arf bad' was said about one of my cakes I would know it was really liked, so would please me no end. 

Just a few hints and tips today, mainly for readers who grow things.  Many have been given in this blog before, but it must now be several years ago, and reading these in the newspaper today reminded me they were worth thinking about again, especially as it makes use of what we might normally throw away.  When you come to think of it, there is very little indeed that is 'natural' (not man-made) that can't be recycled by us humans.

Some plants such as roses and sweetpeas need potassium to help them grow better.  So bury banana skins near their roots to give them a boost.

Diluted with water, milk works as a good fertiliser, so don't rinse out the empty plastic milk containers, just fill with water to water your house plants.

Don't throw away the water after boiling eggs as this contains lots of minerals and nutrients that have come from the egg shells.  Always cool before using, and never use salted water when watering plants, although asparagus likes to be watered with salty water (being a plant that grows naturally close to the sea, like samphire).

Keep slugs away from you plants by covering the soil with crushed egg shells, or human hair (your local hairdresser will have loads of hair cuttings swept from the floor and glad to get rid of).  Or use crushed sea shells or nut cases.  Slugs don't like to slither across anything scratchy or hairy.

Another use for egg shells is to fill each half with compost and then sow a seed in each.  Replace the half shells back in their CARDBOARD (not plastic) egg box/tray and when the seedlings appear, plant the whole box in the ground, give a good watering around and the box and shells with eventually disintegrate the shells giving out nutrients and acting as a fertiliser.

That's it for today.  Still an hour to go before midnight, but doubt anyone will read this until tomorrow (Tuesday morning).  If I get all my chores done in time should be back again tomorrow evening, although not sure whether it will be earlier rather than later.  Not that it matters what time, just as long as there is a blog to publish.  TTFN.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

More Kitchen Chat...

Not sure whether I'm coming or going this weekend as all of a sudden I've got a real urge to spring-clean, sort out all my books and mags and give a lot of things to charity.  Have decided not to keep hoarding things (ornaments, books, etc), and if I haven't looked at them for over a year, then I really don't need them any more.  Let someone else get pleasure from them.

Also the 'foodbank' baking is taking a bit of time.  My first gingerbread didn't turn out at all well, not sure why, perhaps because I added the melted butter/syrup to the dry ingredients while it was still too warm and it began cooking the flour before I'd mixed in the milk/egg. Or maybe my baking powder has lost the power to rise.   Still time to have another go tomorrow, but think I'll play safe and bake something that just needs beating together. 

I'd cooked some (thawed) chicken thighs a couple of days ago, just in plain water, as I wanted the flesh to make a curry.  With no celery, decided to wait until B had brought me some  M's (when he went to get his lottery ticket), and added this with carrot and onion to the chicken bones (that I'd returned to the stock) with a couple of bay leaves and simmered them for an hour or so to give the stock a better flavour.

B was having the curry for his supper tonight (made that yesterday by adding the cooked chicken to some fried onions and pouring over a mild Tikka sauce.  Then chilled in the fridge overnight).  It was too mild for B, so fried a shallot with some more curry powder/s, then picked out the cooked veggies from the stock, mashed those up with a fork, added them to the pan, fried those for a bit, then added the made curry.  It turned out well.  Will do that again with the veggies when making chicken stock - mash them and add them to something.  Would make a good covering for minced beef when making a Cottage Pie - with mashed spuds on top (or mix the spuds with the veggies).

Granny G has mentioned how James Martin adds lots of sugar to rhubarb.  He is very fond of using all the 'naughties':  butter, cream, sugar.... in his cooking, and generously.   The herb, Sweet Cicely also helps to sweeten rhubarb, probably used this way for sweetening dishes for centuries.  Not sure if the herb was eaten, but myself have used it, placed in the bottom of a dish - the chunks of rhubarb placed on top, then covered and cooked until the stalks were tender.  Probably left the leaves and just poured off the now-sweetened juice to serve with rhubarb and - of course - custard.

This leads me to Jane's comment on using geraniums as a possible flavouring.  Not the large flowered kind we know so well, but those that have scented leaves.  We used to have a geranium with a lemon-scented leaf, and this I used to flavour caster sugar.  There are quite a few different plants that have leaves that can be used for flavouring.

We welcome Mandy (Kentucky, USA), and my list of US readers (who send in comments) is now expanding.  Also a welcome to Miriam who I believe originated from the US and is now resident in the UK (although I might have got that the wrong way round).  When we visited America (about 20 years ago), I bought several mags sold at the supermarket checkout  (Family Circle being one of them) and they all seemed to have more interesting content than any of ours. 
When I used to write for the UK Good Housekeeping mag, the editor used to forward to me the American Good Housekeeping mags (sent regularly to their London office) once they had finished with them, and they made wonderful reading.  Was especially taken with the crafts, Christmas decorations, and - best of all - their wonderful recipes.

CTMOM (Carol - from Connecticut) is asking about recipes using lamb mince (aka ground mince in the US).  Shepherd's Pie is a good option, made exactly the same way as Cottage Pie - and although often the two names are used for the same dish, C.Pie is made with beef, and Shepherd's Pie (obviously) made with lamb.   Use lamb or chicken stock to make the gravy when using lamb and add a teaspoon or so of mint sauce to add extra flavour.

Here in the UK we'd almost certainly use minced lamb to make Koftas (like oblong meatballs threaded on skewers), or an Indian curry called a 'biriyani', and it's my understanding that Indian food is not that common in the US (much as Mexican restaurants in the UK has been until recently, but now becoming more widespread).

Am giving a couple of recipes in the hope that all the ingredients are available in the US, and that Carol might be able to make them (if so, let us know if they please the American palate). Even if not the lamb could me made into meatballs (as suggested) but will need quite a bit of flavouring (I'd use mint sauce and redcurrant jelly) as lamb has quite a mild flavour.

First recipe is not the correct way to make a biriyani, as normally the meat is cooked separately from the rice, and when both are cooked, layered in a dish with some crispy fried onions between each layer, but this version works well enough and is speedy - which is what we want when experimenting.  Although not included in the recipe, a sprinkling of fried onions over the top when serving makes it a bit more authentic.
We don't have to use a balti curry paste, Rogan Josh curry sauce/paste is the one I always use with lamb, but any fairly mild curry paste/sauce could be used.
Basmati rice is the best to use for most curries, but if we have none, then I'd always suggest using just ordinary long-grain rice.
Instead of spinach we could use another green vegetable, and as peas go well with lamb, then why not use these instead.

Quick Lamb Biriyani: serves 4
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tblsp balti curry paste (see above)
1 lb (450g) minced lamb
7 oz (200g) basmati rice (see above)
14 fl oz (400ml) lamb or chicken stock
7 oz (200g) fresh spinach
Heat a large pan and add the oil and onion, fry for a few minutes over medium heat until the onion has softened, then sir in the curry paste.  Sizzle for a minute then add the minced lamb and stir-fry until browned all over.  Add the stock and rice and stir well.  Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until the rice is tender.  Stir in the spinach, re-cover the pan, and leave to cook for 5 more minutes.  Give a final stir then take the pan to the table and let everyone help themselves.

The spiritualist church say there is no such thing as a coincidence (presumably everything happens for a purpose), so as a new cookery mag delivered yesterday (and read today) have a perfect recipe for using lamb mince, decided it wasn't a coincidence that I needed this very one - it was meant to be. So here it is.   There is no copyright with recipes, but there is with written method, but I've written both using my own words so no fear of reprisal.

The recipes is for burgers that can be frozen once made/assembled, to thaw and cook later.  So why not make a big batch if they take your fancy.   If you have no cumin seeds (or ground cumin), but still like a slightly spicier flavoured burger, then use Moroccan flavour hummus.  If no fresh mint, then use a teaspoon of mint sauce.
No reason to make burgers, instead we could roll the mixture into small meatballs to first fry, and then finish off cooking in a suitable sauce to serve with pasta.

What is important to realise is that there are two parts to this recipe.  First we use some of the ingredients to make a type of chickpea/red pepper salsa, the remainder makes the burgers.  So if intending to make just the burgers, make sure you read through the recipe first as you will need to reduce the amount of chickpeas, although I have to say using the lot with just the mince and mint will make the meat go further and we end up with more burgers. 

Lamb and Chickpea Burgers: makes 4
1 x 400g can chickpeas, drained
1 x 200g tub hummus
2 roasted red peppers (from a jar)
14 oz (400g) lean minced lamb
small bunch mint leaves, finely chopped
1 tblsp cumin seeds (see above)
salt and pepper
olive oil
four large pitta breads
1 x 100g tube pomegranate seeds (opt)
Put the chickpeas into a large bowl and crush gently with a potato masher.  Put half into another bowl and add the hummus and finely chopped roasted peppers.   Set this aside.
To the remaining crushed chickpeas add the minced lamb, chopped mint, cumin seeds and seasoning to taste.  Using clean hands, mix until well combined, then shape into 8 small burgers.
Heat a little oil in a frying pan and fry the burgers until golden and cooked through (or brush the burgers with oil and cook for 5 minutes on each side on a BBQ).
Meanwhile, toast the pitta breads, the split each in half and fill with some of the red pepper hummus, a couple of the burgers and some pomegranate seeds (if using).

That's it for today.  Have to say that I'm now feeling a bit unsettled.  When the medium spoke to me recently he said I'd been having experiences with electricity, TV's switching off for no reason etc.  Have to say this is very true, and a lot more since he mentioned it.  
Every night I switch this computer off when finishing my blog, yet when I come in to check my emails the next morning (sometimes before B is up) the computer hard-drive is whirring and the screen lights up as I cross the room.  If B comes in to use the comp before me it has remained switched off.

A few minutes ago as I was about to sign off for tonight, one of the five bulbs in the light fitting began to flicker, and I turned and pointed a finger at it and told it to stop.  And it stopped.   It started again just as I'm writing this and I did the same thing, and it stopped. 

Also earlier today told B about what the medium said, and I walked out of the room and the TV switched itself off!!  Oh dear, have I opened a can of worms?  Or the door to something more pleasant?  Still feels a bit creepy though.   Will be back this time tomorrow. TTFN.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Short of Ideas....

Not sure why, but don't have any idea what I'm going to write about.  Mind you, that is pretty normal, I usually write what comes in to my head the minute my fingers touch the keyboard without any advance planning (other than perhaps giving recipes that have been requested).  Tonight my mind seems blank.  So I may finish early.l

At least have a few comments to reply to (sigh of relief from me, what would I do without them?). The first from Grub-Lover who enjoys reading back numbers of Home and Freezer Digest, but also mentions Tupperware Parties. Also Pam (Texas) who also mentions both.
Yes, I remember Tupperware parties well.  Probably held some myself.  Still have several of their products, and two large orange tubs hold plain flour and self-raising, and two slightly smaller contain caster sugar and icing sugar.  All  three have a sort of an outline of a white flower on the front of each and it seems these ones (that have this flower) are now collectors items. 

I've also one or two other Tupperware containers all still in use and still plenty of life left in them. One is made from thick, clear, solid plastic and has a deep maroon rim and lid of the same colour that has a press button in the middle of the lid, it sort of causes a vacuum in the container when pressed. I use it to store anything I wish to keep very dry, like biscuits or cereals. 

Both Home and Freezer Digest and the slightly larger Cook's Weekly were both excellent little mags that were easy to carry around, and do wish they were still published today.  At one time I used to write for Family Circle and Living magazine (two mags sold only in supermarkets, and wonder if these are still being published.  I've not seen any, but then haven't really looked for them.  I believe the US and Australia also sold these, but with slightly different content to suit the country of publication.

Am always interested in the difference in prices between the UK and Canada (sent by Margie - thanks for that), and so look forward to hearing the comparison price between the canned and fresh. We too are having cooler weather at the moment, although the sun has been shining, in the shade we get quite shivery.  After several weeks blooming, the daffodils are now dying back, but now have several tubs of beautiful large yellow and red tulips in flower.  Also the wisteria is now starting to show flowers.  

The red geraniums (aka pelargoniums) that I brought into the conservatory to hope keep alive during the winter have kept on flowering, so all I need to do now is trim them back slightly and then plant them out once the danger of frosts is over (June).  That'll save me quite a bit of money.  All I need to buy is trailing blue lobelia, and maybe a couple or so yellow chrysanthemum type plants to give a change of colour, then the garden will be all set for the summer.  Hardly need any attention except from watering, and even that may not be needed if we get our usual rainy summer.

Not sure why the Holladaise sauce ended up too thick Sarina,  perhaps it needed more melted butter, and maybe one large egg instead of two medium ones.  If a recipe doesn't give the size of egg needed it always means a medium one.

This week have been using the free-range Tesco eggs (£1 for half a dozen - approx. 16.5p each), and although they are classed as medium, they were mainly what I call 'small'.  One quite tiny.   In the trays of 15 'value' eggs (9p each), the majority are large, often quite large, a few medium and only a couple small. Me (being me) occasionally sit and weight each egg from the cheaper tray, writing the weight on the shells so I can compare them. Wish I'd done the same with the free-range, only by the time I'd thought about doing this, B had used half of them - scrambled on toast.

It does seem I seem to gain more pleasure from working out the cost of small amounts of food, either singles (as in one egg) or by the oz or gr (or ml), than I do actually cooking the stuff.  Am I sad or what?

Made another batch of bread again today.  I now always extend the pack of bread mix by adding a further 500g of strong bread flour plus half as much again of liquid (half water, half milk), and end up with a large loaf and 8 big baps (rolls).  Allowing for the extra flour and milk, the total probably costs me around 80p - 90p.  Having seen a TV ad for Co-op bread at 75p a loaf, and rolls are often really cheaper by the dozen, possibly I don't save much as have to take into account the fuel used for baking, but certainly the bread seems a lot better than any on sale.  Having said that have never bought really expensive 'artisan' bread anyway - this probably is good, but way too costly for me.

Quite a few people don't care for rhubarb, and Mary (Perth/Australia) finds her family feels the same. It's probably because it can be very sharp in flavour and sometimes not pleasant to eat when overcooked (easily turns to a mush).  The best way is to cut the stalks into short lengths then give them a couple of minutes microwave - just long enough to soften them slightly,  Put into a dish with sugar and any other flavouring (ginger) or fruit (strawberries were suggested), and either cover with pastry or a crumble mix.  Then bake until the topping is cooked.  
Quite often now I cook both the fruit filling (any firm fruits) and crumble mix separately, then assemble the dish when ready to serve, it can be reheated in the microwave for a couple of minutes - not long enough to overcook the fruit.  The crumble mix can be cooked when the oven is on for something else, then cooled and stored in an airtight (Tupperware??) container in the fridge to use later.

Considering I hadn't a thought of what I was going to write when I began, still have managed to fill more than a page with my 'rambles'.  Maybe even a few useful tips included here and there.  But I still feel tired, and still short of ideas of what to write about (or what to do), so maybe could do with a bit of inspiration from your end.  Far better for me to write what you want to hear (need to know) rather than me fill the pages with just nothing much but nattering. 

Each day I keep trying to think up a new challenge, but nothing has come to me yet.  At least one did come to mind earlier but blow me - I've already forgotten what it was.  Maybe I'll remember by my next blog.  Oh yes, it might have been because I had discovered a cook book (when clearing up) giving recipes that used only 3 ingredients.  Am pretty sure all the ingredients were expensive, so didn't really read it through properly.   Maybe I'll come up with one or two suggestions (the dandelions are now flowering, the leaves are edible AND free!), but at this time of night that is as far as my little brain will take me. 

Am taking tomorrow off as a full day of baking has been planned, also baking on Sunday, but will return late Sunday to write/publish the blog ready for the Monday read.  Hope you'll find time to read and enjoy and I'll be trying to make the next blog more interesting that this one.  Bye for now. xx

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Double Check...

The other day, having run out of fresh (frozen) salmon, decided to use canned salmon in the Fish Rissoto.  It worked well alongside the fresh 'white fish' and smoked haddock.  Sometimes I also add a few frozen prawns.

At the time I thought I was on to a good thing - fresh salmon not cheap at the moment, but on checking the prices on the Tesco website, it seems that canned salmon is often dearer than the fresh.  The canned fish was priced 'per 100g', the fresh as 'per kg', but easy enough to work out the difference.
Tesco's fresh salmon fillets in their 'Value/Everyday' range was priced at £10.98p per kg.  Canned salmon was between £1.40 per 100g (£14 per kg), or £1.18 per 100g (£11.80p per kg).  So by using canned fish I wasn't giving myself any financial favours.

Today made myself another salad of assorted fruit and veg.  Much the same as yesterday but a few less items, adding grapes instead of apple, and omitting a couple of other things.  Still ended up with eight though. 
While preparing my salad for supper, at the same time was prepping veg to go into the pan with a block of frozen (thawed) home-made chicken stock plus a little extra water.  This for B's supper - he is very fond of (occasionally) vegetable soup.   I'd run out of celery, and oddly Morrison's didn't have any when B tried to buy some the other day, surely they must have had some somewhere, perhaps he didn't look hard enough.   Luckily found a small jar of celery salt in my spice drawer, so as I hadn't yet added seasoning to the soup (and yes, it does need salt and pepper) the celery salt served a double purpose.
As I'd made plenty of soup will reheat the rest for my Friday's lunch (that's tomorrow as I write, and today when I publish).

The spiritualist group meeting have a raffle, and everyone wins something.  As I find it difficult to get up and walk about I wait until the end and then someone brings me something they think I'd like.  This time it was a pretty scarf.  However, as I was leaving, noticed a few sticks of fresh rhubarb that had not been chosen so asked if I could do a swap.  They said 'certainly', so I was very pleased as B loves rhubarb and today made him a rhubarb and ginger crumble for his supper (two helpings but he's eaten both, one for his 'afters', the other later as a 'snack'.  Both with cream of course.

I'll be busy baking again this weekend as I've promised several tray-bakes for the foodbank, probably make gingerbread and parkin as both improve with keeping,  One of my favourite occupations is baking, but I tend to avoid doing much (other than bread which is an ongoing thing), as I have to keep away from cakes/biscuits or I gain back massive amounts of weight, also not good for my diabetes.  B likes them though, but I tend to keep 'sampling' what I make (purely for research purposes you understand).

Very few comments, none needed a reply, other than for me to say I'm giving more chicken recipes today and hope those who try these will enjoy them.  
As these recipes were first published in Cook's Weekly around 30 years ago, there is much room for improvement, but am sure that most of my readers have enough cooking experience to adapt the recipes to suit the ingredients they have (other than chicken of course) and use alternatives or substitutions that will probably improve these dishes anyway.

First recipe today has leanings towards Beef Wellington (at least in appearance).  Although scraps of chicken (taken from the carcase) can be used, the original recipes suggests using slices of cooked chicken taken from the breast and/or thighs.  In those days I used to buy cans of sweetcorn kernels that also contained peppers (fresh bell peppers not being as common as they are now), so today would suggest using plain sweetcorn kernels (canned or frozen - if frozen, then cook first) and then if you wish add finely diced red bell pepper - not essential as this is mainly to provide a bit of colour).

Chicken and Sweetcorn Parcel: serves 4
8 oz (250g) canned sweetcorn and peppers
2 thick slices of white bread, crumbed
1 egg, beaten
salt and pepper
8 oz (225g) puff or shortcrust pastry
8 - 12 oz (250-350g) sliced cooked chicken
2 oz (50g) bacon, chopped, fried and drained
milk to glaze
Drain the sweetcorn well, then put into a bowl with the breadcrumbs, egg, and seasoning to taste. Mix together until well combined.
Roll out the pastry to a 12" (30cm) square, and set it aside.  Working on a flat surface, spread the sliced chicken in a layer, cover this with the sweetcorn/crumb mixture, and then finish with the bacon, making each layer slightly smaller so that the pastry can envelope the lot.
Cover with the pastry square folding the edges together to make a parcel , sealing the joins with water.  Place on a baking sheet fold side down and decorate with pastry trimmings if you wish.
Brush the pastry with milk and bake for 35 minutes at 180C, gas 4 (200C, gas 6 if using puff pastry)
covering with foil if the pastry starts to brown too quickly.  Serve hot or cold with a crisp green salad.

The final recipe of the four is one meant to serve when entertaining. The photos in the mag show all the dishes at their best (the mag's own cook's made them up, not me and have to say I was very impressed, especially for this one as it looks absolutely gorgeous - if anyone has old copies of Cook's Weekly, these chicken recipes are in issue 89: 26th August - July 1st, pages 36-39 incl.

Chicken Terrine: serves 8 - 10
1 large carrot, cut lengthways into thin strips
8 oz (225g) cooked chicken, chopped
grated zest and juice of 1 orange
salt and pepper
8 oz (225g) curd or cottage cheese
2 eggs, beaten
4 oz (100g) spinach or peas, cooked/pureed
4 -5 (or more) large lettuce leaves
Cook the carrots in boiling water for 3 minutes, then drain and set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, mince the chicken and mix with the orange zest and juice, add seasoning to taste.
Blend the cheese with the eggs, then mix on third with the vegetable puree, and the remaining two-thirds into the minced cooked chicken.
Line a well-greased 1kg/2lb loaf tin with 4 - 5 large lettuce leaves, making sure there are no gaps, and that the lettuce overlaps the sides of the tin.  Spoon alternate layers of the chicken and vegetable mixes into the tin, pressing a few carrots in between each layer.  Finish with a layer of chicken.
Carefully fold over the lettuce to cover the top, if necessary trimming an extra leaf to fit over the surface. 
Cover with a double fold of greaseproof paper, and either a fitting lid, or foil.  Place in a roasting tin filled with hot water that reaches one-third to half the way up the sides of the tin.  Bake at 180C, gas 4 for 45 minutes, then leave to cool in the tin.  Chill before turning out onto a serving platter to slice into portions, and slice these fairly thickly to avoid slices breaking up.

Right, that's it for another day.  Seem to be getting my timing right as I see it is now just after midnight, so one more day and it will be the weekend.  There will be a blog written this time tomorrow night, but as I now take a day off (Saturday), my next blog will be written late Sunday for reading early as you like on Monday.  But that is yet to come.  Have to get tomorrow over first. 

The bluebells are out early this year, so if you get the chance go and find a bluebell wood this weekend and enjoy the wonderful sight, not to mention the perfume laden air.  Our front garden is full of bluebells, but it's not as pretty a picture as the flowers growing wild in a wood.  But better than not seeing any at all.   Hope you will find time to join me again tomorrow - if so, see you then.  xx

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

'Take One Chicken...'

Several readers have requested the chicken recipes (four meals from one bird), so will be giving two today, and two in the next blog.

Sorry to read Cheesepare, you didn't care for the Beanfeast Mexican Chilli. Have to say I always slice/chop plenty of onions before adding the dry mix, along with a can of tomatoes, extra chilli powder and a can of red beans once it has cooked for 15 minutes.  It certainly does taste like 'the real thing' when a little cooked mince beef has been added.
When I make up the Beanfeast Spag Bol I also start off with frying onions, then add the dry mix, plus a can of chopped tomatoes (or better still a carton of passata), then stir in cooked minced beef towards the end.  Extra flavouring added by a good dash of HP sauce and also Worcestershire sauce.
Sometimes I'll also sauté some finely diced carrot and celery in when frying the onions before I add the Beanfeast.  If I feel it needs more 'beefing up' then I'll add a spoon of Bisto Best gravy granules.

With the additions (given above) one pack of Beanfeast (99p) will make at least four good portions and it freezes very well once cooked.

Not sure if I gave recipes in Home and Freezer Digest Mary, but if you do have some back numbers you might find the 'chatty' articles I wrote for them, mainly about my life-style and general thoughts.  These were towards the back part of the mags.  Think I wrote about ten - standing in for their normal 'correspondent' who was taking time off.

After writing down all the contents in the organic veggie box delivered yesterday, this morning compared the prices against those on the Tesco website.  There were only a couple or so that were organic, the others the supermarket stocked were 'ordinary' ones.  Because the ones I had were all loose (not in bags), I compared like for like, and although I could have bought some cheaper in larger bags (carrots etc), was very surprised (and mega-pleased) that the supermarket total cost and the veggie box were very close (the organics costing less than £1 more - and delivered free).

Although the Riverford website details gave fennel as one of the veggies, my box did not contain any, but the contents can vary according to the region.  As it happened what I did get pleased me more. 
In the box were  7 large tomatoes on the vine, 2 aubergines, 1 large red bell pepper, 1 large green bell pepper, 1 big bunch of asparagus,1 big crisp-head lettuce, 1 Savoy cabbage, 1 cauliflower, 4 large leeks, 8 onions, 2 very large beetroot, 13 carrots, and 8 large baking potatoes.

Have to say that I'm now getting better at making sure I eat at least five-a-day, and aiming to improve on that.  Today excelled myself because I was preparing a selection of veggies for B to cook in his stir-fry, and blanched extra to cool and add to my own salad, so I ended up with a mixture of tomato, lettuce, baby spinach, rocket, watercress, radishes, peppers, cucumber, apple, shallot, cauliflower, sugar snap peas, carrots and mushrooms.  That's FOURTEEN in total.  
In most cases there was a portion of each, but as it made a lot I divided it up into 'brunch' and 'early supper', finishing off the last as a later 'snack'.  Have to say I feel very healthy tonight.

As it's already late, (exactly midnight as I write) will finish with two of the chicken recipes.  The article was based on using the flesh from a roasted chicken that weighed 4lb - this giving around 2lb of meat once cooked.  Also more flesh that can be picked from the carcase and wings once these have been used to make chicken stock, and although the cooked chicken used in the recipes added up to slightly less than 2lb total, obviously not taking into account the 'picking's, several of the recipes could use this surplus flesh, leaving at least enough of the 'good stuff' for another meal.  So that means one chicken could be enough to serve five meals to four people.  In fact one of the recipes serves 8 - 10.  So does that mean an extra meal (of the same one)?  Now we could make SIX meals (24 portions in total).  Oh, yes, I have the bit between my teeth....let's make it 30!!!  Not yet sure how, but if we include chicken and vegetable soup it won't be that difficult.

Had to smile when I read the recipes as in the 80's chickens came with giblets, and I also used these for stock, and at that time was more concerned with making the most of a chicken, rather than working out how much the rest of the ingredients would cost.  I didn't take into account that not everyone would have courgettes for instance.  Even so, because I was (and still am) a cost-cutting cook, none of the recipes worked out expensive then or even now.

This first recipes uses noodles, not the Chinese but the Italian ones called 'tagliatelle' (only at that time I didn't know the proper name), and although the cooked chicken is some taken from the roasted bird (the oddments from thighs, drumsticks etc) instead it could be the cooked chicken picked from the carcase after making chicken stock.

Chicken Meatballs with Noodles: serves 4
1 courgette, peeled and chopped
4 - 6 oz (100-175g) cooked chicken, finely chopped
2 slices white bread, made into breadcrumbs
1 tblsp grated onion
a pinch of mixed herbs
1 egg, beaten
Freshly ground pepper
3 tblsp sunflower oil
4 oz (100g) mushrooms, chopped
4 tblsp plain flour
15 fl oz (425ml) milk
2 tblsp tomato ketchup
8 oz (225g) noodles (see above)
1 oz (25g) butter or margarine
2 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
Mince the courgette and add to the chicken (or mince the chicken and courgette together).  Stir in the breadcrumbs, onion, herbs, and egg. Season with pepper, then shape into small meatballs (about 2cm).
Heat 2 tblsp of the oil in a large frying pan and cook the meatballs, shaking the pan so they roll around and brown evenly. Remove and drain on kitchen paper.  Add the remaining oil and fry the mushrooms for about 1 minute then stir in the flour, mixing it well into the mushrooms before slowly adding the milk.  Keep stirring to prevent lumps and simmer until smooth.  Stir in the ketchup and cook until thickened.  Return meatballs to the pan (of this sauce) and cook until heated through.
Meanwhile, cook the  pasta as per packet instructions (until al dente), then drain well and return to its saucepan with the butter (or marg).  When this has melted, add the parsley and toss well so the pasta is coated.   To serve: put the pasta into one large serving bowl (or four individual bowls) and spoon the meatballs and sauce over the top.

Second chicken recipe is a stir-fry, and again the chicken could be that picked from the carcase. The fresh vegetables can be varied, use what we have that is suitable for a stir-fry: baby sweetcorn, mangetout/sugarsnap peas, mushrooms, carrots, bell peppers, celery, cauliflower, green beans...

Oriental Chicken: serves 4
6 fl oz (175ml) water
1 tsp cornflour
1 tsp ground ginger
2 tblsp soy sauce
1 tblsp runny honey
12 oz (350g) mixed fresh veg (see above)
3 tblsp oil
1 large onion, cut into wedges/chunks
2 tblsp salted peanuts
8 oz (225g) cooked chicken, chopped
1 tsp five spice powder
boiled rice, to serve
Mix together the water, cornflour, ginger, soy sauce and honey, then set aside.
Slice carrots into matchsticks, chop the pepper and celery, and mix with the green beans and sweetcorn (or chop/slice other chosen veggies - all need to be much the same size to cook evenly). Place the prepared veggies in a steamer over a pan of boiling water, cover and steam for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a deep frying pan (or wok) and fry the onion until transparent (about 3 minutes), then add the steamed veggies and peanuts and fry over high heat for 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Stir in the chicken then lower the heat and add the cornflour mixture.   Simmer for 4 minutes to thicken the sauce, turning the veggies/chicken so they are evenly coated, then stir in the five-spice powder.   Serve at once with boiled rice (or Chinese noodles).

Tomorrow the final two recipes will be the Chicken Terrine (serves 8 - 10) that uses only 8 oz (225g) cooked chicken; and Chicken and Sweetcorn Parcel (serve four using 8 oz/225g cooked chicken).
By now, with years more experience behind me, I'd probably manage to use a little less chicken and a lot more veggies (my way of making those extra meals).  Feeding the five thousand on five loaves and two fish (or was it two loaves and five fish?) might not have been that difficult after all.  Much depends on the size of the fish (one whole tuna goes a long, long way) and maybe if cut into thin 'fingers' each coated with a few breadcrumbs - well, that's at least one Fish Finger per person.  Miracles can happen when we put our minds to it.

That's it for this Wednesday night, at least have managed to get the blog published in time for an early Thursday morning read.  More recipes and chat this time tomorrow.  Bye for now. xx

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Nostalgia Time

Decided to watch an episode of 'The Walton's' over the Easter weekend.  A full length feature film called 'The Walton's Easter'.  Far more interesting than expected as this was one I hadn't seen before. Still the same characters (played by the same actors), but now a good ten years or more later. All grown up, several of the children married with families of their own, the mother and father about to celebrate their Ruby Wedding.  Set off for a second honeymoon only to return within minutes as John-Boy's wife suddenly went into labour a month earlier than expected.  Surprise, surprise, she had twins (also unexpected) and - as is the way in many series -  the new-born premature babies looked at least several weeks old as soon as they were born.  

It was strange seeing the younger folk now all grown up.  John-Boy looked much the same, as did Jason, and Erin, Elizabeth now a lovely young woman (after travelling the world), Ben also not much different, but with longer hair, but Jim-Bob had gained quite a bit of weight.  The eldest daughter (name I have forgotten) was now a doctor who delivered the babies at the Walton's home.
Even Grandma made a cameo appearance (but didn't say anything). 

There I am, rambling on about The Walton's, but it has always been a favourite series of mine (as was Little House on the Prairie, and - in later years - Prisoner, Cell Block H.   When I watch repeats it really takes me back to when our children were younger, and wish I could really step back and do many things differently (and better).   However much our parents teach us, we still prefer to make our own mistakes before we find out they were right all along.  If we would all listen and learn, then maybe we'd all end up richer, cleverer, and more skilful.    Maybe some do.

Went with my friend to the Spiritualist Church again today.  Think there were twelve of us, sitting in a circle, and at least six of these were mediums.  Towards the end of the meeting there was a bit of 'clairvoyance' and messages came through, none for me and friend, but even so I still found these far too vague and - as almost always - what was said could relate to more than one person in the room I'm sure.  But am not giving up yet.
Will not be going on Saturday as my friend is going away for several days, but will go on my own next Tuesday, so maybe that will be more enlightening.  All I can say is 'watch this space'.

Thanks Joy for sending the link re making our own coconut milk.  That is a milk I like to use to flavour rice pudding, and also as a savoury rice when making curries.

The lovely thing about Sarina's blog is that she doesn't waffle on (like me), and I find her pages just give cookery information (hints, tips, and recipes) without any other distraction.   I KNOW my blog would be much better if I kept writing about cost-cutting cookery and nothing else, but quite honestly, think that by now I've just about written down all I know, so feel I have to fill the pages with something else.

Today was clearing out a large box of cookery books, magazines etc as I'm giving a lot of those dealing with budget meals etc to the Foodbank so that their clients (as they are called), can take one if they wish.  Also must make a large batch of traybakes to be taken there at the beginning of next week.

Still saved some of my favourite books and mags, and realised that it wasn't just Home and Freezer Digest I wrote for, but also Cook's Weekly (and several other mags as well).   In the latter I found the article 'Take One Chicken' that I wrote, and that Cheesepare was asking about.  This gave full details of how to make one chicken make at least four meals, with plenty of scraps left over, plus the carcase to make stock.
The recipes were:  Chicken and Sweetcorn Parcel (serves 4); Oriental Chicken (serves 4); Chicken Terrine (serves 10!); and Chicken Meatballs with Noodles (serves 4).   As this was published in 1986 am pretty sure I could improve on the original recipes and now make the chicken go even further.
So, if anyone wants me to give one (or more) of the recipes, just let me know and I will publish them the very next day.

Hope you managed to have good weather for you seaside holiday Granny G.   Must be something about sea air that gives everyone (esp. children) an appetite.  Remember myself when we had self-catering holidays, most of my time was spent preparing one meal after another.  Hardly a holiday for me, more the same life but with a change of scene.  But I've always enjoyed cooking for the family, the more the merrier.

The comments from Lorna and Sairy re the spiritualist church have been noted, and I have given an update a few paragraphs up the page.

One of the booklets I found hidden under a pile of cuttings was published by Heinz - promoting its Salad Cream, giving several Salad recipes all containing fruit (with lettuce, cucumber etc).  It really took me back again to nostalgia time when I saw 'peel and seed the grapes'.  How I used to hate the pips in the grapes, and used to spit them out when they got into my mouth.   Now we have seedless grapes (prefer the green ones) I eat them skin and all and they are delicious.  Especially when kept in the fridge so they are cold and almost crunchy when eaten.

Many of the salads in the book include grapefruit, and it's making me really wish I could eat grapefruit again.  Apparently grapefruit shouldn't be eaten by anyone who takes pills for reducing blood pressure.  Just because I now can't have it I really WANT to eat grapefruit (yet when I could I can't say I liked it - but it is very freshing).
By the way, this booklet was published in 1932 - before I was even born!  And - as was usual in those days - the recipes were all very simple to prepare and serve.  If only it could be like that these days.

Here is one recipe from the book that maybe we could all make (the ingredients being pretty basic), and as the variety adds up to at least six fruit/veg, then we need add only one more to reach our new number.  If the banana is a large one it counts as two, so we then already have our seven.
Due to the age of the booklet, the raisins sold in those days were larger and had seeds in them.

Raisin Salad:
1 cupful of seeded or seedless raisins
1 sliced banana
half cupful of chopped celery
1 orange
1 cupful of apple, cut into dice
Heinz Salad Cream
Peel the orange and remove the pips.  Cut the flesh into rounds and then into thin strips. Mix all the fruit and celery together lightly with the Salad Cream.  Wash and dry the lettuce, arrange in a salad bowl or on individual plates, and place the fruit mixture on top.

Although me preference would be to cook mainly traditional British dishes, have to say that many of the dishes from other parts of the world can be extremely tasty at the same time as being very economical.  Trouble is, to cook many of these we'd have to have a big larder full of many different ingredients that would normally not be used in the English kitchens of times past.

Yet, there are so many similarities that would could always substitute one for another.  Take bread for instance.  The Mexican flour tortillas are very similar to the slightly thinner Indian chapatis.  The Indian puris similar to pitta bread.  Even naan bread is not a million miles away from a pizza base. So even if we don't always have the correct dough-based product, we may have something similar to use in its place.

At one time I used to call the Italian 'ribbon' pasta 'noodles' (proper name is tagliatelle).  Noodles now refer to the Chinese ones (that look like Italian spaghetti when cooked).  So if we have no spag to go with our bol. then use Chinese noodles.

Instead of rice use pearl barley or quinoa.  Or maybe even couscous or bulgar wheat.   For those who are trying to reduce their consumption of carbohydrates, have you tried making 'vegetable spaghetti' by scraping or slicing very thin strips of carrot, parsnip etc, to resemble the pasta strings and blanch these for a few minutes until just tender, then plate up as pasta with whatever you were going to serve with it.

Final recipe today if for an Italian Meatloaf.  It freezes well so worth making two while the oven is on.  These are good eaten cold as well as hot, so a slice can be added to the salad in the lunchbox.
Because it is 'Italian', pancetta is used, but myself would used chopped bacon (cheaper and not a lot different anyway).    Instead of using all minced beef, we could use half minced beef and half minced pork.

Italian Meatloaf: serves 4
2 oz (50g) fresh breadcrumbs
4 tblsp finely grated Parmesan cheese
1lb (450 - 500g) minced beef
1 onion, finely chopped
4 oz (100g) pancetta, chopped (see above)
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp tomato puree
salt and pepper
Line the long sides and the base of a 2lb loaf tin with a double thickness of baking parchment.
Mix 2 tblsp each of the breadcrumbs and parmesan together, then set aside.  Tip the remaining ingredients into a large bowl, add seasoning to taste, and mix together with your (clean!!) hands.
Press the mixture firmly into the loaf tin and level the surface.  Sprinkle the reserved crumb/cheese mixture over the top.
Bake for 40 - 45 minutes at 190C, gas 5 until the top is golden and crunchy (or - if you prefer - pop it under the grill for the last 5 minutes).  Leave the meatloaf to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before lifting it out using the baking parchment as handles, then place on a board ready to slice.
Serve hot with jacket (or mashed) potatoes, green beans and either gravy or tomato ketchup.  Serve cold with the same, or with salad.
If not eating the same day, wrap in foil and keep chilled in the fridge for up to 2 - 3 days.

Well, my computer clock tells me I have now reached tomorrow (Wednesday), and this I suppose is really now 'today'.  It is quite true what they say "tomorrow never comes", for once we reach it we find it has already turned into 'today'.  Pity we can't do the same with our 'yesterdays'.  The only way we can return is through our memories.  Mind you, I believe that the future must have already happened, as I have often had dreams of future events that have come true.  Maybe life is really a dream.   Oh, I could go on..... but I won't.  Time for me to go to bed and start dreaming (or maybe my dreams are my 'real life'). 
If nothing gets in my way I should be back blogging again and publishing at much the same time tomorrow.  Looking forward to hearing from you between now and then.  TTFN.


Monday, April 21, 2014

The Weeks Fly By...

Well, Easter is now just about over and all too quickly for me.  No sooner am I filing away Christmas recipes than it seems time to bring them out again.  What comes next?  May Day, Spring Bank Holiday, MidSummer, Harvest Festival, Hallow'een, Guy Fawkes, and then the run up to Christmas.  Have I missed anything?  Probably. 

Hope you all had a good Easter.  We have had lovely weather, the last couple of days being breezy but still plenty of sunshine.  Down south had rain I believe.  Let us hope it didn't dampen any pleasurable outings.   Here the bluebells are now in full bloom, almost a month before normal, so probably almost over down south.  The Clematis Montana is covered in buds, the first ones just opening, and the lilac bush looks as though it will again carry plenty of blossom. 
Am hoping the wisteria will also bloom well as last autumn we pulled it down from the top of the garage roof (where most of it had sprawled and bloomed - so we were unable to see it unless we climbed a ladder), gave it a bit of a prune and hoping that we will have more than two or three tresses to sit beneath while we enjoy the sunshine.  No sign of any so far, but then I haven't been close enough to look for buds.

As always, many thanks for the good wishes.  Just a few replies - we are grateful to Alison for letting us know the Dairy Cookbook is still being sold by the doorstep milkman, and a reply from Mary (in Australia) who first asked the question.
As it does seem that practically all new cookbooks just give variations on a theme (classic recipes messed about with,  'deconstructed' etc.) am now asking myself whether we really need to keep buying new cookbooks.  It is said that most of us cook only about five favourite recipes regularly, so one good cookbook should really be enough to keep us going for years. 
Having said that, have to admit I used to buy hundreds of cookbooks, goodness knows why, as many of them I never used anyway.  My preference is a cookbook that is more than just recipes.  The memoirs of the writer make more interesting reading.

Sometimes I wonder if we are getting too interested in food.  In the past (before supermarkets) meals were much the same (Sunday roast and most of the rest of the week's meals made from the leftover meat), so not really worth getting excited about.  Nowadays it seems that eating has become almost our only pleasure (discounting drinking, texting and Twittering).  Almost an addiction where we need to keep sampling new dishes, new flavours, new ingredients.  Not that I mind of course, I'm all for that, but it doesn't help me lose weight.

Do hope you all took a look at Sarina's new website.  It's really lovely and seeing her kitchen and table makes me feel I'm already there waiting to be given a seat and a cup of coffee and a plate of biscuits, cakes, buns.... (you see what I mean about eating!). 
What I envy is Sarina's ability to take photos of what is being made (or chatted about), and also her ability to keep her blog simple.  No rambling on.  Just information needed and that's it.  Wish I could be like that?

At the spiritualist meeting last week there was a mention of 'automatic writing' (think that's what it was called).  I thought that meant putting pad on the table with a pen and then some spirit would come and write something, but apparently it meant words that we could write ourselves but without giving any conscious thought to what we were writing.
Have to say that has happened to me, even when I've been writing my blog, for when I've read back some of my more profound 'rambling's couldn't even remember typing these out, so perhaps 'something up there' was pulling my strings at those times.

Not much of culinary interest has happened in the Goode kitchen over the past few days.  B has cooked himself his usual stir-fry (chicken based).  One day we had D.R. meatballs that I first sealed in a little oil in a frying pan, then covered with a tomato-based sauce - to which I added the last of a jar of Red pesto to give added flavour (which it did for B said the sauce tasted wonderful). Most of the time I've eaten salads and more salads (without losing any weight, life just isn't fair).  My Beloved has been out most of the time either at the sailing club (dinghy races or doing repairs in the sheds), and also at my daughter's neighbours where he is helping to cut down two very large trees that just about filled the small garden.  Now down to fence height this has let in a lot more fresh air and also sunlight to our daughter's garden.
Today B cut the front and back lawns (not before time), they were almost covered in dandelions, and do hope he doesn't go mad with the weedkiller as although 'selective' as we seem to have more weeds than grass, the lawns end up covered in brown patches looking as though a hundred dogs had come in and pee'ed over them.  It takes weeks/months for the grass to green up again, and by then the weeds seem to return - so it starts all over again.
Personally, I'd rather leave the weeds in the lawn as with frequent mowing it would keep them from flowering and at least the grass would be lovely and green throughout the year.  When it is at its best it looks like velvet.

Another Riverford veggie box delivery due again tomorrow.  Believe fennel will be included this time.  The 'Barefoot Contessa' was roasting some on her prog. today, so might try doing that, along with other roasted veggies.

Spinach is often included in a veggie box, and baby spinach sold in supermarkets.  The latter eats well raw as part of mixed salad leaves. 
The classic recipe 'Eggs Florentine' is one of those simple dishes that is well worth making, basically poached eggs served on a bed of wilted spinach - this served on a split and toasted muffin.  The only complication (if you can call it that) is the making of Hollandaise -  traditional sauce to accompany this dish (and myself might cheat and use a packet mix for making this). However for all you perfectionists, the recipe for Hollandaise is also included. 

The good thing about this meal (more a snack/light lunch/supper dish) is that most of the preparation can be done whilst the eggs are poaching in the pan while they are still cooking in the residual heat once the hob has been turned off.
Although this recipe serves six, to serve four, two or even one,  poach one egg per person and reduce the amounts of the rest of the ingredients.

Eggs Florentine: serves 6
6 fresh eggs
olive oil
12 oz (350g) young spinach
salt and pepper
3 muffins, split and toasted
4 egg yolks
2 tblsp lemon juice
7 oz (200g) unsalted butter, melted
Bring a large deep frying pan half-full of water to the simmer, then carefully break in the eggs, one by one.   Bring back to the boil and simmer for one minute, then turn off the heat, cover the pan and leave to stand for 10 minutes (or longer if you prefer firmer yolks).
Meanwhile, heat a little oil in a saucepan and add the spinach, toss/stir and when wilted add seasoning to taste, cover and keep warm.
To make the hollandaise sauce, put the egg yolks in a blender with the lemon juice. Start whizzing and slowly pour in the clear melted butter (not the white sediment that will have fallen to the bottom) and add seasoning to taste.
Lightly toast the muffins, and divide the spinach between them, placing it in piles on top of each muffin.  Using a slotted spoon, lift an egg and - after draining well - place on each muffin stack, and pour the hollandaise on top.   Pop under the grill for a couple of minutes to brown the sauce and firm up the yolks if you wish (not essential). 

As spinach has been one of the major ingredients in the above recipe, and most of us might not need to use up all the amount of bagged spinach as sold in supermarkets, here is another dish that will use up the surplus (although it doesn't matter if you use more or less).
Sweet potatoes have a lot of food value, but had to admit only have these when included in the veggie box.  Rarely buy them at other times.  So if I had none, then would probably use parsnips, pumpkin or butternut squash as an alternative veggie. 

When cooking for just one or two, using a whole can of coconut milk is too much, so either decant the remainder and freeze it, or instead dilute a sachet of coconut cream in the right amount of hot water.
Madras curry paste is used for this dish, but as this is one of the hotter pastes, then use a milder one to suit your own palate (Tikka masala for medium, or korma for mild etc).  If a curry does end up too hot (or if some like it hot, some don't) then it can always be calmed down by stirring in a little natural yogurt (or adding a dollop of Greek yogurt (or Raita) onto the curry to be stirred in if needed.

Spinach and Sweet Potato Curry: serves 4
2 onions, finely sliced
1 tblsp sunflower oil
2 - 3 tblsp Madras curry paste
1 x 400g can coconut milk
2 orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, cut into chunks
7 oz (200g) spinach, washed and roughly chopped
4 naan breads, warmed through
Fry the onions in the oil over medium-low heat until very soft (takes about 8 minutes).  Stir in the curry paste and fry for a further 2 minutes, then add the coconut milk and the sweet potatoes.  Give a good stir, reduce heat to a simmer and continue cooking for a further 10 minutes or until the sweet potatoes are tender.  Tip in the spinach, stirring it through until wilted.
Place a warm naan bread on each serving plate and top each with the above curry.

See it's already past midnight (so this is now the Tuesday blog). This coming afternoon my neighbour and I will be going to the weekly 'circle' at the Spiritualist Church, so maybe something new will come to light.  We went last Saturday, plenty of people there, but it did seem that what was said to others (who did not recognise most of what was being said to them) I seemed to find more of interest to me (although I didn't say anything).  Just goes to show how the way to truly believe is for someone to tell us something that only we can understand.  Not just generalities.l
However, the medium the previous Saturday seemed to 'get through' a lot better than the one this time.  I will not rush to judge, as the week go (fly) by, who knows what I will be told.  Maybe I'll have something of interest to tell you after the meeting when I write the Wednesday blog.  Hope you can join me then.  TTFN.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Forgot Monday was also part of the Easter break, so next blog written late Monday, to be read on Tuesday.  Hope you are all having a lovely Easter weekend.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Life's Too Short....

Firstly, a big thank you to all who sent me birthday greetings.  It was a lovely sunny day, no wind, and it felt almost timeless as we drove over to Lancaster to our daughter's house.  So many trees covered in blossom.  Even the bluebells are flowering, at least 3 weeks earlier than normal.
It was altogether a lovely day, one of my best for a long time.

Just a couple of comments I wish to reply to.  Mary in Perth (Australia) has asked in the Dairy Cookbook is still available from our milkmen.   As milkmen now are becoming few and far between, cannot myself answer this, but maybe a reader still has her milk delivered and can give the answer.

Like you Pam, I am wary of getting involved in spiritualism, although am still attending the meetings (3 so far).  A recent enquiry from a reader asked whether the mediums charged for their services.  My neighbour asked this very question on Tuesday and we were told they did not.  Some who had travelled long distances sometimes claimed expenses only, but mostly they did not, even if it had cost them quite a bit to get to Morecambe (they come from all over the country).
However, I have had some rather strange experiences since I went to the first meeting, nothing frightening, more like a door opening.  Will have to see what happens on Saturday when the plan is my neighbour and I go to another meeting where there will be a medium in attendance.

This afternoon was watching a repeat of a Hairy Biker's cookery prog.  They were discussing the market place (farmer's markets, the rise of supermarkets etc).  They visited an organic farm, the first to deliver the organic veggie boxes around the country, and I noticed the name 'Riverford' in their café.  This is the company that supplies my veggie box.  It was good to hear all about how it began, and how it has progressed since then.

A few easy recipes today.  The first makes use of courgettes - these not my favourite veg, but no doubt they will appear in the veggie box so about time I found recipes such as this to make use of them.
When I have no fresh mint then I use a teaspoon of mint sauce (from a jar).

Courgette and Potato Frittata: serves 2
2 medium potatoes, sliced
1 tblsp olive oil
2 medium courgettes, sliced
4 eggs
handful of fresh mint leaves, chopped
salt and pepper
4 oz (100g) Cheddar cheese, grated
Boil the potatoes for about 5 minutes or until just cooked, then drain and set aside.  Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the courgettes for about 5 minutes until golden , then add the potatoes and fry for a further couple of minutes.
Break the eggs into a bowl and add the mint and seasoning to taste.  Beat together the pour this into the pan over the potatoes/courgettes.  Give a brief stir so the egg falls into any gaps, then reduce heat and continue cooking for 5 minutes.
As the egg begins to set, but still slightly runny, sprinkle the cheese on top then place under a pre-heated grill and cook for 5 minutes until the eggs  are set and the cheese is bubbling and browning. Serve cut into wedges.  Good eaten alone or with salad.

This next dish can be as simple or as complicated as you wish.  The basic recipe is given, but any vegetables that go well with the potatoes and eggs can be included.  It's a cross between a Full English Breakfast, and a pizza, with a nodding resemblance to the frittata above.  I'd definitely be using a lot of onions (because I like them) and sliced, cooked sausage (or chorizo). Or maybe ham, corned beef, Spam.  It's a great dish to use up tiny amounts of mushrooms, red peppers, frozen veg such as peas and string beans, and not forgetting that last rasher of bacon.  My mouth is already watering at the thought of it.  Pity it is too late for me to make it like NOW!

Please note, this is intended to be a meal for one, and probably would be if you use only the ingredients given, but include any (or all) the above and a few more eggs and it should then feed the five thousand.

Use What You Have Eggs plus: serves 1
1 tblsp olive oil
2 cooked potatoes, sliced
few cherry tomatoes, halved
1 shallot, sliced
pinch salt, generous amount of pepper
basil leaves for garnish (opt)
Put the oil in a frying pan and fry the potatoes until golden brown. Add the tomatoes and shallots and fry for a couple of minutes until softened.  Season to taste (plenty of pepper), then shove the potatoes etc around the sides of the pan leaving room in the centre, into this break the egg and continue to cook until as set (or runny) as you like. Scatter the basil leaves on top (if using) and serve.

Final recipe is a speedy way to make Minestrone Soup.  Or a cheat's way if you prefer. It's a good way to use up small amounts of frozen veg.  Either from a pack of mixed veg, or make up your own mixture. If you have no spaghetti, crush up larger pieces.  
Although this is a vegetarian soup, no reason why we couldn't make it with beef stock and include a little cooked minced beef.

Minestrone in Minutes: serves 4
4 oz (100g) spaghetti
1.75pts (1 ltr) hot vegetable stock
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
12 oz (350g) frozen vegetables
4 tblsp pesto
olive oil and grated Parmesan cheese
Break up the spaghetti into small pieces, then set aside.   Into a saucepan put the stock and canned tomatoes and bring to the boil.  Add the spaghetti and cook for 5 minutes or so or until the pasta is almost (but not quite) al dente., then add the veggies and bring back to the boil.  Simmer for 2 - 3 minutes until the veggies and pasta are just cooked (don't overcook). Serve the soup in individual bowls, and drizzle over the pesto, a little oil and a good sprinkling of Parmesan.  

'Life's too short to stuff a mushroom',  Shirley Conran (was it?) once said.  Well, I don't agree.  Today I was choosing the mushrooms from the large 'value' box (Tesco) for B's stir-fry, and the 'rooms were so fresh that I really fancied eating some myself.  I love raw mushrooms when they are as fresh as that.  So I helped myself to 8 large 'caps', removed the stalks (they went into B's stir-fry), and stuffed some of the centres with some chilli-flavoured Philly-type cheese, and the rest with some Moroccan-style hummous.  They were really, really tasty.

Although Philadelphia cheese can be bought chilli-flavoured, I tend to make up my own by buying the cheaper Tesco cream cheese, and then folding in some of my favourite Heinz Fiery Chilli Ketchup.  It works out cheaper and tastes just the same (if not better, as I can add more chilli).
I suppose there are all sorts of spreads that could be used to stuff a mushroom - peanut butter for instance.  Or smoked mackerel pate (or any other pate for that matter).  Not more than a teaspoon of filling is needed for each mushroom, so a little goes a long way.  Would make a good buffet 'nibble'.

Like the Queen, I also have an 'official' birthday.  Or like to think I have as I was born on Easter Sunday so I count that as my special day too.  Only twice since I was born has my date of birth fallen on that day.  Perhaps never again in my lifetime.

Anyway, that's it for today.  As am busy over the next few days, am planning to take a break from blogging over Easter, however as I get withdrawal symptoms if I leave it too long, my next blog should be published on Monday.  Do hope you all have a lovely Easter holiday and make the most of the good weather while we have it (due to rain Sun/Mon further south).  And thanks again for all your lovely comments.  TTFN.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Spring has Sprung!

It's been a beautiful day today.  Washing dried almost in minutes after hanging on the line, and it always smells so much fresher when dried outdoors, rather than on in indoor airer.

When we drove out this afternoon (en route to the Spiritualist Church), the houses that had front gardens were full of flowering trees, huge magnolias, ornamental cherries, and others whose name I cannot remember.  Our small pear tree (planted 3 - 4 years ago) is loaded with blossom.  Let us hope we don't get any severe frosts.  There was supposed to be some last night, but no sign of it in our garden that is sheltered by trees, shrubs and high fences, also neighbouring houses are fairly close, the back gardens being quite small.

There were not so many people at the discussion group this afternoon, and have to say quite a lot of the time I was speaking about my 'psychic experiences' over my life-time.  They wish me to develop these and they do have development meetings, but to attend these I'd have to join the church.  This is not something I had planned on doing, and really would not wish to (preferring to feel a free spirit if you like), but can continue attending the discussion meeting and the Saturday ones where there is a medium who passes on messages etc.   So will just have to go with the flow for the moment and then see what happens (if anything), and take it from there.

This evening watched the first episode of The Allotment series, and feel a bit confused.  It seems that the contestants will be competing against each other, growing fruits and vegetables, and when they are ready to harvest, then these are compared.   At the end of the first episode, it had been several months before the necessary crops were ready to pick, and not all in the same month.  But two competitors were voted off because what they had done wasn't up to the quality of the rest.

Well, if they all started off by growing the same things, some cropping early, some cropping later, it could be that the later crops already being grown by the losers would have done very well indeed, so it doesn't seem a very fair judgment.  Even so, if you like gardening and exhibiting, it was an interesting programme.  From the cooks viewpoint I'd rather eat misshapen produce that has excellent flavour than a plateful that look exactly the same with hardly any taste at all.  For isn't that what vegetables are all about?  To eat, not admire.

Thanks Mandy for your comment, yes of course I do remember you.  Please don't feel sad about your granddad, he would almost certainly 'visit' you from time to time, probably when you dream.  Problem is many people don't remember their dreams.  On those mornings when you wake up and feel happy for no particular reason, feel assured that contact has been made with the person you wished.
This last Saturday a 'message' from my Mother was sent to me. Something was said that was so unusual that I'd be the only one there to know about it, so really did believe there was some sort of connection.  But my mother died in 1981 and this was the first time she had 'approached' me, although had appeared in dreams with my father now and again, but nothing that made me think she was contacting me directly.

A welcome to LesleyLynn.  Have vague memories of that 'Pashka' recipe, and did make this Easter dessert for several years, but not now for a long time.  It was very good.

Good gracious Margie, the weather in Canada turned cold again.  Suppose in a way it is a bit like that over here.  We were supposed to have good weather over the Easter holiday but now it seems that part of the country (further south) will have rain.  It is very warm when in the sunshine, but quite cold in the shade, so although it feels (and looks) as though it could almost be summer, we still have a long way to go. 

Your idea of prepping veggies in advance can be a good idea, but the problem with this is that sometimes they then start to lose vitamins quite rapidly, especially once peeled.  A quick blanch in boiling water, then drained and refreshed under a cold tap, and drained again before putting into bags and kept chilled could prevent vitamin loss.   It goes without saying that the very best way to eat vegetables is within minutes of being harvested, but at least nature does allow some to have a longer 'shelf' life (root veggies, potatoes, onions, squashes etc) so we can keep eating 'fresh' through the winter months.  It is the leafy veg that lose vitamins rapidly. 
When lettuces are picked, they stay 'fresh' longer if the root end (with roots still intact) is stood in water, so it keeps on growing for a while.  Same with cabbage, and Brussels sprouts (pick the whole stem and plunge the end into water).
Not of course that I tend to do any of this.  I just buy and eat the veggies that need eating first, and even these could be several days older than they should be.

Many thanks to Eileen for her good wishes (and she did visit me later this afternoon so an added bonus).  Her books mentioned (Dairy book and Bero) are some of the most widely used.  It sounds as though the Bero book is still available.  Is it the same as I remember, about 9" long and 4" wide? Brown in colour, with sepia coloured printing and illustrations?

As Eileen mentioned, tomorrow is my birthday (will be 81!!!!), and B and I will be going to our daughter's for a birthday meal.  It could be that I'll be tired when we get home, so I may miss writing my blog Wednesday night (for Thursday), but will blog on Thursday night to publish ready for Friday.  May also take much of the Easter weekend off (blogging), but again this depends on what we will be doing.   My suggestion is 'just watch this space' as sooner rather than later I plan to return. 

Had a delivery from Tesco this morning - a week earlier than normal but wanted to have enough in for Easter (my excuse).  I ordered the free-range medium eggs for £1, and when the groceries arrived there was one substitution.  The 'Tesco free-range medium eggs' not available.  The substitution was g 'Tesco Lancashire free-range eggs' for £1.  Checked the price of the latter on the Tesco web-site and they were £1 anyway, and under the Tesco label, so what's the difference?

It is now exactly midnight as I write (happy birthday me), so I'm planning to go to bed soon, so just one recipe to end with.  Even though a goodly amount of watercress is used, it doesn't have to be so much and myself would use the bits of watercress that are often left over from a bunch or bag (these soon wilt so need using up).  The semi-soft cheese used could be Brie, Boursin, soft goat's cheese, or the Philly-type cream cheese (plain or flavoured with herbs/chives).
Instead of using risotto rice (Arborio), instead make this using pearl barley (cooks in less time if soaked in cold water for a few hours before cooking).

Watercress and Cream Cheese Risotto: serves 4
2.5 pints (1.5 ltrs) hot vegetable stock
knob butter
1 tblsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
12 oz (350g) Arborio rice
1 bunch watercress, chopped (see above)
4 oz (100g) semi-soft or cream cheese
Have the stock simmering in a pan on the hob.  Take a wide saucepan or deep frying pan and melt the butter with the oil over medium heat, then fry the onion for 3 minutes.  Stir in the rice until all the grains are coated and shiny.  Pour in a ladle of the stock and simmer until completely absorbed, then continue adding stock, a ladle at a time, continuing to stir until the rice is tender (takes about 25 minutes). Add the watercress and cheese.  Remove from heat, and if you wish add another knob of butter.  Give a final stir, then serve.

That's it until my next blog (may be tomorrow, maybe the day after). Enjoy this spring weather while we have it,  and we'll meet again soon.  TTFN. xx


Too Much of a Good Thing

Seems as though we are going to have good weather over the Easter holiday.  Frost is forecast tonight over much of the country (due to clear skies) and am hoping the pear tree - now in full bloom - will not get caught.  It is close to our garage wall that soaks up the sunlight during the day, and as it has been a glorious sunny day today, am hoping the wall with let out the warmth towards the tree during the night.

Lovely comments from readers (as always).  Thanks to all for your good wishes, and pleased to say I am feeling quite a bit better now, still tend to feel tired, but not now exhausted.  Even my knees are not as painful as they were. 

A few replies from me.  Joy - who has loads of cookery books - will probably find, like me, that many of the recipes have never been tried.  They do say that only 2% of recipes in cook books are ever used, and as most cook books tend to give about 100, that means only 2 of them.  Have to say in some of my cook books 0% have been used.  With others, about 5%.  With the older books, like the Marguerite Patten 'Cookery in Colour', think I must have made about 75% of the recipes.  If not more.

As I so often say, all recipes in the newer cookbooks (over the last decade or so) are all variations on classic dishes.  Some may seem to be new, and maybe new to us if they originated from the other side of the world, but even these are normally based on traditional ones, cooked for centuries.

Today my thoughts went to ingredients used, not specific recipes, and suppose that it would be quite possible to 'invent' a new dish based on ingredients that have always gone well together.  Bed mates we could call them.   It's a bit like that 'deconstructed' Ploughman's Lunch I mentioned the other day. Bread, cheese, onion and a glass of ale.   Or put together in a different way turn out as a variation of French Onion Soup. 

My Beloved's stir-fries are quite often is made from the same veggies that I use to make vegetable soup (celery, carrot, onion, peppers).  Adding a few more could turn it into almost an Italian Minestrone soup.  So it's all to do with how ingredients are put together. 

An apple and blackberry crumble is virtually the same as an apple pie.  The only difference being the crumble mix (made exactly the same as pastry without adding any liquid), has sugar added.   And of course Spaghetti Bolognese uses exactly the same ingredients as when making a Lasagne, or Cannelloni.  It's just the pasta 'shape' that is different, and the presentation.

With Alison mentioning her allotment, this has reminded me that there is a new series begins tomorrow (a bit like '...Bake off' but growing veg instead of baking).  Allotment growers compete against each other to see who can grow the best of this, that or the other.  BBC 2 at 8.00pm. It should make good viewing.

Both Alison and Jane are interested in my visit to the spiritualist church.  The reason I went was because my lovely neighbour - who sadly lost her husband just about a year ago - has been feeling a bit down and she expressed a desire to go to this church and would I accompany her?  So I did. 
We chose the day when there was an informal discussion group, and it was really nice.  Only about a dozen there (including we two), and we sat in a circle, sang a few hymns, and just chatted about things of interest that had happened to each during the week.  As we were new, we had nothing much to say, but there were three mediums there who sort of picked up 'vibes' from certain members, including me, and said what had come into their head.  

Although I'm very open minded I don't necessarily believe everything I'm told, most of it far too vague, and could have applied to anyone.  In fact when others were 'contacted', what was said could have applied to me too.
However, the people were so pleasant and I really felt I known them for years, and we are going again tomorrow to a similar meeting.

However, on Saturday evening we went to the same church, this time to listen to a visiting medium, and again not too many in the congregation - about 20 or so.  After a few hymns and a bit of meditation, the medium began to gather info from his spirit contacts and passed messages onto various members of the congregation.  Much of the time I again felt that what was said could have applied to me.
My neighbour and I were sitting slightly apart from the rest and she was so hoping to have a message from her (now deceased) husband.  Then the medium turned and looked towards us and said he had much to say, but it was to me (I felt so sorry because my friend must have been disappointed). 
Certain names were given and I did recognise them, also the names of a couple of friends who were still 'in this life'.  These were accurate.  My mother 'came through', not much was said, but something very strange at the end.  The medium mentioned he was to 'give' me a red rose, AND freesias - these meant something.

The day my mother died I had bought her a bunch of freesias (one of her favourite flowers, the others being sweet peas and roses), and she had died before I reached the hospital.  So I left them with her body, and also threw a bunch of freesias onto her coffin when it was lowered into the ground.  So that really did mean something to me.  

However, I was very poker-faced all the time I was being spoken to, it is so easy for someone to say something that sort of 'fits' if you know what I mean.  I would need to hear a special name, and we have many unusual ones in my family, before I could really trust anyone.  This is not to say the medium was not authentic, I just want to be sure before I feel more secure. 

However, it does seem, from the discussion group and what I mentioned and what was said that I am very psychic (that is something I suspected as readers may remember the many strange things that have happened to me that I've written about).  I told them I was too scared to develop it as I didn't know where it would lead me - what with all the evil spirits that might be about. 
One strange thing was said to me: "you've spent much of your life inspiring people".  How she managed to work that out I don't know.  Or even whether she was right. 

Anyway, at both meetings I felt so very much at home that I shall continue to go just to see if anything unusual happens.  Even this week I've had a few strange experiences happen, so maybe a bit of my brain has woken up after a deep sleep.  Last night I had the most lovely dream where my late auntie came to visit me, she had such a pretty dress on, a sort of golden aura all round her, and she had the most lovely happy smile on her face, and handed me a huge bunch of mixed flowers, all the colours of the rainbow.  A dream maybe, but even so.....

But I'm not here to chat about the paranormal.  Recipes coming up.  First is a warm salad, best made with the new season's Jersey potatoes (there are none better), but as nowadays we can buy baby 'new' potatoes all year round they are as good as any.  Even - dare I say it - the canned potatoes could be used.
This could be a good dish to serve this weekend if entertaining family or friends. Any left-overs can be chilled to eat cold with a green salad and cold meat the following day.  Or just reduce the amount by half or a quarter if that's all you need.

Warm Potato Salad: serves 12
3lb 5oz (1.5kg) baby new potatoes
3 tblsp Dijon mustard
grated zest and juice of 1 large lemon
5 fl oz (150ml) extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
large bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped
6 spring onions, sliced diagonally
Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water for 10 - 12 minutes until just tender.  Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the mustard with the lemon zest and juice, then slowly whisk in the oil to make a smooth emulsion.  Add seasoning to taste.
When the potatoes are ready, drain and tip into a large bowl, sprinkling over the dressing, then gently mix together.  Set aside for about 15 minutes so that the potatoes can absorb some of the flavour of the dressing, then add the parsley and spring onions, folding them into the potatoes.  Add more seasoning if necessary.  Serve whilst still warm.

One can hardly call the above recipe inspiring, but it's now well on the way to 2.00am on this Tuesday morning, so l really need to get to bed, and writing out more recipes is not top priority at this time of night.  Perhaps I should go back to daylight blogging.  
Tomorrow, after our next visit to the discussion group, maybe I'll have more spiritual chat to share.  Or maybe you frown on this sort of thing.  Me - I always try to keep an open mind.  Not everyone believes in the same things.  What is right for one can seem to be wrong for another.  Live and let live.  Believe me, I've dabbled my toes in almost every religion to find the right one for me', and still have not yet found it.  Most religions seem to have a that theirs is the only true one (and those who don't belong will have no place in heaven) and that type of belief is not for me thank you very much.
We are all God's children, every last one of us.  It's how we act in this world, not which church we belong to that matters. 

Don't worry, I'm not a 'holier than thou' person, I just make as much a mess of my life as the next, and no doubt have committed more sins than even I thought possible.  Can't waste my time regretting things, just have to put up with painful knee joints (perhaps that is my penance). 
Expect me back again tomorrow evening, maybe a little bit earlier, these late nights are causing me to rise later than I should (so still waste half the morning).  TTFN.