Friday, May 30, 2014

Just Dropping In...

A short blog this evening due to B going out to his weekly social 'do' at the sailing club, and - for some reason - I feel very tired and wanting an early night.  So am taking the opportunity to get to sleep before B returns and does his extra-noisy Friday night puffing and blowing over me as he sleeps. And talks out loud, sings (all in his sleep bless him) and generally keeps me awake.  If I can get to sleep before he returns then I can sleep through it.

Don't know why, the forecast is for milder weather, but today I felt very cold again, had to tuck myself up with two quilts as I sat in my chair and eventually put the central heating back on.  It is only the living room that is cold (east facing), the other side of the house (kitchen, conservatory - that gets the afternoon sun) that is warm, but not comfortable enough to curl up and relax in.  Of course if I wore a long-sleeved jumper I would feel much warmer, but I can only work in short sleeves, and am never fond of keeping my forearms covered except during the winter months.

Enough of my moans.  A thank you to the two Alisons (Essex and Shropshire) also Margie who are encouraging me to take a taxi to the church.  Still not sure (I find it difficult to spend money on myself), but B is able to take me to the church tomorrow evening and also collect me.  Will see how I feel when next Tuesday comes.

Your mention Margie, of eating Cheddar cheese with apple pie is also traditional in the UK but certainly in Yorkshire the Wensleydale cheese seems to be preferred when eating with apples.  We like to eat rich fruit cake (like Christmas cake) with cheese, usually cheddar.
Sometimes I add grated cheese to pastry, either to the flour when making, or sprinkled over the ready-made, then folding before rolling it out.  Works well when making quiches and also apple pies.

Always looking for simple ideas to use cheap (or left-over) ingredients to make an interesting meal, happened to come across the following recipe (published in More For Your Money).  I've probably given it before (maybe several years ago) but worth a repeat especially as it is an unusual way to use up thick left-over cold custard (made with custard powder).  Or cold blancmange - this being just a flavoured custard (strawberry, chocolate etc).

The name of this dessert translates literally as 'fried milk', but when I used to make these (the children loved them, and so did B), we called them 'lecherous pancakes'.
If you make custard that is 'pouring' consistency, then this would not be solid enough when cold, but worth making some specially for this dish by using three-quarters of a pint of milk instead of a full pint, but keeping to the 'pint' quantities of custard powder and sugar.   Pour into a shallow dish when made and leave to get cold, the chill in the fridge for several hours until very firm. Cut into inch and a quarter (3cm) squares with knife dipped in hot water.

Leche Frita: serves 4 - 6
3/4pt thick custard (see above) cut into squares
2 large eggs, beaten
2 oz (50g) fine fresh breadcrumbs
2 oz (50g) butter
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1 tblsp caster sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
Dip the custard squares into the beaten egg, then into the breadcrumbs.  Place on kitchen paper until ready to cook.
Melt the butter and oil in a large frying pan over moderate heat, then when hot, place the squares - a few at a time - in the pan and brown them for about a couple of minutes, then - using a fish slice - turn them over and brown the other side for a further 2 minutes.  Put them on a heated plate and sprinkle with a mixture of the sugar and cinnamon.  Serve at once.

Here is another cheapo dish from the above book, useful when you have left-over fruit cake (ordinary fruit cake is fine, it doesn't have to be the heavy fruit cake - but this can also be used).  This is another of those traditional puds, the original name being Cabinet Pudding (sometimes called Parliament Pudding). As you can see, my adaptation has been given a third name - but still keeping with government boundaries so to speak.

Westminster Pudding: serves 3 - 4
3 slices of bread, crusts removed
5 fl oz (150ml) milk
1 egg, beaten
6 oz (175g) stale fruit cake (see above)
Grease a 1pt (570ml) pudding basin or ring mould.  Break the bread into small pieces and put them into a bowl.  Mix in the beaten egg and milk, then leave to stand for 15 minutes (longer if you wish).
Break up the cake into small pieces and add to the mixture, then pour this into the prepared basin and cover with pleated baking parchment/foil.  Steam for 1 hour if using a basin, or 45 minutes if cooked in a ring mould.

Final recipe today is slightly more expensive than the above, but for readers who make their own lemon curd and yogurt (or a long-life double cream (such as Elmlea), then the makings are to hand. 
What amuses me is that the recipe says 'not suitable for freezing', yet when fully prepared this HAS to be frozen for up to 1 1/2 hours before serving.  Possibly they mean not long-term freezing as these can be made the day before and kept in the fridge, then placing in the freezer for the time stated just before you plan to serve them.

Am giving the recipe as published, but myself prefer to use home-made Greek yogurt instead of the cream.  Or half the yogurt and half the cream - this makes the dessert taste lighter and less rich.  Your choice of course.

Iced Lemon Mousses: serves 6
11 oz (300g) lemon curd
grated zest of 1 lemon
half pint (300ml) double or whipping cream..
..OR Greek yogurt
few shortbread biscuits, crushed
Put two-thirds of the lemon curd into a bowl with the lemon zest and cream, then beat with an electric whisk until it just holds its shape (if using Greek yogurt instead of cream just fold together, if using both yogurt and cream, beat the lemon curd and cream then fold in the yogurt).
Drizzle the remaining lemon curd over the mixture, then spoon into 6 small glass pots or glasses, allowing the curd to marble through.  Place the pots on a small tray, then cover pots and tray with cling-film and place in the freezer for 1 1/2 hours before serving.  If you wish to make these ahead of time, cover and chill in the fridge for a day before freezing/serving.
To complete the dessert, remove from freezer - they should be ice-cold, but still a bit soft and creamy - and sprinkle the shortbread crumbs on top.  Serve immediately.

If you wish to make a frozen dessert that is more solid than the above, mix equal quantities of lemon curd (pref home-made) with the same amount of Greek yogurt, then freeze for several hours, an keep for several days/weeks to eat as ice-cream (frozen yogurt). If very solid allow to soften in the fridge for an hour (or room temp. 20 minutes) to make it easier to scoop out.

As the weekend starts just about now (for those returned home from work and for those who now don't work), we now have a couple of days to relax (or do all those chores that have been mounting up).  A good time to do some gardening, preparing for the summer bedding (or veggie growing). Definitely time for me to clean all the windows in the conservatory.  I've twice asked B but he has short-term memory, and so I might as well do them myself.  Not difficult, just have to don my window-cleaning hat and role-play.  Less chance of me then getting distracted.  Role play ALWAYS works.  I should do it more often.

As is now usual, I won't be blogging tomorrow.  Possibly will Sunday night, but maybe might leave it until Monday morning.  Depends on what's on TV, and how I feel at the time.  There was a time when I felt I HAD to blog early each morning and every morning except Christmas, but now I'm tending to give myself a bit more 'me' time, and feel all the better for it.  Also am running out of recipes and hints/tips.  There is only so much I've learned over the years that I share with you, and in danger of repeating myself (to often). 

Myself feel there are now so many cost-cutting/home-cooking sites (all with glorious photos) that all I'm left to give are a few suggestions as to reduce costs even further, then fill the rest of the page with my moans, groans, and putting the world to right (aka 'my ramblings'), always hoping that tomorrow will be the day that something really interesting happens that I can write about - but nothing so far has occurred that is of much interest to me, let alone anyone else.  Let's hope I get a 'message' through the medium at the church tomorrow.  I need to know what direction to take next.  Or stop going altogether. Mrs Impatient, that's me.

Hope you all have a good weekend, and looking forward to getting more comments (only a few sent recently, but I do know my blog does not have top priority).  Roll on Monday.  TTFN.

Same Old, Same Old....

Whether it's my age, or just me, but every day seems much the same.  Often can't remember what day of the week it is, however today has been slightly different.   My Beloved told me yesterday that he's going to be working at the upholstery place again for a couple of days, so at least I'll have most of the day to myself I thought (always enjoy that). 

Today being the first of the 'working days' and B having to leave before 10am, expected to have to oversee the servicing of the boiler myself when the man came, but fortunately he came at 9.30 so had just about finished by the time B left.  Finished serving the boiler that is.  He didn't leave for another half hour because we got chatting....and chatting, and chatting.  I do like having a man to talk to (B never talks to me), and he really seemed sorry to go (I felt the same). 

After I had got myself another cup of coffee, then set down to grate the odds and ends of cheese I had saved, but the plastic bit of the grating attachment (food processor) broke again, so had to throw that bit away and resort to grating by hand on my mother's old grater, taking part of my thumb knuckle skin as I did it.  Fortunately some of the cheese was 'crumbly Lancashire', and this truly is crumbly and easily broke up when rubbed together with my fingers.

As I'd brought home several sticks of rhubarb from the spiritualist church (we each get a raffle ticket and win something and I always choose the rhubarb - one member grows it), chopped it into short lengths and microwaved it for a few minutes to soften it.  It can then be used in a crumble or pie, or - as B has been doing lately - heated a bit longer in the microwave, sugar added and then cream.

As the partly softened rhubarb was on the kitchen table, and I was left with small lumps of cheese that were too small for me to grate without adding more bits of my fingers, I decided to eat the cheese, and for some reason also decided to eat a little chunk of rhubarb to 'refresh' my mouth as the cheese alone was a bit 'claggy'.  Do you know, the rhubarb really worked well with the cheese, and I suppose it was sharp like onion - that we know eats well with cheese - but slightly sweeter, without being really sweet (as it had no sugar added).  Think it is worth making rhubarb chutney (if I can find a recipe) as this would really go well with cheese. 

B suggested I made a rhubarb and cheese pie, and am also wondering if it would work as a quiche. Dare I try it (can't bear for a disaster to be so bad it can't be eaten)?
I've never seen rhubarb and cheese mentioned in the same breath, so have I invented new bed mates?

Tomorrow B is working, but as my neighbour will be coming for coffee in the morning (leaves at 1.00pm, and Norma the Hair arriving at 1.30pm, half the day will be taken up with more chatting. Not that I mind.  What I do mind is that B said he's going to work for his friend next week as well, certainly Monday and Tuesday, so he can't take me to the church.  Suppose I could get a taxi.  Same old story, the minute I want to go somewhere regularly (and this rarely happens nowadays) all of a sudden B is not available.  How I miss having my own transport.  I dare say I could go on Norris if the weather is settled (I am a fair weather mobility biker), but concerned the battery wouldn't last the journey both ways (the church is several miles away). It should, but it would take me about an hour to get there and an hour to get back.  Fifteen minutes in the car (or taxi) is much more preferable.
Maybe I'll go this Saturday evening (but only if there is no footie match on as there was last week that kept me here), then I could give Tuesday a miss.

Thanks to Mary and Alison for their comments.  Am sure spaghetti would work in place of noodles, there really isn't that much difference. 

Sorting out a few more books and mags that are not now needed, I came across a recent one (probably available around Christmas) that showed the foods that could be ordered from M & S.  Platters of sandwiches, canapés, other party foods etc.  Very expensive for what we got of course, but that is expected.  But it is worth picking up brochures like this and use as a guide to ideas for nibbles that we could easily make ourselves.  Then, work out how much cheaper it would be if/when we did.  There were just a couple or so items that would be worth buying as there was very little difference in the cost of bought v home-made. 

Platters of sandwiches were not cheap, especially as each 'round' was cut into quarters and priced as those.  On the other hand, being able to know what fillings were in the sarnies gave an excellent guide to what fillings we could make/use.  Some sandwiches were cut into fingers (not quarters) and just seeing the presentation of all the different platters gave another guide to how to present buffet food.  Just flicking through the pages made me wish we could have a party.

Our daughter managed to get me a couple of jars of Tahini (I've been wanting some for ages), one the basic pale sort, the other a darker one.  So now I can make hummous again (I'm very fond of hummous).   She is also going to get me some lecithin powder (on order), as I've wanting to give this a try since I've seen James Martin use it (fairly regularly).  Lecithin helps to stabilise things and it also helps to lower cholesterol. 

Another interesting article in the paper today, this one titled: "Foods you can eat weeks after their best-before date".  Think what they meant to say was "....after their use-by date", as the majority of foods tested were fresh.  Even though it was published (so has to be correct) I find it hard to believe that filleted raw fish, such as cod, salmon, haddock, stays edible up to four weeks after catching provided it is kept refridgerated below 5deg.
The writer says "I've eaten yogurt up to two months after the sell-by date". and have to say that the EasiYo I make certainly is still edible a month after making.  Of course the article gives guidelines as to how to make certain the foods are still fit to eat, and worth taking a look at the Daily Mail website (Thursday 30th)to read the article, so that we can 'use, not lose' foods that might normally have been chucked out.

Can't believe that this weekend it will be the start of June. Nearly half the year gone by already, and only recently have we been able to switch off the central heating, very reluctantly having to put it back on again for an hour or two more than once this last week when it turned very cold.  This weekend is our annual Bare Village festival (Saturday), and thankfully the forecast is that there will be a high pressure area over the UK for a few days, so it will turn a bit warmer and the rain should keep away.  Definitely time for me to order the bedding plants and hopefully get the containers planted by the following weekend (some can be done this weekend).

Then life back to normal, same old routine each day, and before I have time to blink it will then be the run-up to Christmas.  There must be more to life than this.  Should I start making a 'bucket list' of things I'd like to do before I reach 85?  Just being able to walk properly again without painful knees would be enough. If I can ever do that again, maybe I'll think up something more interesting to do.

Making the same old soup for my lunch today, made a mistake and opened a can of plum tomatoes instead of the chopped toms that I normally use.  It was a mistake that I'd bought them in the first place, I'd noticed they were on offer, and needing more canned tomatoes didn't check they were plum and not chopped.   Not that it matters as once in the pan I just snipped at the tomatoes to make them smaller.

Have to say that from now on I think I'll buy more canned plum tomatoes then chopped as (something I knew already) the plum tomatoes have a thicker sauce and are much richer in flavour. When blitzed in a food processor/blender, they turn out like the thick passata that I sometimes use when making spag bol meat sauce or chilli con carne, and of course can then also be used in any dish that calls for canned chopped tomatoes.
At one time chopped toms were cheaper than the plum, but now they are the same price - some brands more expensive than others, but it is the brand name we pay for, not whether the contents are chopped or left whole.

The recipe today uses seasonal veggies, allowing us to make substitutions if we haven't got what is in the list.  Take note of the above mention of plum toms, as although the recipe suggests canned chopped, it really is worth taking 20 seconds to chop up canned plum toms with a pair of scissors so that you end up with a much richer flavour to the dish.

Because I'm in that sort of mood, I've made up the name for this meal.  Basically it is ratatouille with eggs, but that is boring, hence the change.

Ratateggy:  serves 4
1 tblsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 red, or yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tblsp chopped rosemary
1 aubergine, diced
2 courgettes, diced
1 x 400g chopped tomatoes (see above)
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
4 eggs
freshly ground black pepper
crusty bread - to serve
Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the onion, pepper and rosemary for about five minutes until softened, adding the garlic towards the end.  Stir in the aubergines and courgettes and cook for a further 2 minutes.  Add the tomatoes, then fill the can with water, give it a swirl so it gathers up the tomato juice left on the sides/base of the can, then add this to the frying pan.
Bring to the boil, cover and reduce heat.  Simmer for 20 minutes, then remove lid and continue cooking for a further 20 minutes to reduce and thicken the liquid.
Stir in the vinegar, then make four wells in the mixture, breaking an egg into each, seasoning with pepper. Cover and cook for 3 - 5 minutes or until the eggs are soft or set to your liking. 
Serve with crusty bread to mop up the rich sauce.

As later than I thought (now past 1.00am Friday), time for me to toddle off to bed, and will return again tomorrow evening.  Still making my mind up whether to have the oven repaired or go and choose a new and completely different one that is much easier to use.  May go and take a look at some on Saturday before I decide.   Love to ramble on, but bed calls.  Bye for now.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Sighs of Relief!

Grateful thanks to MimSys for telling me how to bring back my missing taskbars.  If there is anything in telepathy, then just after I'd checked my email (after midnight) my eternal thanks would be flying across the ether from my mind to MimSys'.

It was such a simple solution, and one I should have remembered (because it had happened before with my old comp). I had tried tapping F11 and also F10 (because I couldn't remember which one it was) but don't think I tapped hard enough.  The problem probably arose because I hit the F11 key in the first place when intending to hit the return bar (just underneath it).

As surmised, I don't have a lap-top, and I suppose the computer is what I call the hard drive.  I think of the comp as the screen and keyboard and the box that stands on the corner with bits of wires connecting up to various bits at the back of the screen is the 'hard drive'.  It just whirrs when switched on, and shuts up when I switch off the screen. 
With this fairly new comp that Steve got for me, I can select 'switch user, a few other things, and also 'sleep' and 'hibernate'.  When I press 'hibernate' the hard drive then switches off and I have to lean down to press a large button on the box to switch it on again.;  With 'Sleep' the comp screen shuts down but will start up again when any key (or mouse) is touched. 

Since I've been going to the spiritualist church, the electrics have been playing up (have I told you this before?).  The TV switches itself off for no reason, the lights flicker in this room when I'm using the comp, and (go back on again when I tell them to), the comp switches itself back on when I enter the room in the morning even though it has been properly switched off (hibernate).  It doesn't do this for B, only for me.  Add to that the toaster blowing up followed by the oven, am wondering if something out there is trying to attract my attention.  Apologies if I've said all this before, but it does make me wonder.

It is with great relief that I seem to have got the comp back to how it should be, although a few seconds ago the screen began making a strange noise, a bit like those ticker-tape machines we see in the older films.  Almost as though someone was sending me a message in morse code.  Are the aliens about to land?  Will a message suddenly appear on the screen?

Thanks also to Anna for a suggestion of how to replace the task bar.  I had tried that earlier, but it didn't come up with anything that would have worked. 
What would interest me is knowing what all the 'F' keys (1 - 12) are used for. (I now know what F11 does). I dare not try them in case it sets up something that I can't undo.  As you can all guess, I have absolutely no idea of how a computer works, to me it is just the same as a word processor, with a built in 'query finder' (only not answering queries like 'how do I get the taskbar back').
The other advantage is being able to send short letters at speed instead of relying on 'snail mail', but have to say there is nothing quite as pleasant as being able to curl up and read a letter sent by a friend (or relative) that has arrived through the post.   How sad that these days that letters between lovers is probably sent by texting (or worse 'tweeting' so everyone can read them).  Not nearly as nice as having a bundle of old letters tied up with blue ribbon to remind us of romantic times when we were young (and I've still got mine hidden away).

Although I normally don't reply to an Anonymous, this time I must give a thank you as the comment gave alternative flavourings for popcorn.  A good idea. I love spicy, so will give it a go.

With that thought in mind the first recipe today is a type of Tabbouleh (bulgar wheat salad) but with a twist.  Takes only 15 minutes to make when the bulgar is cooked in the microwave, or - if you prefer - use couscous, pouring boiling stock over the grain then, cover and leave to stand for 10 minutes. When completed, this can be served warm or cold, so left-overs could be eaten for lunch the following day.

Spiced Bulgar Wheat Salad: serves 4
7 oz (200g) bulgar wheat
9 fl oz (250ml) hot vegetable stock
half tsp Moroccan spice mix OR...
...large pinch each of gr.cumin and cinnamon
grated zest and juice of 1 small lemon
1 tblsp olive oil
salt and pepper
half a red onion, finely sliced
1 x 400g can chickpeas, drained
1 jar roasted red peppers, drained/shredded
handful of fresh coriander leaves
Put the bulgar wheat into a microwavable bowl with the stock. Cover with clingfilm and microwave on High for 4 minutes.  Set aside, still covered, to let the wheat absorb the stock (takes about 5 more minutes).
Meanwhile make the dressing by mixing together the spice mix, the lemon zest and juice, and olive oil, adding seasoning to taste.  Add the onion, chickpeas, peppers and coriander to the bulgar wheat, pour over the dressing and toss everything together.  Serve either warm or cold.

Grains such as bulgar and couscous make a pleasant change from rice.  As does pearl barley and quinoa.  So this next dish is make using couscous, and although I'm not normally fond of aubergines, have to say they work well as this way they have such a meaty texture and good flavour that what is basically a salad dish ends up very filling. 
This being very much a seasonal dish, we could also include courgettes if we wish, or use instead of the aubergines.

Aubergine and Couscous Salad: serves 4
2 aubergines, cut into 1cm rounds
4 tblsp olive oil
salt and pepper
10 oz (275g) couscous
16 fl oz (450ml) hot vegetable stock
9 oz ( 250g) cherry tomatoes, halved
handful mint leaves, chopped
8 oz (225g) log goat's cheese, cubed
juice of 1 lemon
Spread the slices of aubergine on to a large baking sheet, brushing the surface with a little oil, adding seasoning to taste, then place under a grill and cook for 15 minutes, turning them half-way through, brushing with more oil.  When browned and softened, remove from the heat and set aside.
Meanwhile, put the couscous into a bowl, pour over the stock, cover and leave to stand for 10 minutes.  Mix the tomatoes, mint, remaining oil, and goat's cheese together.
Fluff up the couscous with a fork, then stir in the aubergines, lemon juice, and the tomato/cheese/herb mixture.

As you know, my Beloved really enjoys cooking a stir-fry for his supper.  I'm please because it gives me a chance to use up odds and ends of vegetables (he likes me to 'prep' these up for him so he hasn't much chopping to do - just throw the lot in the pan in the right order).  He also prefers to use a sachet of a stir-fry sauce (we keep a supply of several different flavours), and prefers 2 minute microwave rice to bothering to cook noodles (even though these take only a couple of minutes anyway).  He likes to think he can cook, but have to say so far has only dipped his toes into the water.  My intention is to getting him in at least waist deep, and possibly this next recipe is the one to push him in. 
Although this recipe serves two, it will still only make enough for my Beloved.  He has a big appetite.

Oriental Chicken Noodles: serves 2
2 tsp cornflour
2 tblsp soy sauce
1 tblsp caster sugar
6 tblsp water
2 blocks egg noodles
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
4 spring onions, sliced
7 oz (200g) cooked chicken, shredded
1 tsp ground coriander
half tsp chilli powder
4 oz (100g) frozen peas
few basil leaves, roughly shredded
handful cashew nuts or peanuts (opt)
Mix the cornflour with the soy sauce and sugar, then gradually stir in the water, mixing together until smooth.  Cook the noodles as per packet instructions (usually takes no more than 4 minutes).
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a wok or deep frying pan, then stir-fry the pepper, garlic, and spring onions for about 3 minutes. Add the chicken, spices and peas, and stir-fry for a few seconds, then pour in the cornflour mixture.   Stir until bubbling and thickened, then add the drained noodles and toss everything together.  Serve immediately, with a scattering of basil on the top.

Today seems to have come to almost the end of the 'Roots' saga, although there is one more episode to be seen tomorrow, perhaps a mini-compilation.  Today the story ended with Alex Haley returning to Gambia and finding the village where his ancestor - Kunte Kinte - lived, and also meeting up with one of his distant cousins.  I found this so very moving, in fact the whole series disturbed me much as it did the first time I saw it - many decades ago.

That's it for today, need to have an early night (that's a laugh, it's already 15 minutes past midnight) but the annual service of our gas boiler is due, and the man comes tomorrow morning 'between 8.00am and noon) so as the boiler is in our bedroom (don't ask me why), I don't wish to be found still in bed when he arrives.  Hopefully, back blogging again this time tomorrow.  See you then I hope?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Thoughts to Ponder Over

Still having problems with the computer, having to switch off at the hard drive every time I've looked up a Google search page, or used this blog page.  Wish I could bring back the task bar that used to remain at the bottom of the page.  Anyone know how I can do this?  I keep asking Steve, but he is probably busy or maybe away.  At least I can publish thia.

Phoned the insurance company re our broken oven this morning.  Sat there for nearly half a hour waiting for one of their assistants to come to the phone, just had to listen to music or info about their company.  Then when I did get it sorted, I was told to phone the repair company, and they would come to sort it out (or replace) and I need not pay anything, they would deal with it through the insurance.  But then the same thing happened, they had a lot of calls waiting, so another half hour wait, and it ended up nothing able to be done until I could give them the model number of the oven, which I have not been able to find.  It's probably at the back, and as it is built into a wooden surround, this means taking it out and I feel that is something the repair people should be doing.

I've a good mind to go and choose a new oven and pay for it myself rather than get a replacement the same as the one we have (or have it repaired) as I'm forever burning myself on it.  There are two ovens, one large, one small.  The large one above the smaller, and it is quite high.  The drop down door just about sits at the top of my ribcage when open, and it is very difficult for me to reach inside and pull out the baked food without burning myself on either the door or one of the grids inside, especially if the roasting tins/casseroles are very heavy and holding hot water or oil.  Yes, I know I could cover the hot bits of the oven with a cloth or something, but I just can't be bothered to do that each time, and it is the lifting out that is the main problem.  I want an oven that is easy to reach inside.  The small oven is in the perfect position, but far too small for batch baking (something I prefer to do).

In Leeds we also had a double oven, but the larger oven was beneath the smaller one, and that worked very well as we normally only used the small oven for grilling, or light-weight baking.

This afternoon went to the spiritualist church for the 'circle' meeting.  Quite a few regular members absent for one reason or another, just seven of us altogether.  We discussed so many things there was not time for the medium/s there to (hopefully) come up with some 'contacts'. 
At least five of the people there today are mediums, and it seems that each have a different way of making contacts.  I'm still hoping to find out more before I start developing my own 'talents' (if you can call them that).  Not yet sure whether I should or not.  I don't want to open a can of worms.

That 'Doors Open Toronto' sounded lovely Margie, especially the toof-top gardens.  Believe there are a few of these in London, usually on top of a major store.  It is the weight that causes difficulty, not just the earth, but the concrete and especially all the water that is needed, let alone the weight of the shrubs/trees.  But it can be done, and should be done more often, especially in built up areas.
It is also lilac time here, and I've noticed the laburnum trees are also in flower (normally when the lilac is, so normal).  The weather has turned warmer again, but showers over most of the UK as the low pressure area moves across the country.  We in Morecambe are missing most of the rain (for once).

Not sure if it is half-term, but when B drove me to the church this afternoon, we saw a lot of families with school-age children walking along the prom.  Some regions of the UK have their half-term a week earlier (or later). 

Thanks Hazel for giving us the link to the and this time it did connect up. I see that they can also be reached on Facebook.  It is an excellent site, and I was hoping to send them an email to ask them why I couldn't reach them through Google search, but it came up with a box saying this is not a safe site, so I chose not to continue.  It would probably have been OK but I'm the sort of person who prefers to be safe than sorry.

So any readers who wish to reduce their food bills even further, do follow Hazel's link and you'll find loads of wonderful recipes and suggestions of what to buy, how to use the food etc.

At one time I used to have a corn-popping machine.  This worked on hot air, so the corn, once popped was very low in calories.  But of course, I gave it away to a lady, with several packs of unpopped corn.  She was a one-parent mother of two boys, and was thrilled as she could then pop endless amounts of corn to keep her lads happy.

I still pop corn, but this time in a very large saucepan with a very little oil, and it always amazes me how very little corn (like two tablespoons - costing around 5p) is needed to produce a huge amount of popped corn.  Incredibly cheap compared to the popcorn sold.

Plain popcorn isn't very interesting to eat, but a little salt added improves it.  But then we are not supposed to eat salty things.  Tossing the corn in melted butter is even better (but then we are not supposed to eat saturated fat!!).  Sugar/syrup is another no-no according to nutritionists, but there are times when I really don't care.  If I want to munch some crunchy popcorn, then I do - occasionally.

Here is the way to make your own, and because the unpopped corn dramatically inceases in size as it 'pops', never use more than 2 level tablespoons at any one time - and use a large pan with a lid.
Put a tablespoon of sunflower oil in the saucepan, place over medium heat and add the corn.  Then cover with a lid.  Soon you will hear the first few corns begin to 'pop', probably hitting the lid of the pan as they do, then more and more will pop. Give the pan a shake from time to time, and in a very few minutes the popping will slow down, and eventually stop.  Remove from heat and carefully lift the lid - for if the last corn is about to pop this sends a spray of already popped corn into the air and probably all over the room (been there, done that).

Remove the corn into a bowl, taking care to get rid of any unpopped corn that may still be in the pan (these are very hard, so could break your teeth if you try to bit through them). 
In a small saucepan put 2 oz (50g) of butter, 2 oz (50g) of caster sugar, and 1 tblsp golden syrup. Heat until bubbling and the sugar has dissolved, then drizzle this over the corn in the bowl, tossing it with forks so that most of the corn has a light coating of the glaze, then spread the corn over 2 non-stick (or parchment covered) baking sheets.  Place on two shelves of the oven and bake for 5 minutes at 150C, gas 2, then change the baking sheets round (upper shelf to lower and vice versa) and continue baking for a further 5 minutes.   Leave to cool, then break up, bag up, and enjoy.

If concerned about calories, reduce the amounts of the glaze by half and tossing well - with luck - most of the corn will have some of the glaze.  Honey could be used instead of the syrup.  But even if not reducing, because it makes a lot, a small bag of popcorn contains no more calories than a bag of crisps.

The ham I cooked to see us over the Bank Holiday is - of course - lasting longer than that.  This time the gammon seems particularly tasty.  Better quality I suppose, but as it was half-price well worth it.
Some slices have been frozen for later eating, and as it was a bit of an odd shape (for carving), I'd cut off a good sized chunk that will be added to a dish as an ingredient in its own right.  Probably use the recipe below.

These pasties make good picnic food, as well as useful to pack in a lunch-box.  Or - if you prefer - eat hot/warm when just baked.  The recipe makes four large pasties, but could easily be stretched to make six smaller ones (or even 8 even smaller child-sized ones).

Ham, Pea, and Mint Pasties: makes 4 or more
8 oz (225g) butter, chilled, cut into chunks
12 oz (350g) plain flour,
half tsp mustard powder
half tsp salt
4 - 5 tblsp cold water
1 onion, finely chopped
7 oz (200g) peas, frozen or cooked fresh
4 oz (100g) thick sliced ham, cut into chunks
small bunch mint, leaves finely chopped
9 oz (250g) pack ricotta cheese
salt and pepper
1 egg, beaten, for glazing
Put 6 oz (175g) of the butter into a food processor with the flour, mustard powder, and salt, and whizz until crumbed.  Add the cold water, a spoonful at a time, while pulsing, until the pastry just comes together.  Tip out onto a clean surface, gather together into a ball, wrap in clingfilm and chill while you make the filling.
Melt the remaining butter in a frying pan, add the onion and cook gently (sweat/sauté) for 10 - 15 minutes until very soft.  Stir in the peas and cook for 1 minute, then remove from heat, stir in the ham, mint, and ricotta with plenty of seasoning.
Dive the pastry into 4 equal pieces and roll each piece into a (6"-7") 16-17cm circle.  Using a saucer as a guide to cut round will make about the right size.  Brush the edges with a little of the beaten egg, then spoon a quarter of the filling into the centre, bringing opposite sides of the circle together at the top and press together to seal.  Crimp together to make a traditional pasty shape.   If you prefer you could put the filling towards one side of the circle, egg the edges then fold the unfilled side over, pressing the edges together to make a half-circle shape.  Place onto a baking sheet.  When all the pasties are completed, brush all over with the beaten egg, then bake for 35-40 minutes at 180F, gas 4
until golden and crisp.  Leave on the sheets to cool slightly, then serve - or leave to get cold.

As an alternative to the above you might like to try this filling,, and myself would probably use canned new potatoes as they are already cooked (and often cheaper than fresh spuds).:
Curried Potato:
1 onion, chopped
1 - 2 tsp curry paste
1 tsp mustard seeds
11 oz (300g) chopped COOKED potato
4 oz (100g) frozen peas
juice of half a lemon
Fry the onion, curry paste and mustard seeds until fragrant, then stir in the potato and peas. Add the lemon juice.   Roll the pastry (see above) into 8 smaller rounds, then divide and spoon this filling over four of the pastry circles, brushing the edges with egg, then topping with the remaining four circles, crimping the edges to seal.  Brush with egg and bake for 20 minutes at 180C, gas 4.

That's it for today probably back again this time tomorrow evening.  Hope you'll find time to join me. TTFN.


Monday, May 26, 2014

Catching Up

Seems that over the next few days my blogs will be written when I have time to sit down.  So the early morning/late evening blogs could be any time of the day.  This due to my Beloved now working a few days this week, and I have to wait in for the annual gas boiler check, and also the man to come to see about the broken oven (not yet sure when that will be).  Also will be going out on Tuesday to the spiritualist 'circle', also having visitors a couple of days this week.

Another thing that is a problem (and hoping that Steve will soon get it sorted - he is connected up to our computer), is that when I go on to the Internet and Blogger, the task bar at the bottom of the page now disappears, also the little red 'x' at the top corner, so I cannot remove the page from the screen and have to switch off using the hard-drive button.  It's OK for anything else, and although I can cope, this - well - annoys me greatly.  So I'm not in a very good mood.  At least I can publish.  Well, hope so anyway.

Am having to spend some time trying to find space in my freezers.  Having to freeze a whole salmon (as two sides) for our daughter (she was expected home on Friday but appears to have stayed away all the Bank Holiday), this has taken up all the spare room I had (and had to fight to make room for the fish anyway).  I have quite a lot of chicken stock in tubs chilling in the fridge, these have to be frozen today, so looks like I'll have to take out all the soft fruits to make room.  Thaw the fruits out overnight and then turn them into jam.   Well, it had to be done sometime, so this is as good a week as any.  Can fit it in somewhere.

Seeing the sun shining on glistening leaves this morning, seems that we had some rain in the night.  It has been quite cold again and have had to put the heating on for a couple of hours each day.  The sun shone most of yesterday but no sailing as the tide was the wrong time of day, even so B stayed out all day as he is helping to paint the newly extended kitchen and rooms at the sailing club.  The other day he said to me he was fed up of always being the one to do the odd jobs at the sailing club and he was going to be 'not available' for two weeks while he got on with laying slabs in our garden.  Since then he has been at the club nearly every day, he just can't keep away.   Not that I mind - it keeps him out of my hair.  Just as long as he will take me to the church on Tuesday afternoons.  B is very sweet - he is now saying that my needs come first, but forgot about that on Saturday as there was a football match on during the evening.  I think had I asked B he would have taken me (neighbour wasn't going anyway), but decided to let B enjoy the match.  Unlike my friend, I don't go to get messages, I just want to know how it all works.  So missing a Saturday meeting (or even a Tuesday) is not of any great importance.

Thanks for comments.  Do agree with your Lorna, nowadays Mum's push prams/buggies, often with the child facing away from them.  The mums seem to prefer chatting on a mobile rather than to their children.
Some months ago I was on my mobility scooter, just about to pass by a shop door when one young girl ran out at speed with a phone clamped to her ear.  She didn't even look to right or left and it was only good fortune that I didn't knock her down.  My reactions were quick enough to stop the buggy, and I bet it would have been me she blamed if I had it her.

When out in the car, several times B has had to 'emergency brake' due to a young person stepping out into the road, with either a mobile clamped to the ear, or those sets of earphones where they can listen to music.  They just don't seem to bother to do the 'green cross code' anymore.

An excellent comment from Margie who says it as it is.  These new forms of communication are fine when not abused.  Very useful in fact, but now taken to extremes.   Some of the new phones can do all sorts of things, take/send photos, even read the Internet on them.  And lots of 'apps' (whatever they are - and please - I don't want to know). 
A few years ago one of our family proudly showed us their new mobile phone  "it can hold several thousand music tracks".  "How many have you loaded?" we asked.  "about 20". Was the reply.  Does anyone want to store thousands of songs, or even have the time to listen to them?  It's all getting far too silly, and just a gimmick to get people to buy the latest, because if they don't, they will get left behind in the fashion stakes.  It's all to do with fashion,  we have to change just about everything each year, car, mobile, TV, clothe (of course), and redecorate/refurbish/refurnish just to keep up with the Jones'.  All the manufacturers are after is our money, yet how many youngsters seem not to realise that?  Is it their money anyway, or does it come from the Bank of Mum and Dad?

Sorry to have missed that programme you mentioned Granny G.  Do agree with you that texting is very useful.  Far cheaper than using the phone to speak to someone.  Any proper 'chat' I do using our land-line (which we have anyway and the comp. is connected to that).
My friend Gill (who phones me for 1 hour every Sunday - for free), tells me that her friend is constantly using her mobile to speak to people because she says she has to use up all the 100 free calls she is allowed.  This friend pays a monthly fee for using the phone, so her 'free' calls will have been built in to the annual charges, make no bones about it.  When it comes to commerce, nothing is ever free.  There is always a catch.

A pilaf is a spiced rice, served with Indian dishes Mary.  It wouldn't be a 'pilaf (or pilau) when different spices were used.  Ground cumin is the spice usually used in a pilaf, and I find ground coriander slightly more fragrant than spicy.  Occasionally I dust chicken or pork 'escalopes' using Cajun spice mix, so that is another worth trying.
Rice is rice, and we can always flavour this as we choose.  Add lemon or lime zest and juice, or cook the rice in coconut milk (or with desiccated coconut). Perhaps cook rice as we would a risotto, flavoured with white wine, and chicken stock. Myself enjoy the flavour of (root) ginger in many dishes, and this would also work well with rice.
Am hoping readers will come up with suggestions for more fragrant ways of flavouring rice, other than using the hotter spices.

Today's recipes are suggestions how to add flavour without overdoing it.  Like many recipes that use grains, we can usually substitute a different one, so rice, quinoa, pearl barley, couscous, bulgar wheat should work whichever of these recipes we choose to try (make allowances for the different time these take to cook).  We can also play around with the other ingredients (different herbs, different dried fruits, different nuts...). 

Apricot and Herb Quinoa: serves 4
7 oz (200g) quinoa
8 no-soak dried apricots
zest and juice of 1 small lemon
2 tblsp olive oil
salt and pepper
handful each fresh parsley and mint
2 oz (50) toasted pine nuts
Cook the quinoa as per packet instructions, then drain away any excess liquid.
Meanwhile put the apricots into a bowl, adding enough boiling water to help plump them up.
Tip the cooked quinoa into a bowl, stir in the lemon zest and juice, the olive oil and seasoning to taste.
Drain the apricots and add the herbs and roughly chop together (or chop separately), then stir these into the quinoa with the pine nuts, and serve.

Next recipe is rice-based.  A paella, but not as traditional as it should be.  To the rice I would add some cooked chicken (or chicken wings - to cook with the rice), and also some cooked prawns (although raw prawns could also be cooked with the rice).  This recipe is included as it gives a different way of flavouring a rice dish.  So what we do after that is up to the cook.

Easy Paella: serves 4
1 tblsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 tsp smoked paprika and dried thyme
11oz (300g) paella or risotto rice
3 tblsp sherry or white wine (opt)
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
1.5pts (850ml) chicken stock
salt and pepper
1 x 400g bag frozen seafood mix (or your choice)
juice of half a lemon (cut other half into wedges)
handful flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the onion over low heat for 5 minutes.  Stir in the paprika, thyme and rice, cook for one minute then add the sherry or wine.  When this has evaporated, add the tomatoes and stock.  Add seasoning to taste, then cook - uncovered - for about 15 - 20 minutes, until the rice is almost tender, but still surrounded by liquid.
Stir in the frozen seafood, then cover the pan and simmer for 5 minutes or until the prawns are cooked through and the rice is tender.  Squeeze over the lemon juice, scatter with parsley, and serve with the lemon wedges.

Final recipe today does use curry paste (but a very mild one), but there are enough other ingredients that add flavour, so - at a pinch - worth trying this without adding the korma.  The recipe uses 'yellow lentils', and myself would use those yellow split peas (almost the same thing), or use red split lentils.
Ignore the fact this is called a curry dish, by leaving out the 'necessary', we can then turn it into a very tasty vegetarian dish in its own right.

Yellow Lentil and Cauliflower Curry: serves 4
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
small chunk root ginger, peeled and chopped
2 - 3 tblsp curry paste (pref. Korma)
7 oz (200g) yellow lentils, rinsed
2.75pts (1.5lts) vegetable stock
3 tblsp desiccated coconut
1 cauliflower, broken into little florets
cooked basmati rice
mango chutney and naan bread (opt)
Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the onion.  Fry for five minutes then add the garlic and ginger and fry for a further minutes, then add the curry paste, giving everything a stir-fry for a minute more before adding the lentils, stock and coconut,  Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 40 minutes or until the lentils are soft.  After the first 30 minutes of cooking, add the cauliflower to the pan to cook during the final 10 minutes.
Spoon the cooked rice into bowls, topping each with the curry.  Serve with mango chutney and naan bread (both optional).

A reminder that if we save the core, stalks, and the pale leaves that wrap around the cauliflower (as bought), then chop these up  (using a food processor does this rapidly), to cook in a pan of milk with - let's hope - the stale rind of a piece of Stilton, pureeing the lot together when tender (either in a processor or using a stick blender in the pan) we then end up with a lovely Cauliflower soup?  Using these leftovers and supermarket milk (£1 for 4 pints) we can make enough soup to feed 3 - 4 for nobbut much more than 25p.  And very healthy too.  That's what I call good(e) value. 

Must give a mention of an article in the newspaper the other day.  All to do with the bits of fruit and veg that ends up in the bin.  Nothing mentioned about the above, but apparently we shouldn't throw away onion skins, melon rind, and orange peel as these are rich in nutrients that can boost our health.
Onion skin has a plant pigment that can help reduce blood pressure, also prevent blood clotting and has anti-inflammatory effects.  Although the skin itself is not edible, just by adding it to stocks, soups, stews we gain the benefit, just remove skins before serving.

Broccoli leave are often discarded but full of vitamins A and C.  The whole of this veg is edible, and the leaves can be boiled like cabbage,  the stems cut into strips to add to a stir-fry.  Or as an alternative, blend the broccoli stems with a handful of walnuts and olive oil to make a different type of pesto.

Celery leaves have five times the magnesium and calcium that is contained in its stalks, so add the leaves to a salad.
Orange peel and melon rind can be blended into smoothies along with the rest of the fruit.

Leftove3s can also be brought to life by planting them in the kitchen garden.
Ginger is an easy root plant to nurture and will happily flourish when put into soil with the new shoots facing upwards (always look for a new bud on ginger root when buying, some have them, some don't).

Vegetables with white roots - such as leeks, fennel, and spring onionis - can also grow if you place the left-over roots in a container with some water on a windowsill.

Old potatoes that have sprouted can be planted outside (pref in containers) to grow a fresh batch of the vegetables.

Don't even know what time it is (as the screen now is not showing the task bar/clock, but expect it is around lunch-time - my tummy is grumbling so wants to be fed, I've had no breakfast).  So time for me to make my move into the kitchen.  Should be back sometime tomorrow, probably late evening, cannot be sure.  This week will probably be 'expect me when you see me'.  Hope you don't mind the disruption to my routine.

Everyone back to work tomorrow, and the forecast is for rain and storms over much of the country.; So what's new?   Me, I'll be hoping for a dry spell to plant out a number of herbs outgrowing their pots, and also sowing more seeds of Mixed Salad Leaves in the now soil-filled plastic mushroom boxes that I always save.  These will grow indoors on the window sill.  As I said, plan is not to shop until I really HAVE to.  And then only for what is absolutely necessary (milk, eggs...).  That's the plan anyway.   More on this over the next few weeks (months if I can stick to it).

Hope you all have a pleasant - and last day of the Bank Holiday - and look forward to reading more of your comments.  TTFN.

Friday, May 23, 2014

We Are All Similar

As you point out Les, with new technology, communications become easier and faster.   Nothing wrong at all at being able to contact someone by text/email and get an almost instant reply.  Far better (and cheaper) than the old 'snail mail'.  Even in the 'old days' I remember chatting to friends for about an hour on the telephone (cost only 1d however long we spoke), but don't think anybody kept on talking to different people for hours (or text/tweets) for the amount of time they do today.  It just seems that every youngster seems to have a mobile clamped to their ear, or they are tapping on it to send a text, or sitting in restaurants messing about with 'tablets' (or whatever they are called) while waiting for the meal to arrive.  Even worse is for their phones to ring while they are eating and they then sit and have a chat, or text a reply.  It seems as though there is nothing else in the world that is more important than what comes up on their screens. 

But it's not all mobiles and laptops etc.  We are all becoming obsessed with 'the new'.  Even people who don't go out to work and have all the time in the world to cook, still prefer to buy ready-meals to pop in the microwave to heat up.  We open cans and packets, without ever considering it would be cheaper to make things from scratch.  I'm even moaning now when I have to search for the can-opener because the tin I'm wanting to open hasn't got a ring-pull.  We seem to want every kitchen appliance and gadget to do jobs we could do ourselves, but prefer to save the labour, time and blow how much they cost.  Isn't that what money is for?  To make life easier for ourselves?

It's just that I can remember how life was when a teenager, and even younger than that.  We seemed to be able to find ways to enjoy ourselves without feeling the need to have to keep communicating with someone all the time.  Our friends were 'real', someone we could talk to when we were with them and have proper conversations, not just casual talk that had no depth.  We could stroll together, in pairs or groups, enjoying the warm summer evenings, or just sit and chat in our homes. 

As I write this I'm feeling I'm doing much the same, my form of communication being this blog, but at least I don't feel I'm chatting to thousands of unknowns, each reader who sends in a comment, esp the regular ones I do feel are very much my 'friends', even though we have never met.  Perhaps because every one of you has said something worth reading and often giving useful information.

My mother used to say to me 'if you can't say anything good, then don't say anything at all', and that is something I've tried to keep to, although do find the older I get the more critical I seem to become about the youth of today (and technology in general). If we could avoid getting addicted to such things, and use not abuse, then maybe life would improve.  Less chatting/texting/tweeting, and more socialising with real people.  Less buying of convenience foods and much more D.I.Y.

Mobile phones ARE very useful.  Only today I suggested to my neighbour (who has one but never uses it) that she keeps it charged up and close to hand in case she is taken ill (she lives alone in an upstairs maisonette).  She can always use her land line in the normal way, but at least she will be able to call someone if her mobile is kept by her bed, or in her apron pocket.  She is going to give me the phone number of a relative who lives about five miles away, and also a key to her front door just in case she is unable to open her door.  

The Glasson Smokehouse phoned me (on my mobile!) today to let me know that they had just had a delivery of fresh salmon.  So off went B to collect one (£15 for the whole salmon - and they filleted it for free).  B phoned our daughter (who is away) to see if she wanted one (he used his mobile and she used hers - so they are useful I admit), and she also wanted a whole filleted salmon. 
When B brought them home they were HUGE.  Our daughter wanted her fillets frozen as whole sides, and I had to fold them over (interlined), or they wouldn't have fitted into our freezer.  Our two sides were first trimmed, the trimmings and tail ends saved for fish risotto/fish cakes etc, and the rest cut into big chunks - giving me 12 chunks and two bags of trimmings.  The chunks were larger than normal, one would feed two if used in certain dishes, but I always cut sizes to suit B's appetite.

At first I panicked, thinking I had no room in the freezer even for mine, let alone our daughter's fish, but somehow managed to fit them all in. 
Today also cooked a big gammon on the hob, and now that it has cooled, have drained it, wrapped it tightly in foil and put it in the fridge to chill.  Tomorrow I will slice it using the electric slicer. Then have to find freezer room to store some of them.  Hopefully our daughter will have returned by Sat/Sun so will have collected her fish, leaving me room for the sliced ham and other things I wish to freeze (such as many tubs of chicken stock).

Having slowly stocked up the larder over the last few months, the fridge now bursting at the seams and both freezers full, it is now time for me to stop shopping and begin 'making do with what we have'.  The only food that needs to be replaced is the 'fresh' (eggs, milk...) and will continue having the monthly delivery of organic veg.  Let's see how long I can make things last.

A few simple recipes today, these useful for me as I will have all the ingredients.  But with plenty of opportunity to adapt, use alternatives etc, am hoping that most readers will have a go at making these.

This first dish is spiced with 'harissa' - a hot chilli flavoured spice used in North African Arabian countries, and this can be bought as a powder or as a paste. We could use another spice if we wish.
The recipe uses a lidded casserole dish as a cooking pan (for hob cooking) but a deep frying pan or saucepan (with lids) would work just as well.  

Spicy Carrot, Chickpea and Almond Pilaf: serves 4
1 tblsp olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
3 large carrots, coarsely grated
2 tblsp harissa
11oz (300g) basmati rice, rinsed
1.25 pts (799ml) vegetable stock
1 x 400g can chickpeas, rinsed
salt and pepper
1 oz (25g) toasted, flaked almonds
1 x 200g pot of Greek yogurt
Heat the oil in a lidded casserole dish, and add the onions. Cook for 8 minutes until softened, then add the carrots, harissa, and rice.  Stir-fry for a few minutes then add the stock.  Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
Tip in the chickpeas and fork these through the rice, then continue to cook over low heat for 3 - 5 minutes, until the rice is tender and the liquid has been absorbed.   Add seasoning to taste, then remove from heat, cover and leave to sit for a few minutes.  When ready to dish up, sprinkle the almonds on top and serve with a dollop of the yogurt.

Next recipe is more a winter warmer, but as today has turned chilly enough to put the central heating on again, with not much chance of better weather until after the holiday weekend, this will be one I'll be making for Saturday supper.   As it will be made for just two, then will need to use only half the ingredients, and as there isn't much meat in the first place, this is turning out to be another low-cost meal.  The root vegetables could be potato, carrot, parsnip, swede.  Or turnip, sweet potato, always use what we have.

Lamb and Barley Soup: serves 4
1 tsp olive oil
salt and pepper
7 oz (300g) lean lamb, cut into small chunks
1 onion, finely chopped
2 oz (50g) pearl barley
1 lb (450g) mixed root vegetables, cubed
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1.75 pts (1 ltr) lamb or beef stock
1 sprig thyme
4 oz (100g) green beans, chopped
granary bread - to serve
Heat the oil in a large saucepan.  Season the lamb then add to the pan and fry for a few minutes until browned all over, then add the onion and barley and fry gently for a minute.  Tip in the prepared vegetables and stir-fry for five minutes, then add the W.sauce, stock and the thyme.  Cover and simmer for 50 minutes.
When everything is cooked/tender, remove about a quarter of the soup into a separate pan, then blitz the rest using a stick blender (or put into a food processor/blender and whizz to a puree).  Stir this into the rest of the soup.  Add the beans, simmer for 5 minutes, then ladle into bowls and serve with crusty bread.

Final recipe is another soup, this time with an Indian flavour.  Not a million miles away from the first recipe (for a pilaf), or for that matter the lamb soup (both shown above).  Proves that with a bit of tweaking almost any recipe can be turned into another.
So you could adapt all today's recipes by just using swapping the faovurings around..

Indian Chickpea and Vegetable Soup: serves 4
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 tsp finely grated root ginger
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tblsp garam masala
1.5pts (850ml) vegetable stock
2 large carrots, chopped
1 x 400g chickpeas, drained
4 oz (100g) green beans, chopped
salt and pepper
naan bread - to serve
Heat the oil in a saucepan and fry the onions for a couple of minutes, stir in the ginger and garlic and fry for a further minute, then stir in the garam masala.  Fry for one minute more and then add the stock and carrots. Simmer for 10 minutes, then add the chickpeas.
Use a stick blender to blitz up the soup a little (not too much), then stir in the beans. Cook over low heat for 5 minutes then ad seasoning to taste.  Serve hot with naan bread.

Have a busy weekend ahead, so won't be blogging again until towards the end of the Bank Holiday, it might be Sunday night, but more likely sometime on Monday - not yet sure what time.
Next week too is busier than normal, the gas man comes to service the boiler and other equipment, and also expect someone to see about repairing the oven.  Also all my medical appointments seem to be falling close together (two at the surgery, blood test then diabetic nurse), eye check (also for diabetics), and foot check (ditto).  Plus my two visits a week to the spiritualist church.  My neighbour doesn't want to go any more, but she is urging me to as it appears that I am very psychic and she feels I ought to continue.   I'm not wishing to become a medium, but would like to develop my 'talents', mainly to discover a bit more about 'what's up there'.  I'm so close to 'connecting' with whatever it is, that it seems foolish to stop now.   However much I like to believe that what we hear/read about is true, it is only when I experience things for myself that I can truly take it as a fact.  Otherwise it could be just wishful thinking.

Last Tuesday I asked a lot of searching questions, and wasn't able to get very positive replies, don't think the mediums there knew the answers themselves.  But it certainly gave something to discuss and have to say it ended up with us all learning something.  So hoping the same will happen next Tuesday.  More about that on Wednesday.

Hope you all have a good weekend despite the miserable weather.  Keep those comments coming. TTFN.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

It Never Rains but it Pours....

It's been a funny sort of day.  Yesterday the toast blew up (we now have a new one), today the main oven had a hissy fit.  I'd heated it up to bake bread, and had put the rolls in to bake, leaving the main loaf another 20 minutes to rise a bit more.  When I went to check the rolls saw that inside the oven it was full of sparks, just as though a sparkler had been lit.  The oven light was on (first time that had been on since we moved here!).  I cautiously removed the rolls - they had baked perfectly - and decided that as the dough in the loaf tin was ready, I'd put it in the oven, sparks and all, and hope the thing wouldn't explode before it was baked.  Then quickly left the kitchen just in case it did.

While in the living room, could keep hearing snap, crackle and pops coming from the oven, but that stopped and I went in and saw the oven light was no longer on, although the oven temperature light was.  I checked the loaf - it was golden, but it felt as though it needed longer, so I gave it a further 14 minutes.  Realised then, by turning the regulo switch back until the light went out, the oven was cooling, not keeping its heat.

We do have a smaller oven, under the large one, so I switched that on and thankfully no problem with that (yet), so when it had heated up I finished off baking the loaf in that.  Even after 20 minutes - when it was easily lifted from the tin and sounded hollow when tapped underneath, it still didn't seem right after half an hour cooling.  Knowing that we can buy part-baked bread to cook on in the oven, thought it wouldn't come to any harm if I heated the oven again and gave it a further 15 minutes, and this worked!  B sliced some for toast this evening and he said it is perfect.  So there you go.

Luckily I insured the oven (and both fridges, and washing machine), so if it can't be repaired I will get a new one (and do hope that will happen).  With the Bank Holiday probably won't be able to be sorted for at least a week, perhaps longer, but still have the hob/microwave to use for cooking, as well as the small oven.  Am just keeping my fingers crossed the fridge doesn't now decide to pop its clogs.  Things always seem to go in threes.

Thanks for your comments.  Think the Milliband statement may well have been true, but not as a permanent way of life.  It is easy for those who have done it to say 'I can feed my family on £80 a week' (I could probably feed my family on £10 if I had to), but not ALL the time.   Many readers of this blog will have attempted the various challenges that go around such as a recent one of 'Living on £10 a week' or 'on £1 a day'....but again not continually after (unless necessity makes it so). 

As you say Les, the Millibands earn enough to pay more for their food.  Perhaps you yourself have enough money to pay more for food than you actually do.   Some people are able to be very frugal, and sometimes have to be if mortgages take much of their earnings, add to that child minder fees, or private education, even saving up for the future. Unless we know EVERYTHING, then we are not able to judge. 

What is true though is that many people do manage very well on £80 a week, and without feeling deprived.  Perhaps simplicity is the reason.  Children don't have to expect to be given sweets, snacks, treats all the time. Just three meals a day keeps the obesity at bay.  Some children are very content to just drink water instead of fruit juices (these supposedly helping to rot teeth).

Another article caught my eye in the paper today.  This by Emma Thompson, saying something I really agree with.  "Along with Facebook, Twitter is 'killing a generation' that is obsessed with being 'connected' 24 hours a day", she said.  Going on to say "I hope we realise we are all one giant human experiment at the moment.  We are just a big bunch of little gerbils on wheels".

While I can understand that there are many lonely people who cannot get out to meet people, then perhaps Facebook/Twitter helps to keep them in contact with the outside world.  But when young folk seem to be addicted to their mobiles/tablets or whatever is used these days to 'connect with others', and I wouldn't be surprised if they even take them to bed to continue 'contacting', then what hope is there for their future? 

I've never even 'tweeted', so don't know much about it other than millions of people seem to delight in telling the world what they are about to do (like having a shower), and expecting others to be interested.  They even take photos of themselves, and then get dangerously depressed when someone tweets back and says they are ugly.    Bullies apparently text messages to upset others, and it seems that every text HAS to be read.  Me - I'd just throw away the mobile and get another with a new number.  Or perhaps not have a mobile at all. 

Why is it that the actions of people we have never met and don't even know, who have 'tweeted' extracts of their daily life-style are so important to so many?  To me it is like snooping, or every voyeurism.  And I bet if a celebrity has replied to a tweet sent, the person who sent it will then boast that they are now on speaking terms with said celeb. Is that what it's all about.  One big game?  Get a life.

Yes, it is good to keep in touch with distant friends, but surely 'having a chat' should be between pals, not for the whole world to listen to.  At one time myself and friends used to write letters to each other, sometimes more than once a week, but now the price of stamps has risen, we now take advantage of the free hour-long weekend phone calls and regularly keep in touch that way.  Even better, those friends of mine who have Internet can then email me news and even photos, and I can instantly send a return message.  Perhaps email is veering close to 'tweeting' but at least it is kept personal and for the recipient only to read.

By now you know I am old fashioned and slow to catch up with 21st century trends, but if this is the way the world is going, then I'm thankful I'm not young enough to get caught in that particular web.

As the comments sent referred to the £80 budget, so a blanket thank you to all for your views.  With the Frugal Queen giving her views, I went on to her site and was so envious.  Do wish I could set up my site to match hers.  All I had to do was click on the link word, and up came the Daily Mail article.
How much time that would save when I read something that I hope readers will check up on.  Normally I fill a my page with extracts from articles, and then give my views (as with the above 'tweets), and this can often be confusing (to me as well as to everyone else).  Congratulations Frugal Queen on having one of the best sites.

Not so long ago I was in contact (more than once) with a site called which explained how we could feed a family of four on just £24 (or was it £25) - and am sure this was for a month, not a week.  Although it does come up via Google search, when I click on for it to come up it says 'this page cannot be displayed', so can anyone tell me if the site is still running?  That is/was the site for anyone who really was almost living on the bread-line as it showed simple recipes that were both cheap and very tasty, and proved the point that we really don't have to spend very much to eat good healthy meals.  We just need the time to cook them.

Don't anyone tell me they don't have time to cook.  Add up the hours spent texting/tweeting or watching TV or reading blogs, then stop doing all these things for a week and spend the time cooking instead.  Life would then have more purpose.

Having almost run out of chicken stock (I did find a couple of small tubs today), decided to make another big batch, this time using chicken wings.  At the time I bought the wings (Tesco's), I had bought two boxes, 12 chicken wings in each box, not frozen.  I was going to freeze them to later make stock, but decided to pack them in smaller containers, so discovered that six wings in each box were much plumper than the rest.  So these I set aside, the scrawny wings to be used for stock, the 'fatties' to be frozen to later be cooked - preferably barbecued.   It made sense to cut the pointed wing tips from the main wing (no flesh on these anyway), and so added these to the stock pot today, along with the scrawny wings, plus with carrots, onions, the green parts of leeks I'd save, some bay leaves and a couple of ribs of celery.  Then covered the lot with water and simmered for a couple of hours.
Left overnight for the flavours to develop, tomorrow the stock will be reboiled, then strained.  The veggies made into soup (for my supper), and usable flesh taken from the wings to add to a stir-fry.
The stock will be chilled and then there should be a useful amount of chicken fat that has set on top (it never sets hard), than can be scraped from the jelly beneath and used for cooking.  The jelly then reboiled again to reduce even further, to then fill small boxes (I use Philly cream cheese containers), and freeze.

Am also going to cook a gammon - at the moment this is standing in a large bowl of water to remove some of the salt.  Then once cooked, allowed to cool in its stock before being wrapped in foil and kept in the fridge overnight.  It is easier to carve thinner slices when the ham has been chilled (although I tend to use the electric slicer as this gives me a lot more slices than when hand carved).

It's not been a good-weather day today.  Showery and breezy.  The weekend forecast much the same, although Sunday/Monday is expected to be sunnier.  Let us hope so for this weekend I'm having to get the containers ready for planting out.   Haven't yet bought the lobelia, petunias, begonias, but do have a lot of geraniums, still flowering, so as soon as I can the lot will be potted up and the garden then turned instantly into a flower garden (at the moment it is just shrubs, with a few yellow/orange Welsh poppies - these grow like weeds - popping up here and there.  The lilac is in flower, but a young bush so not so many blooms this year, the wisteria is now on its way out. 

An early blog tonight as I want to watch something on TV, and then feel I need an early night.  Will be back again tomorrow (Friday evening) for my last blog of the week.  Being another Bank Holiday I may take a couple of days off before I return.  Much depends on what life throws at me.  TTFN.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

What a Load of Tripe!

If any of you have read today's (Wednesday 21st May) Daily Mail you will have guessed I have been in seventh heaven today.
Seems that Ed Milliband stated the day before that he spends just £80 a week on his family of four (two adults, and two sons ages 3 and 4).  Before I even continue I'd like to hope that he also gave his wife the credit for this, as am sure Mr M does not do all the menu planning, shopping and cooking all by himself.

Seeing the full page article entitled: "Feed your family of four for just £80 a week? What tripe!", I was enthralled, and have read it through many times just to make sure I'd got the facts right, as the journalist - who set out to buy food to feed the 'family of four' (remembering two of them were very small children), had great difficulty. 

The high street shops were priced way beyond her budget, so she had to resort to shopping at Sainsbury's.  Her first attempt ended up with purchases costing £190 (double her budget) so she had to start again.  But then she normally spent £200 a week on her family of four (although her two children were 'ravenous' teenagers), so hadn't quite got into what she called 'the parsimonious way' of shopping.

What the writer ended up with was 'very dispiriting shopping - not to mention eating....and while fried fish supper was possible, oven chips are not, so expect rumbling tummies.'
Final words were: ' exist on such a stringent budget, a 'waste not, want not' attitude would be vital. Every bone cut from the meat must be made into soup, every bit of cold meat recycled into pies, and your larder stuffed with cheap proteins like pearl barley'.  And there's more.  So worth taking a look at the article on the Daily Mail website.

Maybe some of the above has a point, but then we are given a list of what can be bought for £80 (to fit in with the 'menu' that the writer had chosen to feed the family of two adults and two small children.  Am presuming these were Sainsbury's prices, and so I checked these against Tesco's.  No brand names were given, and so I did not cut corners and choose the 'value' prices, but the branded products that most 'middle-class' families would choose (if they could afford them).

Suffice to say that the total of products shown came to £78.73p,  but the Tesco website with exactly the same purchases (and in one or two instances I 'bought' a slightly larger amount, as it worked out cheaper), came to just £62.61p - a saving of £16.12p (and a great less if I'd chosen the cheaper 'value' range.

Everyone shops differently, and possibly had the writer had more time to work things out she too might have chosen different products. 
Her menu for the week was suppers quick to prepare, healthy family favourites, such as pasta with meatballs, a chicken stir-fry with rice, grilled pork, a selection of hearty salads, a chicken casserole, and fresh fish once a week.   Later in the article a mention of a Sunday roast (chicken). 

What intrigued me was the purchase of a whole chicken (for the roast?), and then 3 chicken breasts and 4 chicken legs (did she mean chicken quarters, or drumsticks?).  For a roast, casserole and stir-fry, it would have been cheaper to buy two whole chickens, and use some of the roast for sandwiches instead of buying ham for the children's lunch.  And just think of the stock that could be made from the carcases.

The young children's lunches to be made from cheddar cheese, ham, with apples and bananas. Presumably the cheese/ham to be made into sarnies, perhaps with salad. No mention of buying any butter or spread to put on the bread.
Some odd purchases - 3 fillets of plaice (£8.06p), yet four breaded cod or haddock fillets could be bought for £5 (leaving money over to buy those much needed oven chips!).

A bag of salad (£1.50) is another waste of money.  Far better to buy an iceberg lettuce (50p) as there is much more lettuce and it keeps far longer. The concentrated apple juice bought for the children am presuming they take this for their school lunch. So happy to discover that the listed 3.5ltrs of this juice (£4.80p) is more expensive that that sold at Tesco - theirs being 4 litres for £3.50p.

The good thing about an article such as the above is that it makes us ask ourselves questions.  Could we manage on £80 a week?  And if not, why not?  If we can, then what would we choose to buy?
Many readers probably feed a family of four on less, so already know the answers. 

Although it may seem I'm criticising the purchases as given in the article, am hoping it doesn't look that way, but if it does, then think of it only as 'constructive criticism',for what other people choose to buy with their money is their own business.  Being grateful to be given the opportunity to take a different approach to 'thrift' is the right way to look at it. We can then come to our own conclusions, and hopefully learn a lot whilst doing so.

The Strepsils seem to be doing my throat good.  Certainly loosening the congestion, and the soreness has now gone (except first thing in the morning when I wake, but a few coughs and a box of paper hankies soon eases that). 

The weather is still staying fair although heavy rain has been forecast to spread across the country during the night, probably easing off by morning.  With another Bank Holiday weekend in a few days, let us hope the weather improves so that Morecambe can again be thronged with visitors.  It only seems to wake up and look like a proper seaside resort at times like this.

The Riverfood organic box had some interesting veg this week.  As well as the normal bag of potatoes, there was a box of vine tomatoes, a box of Portobello mushrooms, a bag of mixed salad leaves, a lettuce, 2 large red bell peppers, a big bunch of young carrots (with leaves intact - does anyone know if these leaves are edible?). Four courgettes, nine onions, a butternut squash, a kohl-rabi, and a fennel.

The other day my neighbour gave me a fennel that was given to her (that she didn't want), and I cut this into quarters and roasted it with other veg.  It ended up very sweet, and the aniseed flavour (that I don't much care for) had disappeared.  So fennel is now included in my list of favourite veggies.

Apparently our toaster popped its clogs when B used it early today, so he went and bought another one.  He gave me a slice of toast that he'd made using it, and it did toast more evenly.  I noticed that the large loaf of bread made only the other day is now down to the last two slices, so that means more bread needs baking tomorrow (Thursday - which is now today as it is a minute past midnight as I write).   B just loves home-made bread and I have to say - the rare times I eat it as I'm trying to keep away from carbos - it really is lovely, esp when toasted.   Because of the amount B eats (more than if a toasting loaf had been bought), it probably doesn't work out much cheaper than a medium priced loaf, but certainly does taste better and has none of those depressing additives.  Also, by extending the bread using just strong plain flour (and extra liquid), a goodly supply of rolls/baps go into the freezer and makes a change from toast. 

Am expecting to open my 'soup kitchen' again soon as B's sailing mate (Bob the Builder) will be having his lunch here again.  Am hoping it won't be soup every day as this isn't really suitable for warm days.  So maybe will make things like Cornish pasties, and Ploughman's Lunch as alternative choices.  Have to see what he prefers.  Or it maybe not just one, but his apprentice too.  He also brings his dog, and last time B decided to join in and eat too.  So it is almost like a real café.  With just one table.  Well, I can imagine there are more.   Do enjoy cooking for more than one again.

That's it for today.  Do hope some of you will be interested enough to read the above mentioned article and I'd love to hear your thoughts on it.  When articles like this appear, I keep looking on the letters page to see if someone like Frugal Queen has given her viewpoint.  She ought to be the one to show the newspapers readers how to make the most of £80.

Heard today that I'm now a great-great-grandma.  More a 'step' as it is my grandson's partner's son who has had the baby, so not genetically anything to do with me.  But as he considers himself to be a grandpa, then who am I to miss the opportunity of adding one more 'great' to my collection?

Made Beloved Fish Risotto for his supper, discovering I seem to have run out of (frozen) chicken stock (never have done that before, but am sure I have some lurking at the back of one of the shelves but couldn't be bothered to get everything out to find it).  Anyway, added more white wine, as well as the water the fish had been poached in, and as I'd also run out of salmon, added prawns to the white fish and smoked haddock.  Plenty of chopped parsley picked 2 minutes before chopping and adding at the end probably gave enough flavour that B didn't notice the chicken stock was missing.  He didn't say, and I didn't ask.   Today (Thursday) will be making more chicken stock using the dozen winglets and a couple of drumsticks that I've kept in the freezer just to make stock (winglets alone make excellent stock).  

Must finish although I'm in a rambling mood and could keep writing for hours.  Need my beauty sleep.  Back again this time tomorrow.  Hope you can join me then.  Bye for now. xx


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Counting and Discounting...

Gone are the days when we could just decide what to cook and then go out and buy the necessary to make the meal - knowing it didn't matter what store you went to, the prices would always be the same.
We didn't even have to bother with counting the calories, or work out how much fat, sugar, salt and other additives were in the foods, for mostly we bought fresh - these being local and seasonal. 

One good thing (I suppose) is that all the supermarkets are now competing with each other, so when when brings down the prices (to stay down!), the others follow.  Even the discount stores are finding it difficult to keep their offers as low.  Going by the 'flyers' that come through the door, the price cuts are mainly on what I call 'junk' food, or at least foods we don't buy that often.  Maybe one (or at best two) basics are discounted, just to get us into the store I suppose.

Managing the food budget today, and aiming to cook good meals that cost less, can be as difficult as working as a buyer in a large restaurant.  So many things to consider: buying the best quality food at the lowest price, or changing the menu to suit what is on offer that day.   Sometimes (and in my case quite often these days) it seems hardly worth the trouble.  Let's buy a ready-meal (to heat in the microwave) seems to cost no more and takes far less time.  It's just that these never taste as good, or contain the quality ingredients that we could buy to make the same thing at home, for probably the same price (or even cheaper).  But it all has to be worked out.

I can spend hours sorting recipes, working out costs, ending up with nearly a notebook full of listings and prices, this all taking the fun out of cooking. Don't get me wrong, it is VERY useful to know how much ingredients cost, especially by the ounce or gram, for then we can 'have a play' at (say) making a meal that costs no more than 40p a portion (or less, or even cheaper than that).  Generally thought I don't bother any more to cost out the meals I make.  My savings are made when I send in my grocery order, and only then - after the bargains arrive (they are nearly always those on offer that week/month), do I decide what meals to make each day.  Have to say this does seem to work best for me.

But enough of food.  Due to my bad throat I've not been eating much, mainly a liquid diet and a couple of oranges.  Asked B to go to the local chemist (they call these pharmacies these days), and bring me some black-currant Strepsils.  These were extra-strength and after sucking the first one, almost instantly my throat felt better.  These lozenges contain a type of anaesthetic that numbs the soreness, and also something that is supposed to kill the bacteria/virus as well.   Anyway, this made me feel well enough to go to the meeting this afternoon.  
My neighbour is not sure whether she wants to go any more, and I'm now feeling guilty that it seems to be me that gets  'picked up' by mediums when I attend the Saturday evening meetings, especially as I went only for my neighbours benefit - as  she wishes very much to get a message from one of her deceased relatives/husband/friend.  But with such a lot of people there, only a few do get 'chosen', so am hoping that she will be approached soon.  If she still wants to go.
If she does leave, I think I will still attend some of the meetings for my own 'spiritual life' seems to be moving gently up the ladder so to speak.  But not sure if I want to be a medium, although the people at the church are all urging me to continue.

It's been another warm day, and heard on the news it was 27C at Heathrow.  Not quite as warm here in Morecambe as there was quite a cool breeze.  It got very cloudy and 'heavy' when approaching dusk and I've got a bit of a 'thunder headache', so probably might get a storm during the night.  Heavy showers are forecast in the North, but that might miss us, although we could do with a shower, the ground is getting very dry.

Have a feeling I have used dried stuffing mix to use as a coating for something Mary.  It might have been instead of sausagemeat when making Scotch eggs (mixing the mix with water to make it hold together).  If whizzed down in a blender the stuffing mix would then be more powdery and could then probably be added to lots of dishes to add flavour as well as extending it (meatloaf for example).

Myself am very fond of watching Martin Shaw.  Have heard he is a Buddhist, although that didn't stop him leaving his wife for someone else.  Don't expect any religion frowns on this these days, but then I'm old-fashioned. 

With your mention of having plenty of potatoes Hazel, today am giving a recipe for potato-based soups.  This first most unusual and a favourite in  Central and South America.
If you use salted peanuts, then no need to add further salt.  If using unsalted peanuts, than add salt later.  If you don't have peanuts, the use peanut butter.  Ideally, equal quantities of crunch and smooth peanut butter will give the right texture.
When using potatoes in a soup, always use the floury ones (King Edward, Maris Piper, Cara, Estima, Golden Wonder....) as these disintegrate when finely diced and so help to thicken the soup.

Peanut and Potato Soup: serves 6
4 tblsp groundnut oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
9 oz (250g) floury potatoes,  peeled and diced
2 fresh red chillis, seeded and chopped
7 oz (200g) canned, chopped tomatoes
5 oz (150g) roasted peanuts
2.5 pints (1.5ltrs) beef stock
salt and pepper
2 tblsp chopped fresh coriander for garnish
Fry the onion in the oil for 5 minutes until beginning to soften, adding the garlic towards the end, then stir in the bell pepper, potatoes, chillies, and tomatoes.  Stir well to coat the vegetables evenly with the oil, then bring to the boil, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes or until the veggies have softened.
Set aside 2 tblsp of the roasted peanuts to use as garnish, then process the remaining peanuts in a blender until finely ground.  Add the vegetables, then continue to process until smooth.
Return mixture to the pan and stir in the stock.  Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.  Ad seasoning to taste, then pour into heated bowls and garnish with a generous scattering of coriander, and the remaining peanuts.

The second soup has few ingredients so simple to make.  Traditionally an Irish soup, it is not only good as it is, but very versatile as it can be used for the basis of many other soups.  One worth making in bulk to freeze in smaller quantities so that it can then be used in many ways.

Irish Potato Soup:  serves 6 - 8
2 oz (50g) butter
2 large onions, finely chopped
1.5lbs (675g) floury potatoes, diced
approx. 3 pints (1.75ltrs) hot chicken stock
salt and pepper
milk if necessary
chopped chives for garnish (opt)
Melt the butter in a large pan and add the onions, stirring them into the butter until well coated. Cover and leave over the lowest heat to sweat for about 10 minutes.  Add the potatoes to the pan, mixing well into the butter/onions, adding seasoning to taste.  Cover and cook over a low heat for 10 minutes, then add the stock.  Bring to the boil and simmer for 25 or so minutes until the vegetables are tender.
Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly, the puree the soup either in a blender or food processor or using a stick blender directly in the pan.  Reheat over low heat, and if too thick add a little extra stock or milk to make it the consistency you require.
Serve very hot, sprinkled with chopped chives.

That's it for today, am hoping to find time to plant out the collection of herbs I've bought/been given/sown in pots.  Most of them can go in the window box (actually a large white polystyrene box the Donald Russell meat is delivered in), this is a big deep box now standing on a low table that has wheels, so it can be rolled into the sunlight (at the moment it is under the side north facing window of the conservatory so only gets late afternoon summer sun).  Filled with daffodils, these now need taking up to dry off for planting in the autumn somewhere else. Keeping most of my herbs together means that they will always be close by the back door. ready for culinary use.  We do have a huge rosemary bush planted under the long west-facing window of the conservatory, this is evergreen so can be used all year round.   Mint will have to be kept in its own container or it will take over.

After midnight, so already Wednesday, feels as though the week has only just begun and already nearly half-way through.  Believe there is another Bank Holiday soon (this weekend or the next?).  With Easter being in the later half of April, that's three holidays in a very short time.  Then no more until August Bank Holiday.  At least the weather seems to have been on our side for once.  Usually it rains cats and dogs at holiday time.

Next blog written in about 22 hours time (or maybe sooner if I have nothing else to do).  Hope you will find time to have a read.  TTFN.