Sunday, January 18, 2015

Sunday Thoughts

Wasn't intending to blog today, but after reading comments (they arrive with my normal email) on foods that are now not sold in supermarkets, am inspired to send in my own thoughts.

Doubt very much Granny G that I ever have eaten rabbit.  Many people kept rabbits in wartime, not as pets, but to supplement the diet (meat being very scarce).  B's parents used to keep rabbits, bit white ones I believe, so he had learned to enjoy eating this meat. 
I've noticed several chefs now including rabbit (and goat) in their recipes, so perhaps both will soon become a popular meat (and by doing so become more expensive). 

Do remember, as Ray mentioned, that frozen rabbit from China used to be on sale in the supermarkets, this seemed to be sold in chunks, so I would buy some and cook it in a casserole for my Beloved, still not eating any myself.  Since then he had occasionally mentioned he'd like to eat rabbit again.  I did ask the butcher if he had any, but he had only whole wild (and skinned) rabbit that he'd shot himself), and I really didn't fancy having to bother with chopping up the carcase and dealing with all those bones.

Alison mentioned grapes being bought only when ill.  My memories are of grapes that at that time (in the 60s, they all contained seeds/pips which put me off as the grapes either had to be cut in half and the seeds first removed, or eaten whole and the pips spat out.  Now most grapes it seems are seedless.  I always like the green ones and keep them in the fridge as they are lovely when chilled.

Used to make my own brawn from half a pig's head (a whole head cost 25p), but first would get the butcher to chop up the head for me prior to cooking it.  The cooked meat would always be in chunks, set in its own jelly, so the mousse you mentioned Alison would be 'speciality of the chef', and am sure would be nicer than brawn as we know it.

You have a long list of food memories Jane, but I remember each and every one.  'Quick-cook' dried peas can still be bought, these are more tender than the larger marrowfat used for making mushy peas, and I've found both type will grow into pea-shoots when a dried pea from the packet is planted into moist soil.  A few dried peas from the pack are never missed, but do grow into a lot of shoots, these can be picked as an addition to a salad (as happens today in the better restaurants), or left to grow on to flower and produce peas that can be eaten.

Yogurt too is a fairly new addition to the shopping basket, also muesli.  My B always insisted that a trifle had to have glace cherries, flaked almonds, and strips of angelica studding the cream on top, or it wasn't a proper trifle.  One year I planted an angelica and was able to candy the stem - this lasted me for ages.  So worth doing.

A lot of the food flavourings were called 'essence' in those days.  Today some are much improved and called 'extract', so always go for the latter.  More expensive, but we can use less.    At one time I used to have banana essence and rum essence, now I tend to stick with vanilla (from Madagascar) and Almond extracts, also vanilla paste.

Was it tapioca pudding we used to call 'frog spawn'?  Am sure there was another grain cooked in the same way that looked similar but can't remember its name (begins with a 'C'?).  On the tip of my tongue.  Anyone know what I mean?
When a child used to eat Corn Flakes as a breakfast cereal, also (I think) Rice Crispies, and another that I didn't like so much called 'Puffed Wheat'.  It was always porridge in the colder weather.

As to making meringues with fluffy centres.  Your suggestion of cornflour/vinegar (as when making meringues for Pavlova) is probably the best way to achieve this.  Or just cook the meringues for slightly less time, and if small, turning off the oven after the first half hour and let them finish cooking in the residual heat (do not open the oven door).  Test one, and if not firm enough, continue cooking at low heat for 15 minutes, then keep testing until as wished. 
Meringues will continue to dry out if placed in an airing cupboard or anywhere warm enough, as all they have to do is dry out rather than cook.  Making with Italian meringue (adding boiling sugar syrup to the beaten whites rather than just sugar) gives a firmer, more marshmallow texture to the centre.

Other foods that were unheard of in the 60's (at least by me) and now regularly bought (not necessarily by me) are 'quark', fromage frais, crème fraiche, pesto, salsas, curry sauces specified by name (jalfrezi, rogan josh, dopiaza, etc....).  Wild rice, udon noodles, quinoa.... the list goes on.
When it comes to fruit and veg, possibly aubergines, courgettes (all we had was marrow then), chilli peppers, sugar-snap peas/mangetout, mangoes, passion fruit......

We can buy almost anything now, but is that a good thing?  Myself feel we are spoilt for choice and it is with some relief I return to cook books that give just traditional English recipes.  Few ingredients that we should all be familiar with, still available (sadly more expensive), easy to make and the end result should have wonderful flavour.   What more do we want? 

Having asked that question, it would be good to know your thoughts.  Do you prefer traditional food, if so why (ease of making, flavour etc), or prefer to try dishes from all over the world?  Perhaps best of both worlds is the answer.
At the moment, prefer to make a meal for myself that does not need a recipe book to tell me what to do.  Perhaps familiarity gives me comfort at the moment, or maybe I'm just too lazy to be bothered.  Yet making something for someone else, I WOULD be bothered.  Just got to get used to it being only me, and am finding that hard at the moment.   Home is like a meal that is missing a vital ingredient, and it doesn't 'taste' right.

Big flakes of snow suddenly falling from the sky.  Let us hope they continue and begin to settle.  Hope to blog again tomorrow, if not, it will be soon.  Hearing from you and able to reply certainly lifts my spirits, so will try and blog more often, so watch this space....TTFN.