Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Lazy Days of Summer

Don't know about you (younger folk) but it is taking me all my time to stagger around at the moment, due to the heat.  At least am blaming the heat for my painful knees, for the last few days I can barely move.  Getting up from the bed or a chair is becoming extremely difficult.   I'll be seeing the diabetic nurse this Thursday, so she'll probably refer me to the doctor - that means a four week wait before he has a 'window' in his appointment book.

Last night the humidity gauge read 73% at bedtime, and the room temp was 71F, so ended up having a very restless night and dreams verging more on nightmares. 
Despite my good intentions, I decided not to go to the church this afternoon.  The chairs there are very uncomfortable, and also difficult to rise from them, it was sweltering hot again, and although the church room is fairly cool, just couldn't face sitting for nearly 2 hours trying to disguise my pain.  Am I giving up too easily?  Have discovered (today) that if I use two sticks to walk around the house and garden, this makes it much less painful even though I do look a bit like a giraffe. 

Ended up mainly sitting in the kitchen sorting it out, planning B's supper (he first chose liver and bacon with all the trimmings but due to the heat decided against that and ended up with corned beef (chilled for easy slicing) with beetroot, the remains of the quiche, and crispy salad leaves.  Made myself a tomato sandwich (two actually) as although I know I shouldn't eat carbos, it was Weight Watchers bread (made me feel more virtuous), and it was just what I fancied.   Tomato sarnies always taste much nicer when eaten out of doors, don't know why.

Had to give all the container plants a good watering, as although it had rained during the night a few days earlier, the heat had dried most of the soil (at least on the surface) so I thought they could do with a good drink.  B fills the watering cans and the buckets from the water butt and we also have an outside tap.  I like to have these filled last thing at night so by the time they are used the water has warmed up then the plants enjoy it more.  It's only us humans that like a really cold drink on a very hot day.

We had a couple of rose bushes (suitable for patio growing) as gifts for our anniversary.  One has just started to bloom with several more buds ready to open up.  A called 'Love Never Dies' (how apt!) it is a wonderful shade of yellowish apricot with the edges of the petals changing to a lovely bronze as they open.   When we lived in Leicester the garden was full of roses, and we planted several when we lived in Leeds, but in Morecambe there were no roses in the garden at all.  We do have several hydrangeas (different shades of pink to red, and some lace-caps),  also two huge Rose of Sharon bushes that have just finished flowering.  So am very pleased to have roses again, and will be planting a climbing or rambler rose to partly cover the fence at the back of the garden now that B has cut down a huge bush that was there.   This gives me another milestone to aim for - live long enough to see the roses grow and enjoy a summer of their blossom.  Two - three summers (hopefully even more) if lucky enough. 

Wish now I'd planted summer fruiting raspberries some four years ago.  At the time thought I wouldn't live long enough for them to throw up more canes and provide plenty of fruit (at least three years after planting), but of course we've now been here 5 years and I'm regretting not thinking ahead enough.  Funny how - when we get old(er) - we don't plan for the future with so much enthusiasm.  It's just that I'd hate to spend money on making the garden look good and provide plenty of soft fruits when someone else would end up enjoying it all.  Call me mean and miserly if you like. 

However, I do intend getting rid of our kitchen carpet and having a new floor laid, either tiles, vinyl or lino.  Having a cream fitted carpet in the kitchen really does not work, especially as B always comes in the back door, and never removes his shoes, even when it has been pouring with rain.  By the time he has reached the living room (where he sits down and removes his shoes) all the much has been trodden into the carpet, and despite constant hovering/brushing, the carpet is turning a dingy shage of pale coffee - with patches of goodness knows what.  B kicking over a 3 litre bottle of sunflower oil (silly me had put it under the kitchen table at the side of a cabinet) knocking the top of as he did it, and not even noticing he had, hasn't helped, although I did manage to soak it up with the aid of several weeks of newspapers with weights put on top.  Took about six weeks to soak it all up.

One thing I've been enjoying is drinking chilled fruit juices.  From a carton (several different flavours) that I've been keeping in the fridge.  Trouble is - reading the nutritional details (wish I hadn't) noticed they are very high in sugar.  Just as well I didn't start drinking them until I'd had my blood test.  At the moment got past caring.  If I ate only what I am supposed to (low GI carbos) my life would be a misery, I wouldn't lose weight, and any enjoyment of eating 'naughties' will have been taken from me.  Think it's worth knocking a few months/years off my life if I could spend the time left eating what I wish.   Perhaps I should imagine I was back in World War II and making do with the rationed food.  At that time we weren't meant to enjoy what we were eating, just eat what we were given and be thankful.

How easily today we take things for granted.  In the early part of last century many houses had no running water, it had to be pumped up from a well.  Certainly no hot water, not even baths.  The loos usually outside (next to the coal-place).  Washing was either boiled in a copper, or by hand in the sink, and wrung out by hand or put through a mangle (I used to help my mum mangle the bed linen and towels). 
No TV, although we did have a radio, but even that took several minutes to 'warm up' after it was switched on, and the reception wasn't very good.  We had a gramophone, so could play records, but that too had to be wound up by hand, often running down before the record was finished.
Ovens were temperamental, recipes didn't give temperatures, just either 'cool', 'medium' or 'hot' and we needed a lot of practice and had several under and over-baked dishes before we learned the  difference.

So I try to remember to give thanks for what we now have, even if some of the technology has gone a bit too far, burrowing into lives like maggots into rotting flesh (here I mean those 'social sites' that seem to cause more problems than pleasure, and take so much of our time that we could be using in better ways).

Am not against all social sites (not that I read any) as many am sure do give useful information.  It's the personal 'time-wasters' where people seem keen to keep showing 'selfies' and let people know they are just popping out to buy fish and chips or about to wash their hair that I cannot understand. Is anyone at all interested?  Maybe as a 'chat' between friends, but not giving this information to all the world and his wife.  But them I'm not young any more.  Maybe if I was?  Who knows?

Recently I've been reading a book written by an American lady who I believe was a well-known cook in the 20th century.  She made some interesting observations in that depending upon what side of the fence we lived, meals were different.  Those who could afford to would serve only the best quality ingredients and take a lot of care in cooking and presenting them.  On the other side of the fence, where the grass is not so green, people would use cheaper foods and even resort to using left-overs to make other meals. 
A recipe was given for a 'coffee granita', cheap enough anyway whichever side of the fence we live, but the wealthier ones would throw away the coffee grounds, while the poorer ones would dry them and use them to stuff pincushions. 

A book like that makes me wonder if my cost-cutting-cookery is accepted by all, or only those whose purses look anorexic.  When we can afford to eat well (as we can now in the Goode kitchen, but only due to years of learning how to cut costs when it matters), do we still bother to reduce our food budget, or just buy what we want to eat, and not bother too much about the cost.  
When I send in my on-line order I do fill the virtual shopping basket with foods that have tempted me, but the next day I scroll down the list and remove most of them.  What I aim to do is have a fixed amount to spend, and if I find I've spent more, then remove one or two items (even if needed, can manage without them until the next order).   Quite honestly, what I should do is use up ALL the foods I have in store before I even think about restocking.  Just topping up with a few 'fresh' (eggs, milk....) each week.   But do I?  No.  Still can't quite go that far although I do give it a good try at least twice a year (am having a purge at the moment).

As most of us are finding these summer days too hot to even think about cooking a 'proper' meal (like meat and two veg), here is a meatless dish to be served hot, but with a refreshing crisp green salad with tomatoes.  As it uses seasonal veggies, thought this is the perfect time of year to make this.
Myself would use canned chopped tomatoes and/or passata instead of using fresh tomatoes because it saves time and is also less expensive.

Summer Lasagne: serves 4
1 x 400g pack egg lasagne
1 aubergine
6 courgettes
6 tblsp sunflower oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1.5lbs (750g) ripe tomatoes, pureed
salt and pepper
4 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
2 tblsp plain flour
2 oz (50g) butter
3 oz (75g) grated hard cheese
Wash and dry the aubergines and courgettes, then slice them lengthways without peeling.  Place the aubergines in a sieve or colander and sprinkle with salt, leaving them for an hour to draw out any bitterness, then rinse and dry.
Heat half the oil in a frying pan and fry the aubergines and courgettes until golden, turning them several times as they cook.
In a separate pan add the remaining oil and fry the garlic for one minute, then add the tomatoes with seasoning to taste. Cover pan and leave to simmer for half an hour, then stir in the parsley.
Meanwhile, cook the lasagne as per packet instructions, then drain and lay out on a clean tea towel. Place a layer of lasagne in a buttered ovenproof dish, then top with a layer of the fried veg. Cover with a few tablespoons of the tomato sauce. Repeat layers until all the ingredients have been used up.
Melt half the butter in a saucepan and stir in the flour.  Cook for a couple of minutes before slowing stirring in the milk.  Bring to the boil then reduce heat and simmer for five or so minutes until thickened.  Stir in half the cheese and pour this sauce over the prepared lasagne. Dot with remaining butter, and sprinkle over the rest of the cheese.  Bake for half an hour at 170C, gas 3.  Serve with a crisp green salad and tomatoes. 

As I've finished blogging before midnight, it could be that today's blog ends up on the same page as yesterdays, but am sure you will scroll down to make sure you haven't missed any previous postings.  Not that I've been writing much of interest anyway.  Afraid my life is very boring. Maybe will perk up once it gets cooler. All I want to do is sleep.  I can understand how - in the hotter countries - people usually have a siesta in the afternoons.  How very sensible.

B tells me that Morecambe was one of the hottest places in the country (either yesterday or the previous day). Let us hope it brings in more tourists, and for the sake of schoolchildren and their families, let us hope the good weather stays for a week or two longer with just a break now and then to allow a bit of rain to clear the air and water the gardens.

So that's it for today.  Should be back again tomorrow (if I can find something to write about). TTFN.   

Monday, July 21, 2014

Still Sweltering...

By the time I went to bed last night the humidity had risen up to 68% and by morning was 71%, the same as the temperature in Fahrenheit.  Haven't checked the humidity/temp tonight, and it does seem a bit cooler, but still too warm for me to have a good night's sleep.  Do envy Margie (Toronto) who has similar temperatures/humidity in Canada that we are having at the moment, but with the advantage of air conditioning in her home.  Maybe some newer properties have this here, but have yet to know of any.  Perhaps our English climate hardly needs it.   
We do have portable fans we can take from room to room and switch on as and when necessary, but so far haven't bothered.  With dry heat the fans can cool us down, but they don't seem to make much difference to the humidity levels.  Suppose living close to the sea the air has always more moisture than inland.  The reason why salt always clogs up the salt cellars, and adding grains of rice doesn't work when we use big crystals of salt (sea or rock salt), as these have to be ground down. and we don't want added ground rice with it.

At least now that the school holidays have started do hope the weather keeps fairly warm and dry to allow plenty of trips into the countryside or the coast.  It is said that we are no more than 60 miles from the coast in England, but that is 'as the crow flies' and by road it could be twice that to reach an accessible beach.  But if we lived in a large continent such as North America, 60 or so miles is almost like having the sea at the bottom of the garden.  Well, if it was Southfork (of 'Dallas' fame) it might be so.

There is a lovely stretch of beach Kathryn, fairly close to Morecambe called Middleton Sands.  The sand is very firm when the tide is out (and it does go out a long way), and we often see horses being ridden there, also learner drivers sometimes practice driving around the sands.  There are several riding stables close by, so always horses there.
The disadvantage is the road down to the beach is mostly a country lane, fairly narrow, and a bit winding at the end.  I haven't seen horse boxes/trailers there, so if you are thinking about going it might be worth doing a reccy first.  Possibly you could park further up the road and then ride Dolly the rest of the way (a hundred or so yards).

Quite agree with you janeyd and julee about the way children pester dogs.  Yes sometimes it's the owners that are at fault for taking dogs out during the hottest part of the day, especially to parks full of children. My neighbour - who I mentioned re meeting up with a 'touchy' dog in the park - said the poor dog was panting, and while the owner sat with a cold drink, the dog was given nothing.  No wonder it snarled and bared its teeth at my friend when she sat down at the same table.  Expect all it wanted to do was lie in the shade.  Its very thick fluffy coat probably didn't help.  Having a good clipping would have cooled the dog down, but from what was said the owner spent hours grooming the dog so its coat would look wonderful. 
We all love our pets, but sometimes don't realise that what suits us often doesn't suit them.  Did anyone watch that programme about people who kept monkeys as pets - often as baby substitutes? The poor little things, dressed in nappies and given all the wrong foods so they ended up with diabetes and worse.  Some had to have their teeth removed to prevent them biting their owners and the owners children.

Sairy mentioned using old T-shirts (cut up to use when crocheting).  I've used these before, cut into strips to make rag rugs, although never got around to making a large rug, just several cushion covers, in fact not even covers, just lay them on kitchen chairs to sit on.  They have lasted many years and come up like new when laundered in the washing machine.
Tights I have used, cut into strips, as plant ties as mentioned, but also these are good for storing home-grown onions, just pop an onion down each leg, then twist or tie above it, then add another one, tie again, and so on until the legs are full, then hang them up in a dry place (shed or garage) for winter use.

Today did more cooking, another quiche, some ginger-flavoured Fork biscuits for B as he said he'd eaten all the cheese biscuits I made so wanted something else to nibble.  Then made him his favourite Fish Risotto for his supper.  He had the last of the trifle for 'afters', and then some quiche, finishing with biscuits, but I see he still has a few of those left.   
Also had to make more bread, one large and one small loaf, this time a blend of white bread mix with half a pack of wholemeal bread mix.  That should keep him going for a couple or so more days. 

Was intending to go to the 'circle' meeting at the spiritualist church tomorrow, but if the weather is as hot and humid as today, may give it a miss.  The weather at the moment is making me feel so exhausted, and this afternoon I couldn't have faced going anywhere, despite my intention to pop down to the shops with Norris.  I really did want to go, but just couldn't leave the cool of the living room (hardly cool, but at least out of the sun being east-facing).

As it is just a couple of minutes short of midnight (doesn't time fly), am not giving recipes today as hoping to rise early so I can get a lot of work done before the day warms up too much.  Then maybe I will feel able to go to the church in the afternoon.  Whether I do or not I will let you know in my next blog, written about this time Tuesday evening.  Hope to see you then.  TTFN.


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Mad Dogs and Englishmen....

Some readers may remember that song:  'Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noonday sun... and when my neighbour came for coffee on Friday she said she had been to the local park where she met a lady who had large and beautiful white fluffy dog with her, but was warned not to go near it as it 'didn't like strangers'.  Neighbour wondered why it wasn't muzzled, especially as there were so many children running around, and the fluffy coat of the dog would attract them.

When I was small and the summers were normally hot (as is this one), remember hearing on the wireless (as it was called then), a warning that all dogs should be muzzled when taken out as the heat affected them and made them very 'snappy'.  Really good common sense, so why isn't this given as instruction to people with dogs today?  We can't blame dogs for getting stroppy when hot weather makes them ill-tempered, as it so often does with us humans.

Yesterday I felt really 'off'.  Hot weather I can stand, even very hot as it has been lately, but only dry heat.  High humidity and I feel exhausted.  It was high yesterday and when like that I find difficulty in breathing (not enough oxygen in the air?) and when I went to bed the humidity reading in the bedroom was 73%!  B said it was higher during the day.  Just checked it a few minutes ago - before I sat down to write - and thankfully it has gone down to 68%.   Temperature still high though.  In the 70's. 

You can guess that yesterday's planned baking ended up with me not doing much cooking. At least managed to grate a lot of cheese (taking care this time to not include part of my thumb knuckle), and then made a four-cheese quiche, and lots of cheese biscuits for B.  He ate half the biccies last night, the rest this evening. 

Also sorted out my veggies and decided to cook all the 'value' carrots I had in the fridge (the organic delivery included a big bunch of freshly picked young carrots that I will use later this week), and so chopped the 'oldies' into chunks and boiled them until tender.  Some I ate yesterday, the rest I will eat tomorrow with some going into B's stir-fry.
Also make a big bowl of trifle for B:  Trifle sponges soaked in lemon jelly, then when set topped with a can of fruit cocktail (the juice from the can helping to make up the jelly),  Then covered these with the remaining jelly. 
Meanwhile I'd made a pint of custard, and when that was cold used half to top the trifle.  Asked B to serve his portion and then add double cream - saved opening a new tub of cream - hoping he would use up the one already opened before he began another.  More than once I've gone into the fridge and found two tubs of cream that he had started, and once he had three on the go. Don't ask me why he does this.  He just does.

Another fairly dry day today, and think it did rain during the night as the leaves on the bushed in the front garden were sparkling with drops of water.  Later I went to sit in the garden where it was quite breezy, but obviously much windier at cloud level as they were whizzing past.  Didn't get much strong sunshine due to clouds, but noticed that by the time they had passed over our house they had almost disappeared and if I had sat in the front garden would probably have been in full sun. 

Didn't feel like eating, so ended drinking a litre carton of chilled tropical fruit juice during the evening.  B didn't feel like eating either, but managed to get himself some boiled eggs and 'soldiers'. Then eating a good helping of the trifle yesterday, and the last of the cheese biscuits.  When he does feel like eating you can imagine how much he can wolf down.

As the weather forecast tells us it is set fair for the next few days, and warm with it, I will almost certainly go out with Norris tomorrow as I want to go to the local shops and buy more wool to practice my crocheting.  A thank you to Sairy for her comment re this, and I will shortly be taking a look at the link she sent.  Feel that I will become as addicted to crochet as I am to having a 'chilli kick' each day, and my plan is to crochet covers for each of the cushions in our living room.  Then may even make myself another 'throw' to keep me warm in winter, either in bed or when sitting in my chair.

As I sat outdoors, being me, my mind wandering as usual, thought about crochet and wondered if I cut spare material I have, diagonally, into very narrow strips, then pulled these tight, they would roll up into a sort of string and I could use this for crocheting.  Maybe could cut plastic bags into narrow strips and do the same thing to make mats for the bathroom (or bags)!!  Even wondered if it was possible to crochet cooked spaghetti.  What a sad lady I am turning into. 

As you can imagine, food has not been top priority on my mind this week.  Has it been with anybody's?  All we want to do is laze around and drink plenty of liquids.  A salad with cold meats is about as far as we get when it comes to making a meal.    However I will try to come up with some tasty nibbles that we might like to try making when the weather gets cooler.

Courgettes are in season at the moment and as B doesn't like them as a vegetable in their own right am hunting out ways to use them, so here is one way to use them that I know I will enjoy and am sure my Beloved will also. 
As usual I suggest we omit what we don't have (in other words don't go out and buy them) such as the sesame seeds and the chilli (I would add a dash of chilli sauce or dry paprika when mixing).  As we don't like the flavour of fresh coriander I'd probably use parsley.   Fresh breadcrumbs are used when preparing the balls, and dried breadcrumbs for coating, but for the latter we could use finely crushed savoury biscuits, cornflakes, or potato crisps.
If you prefer to shallow fry in a little oil, you could flatten the balls to make small 'cakes' and fry these until browned on one side, then turn to brown the other.

Lentil Balls with Tomato:  serves 4
7 oz (200g) red lentils, cooked until tender
2 tblsp olive oil
2 courgettes, coarsely grated
1 small onion, grated or finely chopped
1 small red chilli, finely chopped (see above)
3 oz (75g) stale breadcrumbs
1 oz (25g) toasted sesame seeds (opt)
1 tblsp chopped fresh coriander (see above)
1 - 2 oz (25g -50g) dried breadcrumbs (see above)
oil for frying
5 tomatoes, quartered
1 clove garlic, crushed
Strain the lentils well after cooking, pressing out as much liquid as possible.  Meanwhile heat half the olive oil in a large frying pan and stir-fry the courgettes, onion and chilli until just soft.  Remove from pan using a slotted spoon, and set the pan aside to use again.
Put the lentils in a bowl with the courgette mixture, stale breadcrumbs, seeds, and coriander, and mix well to combine.  Roll teaspoons of the mixture into balls, then toss these in the dried breadcrumbs.
Heat about an inch of oil in a deep frying pan and fry the balls - in batches - turning them often, until browned on all sides, then drain on kitchen paper.
Using the first frying pan add the remaining olive oil and stir-fry the tomato and garlic for a couple of minutes, then return the lentil balls to this pan, and stir until heated through. Remove from heat and serve with a crisp green salad and a herby dressing.

Fennel is also seasonal and I have several bulbs in my fridge (courtesy of Riverford). They have fronds growing from the tops that can be used, so will definitely be making these fritters.  Probably serve them with fish (fennel and fish go well together).
Fennel Fritters: makes 16
1 tblsp finely chopped fennel fronds
1 or 2 fennel bulbs (approx. 1lb total) finely chopped
3 spring onions, finely chopped
1 carrot (approx. 3oz/75g) finely grated
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 oz (75g) ricotta cheese
2 oz (50g) plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
oil for frying
Mix together all the ingredients (except oil).  Put enough oil for shallow frying into a large frying pan, and when hot, fry heaped tablespoons of the mixture until golden brown on both sides and heated through.  Flatten slightly during cooking, turning once, then drain on kitchen paper.  Serve with mixed salad leaves or what you will.

Here is a recipe from the Riverford collection (they send recipes with each delivery).  This is one of their top seasonal favourites, making a tray-bake that cuts into 10 - 15 squares, and a great way to use up a glut of courgettes.
Because the recipe gives only metric measurements, difficult to convert to imperial (120g is more than 4 oz, less than 5oz etc), this time I giving only the metric.  However have worked out the baking tin measures 8" x 10", and if cooking by gas it will be at regulo 5. 
Chocolate and Courgette Tray-bake: 
120g softened butter
125ml sunflower oil
100g caster sugar
200g soft brown sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
130ml milk
350g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
4 tblsp cocoa powder
450g courgettes, peeled and grated
1 tsp vanilla extract
Put the butter, oil, caster and brown sugar into a bowl and beat until light and fluffy. Gradually whisk in the eggs and then the milk.
Sift the flour, baking powder, and cocoa together, then fold them into the above mixture, finally adding the courgettes and vanilla.  Spoon into a lined 20 x 25cm baking tin, and bake at 190C for 35-40 mins, until a skewer inserted comes out clean.  Cool in the tin for a few minutes, but cut into squares while still warm.

While I'm at it, might as well include a recipe that children will love, despite it being made with a veggie (just don't tell them).  Use either peeled fresh or pre-cooked beetroot.  Good news is that once made it can also be frozen.
Maroon Fool: serves 6
1.5lb (675g) raw or cooked beetroot, coarsely grated
grated zest and juice of 1 orange
1 large cooking apple, peeled and grated
knob of butter
3 tblsp honey
half pint (300ml) custard, cooled
Put the grated beetroot into a saucepan with the orange rind and juice and simmer for 30 minutes.
Stir in the apple, butter, and honey, and simmer for a further half hour, then put into a blender or food processor and blitz until a puree.   Pour into a bowl and chill before stirring in the custard.
To serve, spoon into individual serving dishes.  To freeze, put puree into a polybox leaving a 1cm headspace, cover and label. Use within 3 months.  Thaw overnight in the fridge, then serve as above.
For a special treat serve topped with a dollop of cream, and sweet biscuits.

Finished before midnight for once and enjoying the cooler air - this room has no windows that will open.  We do have patio doors but B has mislaid the key!!  As the patio doors face south, and the two other windows (one either side of the fireplace) face west, this room can get very warm during the summer (but also keeps warm during the winter even though it has no central heating radiators, just a gas fire that we rarely use).

Speaking to Gill this morning, she tells me it was raining hard, and also pelted down yesterday.  Had thunderstorms too.  So here in Morecambe we have got off lightly.  But then we usually do.  Possibly it is the way the Bay is situated, the bad weather seems to split when it approaches, some going further south (Manchester) and some further north (Lake district).  Not surprised that Morecambe is said to have the most hours of sun in the country.  Having said that, suppose we will now have high winds, lots of rain, then heavy frosts and snow during the winter.  Nature likes to let us know whose the boss!

Do hope you all managed to have a good summers weekend despite any adverse weather you may be having in your area.  Comments have been few (understandably during summer weekends) but do hope to have more come in over this next week.  It's the only way I know you are there!  That I know is being silly and selfish, lots of people read loads of blogs and never send a comment at all.  So why should I be so lucky? 

Now off to my bed to a cooler room for once.  Probably able to lie under the duvet instead of on top of it, or half under and half out.   Never have really taken to duvets, my feet get tangled up in the cover (that always seems too loose).  Much prefer the old way of making beds - cool strong white cotton sheets, freshly ironed, with - in summer - a light 'counterpane' over the top, and in winter, one or two blankets, then topped with a quilt.  And a mum to always come and tuck me in (we can never tuck ourselves in, and that is such a pity).  Those were the days.  However bad they really could be at times, always remembered as the best of days.  TTFN.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Craving for a Casserole.

A fairly cool night last night, waking to an even cooler day.  Very overcast but not depressingly so. A sudden flash of lightening and 5 seconds later the rumble of thunder (storm then 5 miles away) - and that was all we had.  Don't think it even rained.  Very shortly after the clouds rolled away and we had some sun for a while, but far too windy to sit outside for our Friday coffee.   Clouds returned and the forecast is rain and storms but not necessarily where we live. 

There have been severe storms and rain in several parts of the country, and Alison has had temperatures of 32C with heavy rain, causing high humidity.  Think however much we love to have sunny days, we all feel we could do with a change.   I'm fed up of eating salads, and B doesn't want to eat proper meals when he is warm (he has been working outside a lot this week laying slabs in the garden, and also at the 'shed' at the sailing club).

Am envious of Kate who is now experiencing the Australian winter.  I really am looking forward to much cooler days and can cook warming stews and casseroles (similar but stews cooked on the hob, casseroles in the oven).
Her suggestion that my tiredness may be due to the activities during the early part of this month is probably right.  Not just winding down, more like switching off.   I did feel better this morning, but after doing the laundry, then chatting to my neighbour for nearly 3 hours, all I wanted to do was sit down and put my feet up - and continue my crochet.   I am getting addicted to this new craft.  However, this evening I came to the end of the ball of wool that Gill left for me, so now I'll either have to pull it all back and start again, or go and buy more wool (think the latter, so I can now start on crocheting a throw).

Although I've not been to many countries, certainly noticed that in Denmark nearly everyone spoke English, the same in the Netherlands.  The German language is fairly similar to English, and although I wouldn't be able to understand it when spoken, I can sometimes translate bits of it.  They also could speak some English.
In France no-one seemed to want to speak English, though they did appreciate us trying to speak French, and when we did they did ease up a bit to help communicating.
In Tunisia they spoke Arabic, although the waiters in the hotel spoke English.  Many Tunisians could speak French (the road signs were in both Arabic and French) as the country was once occupied by the French, and did find in a few shops my school-girl French got the message across. 

Not sure what the weather is like outside at the moment, but indoors it seems very humid, so am hoping that it will cool down a bit before I go to bed (in about a couple of hours).  B is still out at the social club, so no doubt I'll be kept awake by his constant puffing, singing, talking, and groaning that he always does in his sleep (for hours) when he's had a night out.   If I can get to bed first and get to sleep then I can probably sleep through it.

Adding cheese to a white sauce turns it into 'sauce mornay', so here is a recipe to use this.  As it uses mainly storecupboard ingredients a useful dish to make..  We could of course make the cheese sauce from a packet, but if so add more grated cheese for that extra flavour. With the recipe given, milk could be used instead of cream, cream gives extra richness and a good way to use up cream we may have left in the fridge.
This dish can be made up ready to bake a day ahead as long as it is kept covered, in the fridge. Allow to come to room temperature before baking, then as it is being baked from cold instead of when using the warm filling, add extra cooking time to make sure it is heated through.

The recipe is enough for 2 servings (or even 3), and certainly when baked in ramekin dishes would serve 4 - 6 as a starter at a dinner party.

Tuna Mornay: serves 2
1 oz (25g) butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 rib celery, trimmed and finely chopped
1 tblsp plain flour
6 fl oz (175ml) milk
5 fl oz (150ml) xream
3 oz (50g) grated Cheddar cheese
1 x 130g can sweetcorn kernels, drained
1 x 185g can tuna, drained
1 oz (25g) stale breadcrumbs
Melt the butter in a saucepan and gently fry the onion and celery, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes or until softened, then stir in the flour, cook for a further minute, then gradually blend in the milk and cream. Raise the heat, continuing to stir until the mixture boils and thickens.  Remove heat and stir in two-thirds of the cheese, then when this is beginning to melt, fold in the the sweetcorn and flaked tuna.
Spoon into two x 1 pint ovenproof dishes.  Mix the breadcrumbs with the remaining cheese and sprinkle this on top.  Bake at 180C, gas 4 for about 15 minutes or until heated through.

It might be that we choose not to make the above recipe as we don't have the smaller sized cans of main ingredients.   So here is a recipe to serve four that uses larger sized cans, but when cooking for two, and halving the ingredients, then we would be left with enough sweetcorn and tuna to make the above recipe

Tuna and Sweetcorn Burgers: serves 4
3 oz (75g) white bread, crumbed
1 x 198g can sweetcorn, drained
2 x 185g cans tuna, drained
1 oz (25g) grated Cheddar cheese
3 spring onions, or 1 shallot, finely chopped
salt and pepper
1 egg, beaten
2 tblsp sunflower oil
wholemeal buns/baps, and salad/salsa
Put the breadcrumbs into a bowl.  Put half the sweetcorn into a food processor and whizz until finely chopped, than add this to the bread with the remaining whole corn kernels, the flaked tuna, cheese, onion and seasoning.  Mix well together, adding the egg, bit by bit (you may not need it all) until the mixture is sticky enough to hold together and can be shaped into four even-sized burgers.
Heat the oil in a frying pan, the fry the burgers until golden on each side, and heated through. Tuck into the split buns/baps with lettuce and a dollop of salsa.

Although Goulash might be considered a warming winter meal, this meatless version eats well during cooler summer days.  Meatless because I've used canned chickpeas in place of the much more expensive beef steak.  Why?  Simple answer is because this works out much cheaper.  However, for those who would still like the flavour of beef, am using  beef stock (either home-made or using a cube).

Speedy Goulash: serves 4
1 tblsp sunflower oil
8 oz (225g) chestnut mushrooms, quartered
2 tsp paprika pepper
1 lb (450g) potatoes, peeled/cut into small chunks
1 pint (600ml) hot beef stock (see above)
1 x 400g can chickpeas, drained/rinsed
1 x 500g jar/carton passata
handful chopped parsley
natural yogurt for serving
Heat the oil in a pan and fry the mushrooms for a couple of minutes, then sprinkle over the paprika and fry for a further minute.  Add the potatoes, stock and passata.  Stir, bring to the boil, then cover and reduce heat.  Simmer for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are just tender, then add the chickpeas.  When heated through, stir in the parsley and serve in individual dishes with a swirl of yogurt on top.

It's bang on midnight as I type these words, B still not returned, so am taking the opportunity to get to bed and hope to be asleep by the time he has decided to retire (he usually sits and reads a it before he comes to bed). As usual I won't be blogging tomorrow (always busy baking on a Saturday) but return sometime on Sunday for another chat (maybe during the day then I can return to day-time blogging mext week rather than back to late at night). 

Hope you all have a good weekend and manage to enjoy the good and hot weather between the showers and storms.  We need sunlight on our skin to build up our vitamin D to see us through the winter. Think I've gained enough to see me through 2 winters.   Keep those comments coming....TTFN.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Just a Few Words...

Short blog tonight.  Feel so tired I could fall asleep in front of the comp, my brain has closed down, all I want to do is go to bed, so maybe for the first time, blogging is something I really don't feel like doing at this very moment.

At least can spend a few minutes replying to comments. .
Don't think the man of the house buying the weekend roast meat is a Northern thing Jane, my dad used to do the same when we lived in the Midlands.  He would also do the carving - with a proper carving knife and fork, the fork having a 'thingy' on the back that would lift up to protect the other hand from being cut with the knife as the meat was being sliced. 
We also had Shepherd's Pie - this would be on a Tuesday when lamb was the weekend joint. It would be Cottage Pie if it had been beef.  Monday (always washing day) was sliced cold roast meat with jacket potatoes and a seasonal veg.

There is some similarity in the French/Italian language but German is very different, so are the Swiss bi-lingual or tri-lingual Anna?  It's not as though Switzerland is a large country, so to use three different languages must make things difficult.

Expect you will be very busy during the school holidays Granny G, but do hope you find time to drop us a line even if just a couple of times during the six week period.  The one good thing about a rainy day in the school holidays is that we get a chance to teach children how to cook. 
Today began cloudy but very soon cleared up and we had a lot more sun.  I didn't get a chance to sit out until mid-afternoon and it was very VERY hot.  Think I sat too long in the sun and that is what is making me feel tired now.

At least the rain we had has made the flowering plants in all the containers/pots look absolutely wonderful.  Never seen such a large amount of blossom.  Even the trailing lobelia has bulked up, and B said how lovely it looked (and its not like him to notice much in the garden other than 'something large' he wants to get at with the secateurs or chop down completely).

More food news in the paper today, this time is 'it's OK to eat saturated fats' (or something like that), and how carbos are not that good for us.  I have kept the article to take to show the diabetic nurse next week - she is of the 'old school' - just eat low GI carbos and not a lot else.  That doesn't work for me.

Have another 'thunder headache' come on, and as the weather forecast shows  quite a few storms moving up the country, maybe one is heading our way.  Yet, looking at the weather map at the end of the TV news, it could be Morecambe is again likely to stay fairly dry.   Night-time temperature is in the high teens,  daytime reaching high 20's, and even  30C and above further south.   Not that unusual, I remember it being very hot when I was young - it's in recent years the summers have been wetter, windier, and have less sunshine and heat.  Younger folk think that is normal and now is not, but it is the other way round.

The age the earth is, no weather is 'normal', like most things it has its highs and lows.  If we had another Ice Age, suppose that could be 'normal' in the great scheme of things.  Considering we've only been keeping weather records for just over a century (or maybe two?) who knows what is due to happen next?  Whatever it is it will have happened all before, even if not in our lifetime.

Because I felt exhausted I reheated some rice and curry for B's supper that had been brought home (and immediately frozen) in the 'doggy bags' when we had our anniversary meal.  Plenty of rice (packed in three cartons, I used only one today), and not a lot of curry, so I cooked more onions, added some diced bell pepper and carrots, slung in some peas and the small amount of lamb curry - together these made a decent sized serving. 
Did I eat anything?  Can't even remember.  Oh yes, had some cheese and oat biscuits and now I wish I hadn't as the carbos have made me feel even more sleepy.  Maybe concentrating on doing crochet hasn't helped - I've nearly used up the ball of wool/yarn that Gill left for me, and my 'hooking' has ended up looking like a large round mat of different types of stitches.  Quite proud of it.  Will probably unwind it when I get to the end and start all over again, this time making it square.

 Forgive me if I now leave you and take to my bed, hoping to rise bright-eyed and bushy-tailed tomorrow so that I can write a proper blog for you on Friday before I take Saturday off. TTFN.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Keeping it Simple

When I was a youngster meals were eaten not necessarily to be enjoyed.  Readers old enough will remember the over-cooked vegetables, soggy cabbage, and stewed prunes 'to keep us regular'.   In those days we 'ate to live' not as today 'live to eat'.  

Sometimes I think we spend far too much time thinking about what meal to cook next.  I certainly seem to do (but usually for B, I just serve myself what needs using up), and it was a comment from a new reader called Kevpembs - to whom we give a welcome - who mentioned that chefs today seem to play around with the food too much.  I agree.  Mary Berry is the only cook who says it as it is.  Her baking is simple yet delicious, and really there is no reason to go beyond that.

The problem with cookery progs publications is that the cooks/writers have now run out of ideas.  All they can do is just give yet another version of a tried and tested recipe, or 'deconstruct' a traditional one.  In desperation they turn to 'crushing' potatoes and peas instead of mashing them, and serving 'pulled meat' (shredding it to bits) instead of serving it in slices. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm not against dishes from other countries for where would we be today without a curry, stir-fry, or pasta dish to whet our appetites?  I'm thankful that spicy sauces/ketchups etc are now commonplace for where would I be without my daily 'kick' of chilli?  Sometimes though we can have too much of a good thing, and going back to dishes our mothers (or in your case probably great-grandmothers!!!) used to make in the early 20th century will probably both sooth our stomachs and plump up our purses, for none of them would have been expensive then to make, and hopefully not always now.

Before I offer some recipes, must first reply to comments - quite a few have arrived during the last 24 hours for which I thank you. 

Yes Jane, the duck confit did come from Donald Russell, and the veggies from Riverford.  B said the duck had LOADS of meat on it.  He was well pleased.
Moving away from food for the moment, the lavender talcum I chose from the raffle table yesterday was used this morning.  A brand new tub, sold at Marks and Spencer and still sealed.  I was well pleased - until I used it.  It seemed to have virtually no scent of lavender at all.  I read the label:  Made In Thailand it said. Perhaps the lavender over doesn't smell as strongly as the English.  Was surprised that M & S didn't stock products that used English lavender - we have plenty of it.
I decided to use my favourite instead as I just love the smell of that - Johnson's Baby Talcum Powder.

Agree we should all support our local butcher (so why do I buy meat from D.R?  Because it is even better quality and no dearer when on offer).  Between times I do buy meat from our local shop, and am able to get plenty of free bones, fat (for dripping) etc, and chicken carcases (usually free because I sometimes take them a big bunch of rosemary that they share out to customers when they buy lamb).

Thanks to Julia and Anna who mentioned shopping across borders (Switzerland/Germany etc).  It was today (on a quiz prog) that I heard a question about how many languages were spoken in Switzerland, I thought it was 3 (French, German, Italian) but didn't know about the Romansch. Is that similar to Austrian, or is Austrian the same as German?  (my knowledge of that area is based mainly on The Sound of Music).

Although I haven't now got a crystal ball Pam, I found all I had to do was put it on a table in front of me, on a plain dark cloth so it didn't pick up any reflections, and then just gaze into it.  After a very few minutes it was as though I was looking at a moving picture, like a tiny TV screen set inside, and so I just used to say what I saw.  This always seemed to match something in the life of the person who was sitting close to me, but in this life, nothing to do with those who had 'passed on'. 

Like most things, once I've done something fairly satisfactory, I move on to try something new.  Also got quite good at reading tea-leaves at the bottom of cups (can't do that with tea-bags of course), and am extremely good at dowsing (not necessarily 'picking' up water, usually metal pipes etc that would be underground.

Haven't yet tried out my new camera.  It has a rechargeable battery (my old one used ordinary bought batteries), so I have first to do the recharging.  Then there is a disc to put in the comp that presumably tells me what else I can do with the camera.  Am waiting until I have a few hours to sort it out (wish things weren't so difficult to understand).
At the moment all my spare time is spent sitting and practicing how to crochet.  Can't say I could follow a pattern, but as I now know a couple of so different stitches, am going round and round (and round and round) making different patterns, and the circle is getting ever larger.  I can even crochet while I watch (or rather listen to) TV, certainly when the adverts are on.  Am really getting hooked on it (excuse the pun).

I'd never heard that about the pleats in a chef's hat showing how many different ways to cook a egg Granny G.  What happens if he learns a new way, does he have to refold and iron his hat to make an extra pleat?
While the south of England has been having very hot weather, today - here in Morecambe - it has been relatively chilly.  Overcast all day and a considerable amount of rain this afternoon.  This evening it was dark by 9.00pm, due mainly to clouds, but the nights are drawing in of course.

Tomorrow the weather is said to be even hotter in the south, Midlands and the east - 30C plus!  Very, very humid, and the chance of some severe thunderstorms.  We in the north west should get it slightly cooler.
The mention of eggs 'frying on the pavement' brought back memories of when my dad fried an egg on one of the paving stones in our garden when I was young.  It must have been very hot then.  He also showed me how to make a fire using a magnifying glass and some dried grass.  I found that very useful when role-playing Girl Guides in the garden (my mother would not let me join a proper pack as they were connected with the church and she didn't want anything to do with churches.  "Women go to church only to show off their new hats" she would say.

Earlier this evening I had a real 'thunder headache'.  It has eased off a bit, but this weekend I expect we will get storms, maybe even some sooner.  Do hope so, it feels as though I have a ton of bricks sitting on top of my head.

Went to the health centre this morning to have my blood checked (won't find out the result until next week).  Mentioned our wedding anniversary to the nurse and she said she couldn't believe it, said I looked so much younger than the age she knew I was.  Have to say that when I do see other ladies (70 years and in the 80's - like me) many do seem to look 'old'.  One good thing about being overweight is that we don't get many wrinkles on our faces, so suppose that helps to keep the years at bay.
Us 'older folk' all agree that our minds don't age, we still feel 35 - 40 whatever age our bodies have grown to.  Just wish the younger folk would realise that.  Our daughter is older than I feel (in my mind), but she treats B and myself as though we are really old. 
Can't blame her, when I was in my teens, anyone over the age of 40 seemed really REALLY old. And don't I wish I was 40 now!

The other week B brought in some 'mix and match' pork pies from Morrison's.  Apparently they did several flavours, and these were sold five to a pack (customers choice).  B brought home some pork, apple and cheese pies, and these are really lovely.  Much larger than the other flavours, so better value.  M's got wise to this, and now sell only the small ones as 'mix and match', the pork/apple/cheese sold four to a pack (£1.29).  I love 'em, so am going to try and make my own.

Here is a recipe for a porky pie that could easily be adapted.  I'd just omit the ham and use more apple and grated cheese, mixing this into the sausagement rather than place in layers..  Skinned sausages can be used instead of sausagemeat.  Have found that it is just as good made using short pastry, so you can use either.
Similar to a 'fidget pie', this is a variation on that traditional English picnic pie.

Picnic Pie: serves 6
1 x 500g block puff pastry
6 oz (175g) pork sausagemeat
1 - 2 apples, peeled, cored and grated
1 onion, grated
1 tblsp thyme leaves
8 thick slices cooked ham
2 tblsp Dijon mustard
1 egg, beaten - for glazing
Cut two-thirds of the pastry off the block, then roll this out and use to line a buttered 8"/20cm springform tin (or a deep loose-based cake tin).  Leave a good amount of excess pastry hanging over the sides of the tin.  Roll out the remaining pastry to a circle to fit the top of the tin.
Make the filling by mixing together the sausagemeat, apple, onion and thyme.   Line the base with a third of the ham, then spread over a third of the mustard, followed by a third of the sausagement mixture. Press it down firmly then repeat the layers, finishing with the sausagemeat.  Level the surface then put the pastry lid on top and brush with egg.  Fold the excess pastry back to cover the sides of the lid, pressing gently to seal, then trim to neaten.  Brush again with egg and make a hole in the centre.
Bake at 190C, gas 5 for 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted through the centre comes out very hot.
Leave to cool in the tin for 20 minutes before releasing the sides of the tin, then place - still on its base - onto a cake airer and leave until cold.
Serve cut into wedges and serve with salad and pickles.  If you wish you can remove it from its base, wrap tightly in foil and freeze it for a couple or so months.

Next recipe is a tastier version of one my mother used to make.  Having watched many American cookery progs on the Food Network (esp. the 'three D's'),  'Mac and Cheese' seems very much a favourite dish in the US, whereas here it is not considered very special.

When we used a variety of cheeses we also add more flavour than if just using a mild Cheddar.  Although bacon is not included in this version, have found adding some crispy crumbled bacon really gives this meal a lift.
As it is not a million miles away from Cauliflower Cheese, why not include some cooked cauliflower with the macaroni before adding the sauce?

Macaroni with Three Cheese Sauce: serves 4
11 oz (375g) macaroni (or pasta penne)
half pint (300ml) cream
3 fl oz (80ml) vegetable stock
5 oz (150g) grated mozzarella cheese
3 oz (75g) grated Stilton or other blue cheese
3 oz (75g) grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
1 tblsp chopped fresh chives
freshly ground black pepper
Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until just tender, then drain.  Meanwhile make the sauce by heating the cream with the stock until hot.  Remove from heat, add the mozzarella and blue cheese, but only HALF the Parmesan.  Stir until melted, then fold in the mustard and herbs.  Season with the pepper, then mix this into the pasta.
Pour into a 2.5ltr ovenproof dish and top with remaining Parmesan. Bake at 180C, gas 4 for 20 minutes or until browned.

In the old days, chutney was always made at home, so why don't we start making it ourselves again. Here is a very easy recipe that uses ingredients in our larder that we can vary according to what dried fruits we have.  The recipe suggests:  dried apricots, dates, figs, peaches, prunes, sultanas....all cut into evenly sized pieces.

Storecupbaord Chutney:  makes about 5lbs
1lb 7oz (675g) mixed dried fruits (see above)
3 lb  (1.3kg) cooking apples, peeled, cored, chopped
1 lb (450g) onions, chopped
1 lb 7oz (675g) light brown soft sugar
3 - 5 cloves garlic, crushed
2 oz (50g) fresh root ginger, finely chopped
2 - 4 chillies, crushed
1.5 pints (850ml) cider vinegar
Put everything into a large pan and bring to the boil, stirring as it does so.  Then reduce heat and simmer until thick, stirring regularly - this takes about 45 minutes and  thick enough so a wooden spoon should leave a path across the base of the pan when it is dragged across.
Spoon into warm sterilised jars and seal with vinegar-proof (rubber lined or plastic) lids.  Label and store for at least 6 weeks before using to allow the flavour to mature. 
This chutney can be stored for up to a year, but once opened keep in the fridge and eat within 3 - 4 weeks.

That's it for today, see I'm already into Thursday, so looks like I'm back to writing late at night again.  Hope to get back to afternoon chatting again after my usual weekend break.  But that will be then, this is now, so expect me back sometime late tomorrow evening.  Hope you managed to avoid most of the storms that are forecast.  TTFN.



Food News...

You can pretty well guarantee that nearly every day the newspaper prints some more good or bad news about the foods we eat.  Are we becoming obsessed by food as a nation?  Are other countries the same?

Today's little clutch of worth knowing about (or not, in my opinion) is that eating a banana while it is under ripe is better for us than when it the skin is nicely yellow. 
We shouldn't mash our potatoes as this increases the amount of sugar that is released.  Eating an apple whole releases less sugar into the blood than apple puree, and apple puree releases less sugar than apple juice.

Basically, the cause is that the more a starch-containing food is treated or processed, the more easily it is digested.  The more easily any food is digested (it seems) the more sugar is released.  Diabetics take note.

An interesting piece for vegetarians (who may know this already) is those who eat tofu and bean curd as a (total) substitute for meat put themselves at risk of mineral deficiencies because these products made from soy beans have are high in phytic acid, a substance that can block absorption of essential minerals such as calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, and esp. zinc.

The Japanese are aware of this so avoid the problem by eating tofu alongside soy bean products such as miso and matto that have been fermented with strains of bacillus subtilis that lowers the above acid contend of these foods.

A possible bit of useful info for vegetarians (and something I didn't know) is that many eat processed protein from vegetarian sausages, burgers and other textured protein foods.  Apparently any processed foods labelled as containing vegetable oil will invariably contain partially hydrogenated fats - and traces of transfats - to be avoided as studies have shown these increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Then there comes a piece about carbohydrates, and also fats, the latter being better for us they say, but not when combined with carbos.  So that means bread and butter is now a no-no.  Have to agree with that as the only way I can lose weight is by cutting out carbos almost altogether.  It doesn't seem to affect me if I eat fatty foods, my cholesterol doesn't rise.   But don't all dash to copy me, we are all different.

Last words were 'the human digestive system has evolved to efficiently and rapidly extract every available calorie from diets that, in caveman times, were often poor in nutrients.  Our digestions cannot work so quickly with nutritious protein and fat, and eating these slows down the feeling of hunger because the food remains in the stomach for longer as it is much more slowly digested.'  So that's why I can eat 4 hardboiled eggs for breakfast and after that never want to eat anything else during the day (or evening).

Do we wish to know any of the above?  A little knowledge is a dangerous thing they say, but maybe  some is better than none.   Certainly I have discovered that a diet high in protein suits my particular body, cutting out carbos normally results in a lost of 1lb a DAY! (but then I have a lot to lose).  Yet,  if I fall by the wayside and eat just a small piece of bread (or sample a just-baked biscuit), then the scales could show a 1lb GAIN the next day (as proved by the 5lb gain during the two days of 'partying' last week when I ate rice and celebration cake.  Since then I've been good and have lost the 5lbs gained plus 4lbs more).

We have a comment sent from Ollie, a new name to this page, so very welcome.  Ollie is wanting ideas on how to use avocado so hope readers can send in suggestions as my normal way is to serve it sliced/diced in salads, certainly with Prawn Cocktail, and included with salads when serving chilli con carne.  Many years ago I used to mash ripe avocado, sweeten it with icing sugar, and use it to make a 'mousse' in the same way we would used any other mashed fruit.
If I find any recipes close to hand will publish them at the end of this blog.

Your mention of Spam jane has made me crave it again.  I've never tried it fried, although my friend Gill prefers it that way.  I just eat it sliced in sarnies (when I used to eat bread), and now would probably eat it cubed and mixed in with a salad.  My salads now always consist of 'things chopped' such as iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, baby courgettes, bell peppers, beetroot, radishes, shallots or pickled onions (and sometimes avocado and/or banana).  Not all together you understand, but several at any one time.  I just chop/grate what I have, adding diced corned beef (or Spam), or flaked canned tuna.  If not including any meat/fish, then I toss in grated cheese once I've dressed the salad (the cheese then sticks to everything so each bite is full of flavour).  Occasionally I add a hard-boiled egg (or two), and sometimes a couple (or so) rashers of fried streaky bacon.

Am always interested in hearing news from other countries, and when Anna tells us she lives in France but works in Switzerland am wondering if that part of Switzerland speaks French, and now that Europe has the euro and opens some if its borders, can people just drive from one country to another without showing passports?
We had our dripping cistern mended, and as I bet it had been dripping since it was fitted, no doubt that was what doubled our water bill..  What fun for the mayor to call at the house to let Anna know she had the same problem. 

As can be seen, my blog is being written late in the day (it is now just after midnight as I write), due to me being at the spiritualist meeting this afternoon.  We discussed quite a few things, and am beginning to think that becoming a medium is not the route I should be following.  I mentioned that I'd had very good results when reading a crystal ball, and wondered if it would be better if I continued with that rather than try to be something I'm not.  They agreed this might work, each has their own method of 'contacting', so maybe I'll give it a go again.  Trouble is I gave my crystal ball away many years ago and can't really say "please can I have my ball back", but apparently we can get the same effect if we use a glass bowl full of water.  I'll have to try that.

When B collected me, as it was such a lovely sunny (and very hot) day again, he decided to drive to Sunderland Point before we returned home.  Fortunately the very high tide had receded, so the causeway was clear, but still very wet.  As the car windows were open, for the first time since we came to Morecambe I had a real smell of the sea.  B said it was the mud surrounding the causeway, but to me it smelt like seaweed.  My dad always called this smell 'ozone'.

On our return we drove back along the front where there was another strong smell, this time fish and chips from the cafes on the prom serving to people eating outdoors.  Somehow the scent of fish and chips is exactly right for a seaside resort.  Made me feel really hungry for some.  However, B had to slum it and eat duck confit, served with braised fennel and bell peppers, and butter-fried gnocchi.  I had my usual salad. 
It's horrid being on my sort of diet.  The smell of fish and chips can be tormenting enough to make me break my resolve (and gain 3lbs in a matter of hours). Thank goodness I was a passenger in the car and not driving, as all I had to do was grit my teeth and try not to breathe until we had passed those lucky people munching away.

Before I go, here are a few recipes that uses avocado.  Slightly different than guacamole.
Hummus and Avocado: serves 2
1 small red onion, sliced
2 tomatoes, chopped
handful of pitted olives
squeeze of lemon juice
olive oil (for drizzling)
salt and pepper
1 ripe avocado
2 tblsp hummus
Mix the onion, tomatoes, olives and lemon juice together.  Drizzle with oil and season to taste.
Halve and stone the avocado, and fill the hollow with the hummus.  Set in the centre of a shallow dish and surround with the tomato salad, drizzle a little more oil over and serve with toasted bread.

Souffled Avocado Omelette: serves 4
3 eggs, separated
1 tblsp milk
2 tblsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
salt and pepper
2 tsp olive oil
2 tsp black olive tapenade
1 small avocado, halved, flesh sliced
juice of 1 lemon
tomato salad (opt)
Place the egg yolks in a bowl with the milk and parsley and beat together, add seasoning to taste. Place the egg whites in a large bowl and whisk to soft peaks. Add a quarter of the whites to the yolks and gently blend together, then fold in the remaining whites.
Heat the oil in an 8" (20cm) omelette pan, then add the egg mixture and cook for 2 - 3 minutes until lightly set underneath.  Place under a pre-heated grill for 1 - 2 minutes to cook the top.
Spoon the tapenade over one half of the omelette, top with the avocado and spoon over the lemon juice.  Fold over the other half of the omelette and slide onto a plate.  Serve with a tomato salad (opt).

Spicy Bean and Avocado Tostados: serves 4
4 flour tortillas
1 x 400g can refried beans
half tsp cayenne pepper
1 x 200g can red kidney beans, drained
6 cherry tomatoes, quartered
2 oz (50g) cheddar cheese, grated
1 green chilli, finely sliced
1 avocado, halved, flesh sliced
coriander leaves for garnish
Put the tortillas onto a baking sheet and grill for 2 minutes.
In a bowl, mix together the refried beans, cayenne, red beans and the tomatoes, then divide half the mix between the tortillas.  Scatter half the cheese and half the chilli over the top, then pop under the grill again until the cheese melts.
Grill the remaining tortillas and repeat the method using the rest of the ingredients, then lift onto plates and serve with the avocado and coriander on top.

Salami, Bean and Avocado Salad: serves 4
5 oz (150g) button mushrooms, sliced
8 radishes, sliced
half small red onion, thinly sliced
1 x 400g can haricot or cannellini beans, drained
4 tblsp olive oil
1 tsp cider vinegar (or white vinegar)
1 clove garlic, crushed
salt and pepper
1 avocado, cutting flesh into chunks
90g pack salami, each slice cut into eighths
Mix together the mushrooms, radishes, onion, and beans.  In another bowl mix the oil, vinegar and garlic, adding seasoning to taste.
Stir the avocado chunks and salami into the bean mixture, then fold in the dressing.  Serve immediately.

As I'm now preferring to write my blog in the afternoons rather than late evenings, this could mean you get two published today (Wednesday), the first supposed to be the Tuesday blog.  On the other hand I may write it later.  Just check you make sure you haven't missed a previous one.

Off to the surgery tomorrow for my blood test (results the following week) then back home to get on with whatever needs to be done.  This morning found time to make three lots of Fork Biscuits (chocolate, orange, and ginger).  Made each flavour a different shape.  Three dozen in all.  Took two of each (in one bag) to put on the raffle table at the church (my 'winning choice' was sticks of rhubarb AND some lavender scented talcum powder).  Think B has eaten all the rest of the biccies.  He said they are very 'moreish'.

Believe we are in for another humid night, and possibly some rain tomorrow.  But they said that yesterday and although it was warm during the night (12C) we had a lovely sunny day with just a few fluffy white clouds, the visibility across the Bay was stunning - range after range of Lakeland hills in full view.  Must take a photo of it now I have my new camera so you can see what it looks like.

Enough chat for today.  Hope you will find time to join me tomorrow.  See you then.


Monday, July 14, 2014

Monday Blues

Not really a blue day, just a bit fed up because the sun has stopped shining.  It shone this morning, and as I'd done a load of washing asked B he would hang it out for me before it rained (as it was forecast).  Of course it was a couple of hours later before he got up from his chair and took the washing outside - "oh dear, it's started to rain" he said when he came back indoors, but he had still hung out the washing and left it on the line to get soaking wet.  It would easily have dried if he'd hung it out when I asked him to.  Men!

After I enjoyed writing my blog yesterday afternoon, decided to do the same today, although today do not have a couple of glasses of bubbly to keep me company.  Nevertheless I will try to keep bright-eyed and bushy tailed.

This morning noticed there was a constant drip (more a continuous drizzle) of water running into our loo from the cistern.  B said it had been doing that for ages.  That explains the sudden rise in the water charges (we have a water meter), the monthly payments had almost doubled when we had our last bill.  Pointed out to B that we have to pay for this excess 'dribble', so he tried to fix it, couldn't, so has called in the plumber who fitted it in the first place.  Should be here later this afternoon.  B seems to have no idea that we have to pay for all the gas, electricity and running water that he tends to ignore when switched on.  Several times I've gone into the kitchen and found the gas still burning on the hob because he has forgotten to switch it off.  It's safe enough (no pan left on top) but it still runs up the bills.  Same with the comp, he leaves it on 'sleep' (standby) overnight, even though I keep asking him to switch it off.  Maybe if we returned to him paying the bills there would be a noticeable difference. 

But life is too short to be concerned about petty details like dripping water and wet washing still on the line.  England didn't win the World Cup, and isn't that something we should really be unhappy about?  I don't think so.
Even that cloud has a silver lining.  No more footie matches on each day, the washing on the line will be mega-soft after being rinsed in rain-water, and the dribbling loo has been discovered before too much money has been wasted.    It gives me time to save up for Christmas.

Thoughts of Christmas came into my mind when I decided to watch 'Little House on the Prairie' this lunchtime, "Christmas at Plum Creek" it was called, so presume Plum Creek is where the little house was built, Walnut Grove being the small 'township'.   As ever, full of moral decisions and good works, but I do enjoy that sort of life, just wishing it was the same now as it was then.  No money to buy pressies but somehow they managed it by making sacrifices and sheer hard work.  All the more appreciated because of that.   Do people appreciate anything these days?  All the youngsters seem to want is more, more, more.   Being bought a mobile phone one year can be a pleasant surprise, but next year that is out of fashion so they want the latest model, and the same thing happens the next year, and the next. 

Mind you, there was a mention that our grandson might fix up Skype for me (whatever that is) so that I can actually 'see' my family (who all seem to have it) when I email them.  Not sure how it works, but at least it will help me keep closer in touch with those who live a long distance away.  Personally I'd rather see them in the flesh, but we can't have everything.

Thanks to both Jane and jane who sent in comments.  Yes, think bully beef was the original corned beef, and as well as using it in the dishes mentioned, I've found it quite good when diced, to make a chilli con carne.  One can of corned beef PLUS a sachet of Beanfeast Mexican Chilli, a can of red beans and a can of chopped tomatoes (plus extra chilli powder when some like it hot) - makes enough to serve six. 
My Beloved enjoys eating it sliced as part of a Cold Meat Platter, with either HP sauce or Branston Pickle.  I'm quite fond of it too, enjoying it almost as much as Spam.  Don't know why, but Spam does not have the nutritional info shown on the tin, so I don't know how many calories/fat it contains.  Perhaps better I don't know.  But I've been good, I haven't ordered any for several months now, so withdrawal symptoms now past maybe I won't eat it again.  But of course, now I'm thinking about it, am desperately craving a Spam sarnie.  Just as well I haven't any in the larder.

Bought some toaster bags several years back (from Lakeland) and they are still going strong.  I'm particularly fond of toasted cheese sarnies, but haven't had any toasted sarnies for some months now as avoiding carbos.   So far I haven't tried any other filling for the sarnies before toasting, so maybe jane (or other readers) could send me some suggestions.

As you know I do enjoy a good curry, and am finding vegetarian curries even more pleasing than those made with meat, partly because the curry flavour tends to disguise ingredients used, so when veggies have enough texture, who can tell they are not animal protein?
The organic veggie box sent a butternut squash a couple of months back.  Still firm and with plenty of life left (as long as left intact).  I've only just used a different type of squash they sent several months ago, and suppose when it comes to this type of 'gourd', they are all much of a muchness.  Here in the UK butternut is the usual squash on sale, apart from pumpkin always on sale around Halloween (and the way this year is speeding by, that won't be too far away).

The recipe below uses a butternut squash, but obviously any squash sold for cooking could take its place.  Or instead use another firm vegetable (or several) such as sweet potatoes, turnips, and certainly cauliflower (if you have some).  Mix and match.
Don't feel obliged to use the strength of curry paste (Madras) as used in this recipe.  Use a milder (Korma) one if you prefer, or a middle strength Tikka.  We could even omit the curry paste AND the coconut milk if we used a jar of ready-made curry sauce that contains coconut.  Always I'm trying to cut out labour, but regrettably doing this can make the meal slightly more costly.  Up to the cook to make the choice.
Instead of naan bread, serve with boiled or steamed rice, plain or pilau.  Coriander is optional (I don't force it on you as although it is a trad garnish, neither B nor I like the taste of it, and probably you don't either, so feel free to omit it).

Chunky Vegetable Soup:  serves 4
2 onions, chopped
1 tblsp sunflower oil
3 tblsp Madras curry paste (see above)
1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded, diced
2 red bell peppers, seeded and cut into chunks
2 x 400g cans coconut milk
half pint (300ml) water
salt and pepper
chopped coriander (see above)
naan bread to serve
Heat a large frying pan and fry the onions in the oil for a few minutes until softened, then stir in the curry paste.  Fry for a further minutes, then add the chunks of squash and pepper, stirring these into the onion/curry paste.
Pour the coconut milk over the veggies, along with the water, giving another stir, then bring to the boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 15 - 20 minutes or until the squash is very tender and the sauce has thickened.   Add seasoning to taste, then serve with a sprinkle of chopped coriander, and either rice or naan bread.

Because corned beef has been mentioned, thought this next recipe worth sharing.  Originally it was made using minces cooked beef, but it works just as well using canned corned beef.  If chilled, cut it into tiny chunks, but best used at room temperature as then it breaks up far more easily and looks more like minced beef.
The topping is very adaptable.  Traditionally mashed potatoes were used, then other suggestions were given such as mixing mashed parsnip or turnip with the potato.  We could also use mashed sweet potatoes.   This version uses potato, carrot and cheese. 
Baked beans are a true 'basic' in our larders, but recently I've been won over by Heinz Five Beans (five different varieties in one can) as these are really tasty.  They work well as 'beans on toast', or used instead of red beans in a chilli con carne.  Sadly they are more expensive than the ordinary baked beans, but I am prepared to pay that little bit more as I like them so much (and wait until they are on offer when I do buy them).
Depending on the brand of beans used, best to drain off the sauce before adding to the pan, as too much sauce would make the mixture sloppy.  Don't throw the sauce away, freeze it, then use it when making a spag bol, or any dish that uses a tomato based sauce.

20th Century Cottage Pie:  serves 4
2 onions, halved and finely sliced
2 tblsp sunflower or olive oil
1 tblsp plain flour
1 beef stock cube
5 fl oz (150ml) hot water
3 tblsp brown sauce
1 can corned beef, diced or flaked (see above)
1 x 415g can baked beans (see above)
2 lb potatoes, cooked and mashed
3 carrots, cooked and mashed
1 oz (25g) butter
splash milk or cream
2 oz (50g) mature cheddar, grated
2 tomatoes, sliced (opt)
Using a frying pan, fry the onions in the oil until softened.  Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Dissolve the stock cube in the water and add to the pan and stir until bubbling and thickened.  Add the brown sauce and the flaked corned beef.   Stir the beans into the mixture and simmer for 2 minutes, then spoon into one large or 4 individual serving dishes.
Make the topping by mashing the butter and cream into the potatoes, and either mash with the carrots or serve these as a separate layer above the meat but under the potato.  Place on a baking sheet and top with the cheese and tomatoes (if using).  Bake at 200C, gas 6 for about half an hour or until the tops are golden.   Serve with a green veg such as broccoli, beans or peas.

Have to say I'm enjoying writing my blog in the afternoons, so you may find this happening more often.  Not tomorrow though as I'll be going to the church meeting  (didn't go last Saturday due to B not wishing to miss any of the footie match).  So tomorrow's blog will probably be written up either late tomorrow evening, or more likely to be written tomorrow afternoon.  Hope you don't mind my chopping and changing times, and maybe missing a day because of this, but feel my blog is more interesting to read when I actually feel like writing it, not because I feel I should. 
Are readers finding my new-timed blog now makes better reading?  Myself feel the words flow more easily. 

It's our turn to get the rain, and the eastern side of the country looks as though it is now staying dry.  Said to become more humid, with temperatures possibly reaching 30C in the London area.  We, fortunately, will have it slightly cooler.  Just as long as the sun shines I don't mind. 

Off now to prepare B's supper (he is having the last of D.R's sirloin steaks, probably with salad and warm small potatoes), have to take great care when cooking it for B as he likes it medium rare, but not overdone, more rare than medium, but not too pink in the middle.  As the steak is slightly thinner at one end, this makes it rather difficult to get it perfectly cooked to B's liking all the way through. And he does like it perfectly cooked.  
No more rambling.  Time to go.  We'll meet up again tomorrow (probably).  See you then.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sunny Sunday...

An early blog this Sunday.  The football final is live on BOTH BBC and ITV this evening, so B will want to be in this room watching on the larger screen, so thought I'd write and chat while he is out sailing.  The sun has been out all day but it suddenly got quite windy, so hope not too many boats capsize.

When Gill phoned me this morning she said it had been raining all night (Leicester), and was teeming down as she spoke, so was expecting we might get some later.  Not so far.  Apparently we did get some rain last night, but that had cleared and dried by the time I got up this morning.  Wouldn't life be wonderful if the rain fell only at night and we could spend our days in sunshine?

It has been very hot this week, and last night was very humid, making it hard to sleep, not sure whether to sleep on or under the duvet.  A light sheet or blanket on top would probably be better than a duvet.  Will try that tonight.

Only two comments to reply to at the moment, although more may come in once I've written this and published, if so, will reply to these in my next blog.

Baked bread again yesterday, different sized loaves to see which one B prefers (the others put in the freezer).  Before he went out he said he fancied corned beef for his supper (presumably with salad?) so fetched a can from the larder and put it in the fridge to chill.  At room temperature canned corned beef is difficult to slice cleanly, and I find the best way is to mash it with a fork (maybe with a bit of Branston Pickle) and use this as a 'sandwich spread'.

With the microwave speedily drying my 'smalls' yesterday, thought I'd try drying off some rose petals this afternoon.  Each of our children had bought us a bunch of flowers - all the same sort, and these were most unusual as they were roses where each had several different colours of petals (on the same head).  Pale yellow on one side, working round through pale green, to bright pink, blue, red and orange.  Apparently to get this effect the rose stems had been split at the base and each stem part had been stood in a different coloured dye, so the rose soaked the colours up into the petals.  It worked very well (if you like that sort of thing), and have to say that now the first bunches are past their best, and today I removed the petals, after drying them in the microwave (single layer on a sheet of kitchen paper for 4 minutes), they still kept their colour, so I'll be doing the rest over the next few days and then they'll go into a bowl with some orris root powder and rose oil to make a lovely scented pot-pourri.

Some many years ago I also coloured some daffodils in the same way,  standing the stem of one flower into coloured water (used food colourings), and the veins in the petals/trumpets took on this colour, so I had yellow daffs with green markings, yellow daffs with red markings etc,  and although I much prefer flowers to look 'au naturel' sometimes changing the colour works well - especially in flower arrangements.

And extra huge bunch of flowers that we had given to us is still looking as perfect as when given, although the lily buds have now opened up.  Had to move it from the living room to in here (dining room) as the scent of the lilies is very strong, especially in the evening.  Forgot B would be in here at that time, but I don't think it bothers him.  The scent makes me sneeze.

One reason these flowers are lasting well is - I am sure - because I topped up the water with some of B's diet lemonade (the bottle was handy), and I've heard more than once that flowers in vases do enjoy a drink like that.   Also the flowers have never stood in full son (as the others had done), that also helps to make them last longer.

There was an article in yesterday's paper about Lidl and Aldi now competing with the larger supermarkets, having moved on from just the cheaper products to foods that 'yuppies' would normally buy.   The person who wrote the article had asked a few customers in the London stores, and certainly the food was much cheaper - things like lobster, smoked salmon, Parmesan cheese.....and a whole lot more.  When asking (in Aldi) for the Wagyu beef (£9.99p for an 8oz steak) the manager told her they were 'sold out'.  In fact that Aldi store didn't get a good write up at all.  Customers surly (the opposite of 'yuppie') so I'm wondering if those steaks ever did reach that particular store.  Or any other for that matter.
Occasionally I've seen a 'good buy' in a Lidl flyer and asked B to go and buy it on the first day of the offer (and early in the day), and each time he was told they were 'sold out'.  Makes me believe that they show offers to tempt people in but never intend selling them anyway.  Could be wrong of course, but if sold out very soon after the store opens, why didn't they order more?  The reason why is pretty obvious.

Thankfully I've lost all the weight I put on over the 'party days', plus a couple more lbs, so am hoping to keep losing.  Next week I have my six month's blood test, the results I'll find out just over a week later when I see the diabetic nurse.   I've tried very hard to reduce by bad cholesterol, keep my blood pressure down, and hopefully my blood sugar count will also remain low (it has been under the diabetic level for the past 18 months).  Hoping to persuade the nurse/doctor to reduce some of my pills.  I take so many each day I am sure I rattle when I move. 

As you say Sarina, caraway seeds have been used for flavouring for many years (many generations). I first had them in 'Seed Cake' that my mother often made.  Whether the younger generation are aware of how well they go well with cabbage etc, I don't know, I never see caraway mentioned in recipes these days. 

When you mention the weather where you live Margie (Toronto) it always seems very much the same as we have at that time.  Maybe we are getting milder (or wetter winters) as you do seem to get the snow, but your 25C is the same as many parts of the country here,  it is usually in the south-east and particularly the London area where it his hottest, but we too have had very close to that, although expected to be 'fresher' over the next day or two due to a cooling breeze off the sea.

Traditional English puddings are making a come-back - by this I mean in top restaurants.  Sticky Toffee Pudding (fairly new compared to many older trad puds) is always a favourite (esp. with men), as is Treacle Pudding, and Roly-Poly Pudding.  Bread and Butter Pudding, Rice Pudding, and steamed Sponge Puddings.  Am sure Apple Pie would be on the menu as well. 

I like looking at and keeping menus,  gives me great joy when I realise that I could easily (or should that be hopefully) cook the same meals for B and for guests and it would cost me only a tiny amount compared to the menu price (to be fair I don't have all the running costs/overheads that a restaurant has, and I don't have to pay a wage to myself (that seems a bit unfair, but then I do it for love).

I've even got a very posh menu showing the meal/s served at Royal Ascot.  This B brought to me when the Ascot races were held at York a few years ago while the race-course and stands etc, sown south were having a make-over.   Nothing really elaborate, but looked good as a lot of the dishes were given a French name!!  That really does make a difference.  'Crème Anglaise' sounds so much more upmarket than just 'custard'.  And 'game chips' are really potato crisps.

B has just returned home, very fed up.  No sailing as the sea too rough due to the wind.  The sailors still wanted to go out on the water, but B - who was 'officer of the day' - wouldn't allow it (they do not race when the wind reaches a certain level on the Beaufort (?) scale.  So cross words floated through the air.  If B had let them officially race and there had been an accident, then he would have been in serious trouble for allowing it.
Due to his fedupness he has suggested he open a bottle of champagne and we ahare it (that means 10% for me, 90% for him, but that's all I want anyway).  Think will keep the champers (free from Barbar) for another time but open the Proseccio (?) instead.  Almost same thing.  First it needs chilling.   Perhaps I can work out the French name for 'corned beef sarnies' as that is all that B says he wants now to eat, and methinks a can of lager would have been in keeping.

Ah, as I write B has come back and just asked if he can have oven chips with his corned beef instead of a sarnie, so suppose that is one step highe up the social ladder.  There are only a few chips left, I don't want any as I'm keeping away from carbos), and thin enough to be called 'Pommes Frites' (aka French Fries) so 'Corned Boeuf and Pomme Frites' it is.  B added he also wants a couple of fried eggs as well, so 2 'oeufs frites' it will be.  If I can persuade him to eat it with a 'salade vert', then it's almost Little Chef biting the heels of La Gavroche.  Or so I like to think.

As B is competently 'cooking' his supper (chips on metal plate in the preheated oven, corned beef removed from tin and sliced, eggs fried in a pan, salad already in the fridge to take what he wants) I can safely sit and continue chatting.  That is if you wish me to.  I've even be given a champagne (flute) glass full of bubbly to keep me company (half of it already drunk).  If I drink too much I'll be incapable of continuing blogging.  Even the smallest amount of booze goes straight to my head, especially as I have not eaten much today (just a wee salad).  Forgive me while I have another slurp!

Suppose I should give a few recipes, that's what this blog is about after all (but I keep forgetting). Problem is when the weather is very warm, I don't feel like eating much and suppose few of my readers do either.   If I could afford to eat what I wanted, think I'd settle for a platter of sushi,  really do enjoy that, but expensive to buy.  I have all the makings, so really no reason why I can't make some for myself.  The old story, just can't be bothered to take the time when it's only just old me tp feed/

Last week, the day after our anniversary banquet, all the family met up again at our daughter's home in Lancaster.  She had laid on a wonderful buffet (she is an excellent cook), and as 'starters', she served warm bruschetta (slices of toasted ciabatta) that she had spread with a chilli pesto (lovely!), topped with sliced tomato, and then a slice of Leerdammer cheese, popped under the grill until bubbling.  These were wonderful, all gobbled up in a matter of minutes.  I must buy some chilli pesto (you know I like chilli) and make some for myself (maybe also for B).

I'm now on my second glass of Proseccio (not sure if that is the correct spelling) and I said to B I won't need another.  He said "I wasn't going to give you another", adding "two glasses and your anybody's", and I have to admit this is just about right.    I've never go the hang of drinking, always knocking it back as though it was just a glass of water drunk all at once when thirsty.  Ladies are supposed to sip their wine.  Well then, I'm no lady!  That's why I hardly ever drink. 

The above 'starter' has led me to a similar recipe, and comparing the two see no reason why a bread dough base (a la pizza) could not be used for the following recipe instead of the pastry. Or blend chilli pesto into the curd cheese to add a little extra 'bite'.  Whenever we get the chance we should always adapt a recipe to suit our personal tastes and also to use up what we have.
This tart serves 8, so we could halve the ingredients to serve 4, or make individual tarts to serve at a buffet.  We could also make it in an oblong tin to cut into fingers - again to serve as 'finger food'.

The pastry is made from scratch as grated cheese is added to the dry ingredients, but we could use bought pastry, roll it out thinly, spread with grated cheese, then fold over into three and repeat several time (as per recipe) before using.
If you prefer, you could use (bought) puff pastry and mix the grated cheese into the curd cheese and then follow the recipe.
Instead of curd cheese, use ricotta or strained greek yogurt, or crème fraiche, fromage frais, strained quark.  Plenty of alternatives when curd cheese is not available, and most supermarkets now don't seem to sell it anymore..

Tomato and Cheese Tart: serves 8
8 oz (225g) plain flour
half tsp salt
4 oz (100g) butter, chilled and cubed
2 oz (50g) mature cheddar, grated
100ml ice-cold water
handful basil leaves, roughly chopped
6 oz (175g) curd cheese (see above)
salt and pepper
8 ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced
olive oil for drizzling
handful of mixed soft herbs (mint, parsley etc.)
Put the flour, salt and butter into a food processor and blitz until roughly mixed. Tip into a bowl and stir in two thirds of the  grated cheese, then the cold water. Mix until combined then knead gently together.  Wrap in clingfilm/foil and chill for half an hour.
Mix together the basil with the remaining cheddar and the curd cheese, then add seasoning to taste.
Roll the pastry out into a long rectangle, then fold the top third down, then the bottom third up and over. Repeat 3 times. Chill for another 10 minutes.
Roll the pastry out to a size large enough to cut a circle about the size of a large dinner plate.  Place this on a floured baking sheet, prick all over with a fork, then bake at 220C, gas 6 for 15 minutes. Coo, then spread over the herby cheese mix, almost - but not quite - to the edge.  Lay the tomatoes on top, overlapping.
Add seasoning and bake (same temp) for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 130C, gas 2 and bake for a further 40 minutes.  Leave to cool a little before drizzling with olive oil.  Toss the mixed herbs with a little more oil and spread these over the centre of the tart before serving.

As I can never assume that everyone buys/eats the same foods as I use/cook, am hoping that most of you do, and apologise to all readers who find my recipes don't suit.  Am always happy to include recipes using ingredients you DO have, so just let me know.
But for the mean time I am returning to my personal store-cupboard (our larder is my comfort zone, I spend a lot of time in there), am pleased to find this next recipe is one that can be made from foods many of us will have in store (this includes food from the fridge and maybe even the freezer).  The original recipe used asparagus, but to me that is what I call an 'expensive' ingredient, so am substituting another green veg (in this instance string beans but you use what you want/have).  The beetroot should be cooked, but not in vinegar. I always keep a couple or so vacuum packs of long-life cooked beetroot in the fridge, then they are always ready for us.
The pappardelle pasta is like wide ribbons, sometimes called noodles (not the same as Chinese noodles, these resembling spaghetti).
Cheshire cheese is good to use as it has a strong sharp taste, but any crumble cheese would do.  My favourite would be Lancashire (this comes in both creamy and crumbly, so make sure you buy the right one).
If you don't have pine nuts then use crushed toasted almonds, or chopped roasted peanuts.

Roasted Vegetable Pasta 'n Pesto: serves 4
1 large bunch basil, use both leaves and stalks
2 tblsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
splash of water
8 oz (225g) string beans, halved (see above)
1 x 250g pack cooked beetroot (see above)
14 oz (400g) pappardelle (or other long pasta)
4 oz (100g) Cheshire cheese, crumbled
2 tblsp toasted pine nuts
Put all the basil stalks and half the leaves into a food processor and add the garlic with a little water, then whizz to a rough paste.  Put the beans at one end of a roasting tin and the beetroot at another. season well, then rub them with a tablespoon of the basil mix..  Roast at 200C, gas 6 for 7 - 10 minutes until the beans are tender (or time it depending on veggies used).
Meanwhile cook the pasta as per packet instructions, then add half the cheese to the remaining basil mix and whizz again to make a cheesy herby pesto. 
Drain the pasta, then toss with the pesto and remaining cheese.  Add the pine nuts and the roasted veg.  Serve sprinkled with the remaining basil leaves.

As the sun is now shining directly at me through the small window in front of my desk, and causing me to constantly sneeze (why does it doe this?), even though the blind has been pulled down it affects me, so probably best I now finish (and still half a glass yet to drink!).  At least I have not yet got past being coherent with my chat (or at least hope not). 

A couple of hours to go before B comes and settles down in here in front of 'his' telly.  Me, I have to find a channel worth watching.  Perhaps I will end up in the kitchen cooking some biscuits or gingerbread or something.  On the other hand I could sit and practice my crochet.   Did contemplate on going out to have a scoot with Norris, but it is so windy that I think I wouldn't enjoy it.  I hate having to wear a hat/scarf, and hate even more having my newly set jair (nearly newly) blown out of place as I want it to look respectable for the Tuesday meeting.  Am I vain or what?  My hair used to be the best bit about me, and now it is almost the worst, and as the rest is unmentionable, then what chance have I got?   Who cares.  One thing about old age, no-one takes any notice anymore.

Will be back again tomorrow, maybe writing during the afternoon (I've enjoyed this early chat, so why not continue?  As long as I do have the free time, otherwise it will be late evening again).  Hope you will be free to join me for our next 'get-together'.  If so - see you then.  TTFN.