Friday, 28 February 2014

Food for Thought

" Sam Vimes was an uncomplicated man when it came to what poets called 'the lists of love'. He noticed that sex bore some resemblance to cookery: it fascinated people, they sometimes bought books full of complicated recipes and interesting pictures, and sometimes when they were really hungry they created vast banquets in their imagination - but at the end of the day they'd settle quite happily for egg and chips, if it was well done and maybe had a slice of tomato."

                                                                                   Terry Pratchett, "The Fifth Elephant"

Thing is, my OH does not eat eggs (unless cunningly disguised in a cake, or a pancake even.  Or tomatoes, unless it's in form of a sauce, preferably or the meaty variety - like ragu a la Bolognese, or chilli con carne.  Thinking about it, he's not too hot on vanilla, either, although I maintain that real vanilla - none of your synthetic stuff - takes some beating.  Especially as an ice-cream, say.  He does like it spicy though - the hotter the better.

What do you mean, are we still talking about food ?  Sheesh. Mind out of the gutter, please.

On second thought, though, don't bother.

Anyway - whilst tonight's dinner wasn't exactly egg and chips, it was hardly any more bother in terms of preparation - venison grillsteaks that OH picked up on a flying supermarket visit (it was the visit that was flying, not the supermarket), home grown runner beans outta the freezer, and chips. 

And you know what ?  It was fine.  You wouldn't want it every night, but once in a while.... It's absolutely fine to just shove something under the grill and serve it with chips.

Happy weekend :o)

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Chemical Warfare

One of the reasons I don't tend to post as often as I would like is that, when tired, I grow inarticulate, and start to talk nonsense. A bit like normal people do when drunk.
But then I looked over some of my old posts, and thought, it's not like anyone's likely to notice the difference.
So here I am, with something that's meant to be short and sweet, but I often think that..... And then it grows arms. And legs. And tentacles.  Onna stick.
What's that got to do with the title of the post, do I hear you ask ?  No ?  Oh well. Let's pretend I did, anyway.  Heard someone ask, at any rate.  Well, you see.... We use a lot of chemicals nowadays, don't we ?  And yes, I know that "chemicals" is a very vague term, and that, really, everything is composed of chemicals.  What I mean, I suppose - what I guess most people mean when they talk about "chemicals" in household cleaners, toiletries, instant food - is potentially harmful chemicals.  Sometimes, but not always, that means man-made, synthetic.  Not always - well, lead is naturally occurring, as is arsenic. Doesn't make them good for you.  Just like "herbal" is used to mean something positive and good for you - well, belladonna is a herb.  You could make oleander tea - if you wanted to poison your guests.
Tentacles, I tell ya.
My point is. Point is.... That just like Victorians used arsenic to colour their wallpaper, and lead to paint their kids' toys, having no clue how much damage they are causing - neither do we really know what many of the things we ingest, or rub into our skins, or spray over food preparation surfaces  really do to us.  Sure, if the effect is immediate, the stuff will not be licensed for human consumption.... But what if the effect is cumulative over a period of years ?  Or ever so subtle that a snowflake's chance on hell vastly outweighs our chances of ever putting two and two together and coming up with anything even approaching five ?  Sorry, I mean four.  Of course I mean four.
Er, yeah.
Or - and this is a good one - what if they only affect certain people ?  Or affect different people in a different way ?  How can you ever make sure that your IBS, or your ME, or your fibro, are not caused by what you eat, or moisturise with, or clean your floors with, or wash your clothes in, or....
I mean, where do you even start ? 
Maybe the only way you could ever come to something even approaching understanding is by using yourself as a guinea pig, and cutting out as much of the chemical warfare (see, we got there in the end) as you possibly can out of your life.
So, baby steps and all that - I mentioned I while back that I do most of my cleaning with a spray bottle of white vinegar.  Trouble is, when you use vinegar, your house smells like a chip shop.  It wears off after a while, of course it does.... But I do miss the sharp citrusy smells emerging from the shop-bought spray bottles of cleaning liquids.
So I made Elaine's citrus enzyme cleaner.  That's pretty good stuff, but there are still some jobs - a fair few, in fact - that I prefer vinegar for.
And then I came across the instructions for citrus vinegar cleaner.  Basically, you fill a jar with citrus peel, top it up with vinegar, stick in a cupboard, and a couple of weeks later you have citrus-smelling vinegar. 
As luck would have it, I'd just bought a bag of satsumas that turned out to be pretty much unpealable, so no one was eating them - I halved the little beggars, juiced them, stuck the rinds in the jar, topped up with white vinegar.... I still have a week to go, but I am hopeful. 

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Seal of Approval

I have succumbed to that Aladdin's cave of food in boxes that is known as Approved Foods :o)  We have been eating pretty much from our stores for the last couple of months, and the stocks are running down - which is what I intended - but on the other hand, when pasta is going for 99p for 3kg, and bags of coffee beans for £1, it'd be rude not to. Right ?  The rest is something I do not usually indulge in, but a temporary madness came over me, and I went all mixy.  Ice cream mix, cheesecake mix, vanilla sponge and chocolate sponge mix, batter mix, vegetarian chicken style roast mix, flapjack mix.... 

Well, you know.... That whole lot above came to just over £20, including delivery.  Sometimes a little junk is good for the soul.  I will try not to do it too often !
As an antidote to all this pre-bagged snacky sweet stuff, the main meals are still being cooked from scratch.  This is a rice and meatball bake - one of those "basic method" recipes I like so much, that lends itself to almost countless variations.  I believe I first came across it as a "Moroccan meatball and basmati bake", which used harissa paste and lamb meatballs.  The version pictured below used garam masala and pork meatballs - but you can play with anything you have in. 
What you do need is rice (basmati is best, but cheap long grain is also fine) - 75g per person;  meatballs - 5 per person;  stock (I used the last of the Christmas turkey stock) and some sort of tomatoey liquid to the tune of twice the volume of rice.   Chopped tinned tomatoes, passata, or, like here, home made roast tomato sauce - they're all fine. 
Place the rice in an ovenproof dish.  Mix stock, tomatoes, and spices and pour over the rice; place the meatballs on top.  Pop a lid or some tin foil over the top, stick in the oven at about 200 C for 20 minutes.  Take the lid off, and bake  for 20 more. 


And enjoy !

Monday, 17 February 2014

Stuffed Butternut Squash

Good grief.  Ten days since I last posted ?  And where exactly did that time go ?  Scary.
Anyway.  Thanks to all who commented since my last appearance, thanks for the birthday wishes and advice and support regarding fibro - I absolutely agree about the memory foam mattress and a shaped pillow; I've had them for a few years and I think they are greatly responsible for the fact of my continuing mobility !  My initial shaped pillow was the one from Lidl, I think, but that eventually lost its shape and got replaced by this little blighter, costing three times as much, but well worth it in springiness:
And now  for something completely different. 
Here is how I cook:
1.  Choose a recipe
The brain process goes something like this:  Oh, look, there is a butternut squash in the fridge.  The meal plan says we are having soup tonight, but I don't fancy soup.  Especially not BNS soup.  Hey, didn't Hugh Fearnly-Whatshisname do a stuffed BNS recipe a while back ?  Let me have a look.... Ah, here it is:

2. Gather your ingredients
Right. Let's see. BNS ?  Yep, here it is.  Garlic ? All present and correct, good. Butter ?  Yep, a bit left in the dish, good stuff. Oil ? Ditto.  This is going well.  Walnuts ?  Uh, don't have any. Blue cheese ?  Nope, not a crumb.  Never mind, any cheese will do.  Let's see what we've got.... Uh, no cheese.  None whatsoever.  Oh-kay..... Hmmmm.... What do I have ?
3. Improvise
Five minutes later, and the search has produced a stick of celery, a couple of onions, a couple of home-grown dried chillies, flaked almonds and sunflower seeds.  Perfect.

4. Off you shoot
Chop the veg finely, sauté in a bit of oil.  Add the nuts and seeds.  Cook your BNS as per recipe.  Scoop the flesh out as per recipe. Mix with the extras - as per recipe.  Stuff back into the scooped-out shells  and return to the oven, just like the recipe says.

5. Forget all about it
.... and pull it out of the oven ten minutes late, looking rather charred. 

6.  Oh well
Serve with a smile.  A light dinner for two - Hugh F-W's stuffed BNS.  Exactly as per the recipe. 


Friday, 7 February 2014


Once again, all the good intentions bite the dust.  Much as I would prefer the bulk of my time to be spent reading and writing, the bulk of my time ends up being taken up by.... Everything else.  I  need a life makeover, and soon ;o)

Barbara made a good point in the comment to my last post - a breadmaker would really come in useful at the moment;  ironically though, I used to have one, but got rid of it because whipping up a batch of dough was quicker, easier and more cost effective than messing about with the machine.  Turns out this is no longer the case, so I have stuck a Panasonic on my Amazon wishlist, and I shall save up my vouchers for one.  As well as a replacement slo cooker, as the old one bit the dust - turns out that supposedly stove-top safe ceramic insert wasn't.  No rush for either though - we are hoping to put our house on the market in the summer, and the kitchen looks better with fewer gadgets cluttering up the surfaces - and there'll be less stuff to move :o)

I can still manage to make decent suet crust pastry (with suet, there is no need to rub the fat in - just mix it all in with water)

In the meantime, I am trying out a range of new flatbreads - Elaine' s socca was a hit (I did a sage and onion version as it was dark and wet and the rosemary was outside in a garden bed, whilst dried sage was right there in the cupboard) - and no-knead breads;  planning to use any good days to get ahead on batch baking; and as an extreme measure, I suppose teaching DD to knead, or at the very least use the dough hook attachment, is an option ;o)

Other than that, life is somewhat chaotic at the moment, despite our best efforts to keep it otherwise.  My mystery condition finally has a name - fibromyalgia - and whilst that is not a nice name, and not a nice condition to have, with the symptoms that I have been plagued by, there were worse names hovering on the edge of my consciousness.  Well, you know - when yet another plate or glass goes whoops - oh well, one less to wash, because the hand will suddenly just not grip; or when the knees just fail to lock and legs give way for a second or two; when the rom starts spinning every time your head suddenly changes position; when you spend five minutes wandering from room to room wondering where on earth has your head got to - oh look, there's the little beggar, right on top of your neck all the time - then well, there could be worse underlying causes.  It's better to have to be making decisions about pain management than having to make plans for what happens when your mobility/marbles/ insert as appropriate finally go altogether.

Then there are DD's exams to arrange - something that's been sitting on my to-do list for couple of months now, and important though it is, it just wasn't the most important thing of the moment.  Luckily, the school DD used to attend have been supportive of our decision to try doing it from home, and have allowed DD to remain on their register, which means help with arranging exams and coursework, as well as no fees for the exams - oh, and I got to keep the Child Benefit, which we would have lost if she was not formally registered with a school at this age (soon to be 17).

And somehow, in the middle of all this, almost unnoticed, I turned 37.  There were flowers - first daffodils of the  season -

- there were cards and boxes of chocolates and pamper baskets -


- a Yankee tart burning -

- cuppa or three -
- and time to re-read my favourite Stephen King. 


Life is still good :o)