Cooking through the night

At 3am today Mavis had a bad dream and decided to join Whizz and I in the marital bed. This arrangement caused me to be the ‘filling in the sandwich’ and when Whizz decided to give Mavis and I a cuddle by wrapping his arm over me and round Mavis, well, I nearly expired. I am a woman of very few hormones, I get hot, I did. I left – for the spare room. I lay, staring up at the ceiling as wide awake as if I had had a full night’s sleep instead of just three hours!

By 4.20am I had decided there were more interesting things to do than lying in bed with a lumpy pillow – serves me right for giving all the reject bedding to guests – listening to the heating or something, glooping and gurgling. It shouldn’t have been the heating but it came from the pipes. I got up, donned the spare robe on the back of the door, which just about went round me, and headed for the kitchen.

By the time 7.30 arrived, time to wake Mavis, I had baked scotch eggs and made chocolate ice cream and vegetable soup. I was ready to go back to sleep but sadly the day had begun.

By 9.30am I was back in bed and slept until midday and I don’t seem to feel any worse for the experience.

Mavis had a friend to tea and they both scoffed a homemade (well the dough was bread maker made) pepperoni pizza, with carrot sticks and apple juice for vitamins, followed by a bowl of my ice cream. Later Whizz will have left over roast beef from the weekend and I will have a scotch egg and salad.

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Home made scotch eggs, home made potato salad and coleslaw (that isn’t a cricket in the backgound but a dropped winter jasmin flower)

Scotch Eggs

This recipe is simplicity itself as the eggs are baked in the oven rather than fried in breadcrumbs.

1lb (450g) sausagemeat

4 large or 6 medium eggs hard boiled and shelled

a bowl of water

a roasting tray lined with a silicone sheet

preheat the oven to quite hot 400/200/6Wet your hands and take a dollop of sausagemeat, about one and a half times bigger than the egg.Press the sausagemeat into a flat disc in the palm of one hand using the palm of the other to press it flat and wide enough to wrap roughly round the egg.

Keeping the sausagemeat on your hand, put an egg into the middle and, wetting your other hand again if necessary use both hands to close up the ends of the sausagemeat round the egg.

Keep pressing and smoothing to join up the edges and get an even thickness of sausagemeat all over the egg, if you can.

Place the sphere into baking dish and continue to do the same with the other eggs.

Bake in the oven for about half an hour in a fan oven, longer in a normal oven, until brown but not too brown or they will be tough.

Cool and serve with coleslaw and salad

chocolate ice cream.jpg

Chocolate Ice Cream

3/4 pint single cream and 1/4 pint double cream

5 egg yolks

1 tsp cornflour

6 tbsp sugar

1 1/2 bars (150g) best chocolate, grated

Switch on the ice cream maker to chill

Blend the cornflour with a bit of single cream in a cup

In a bowl beat the egg yolks with the sugar and the blended cornflour

In a pan heat all the rest of the cream with the grated chocolate until it is just beginning to sizzle round the edges.

While beating the egg yolk mixture constantly pour the chocolatey cream into the bowl and keep beating until the cream is blended into the yolks

Return the mixture to the pan and continue to stir with the heat turned down to minimum. If the egg starts to scramble, raise the pan away from the flames/ring and keep stirring. You need a thin custard that clings to the spoon; about the consistency of the single cream you started with.

Now, you are meant to let it cool before putting it into the ice cream maker but I find that pouring it in hot is much quicker and works fine so tip the mixture straight into the bowl of your ice cream maker and wait.

You could of course make a much more grown up ice cream by adding a couple of tablespoons of dark rum or some raisins soaked for a few hours in in rum, brandy or whisky. You could also add some more grated chocolate to the bowl when the mixture is cool but not set or add some finely chopped mint or a pinch of chili powder to the cream while heating it. The possibilities are endless.

The flapjacks have run out and I will bake lemon cakes tomorrow. I will also make lemon squash from my mum’s recipe.

Lemon Squash

3 Lemons – juice and rind thinly grated. Do NOT put any pith in

One and a half lbs of sugar (granulated).

1 oz citric acid.

One and a half pts of boiling water.

Put sugar and acid in Large bowl; add juice and rind and then pour boiling water over and stir until sugar has dissolved. Leave to cool and then strain into bottles.

This makes approx two and a half squash bottles full.

Home made cat food

I triumphantly presented my cat mush to Ben and he took a tentative nibble, took a step back and headed disdainfully for the dried stuff. That would be fine if he were happy to eat only dried cat food; it’s much better for his teeth after all, but Ben is used, like the rest of my family, to a ‘certain standard of living’ and he is not prepared to compromise.

Consequently he started following me round trying to trip me up in the kitchen, rubbing his head jealously on the computer when I was typing, walking on the keyboard and generally being a complete pain, in an attempt to force me to give him some ‘proper’ food.

Ben on computer Ben on computer 2

In desperation I found a tin of liver and onions in the cupboard that nobody had found a tempting prospect – can’t think why. I mixed some of this with his food and hey presto, he began to eat it. This presents a problem in that the liver and onions came from Tesco, was made by Princes and is therefore not available to us any longer.

The butcher, who already thinks I am completely barking (or miaowing) mad, will now have to supply liver to add to the cat food. The question is: Will I be able to prepare it to the exacting standards of Princes?

Time to sit down at last

Phew, my feet hurt! I once had an outside catering business and after that I worked in a theatre restaurant followed by running a delicatessen shop. In all those jobs I was on my feet for a long time. This feels the same but I am only catering for three of us!

Today my fruit and vegetables arrived. I still had to go to the farm shop and the brewing shop for broccoli, cabbage and citric acid and the health shop for brown rice and the butcher’s for chicken and beef mince for the cats! I thought I was organised but apparently not.

Anyway, the veg delivery included a box of juicing oranges and a box of juicing apples so guess what I have been doing. Yep; juicin’, in my Magimix electric juicer.

The apple box cost £11.85 and yielded about 3.5 litres of apple juice. That works out at £3.38 per litre and the orange juice yielded about 2.75 litres at £9.25 i.e. £3.36 per litre. I’m not sure this was worth all the effort although it tastes really good. Grove Fresh apple juice and orange juice from Abel and Cole both work out at £2.39 per litre.

The cat food looks disgusting, as though the cats have already eaten it once! Neither one has ventured near it yet so I’ll have to let you know how it was received.

I decided that the only way to get them to eat the rice and cabbage would be to blend them into a puree. That’s why it looks so foul. It tasted pretty dire too because it has no seasoning. I can’t bring myself to taste the tinned stuff to compare. Yuck again.

On a positive note I have enjoyed a delicious free range, home cooked chicken and salad for lunch accompanied by a slice of homemade bread.

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This evening has just taken a turn for the worse. I was taking Mavis to Brownies and shut the door behind me to realise that the thing clasped in my hand was not the front door key but £2 for an ice cream when the Brownies go to the Panto in January! This in itself was bad enough but made even worse by the fact that it is the second time in a month that I have stranded myself outside the house.

A kindly, if slightly infirm neighbour leant me a ladder and insisted on coming to help me break in through a tiny top casement, fortunately on the ground floor. The window had a fixed pane and a small casement above on the left half and a side opening casement on the right half with two handles that needed lifting to release the window and give me access. Having insinuated my head and one shoulder into the wet room through the small top casement, and fought off the venetian blind, I managed, with one foot precariously wobbling on the ladder, to open the top handle of the larger side opening window but couldn’t reach the lower one. Eventually, with the help of a wine bottle from the recycling bin I managed to open the window and rather inelegantly fell in through the window with the help of a foot on the toilet seat.

I sit here with mixed feelings: If I weren’t 52 and hormonally challenged I should probably not have locked myself out in the first place, but, I’m not so bad for an old bird, plenty of women my age would never have managed to manoeuvre themselves through that window without injury. Well, I like to believe that anyway, it makes me feel less of an idiot.

I’ve just given a spare key to a neighbour so this never happens again – as long as I remember I’ve done it!

Good job I had taken the muffins out of the oven before I went out or they would have been carbonised. As it is they look rather professional and will impress my breakfast guests tomorrow morning.

Tomorrow I make ice cream, hopefully more successfully than last time, and broccoli and Stilton (well Bleu d’Ambert actually) soup.

Heaven help my waistline. I have decided that I am not an earth mother, more a girth mother.

Earth Mothering continues

Well, I’ve added up the week’s shopping and it seems to be about the same as it would have been at the supermarket. It’s difficult to be sure because I am buying things I don’t usually buy but which will last more than a week so at the end of the month I will calculate properly. I will also try and take into account the electricity and gas costs

We ran out of cat food and our cats have been eating our free range chicken! On Wednesday, proposed shopping day, I will talk to the butcher about something cheaper.

I understand now why the women of my childhood needed set days for their household tasks, it’s really the only way to manage when you make everything yourself and have to buy things at several different shops. It was even more the case forty and more years ago when owning a dishwasher, tumble drier or automatic washing machine would have been unimaginable to most housewives.

I’ve made pate, hummus, soup, cheese straws, mayonnaise, flapjacks, rice crispy cakes and yogurt as well as the meals we have eaten. I’ve shopped in Lay-it-on-berzooms and Tinkle market and spent hours researching products and principles on the Internet. I’ve boned a chicken and fainted at the price of line caught haddock but all in all I believe that this lifestyle is probably sustainable and by the end of the week I actually sat down to read The Week – the nearest I ever get to a newspaper.

My main challenge now is not eating too much. My waistline has already expanded as I have given up artificial sweetener, reduced calorie mayonnaise and lite ice cream in preference to their fuller fat homemade alternatives. My evening glass (well, half bottle really) of wine has been accompanied by Cheddar cheese nibbles dipped in a dip made from homemade mayonnaise mixed with Greek Easiyo yoghurt and smoked garlic – yum, and my morning toast has been topped with a generous layer of organic, free range butter.

Next week I am heading back to Slimming World for a bit of motivation but I will need to rethink my eating habits now that low fat, high fibre alternatives to my favourite foods are so difficult to find. Will my butcher be able to provide low fat sausages? Can I get low fat Easiyo? Will there be time to bake a wholemeal loaf for me and a white one for Whizz and Mavis? Watch this space.

American Children’s Television

Accepted wisdom states that if you don’t want your children to watch something on television then just switch it off but that isn’t easy when the television and family room are upstairs and the kitchen is downstairs.

When your child has done his or her homework, had a chat and wants to watch the television and you, being an earth mother, have to wash up all the pans and dishes you have used to create the evening’s repast, you’re not going to say No, you can’t watch that rubbish. you’re going to think Good idea, give me a bit of time to clear up.

I have no problem with American children’s television as such. I love The Simpsons and Recess but what I really hate are programs dubbed with an English accent but in American-English. Please, if it’s American, use American words and an American voice or change the script and make it proper English with an English voice over.

The worst example of an English voice with an American script is a ridiculous children’s program called Higglytown Heroes. The cast comprises an unlikely assortment of Russian doll style characters which clonk about with a squirrel that gives them advice. See I told you, it’s ridiculous.

I’m sure the U.S. version sounds a lot less silly but when the squirrel, with a female, very BBC accent says Hello you all? or suggests Let’s figure this out together it sounds absurd, and irritating.

It beggars belief that the, clearly well spoken, voice-over artists would not have pointed out the inconsistency between accent and words. How can they bear to use those words? Does America want to control our language as well as our defense and finances? No, I suspect the reason for the inappropriate language could be something much more mundane like, it would cost more to translate the script, or even, well, ignorance?