Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Not easier, just different

Last night I went shopping for Quorn. I have never bought it before, nor knowingly eaten it. Not being a vegetarian it hasn't occurred to me to try such things. I don't really understand why you would want to eat something pretending to be meat if you don't approve of eating meat. Prior to owning a husband I was as likely to eat a vegetarian meal as not, mostly because I'm too lazy to cook for just me. So I ate cheese salads, baked beans, fried eggs, lots of salad...

Actually, as a student in Leeds, where I had an electric oven in my room, and a metre to feed with coins (15p for a bathful of hot water), I reduced suppers to a helping of cottage cheese with mango chutney, and a portion of uncooked flapjack (why wait?), followed by fruit, a glass of milk and plenty of chocolate. I seemed to survive!

These days I prepare family meals. This is yet another new phase. It is true that life with children doesn't get easier, just different. I no longer make a separate meal for two little people who cannot wait until Husband gets home. In those days my freezer was full of fish fingers which was pretty much all Eldest ate from when she was about 3 until secondary school. At a meeting with a doctor inspecting her health aged about 4 I was told that while her diet might be boring, it was perfectly balanced and I wasn't to worry about it. I didn't, but it reduced the offer I was prepared to make to Youngest because there's a limit to how many evening meals I was going to make. But they're older now, and can wait for Husband's appearance on week nights. We're only gradually broadening the range of food that Youngest will try - she's very partial to a bowl of pasta with grated cheese, so it is possible to feed her simply when she refuses point blank to eat a roasted vegetable lasagne/veggie chilli/ fish pie or whatever.

It remains true that Youngest likes a roast dinner and no vegetables, Eldest likes fish and chips and lots of fruit, and Husband likes joined up meat. I like most things but won't cook things I don't like (prawns), and I'm not keen to make 4 different meals!

I haven't resolved whether we will actually eat the Quorn. Eldest is taking GCSE Home Economics and is doing a project on Textured Vegetable Protein. She is to make a balanced meal incorporating TVP in school on Thursday, and that means for homework she needs to make sure the cobbled together recipe works in the pie dish that I must buy specially - apparently those I own won't do. I didn't do HE so it's a bit of a learning curve for me too: every dish she makes has to include a psycho motor skill, which basically means anything they make must include pastry, bread (in an hour and a half long lesson), a 'proper' sauce or cake making. This makes savoury dishes quite difficult! So a Quorn savoury pie with a cheese crust is to be produced. They also have to present everything so she'll be designing a menu card, looking for suitable table cloth, napkin, vase and flowers and any other prop she thinks might help. Getting to school on Thursdays on the school bus can be a challenge.

The practice session is tonight so I'd better go and buy that pie dish.

Friday, 25 September 2009

End of an era

We have been to our last military 'do'. Husband leaves the army today after 30 years, 19 of which I have been with him. The end of an era as they say. Most of his uniform has been returned, and what is left he paid for and can thus keep but never wear. Apparently they have to return the uniform because ex-soldiers were going out on the streets begging in their uniforms giving the state a bad name! In the beautiful mess kit hinted at in my photo there's no chance anyone would put money in a begging bowl! The green is a Thai silk long frock made using a Vogue pattern to go to a dinner night in Dartmouth last year and with which I have been very pleased (despite the plunging neckline).

This parting meal was not a grand occasion by military standards, but we drank cocktails in one of the Mess bars, ate 3 courses served in the dining-room surrounded by portraits of military alumni and silver, drank the Queen's health in port, and ate cheese and biscuits and drank coffee back in the bar afterwards. He was one of 3 leaving the organisation and the boss gave a fluent and supportive speech to say farewell to them all. They each gave a short reply. A pleasant evening rather than a blast, but very kind of them to mark the 'end'.

Next week Husband becomes a student: a year in which he talks of growing his hair, living in casual clothes and perfecting his allotment. We'll see! Life looks like it may be very different.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Spiced Apple Chutney

Yesterday I made apple chutney in a successful effort to reduce the glut of windfalls. So, at last, a recipe to share!

Spiced Apple Chutney
5 red onions chopped
4lbs peeled and cored apples chopped
4 cloves of garlic finely chopped
4 green chillies finely chopped
6 oz raisins
1 tbsp Worcester Sauce
1 tbsp mustard seeds
1 1/2 pints vinegar
3 lbs sugar
I use my whizzy machine to do all the chopping. Put everything except the sugar in a jam pan or large saucepan and warm it as you give everything a good stir. Add the sugar and continue to stir occasionally until all the sugar has dissolved - do not let the mixture come to the boil until all the sugar crystals are gone! Then bring it to the boil and simmer gently until the chutney has changed colour and lost most of it's liquid - when you run your spoon through it the channel should not fill with liquid. Pack into sterilised jars and store in a cool dark place for at least 6 weeks. After that the chutney goes really well with cheese or cold meats, and is also a useful addition to such things as Shepherd's Pie.
I used a mixture of malt and white wine vinegar, and a mixture of caster and dark brown sugar on this occasion. What you use will effect the end result, but I enjoy the experiment!
But the picture is clearly of Raspberry Jam! Yes I know, but it is so much prettier than the jar of chutney, and I did make that yesterday too. Chutney always takes longer than I'm expecting, so on this occasion I rustled up some jam.
Raspberry Jam
I used 500g of raspberries from our allotment and 500g of preserving sugar (the sort that has pectin in it). Put them in a large bowl in the microwave. Cook on HIGH for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Keep going until all the sugar has dissolved. Bring the mixture to the boil and continue to cook until setting point is reached. This is surprisingly fast so be careful or you'll end up with jelly. Leave to stand for 10 minutes then stir and pot into warm sterilised jars. Eat it warm on fresh bread straight away!

Friday, 18 September 2009

Why blog?

Absolutely staggered this morning to find I have a comment: I've been found out in my bottom drawer in the cellar! Was carefully refraining from commenting on anyone else's blog so I wouldn't be discovered... Not that I don't want to be read, just thought that there would come a moment when I would be saying something beautifully and not just randomly rambling. I wonder how I'd know?

I've been surfing to see who else might be out there and was amused to find a kuche full of hausfraus! I've added the two I enjoyed most to my list of blogs to follow. Also went to look for seamstresses, but almost everyone seemed to embroider or knit. I've had my moments - embroidery as part of my O and A level Needlework, and a bit for pleasure, and knitting with everyone else when we went through a phase at school - but my ability doesn't really lie in that direction. I like the speed with which a garment can be produced from ready made fabric and am too lazy to knit the bits first.

The blog I fell in love with when I was following my nose is Gluten-Free Girl. Her writing style is lovely and I've decided to send her book to my wheat intolerant friend on the strength of her blog. Will let you know. I may have to loose one of the hausfraus as I was horrified to read that she had made coconut macaroons with chocolate ganache. It sounds just too sweet to me, I can't think why you'd make anything other than the classic almond mixture with just an almond on top. On that note I'm off to make an apricot and almond cake full of gluten and completely delicious!

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

In business-ish..

Have got no further with a business plan and rather think I won't bother for the moment. I guess if I was going to go into a major life changing type living off my earnings project I would need to be professional and do the work, but it is more about finding a useful and interesting way to spend my time. I realise that makes me lucky, but since I'm still the chief cook and bottle washer, not to mention decorator, cleaner and taxi driver extraordinaire I don't think I need to feel too guilty.

I've been having a very stitchy summer - and if I was cleverer I'd be adding lovely photos - but you will have to imagine for the moment! I made a pair of curtains for Youngest from an old short pair trimmed with a duvet cover and am now engaged playing with matching scraps to make cushions for her bed. Then I created a curtain to cover a shelf of shoes, cushions, laundry bag and heart for H to go in her new student room in Cardiff in a beautiful grey/blue spotty classic cotton. Next I produced yet more curtains and cushions (baby blue with white spots) for the girls' 'playroom' which I have newly painted in a classic cream in a successful attempt to lighten their north facing room with dark blue carpet. Decorating with hearts and squares from co-ordinating scraps so very little money spent.

Have also done some mending for a friend for which I was paid actual money- not going to make my fortune, but enough to more than cover the cost of the girls' fabric. Two pairs of suit trousers shortened for her husband, and two skirts shortened for her so she might actually wear them!

My lovely hairdresser came yesterday and brought my hair under control. Turns out she has decided to marry her partner and father of her impending offspring, so I dropped in the fact that I might be able to help. She got all excited and insisted on seeing my wedding dress and then went through my scrap book of makes... She's on a tight budget, but that wouldn't necessarily be a problem if it got me some business would it?!