Wednesday, January 28, 2009

You want *what* for dinner?

I came home tonight, through the freezing rain and ice and puddle-filled sidewalks, and pondered dinner. Spouse said he wasn't feeling great (headache) and wasn't that hungry but I asked him what he wanted and ran down a list of things we had: sausages, Quorn fillets, cabbage, potatoes, baked beans. He said sausage, beans and chips would be fine. Excuse me? Chips? Did I at any point mention chips? No, I didn't, but I did say potatoes and to an Englishman that's just chips-in-the-raw.

Well, I wasn't opposed to a bit of a challenge tonight, so I pulled out the old Fanny Farmer again. It failed me on boiling eggs on a modern range, but I figured something involving deep frying had to be easier. Scrub, slice, soak, boil, cool, dry, fry. Easy-peasy.

How do you make crispy chips? Can anyone tell me this? Everything seemed to go well, and they tasted great (spouse: Ooo! It smells lovely! Me: That's hot fat.) but were soggy. I drained them and kept them in a hot oven while I did the several batches, but even right out of the fat they were kind of soggy. Spouse said they were like what one makes in England, so I don't think it was an issue of the potato variety (I used Russet as we don't have King Edward), so maybe it was fat temperature? I really don't know.

Still, this was my first chip (fry, French-fried potato, whathaveyou) making experience. The Englishman approved, so I guess it was a success.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Make-do and Mend

I feel like such a slug today for having stayed in my jammies (nightie and bed jacket set, actually, that I picked up at the vintage shop the day before the big job loss). I put a skirt and coat on over them when I had to go out to buy cat litter!

Although I have technically done things today. I finally sat down to start ending my winter coat (vintage swing coat bought about 3 years ago) since both armpits have torn and the lining is just a mess. I managed to fix the pits and some of the lining, but am putting of the really long seaming until next week. I'm hand-sewing, so it's a big production.

After I'd finished the first arm, spouse called me in to the office to remind me to put up his dry-erase board. He just bought it yesterday to help him plan (he's a big note taker) and asked me to put it up since I am Keeper of the Drill. He bought me the drill the Christmas before we married (to shocked looks in the family when I opened it) and I don't get much chance to use it. Yes, he could have easily put the board up himself, but was nice enough to offer me the task so I could use my tools. What a nice spouse!

Oh, did I mention the marmalade made from the left-over clemetines? Yeah, that's simmering on the stove right now, soon to go in to sterilized jars (I'm canning). We're not a big jam household, but I couldn't let those thing go to waste. It tastes very different from proper marmalade made from Seville oranges, but it's not bad now that I've added everything under the sun to it (pureed dates for sugar, some Cointreau for more orange flavour, frozen peaches that were lurking in the freezer.) I think it will make a nice toast topper and perhaps filling for a Victoria Sponge. And I was doing my roots with half of the last bit of henna in the house while all this was happening.

On the rationing front (Home Front?), I've gotten our rationing amounts for the first three weeks. I decided that Week 1 would be 1940, Week 2 1941, etc. There was some fluctuation during the years, especially with the sugar ration. I'm not too worried about that one though since we don't use much to begin with, and it's something I tend to buy in bulk anyway. For Week 1, we are each allowed to purchase the following:
Butter 2 oz +2 oz marg
bacon OR ham 4 oz
sugar 8 oz
meat 1 lb 3 oz or 540 g
tea 2 oz (57g)
cooking fat 2 oz
cheese 2 oz

I've decided that since we can't typically buy 2oz of cheese, (although 4 would be perfectly fine for both of us), if a purchase has to be made that's over the amount for two people, say a pound of butter, that cancels out that item for each of us for future weeks as well. Once we have the ration available again, we can buy it, but not before. For things like meat, that ration can be used for beef or soy "beef" (seitan, Gimmee Lean beef, etc), the same goes for bacon. Chicken was not rationed, but often not available, the idea being that you could raise your own. I think I will try to use an equal ration amount for chicken (or vegetarian equivalent for me) a a pound of actually chicken (for spouse) or Quorn (for either of us) tends to last us at least a week anyway.

The ration week went from Sunday to Sunday, so I'm just beginning now. I have a spreadsheet of ration points, but need to coordinate with spouse so that we don't both buy things that go over our two person allotment. Perhaps a Google spreadsheet just so we both can keep track is in order? I'll post our purchases here as well. For now we're living off things currently in the larder.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


I've taken to baking bread lately. Spouse lost his job yesterday, so we're looking into budgeting better and the bread would be a good way to economize. It *would* be if we didn't eat all of it in one sitting!

The first batch I made started with a sponge made with commercial yeast, but I kept some back to feed to have a starter around regularly. It' had a bit more commercial yeast put in, but mainly it's running wild now. The starter, plus slow risings is giving wonderful results and tonight's bread was the best so far. I made them in a three loaf baguette pan, but the oven was to steamy to get a really crisp crust.

Baguettes, of a sort
1 cup starter
1 cup warm water
1 cup flour
Mix and let sit over night
In the morning, add:
1 cup warm water, into which has been dissolved sugar cube and 1/2 T salt
3 cups flour (more if needed)

Mix to form a ball and kneed until it starts to feel elastic. Place in a greased bowl, cover and let rise 2-3 hours. Knock down and let rise again for 2 hours.

Kneed out air bubbles, divide dough into three lumps. Form loaves by pressing dough into a flat oblong, less than the length of the bread pan. Begin on one long side and tightly roll dough into a big snake-like thing. Place on greased baguette pan and repeat with remaining two bits of dough. Cover and let rise for an hour.

Preheat oven to 475 (F) and place a pan of water on lowest rack. Once oven is heated, slash tops of loaves three or four times and spray with water. Place bread in oven for 20-25 minutes. After bread is done, turn off oven and let bread sit for further 5 minutes.

I should add that whenever you take out some starter, you need to feed it again to grow more yeast beasties. When I take out a cup, I add anther cup of flour and a cup of water. I still have some commercial yeast (I buy bulk bags o it's not premeasured), so might add a light sprinkle (maybe 1/2 t) to help boot production if I've been making bread often. When I used to do this back in the early '90s, I had about a half gallon of starter in the fridge so never needed to do more than feed it. I've not gotten to that point yet, but hope to work up to it.