Thursday, 15 November 2012

Leftovers cooked meat pie

An Auntie Anne Recipe
Looks better after you brown it in the oven

You are all very aware that Auntie Anne likes to save money wherever possible - well here's a tasty way to use up some leftovers and nobody would ever know that you didn't plan it.

If you've followed the advice in other parts of this site you almost certainly have bits of leftover cooked meat in your freezer (pickings from a chicken, the tail-end of a bit of boiling bacon, a couple of chunks of any old roast meats really.) You should also have herbs in your store cupboard and a couple of veggies somewhere in your fridge. And you must have some potatoes somewhere. Maybe you even have leftovers from last night's dinner.

You will need:
Some cooked meat.
A herb that suits it (sage with beef, tarragon with chicken etc.)
Some veg.  Such as mushrooms, tomatoes, frozen peas, tin of sweetcorn, cooked carrot etc.
At least one onion.
A couple of garlic cloves (or dried if you don't have fresh)
Half a pint of milk
A bit of cornflour (a heaped teaspoon or two will do it)
A few potatoes, or some leftover mash.

An Auntie Anne Recipe
Chop your onion roughly and put it into a pan with the milk. Peel and chop the garlic and add that. Simmer it for about 10 minutes until the onion softens. Mix your cornflour with a small amount of cold water and add it to the pan. Bring the whole lot back to the boil, stirring, until teh mixture thickens.  Put it to one side.
An Auntie Anne Recipe

In an oven-proof dish place your chunks of meat and intersperse them with the vegetables. Mushrooms and tomatoes can go in raw; small frozen veg ditto. Hardier veg such as carrots, parsnips, sprouts and such like will need a bit of a boil first to soften them. Sprinkle the whole lot with your chopped herbs. (Dried are fine!)
An Auntie Anne Recipe

Then pour the onion and milk mixture over the top. Set aside.

Peel and boil some potatoes and mash them with a splash of milk. Add nutmeg if you like. It tastes good in spuds. Now spoon the mashed spuds onto the top of the dish and rough up the surface with a fork.

Stick the whole lot into a hot oven for about 15 minutes until it browns on top.  Serve with another veg that doesn't appear inside the pie.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Those pesky Blogger changes

Seems like a few of you are still having trouble navigating around the new Blogger interface.  I agree, it's not as user friendly as the old one, but we have to put up with it now it's been forced on us.

I'm going to start with a simple lesson that I hope will be useful to those of you still suffering.

Let's start by finding the dashboard.
They've removed the thing that takes you directly to it - so if you haven't got it bookmarked, go to someone else's blog, and there will be a link in the top right hand corner. (next to sign out)
Double click on that and you'll get to the Dashboard.

If (unlike me) you only have one blog, it will be relatively simple to find your way around.
The title of your blog will be at the top of the page and, to the right, you'll find an orange oblong with a square on it, a picture of two sheets of paper with a little triangle next to them, and another square that says View Blog.

Let's do the easy bit first.  View Blog will let you do that exactly. If you click on it, you'll get the front page of your blog.

The orange oblong is your "new post" link. If you want to write a new post, click that.

Editing a post
Which leaves us with the middle bit with the pages on it.
Click once on the little triangle to the right. That opens a pull down menu.
The bit you need to know for now is Posts.
Click once on Posts.
That will present you with a list of the posts you have written so far.
To Edit a post:
Find the title, click on the little square to the left. That will put a little tick into the square and open up four choices below the title: Edit View Share Delete
Click once on Edit.  Hey presto!  Your post is there, ready to edit.
Make your changes.   
To add labels, click on labels at the right hand side. Remember to separate them with commas. And click the oblong Done button when you're finished.
Now click the Update button (orange one at the top), and you're back to the list.
Tick the box, click View, and there's your updated post.

If this was useful, let me know. I'll sort out lesson two later.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Photo posting in blogs

A lot of people have trouble with Blogger because after a relatively short while it will ask you to pay for the option to post more photos. There are easy ways round this, particularly if you already pay for a photo hosting system such as Flickr.

So, for example: If you go to one of your photos on Flickr (not your stream - an individual picture) you will find just above it , a pull-down menu called 'share'. Pull down the little pointer on the right and it will offer you a number of options including 'grab the html/bbcode'. Copy the code (right click, copy) all the way from <a to /a> and return to your Blogger post.  Make sure you are in 'Edit HTML' and not 'Compose' and just paste the gobbledegook-looking stuff into the text box.  Now switch back to 'Compose' and you should have a photo. You can resize it or move it right, left or centre, just the way you normally can.

That's how I did this:

You'll find it links back to a Flickr site called HistoryAnorak. I have permission to use HA photos but you can only use them if you ask nicely!

Now suppose you've found a photo somewhere else. Is it free to use or is it copyrighted?  Have a look here. Pick a photo from the list that says "random free use photos" and click on it. Now right click on the enlarged version and click on the bit at the bottom of the menu that says 'properties'. That will give you another box that has 'address/url' somewhere near the middle. Copy that URL all the way from http: to .jpg (or however it ends) and click 'OK'.

Come back to your post and click the little picture icon to insert a photo. It will offer you a number of options, the bottom one being 'from a URL'. Click on that and paste the url into the box that appears.  And you should get this:

Monkey by Monica Galante

If you chose the cute monkey. Otherwise you'll get whatever you chose.   Happy photo pasting!

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Borsch - an East European treat

Borsch in dish

Beetroot is plentiful right now and you can pick up huge bunches of it quite cheaply. This traditional East European soup is a lovely way to use it.

You will need:
Carrot (or swede)
Onion (or a couple of shallots)
Chicken stock
Lemon zest and juice
Plenty of black pepper
About a teaspoon of oil
Sour cream (or yoghurt) for serving
Peel the vegetables and chop them (quite chunky will do). You'll need to be careful with the beetroot because it'll stain your hands. Wash your hands straight away in plenty of cold water.

Put the oil in a pan and heat it, add the vegetables and sweat* them for a couple of minutes. Everything will go beetroot colour - don't worry. Add the chicken stock, black pepper, lemon juice and zest and the dill and PUT A LID ON THE PAN! Bring to the boil. As soon as it boils, reduce the heat and let it simmer for an hour or so. Check from time to time to make sure it isn't reducing too far. 

When it looks like the second picture and the veg are very soft, allow it to cool and put it through a food processor or liquidiser. Test for seasoning and adjust as necessary. Warm it up and serve it with a swirl of soured cream or yoghurt.

*Sweating vegetables just means cooking them for a few minutes in oil, over quite a high heat, until they start to look shiny.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Something healthy

Stuffed tomatoes
It isn't always easy to get enthusiastic about eating healthily but we all need to make a bit more effort about it. So one way to improve the attraction is by making your meals look attractive. We eat with all our senses - not just taste. The look, smell and feel are important. Even sound can contribute - think sizzling dishes in your favourite Chinese or Indian restaurant.

What you have here is the ingredients of a cottage cheese salad. Lettuce, tomato and cottage cheese. But the cheese has been tarted up slightly with some herbs, black pepper and a dollop of low-fat yoghurt. All it takes is a bit of time.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Fruit compote

fruit compote

Getting your five a day isn't always easy, so anything nice that helps boost your intake can't be all bad.

There were some nectarines that had seen better days, there was also some dried fruit and the tail end of a bottle of cooking brandy. Start by simmering some water and a glug of brandy in a small pan with some dried fruit. (I used dates and raisins and dried pineapple) As you simmer you'll notice that it starts to form a sort of syrup. Continue to simmer until the juice thickens and the fruit plumps up.

While it's cooking cut up the nectarines into eighths. (Peaches would do, apricots, any soft fruit really.) Add the pieces to the pan and cook for about another minute until they soften slightly. Crumble some walnuts on top.

Take off the heat. Cover. Serve cold with ice cream or cream.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Potted shrimps (or .... don't let them be seen naked)

Potted shrimps

One of the delicacies of the Morecambe Bay area is potted shrimps and, frankly, if you can find them ready-potted by one of the wonderful local fisheries, then buy them and enjoy. If you happen to be in the area, or if you have an enlightened fishmonger, you might just find them sold naked.

There are all kinds of recipes for potted shrimps and each Lancashire (and Cumbrian) family probably has its own secret ingredient. Some contain mace, others have cayenne pepper, nutmeg, ground cloves, all types of spice. But on a recent holiday on the shores of Morecambe Bay Auntie Anne picked up some undressed shrimps and so faced the challenge of what to add to them.

The travelling food store that goes everywhere with us on our self-catering trips happened to include ground allspice and smoked paprika - and so that's what went in the mix. Added to that were a good twist of freshly ground black pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Melt down a goodly chunk of the best butter you can afford, and stir in the spice mix. Then force the whole lot into some sort of container (a mug will do if you're desperate) and let it set.

Give it at least half a day to mature and for all the flavours to blend, then warm it gently (don't microwave it - the shrimps will go chewy) and spread it on toast or any other kind of warm bread product. The crumpets were a recommendation from a local. A very good idea too!

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Smoked fish chowder

Smoked fish chowder

It doesn't have to be smoked fish at all really. Any old fish will do. It's just that this recipe was done with the leftovers from a seafood feast bought at the Port of Lancaster Smokehouse in Glasson Dock, Lancashire.

The stock
The leftovers from a seafood feast: prawn shells, mackerel skins, crab legs, mussel shells, whatever inedible bits you have left.
Lemon slices
Black pepper
Pinch of salt

Put it all in a covered saucepan and bring to the boil. Turn it down to a simmer and keep it going for at least half an hour. Check occasionally to make sure it isn't boiling dry.

Strain the liquid into a jug and keep to one side. Throw away the wreckage.

The chowder
1 small onion (diced)
1 small potato (diced)
a crushed garlic clove
vegetable oil
tomato puree
pinch of dried herbs
small glass of white wine
lemon juice/white wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
Yoghurt, cream or soft cheese (at a pinch)
Leftover bits of edible fish can be added if you have any.

In a saucepan, add diced potato, onion and crushed garlic, add vegetable oil and fry gently until the onion starts to look translucent. Add the stock, the wine, a good squeeze of tomato puree and the dried herbs. Bring up to a simmer and taste. Add salt and pepper if necessary and lemon juice/vinegar if you think it needs it. Simmer until the colour deepens. It'll be quite orange at first but the tomato puree starts to darken as it cooks. If in doubt, give it 20 minutes. Add a good dollop of something creamy (the yoghurt, cream or cheese) and stir it round. Add the fishy bits. Bring it back up to temperature and serve immediately.

Monday, 26 March 2012

That annoying word verification (and how to get rid of it)

There's been a lot of fuss about this horrible word verification thing that crops up on people's blogs.  Blogger makes it happen automatically and a lot of people don't like it but don't know how to change it.   I hope this helps.   Please note that I'm still on the old interface. If you've updated I don't know if this will work.

Go into your dashboard and choose the settings tab, then comments. Like this:

Then scroll down to this bit:

Take off comment moderation and choose 'no' for word verification.
Don't forget to hit the Save Settings button at the bottom.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

HTML links

Auntie Anne's been asked several times this week how to make links in Blogger comments. It's really very simple.

You'll need to use something called html (that stands for hypertext markup language but you don't need to know that) which is a computer programming language.

Basically you're going to be telling the computer that you want to make a link, where you want to make the link go, and what you want to say in the bit that people click on to get there.

With html, all instructions come in pairs: switch on and switch off. And all instructions are enclosed in pointy brackets like this: <>  Directions are in inverted commas " " and instructions are switched off by using a slash like this /.

The first bit looks like this:  <a href=
The next bit is the place you want to direct to. It has to be enclosed in inverted commas.  Like this:  ""
Then end the instruction with a pointy bracket:  >
Now write the words you want for the link:   This is my Flickr site.
Then end the instruction like this: </a>

The whole thing looks like this:
<a href="">This is my Flickr site.</a>

But when you post your comment it will look like this:  This is my Flickr site.
I suggest you preview your comments the first few times you do it - just to be sure they work.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Afternoon tea 2. How much?

afternoon tea

Afternoon tea used to be a British tradition. 'High tea' with sandwiches and cake and maybe a selection of savouries, kept you going in the long afternoon hours between luncheon and dinner. It was eaten at home, of course, by the nobs in posh houses. Your average Bert was lucky if he had a slice of bread and dripping.

However, afternoon tea seems to be enjoying a bt of a revival. It has been available in the up-market hotels in London for quite a while, of course, but now it seems to be taking off in other places too. But the treat comes at a price.

Afternoon tea at the Ritz, for example will cost you a cool £42 a head which is a bit steep, even if they do throw in a glass of champers. (Not literally, one would hope!)

But even at the Midland Hotel in Morecambe, a newly-refurbished art deco gem on the West coast, it would set you back £15.50.

So why not do it yourself? The secret is to make it feel posh so it seems like just as much of a treat as it would have been if you'd shelled out thirty quid.

So what would you want?
Buy some nice bread to start with. Maybe a selection of small, sliced  loaves of various kinds such as white, wholemeal, granary, ciabatta. Whatever you like. My bread always comes out a bit chunky for 'polite' sandwiches so I wouldn't bother making my own.

Think exciting fillings. Not just plain old ham and cheese. Coronation chicken is a good one. That's enjoying a bit of a renaissance too and it's dead easy to make.  Egg mayonnaise? Prawn cocktail? Beef and mustard?  You HAVE to have cucumber. Smoked salmon with lemon or with cream cheese? The world's your oyster.  Thinly-sliced bread but lots of filling.

Then what?  Well, it's cake time. A pack of yummy biscuits or cookies would be good. Some fruit loaf with butter. Maybe toasted crumpets. Scones, of course. And a couple of cream cakes - bought ones, don't try making your own, it really isn't worth it. Perhaps a fruit tart. Chocolate eclair. Whatever you fancy.

And you need a good quality, special tea. Something like an Earl Grey or even jasmine-scented. But make sure you use the teapot. This is not a time for a bag in a mug! And provide a jug of hot water to top it up with.

Above all, clear your table, put a cloth on it and set it properly with your best crocks and cutlery. You wouldn't expect mugs and non-matching plates in a tearoom would you?  If you've got doilies, use them. Anything you can think of to make it a special occasion. Put a small vase of flowers on the table. Switch off the TV, sit up at the table and talk to each other.

And feel smug about the fact that you've probably done it for around a fiver a head, rather than forty.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Afternoon tea 1. Scones.

Makes 4 scones.

4 oz plain flour
1/2 teasp baking powder (or a quarter each of bicarbonate of soda and cream of tartar)
1 oz butter
1 oz caster sugar (or equivalent in sweetener)
1/8 pint milk (That's 2 1/2 fl oz)
A bit extra milk to glaze.

Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl. Ad the butter and cut it up into small pieces. Rub the fat into the flour.
That means: If you're right handed, hold the bowl with your left hand and then use your right hand to make 'pecking' movements at the butter pieces until they break up and form a sort of breadcrumb-like mixture in the bowl. You'll sometimes see people using both hands to rub in. But if their phone rings they get it covered in flour and butter when they answer it.  You won't - because your left hand will be remarkably clean!

When the mixture looks like breadcrumbs add the 1/8 pint of milk and stir it in until the mixture forms a soft lump. Don't over work it. As soon as it sticks together, turn it out of the bowl onto a LIGHTLY floured surface and form it into a sausage shape about 2" in diameter. Cut it into four rounds and place them, flt side down, onto a greased baking tray. Squidge them down very slightly with your fingers and then brush a little extra milk over the top of each one.

Cook them for 10 minutes at 200C or until they're nicely browned.
Serve with butter or whipped cream, and jam.

Whether you put the jam or the cream on first is a matter of personal taste.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Lentil stew - no, don't click to another site yet!

Lentil stewTimes are hard and we all have to save money wherever we can. One of the places that a lot of people waste money is on office lunches. Yes, I know it's easy to nip down to Pret and treat yourself to a brie and bacon wrap (or whatever) but before you know it you've spent five or six quid a day and that's a whole lotta cash!

Auntie Anne makes her own (and Uncle K's) sandwiches at the weekend and freezes them in poly bags. Batch-making sarnies is quick and easy and it saves time in the mornings as well as cash. Just take a bag out before you leave in the morning and it'll be defrosted in time for lunch.

Any kind of cooked meats (ham, corned beef, chicken, turkey) can be frozen for a few days without suffering a loss of texture and flavour. Choose different breads each week, and vary the fillings by adding pickles and chutneys, mayo rather than spread, Marmite, Gentleman's Relish, etc. Tinned fish works well mashed in with mayo and a bit of tomato sauce too. Or you can even grate cheese and make yourself a cheese and onion or cheese and pickle sandwich. Don't be tempted to try and freeze tomato slices though - it really doesn't work.

But right now it's a bit chilly isn't it?  And maybe you fancy something a bit more warming as you sit at your desk Facebooking your mates in your break. This only works if you have access to a microwave at work, of course.

Here's how to make it
Get yourself some green lentils. They are incredibly cheap and go a very long way! 

Pour a handful of dry lentils per portion into a sieve. Give them a quick once-over to make sure there's no small stones in among them. (Depends where you get them - some are less likely than others to have stray bits.)  Now rinse them well under cold running water for a couple of minutes.

Put them in a pan and cover with fresh, cold water. DON'T ADD SALT! Bring it to the boil, stir once, then turn down the heat to a simmer, cover and let them cook for about 20 minutes.  Skim off any scum that forms on the surface (though if you washed them well it probably won't). Eat one to test if it's cooked. (Think baked beans for the required texture.)

While they're cooking, chop up whatever veg you have handy into small cubes - mushroom stalks, green beans, carrots, onion, leeks, sweetcorn kernels, parsnips - and fry them off with some garlic in a little oil. You can also add whatever herbs or spices you like/have in your cupboard. Add a good squidge of tomato puree if you've got some and put in some water. Simmer it together until you get veg in a sort of tomato sauce. Leave on one side till the lentils are cooked.

When it's all done you mix the lot together and now's the time to salt it if you need to. Portion it up and freeze it, or pack it up for tomorrow's lunch. If you make a big batch you can do both.

It's cheap, filling, tasty and easy. And all your colleagues will want to know what you're eating because it smells divine!

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Greetings cards

Thank you card

What did you do with your Christmas cards this year? Have you still got them stashed away somewhere? Did you put them in the recycling bin? Worse still, did you throw them in the landfill rubbish? Because you could save yourself some money if you use them wisely and make cards and gift tags for next year.

It is perfectly acceptable these days to send home-made cards. Some people even pay good money to buy cards that are home made by someone else! Making cards is easy and you really don't need much artistic talent to do it. The really good part is that you can tailor your cards to your exact needs.

Take the one in the photo.  It was made to say thanks to the neighbours for a highly enjoyable drinks and nibbles party. And this is how:

There's a big business grown up out of card making and, if you aren't careful, you could spend a lot of money on buying the ready-made trinkets they sell for that purpose. But this is about saving money, not spending it.

I admit that the card in the photo is a pre-cut blank but I could just as easily have made it from some recycled card and folded it myself.  The base paper is a bit of old white printer paper that I've splatted with paint to make it spotty. It's really easy to do - simply load a paint brush with some water colour or ink and then shake the brush over the paper about 15 cms above it. Make sure you cover your table with lots of newspaper and wear old clothes because it goes everywhere! But it is fun.

The brown paper was also from a craft supplier (because people know I do this kind of thing and I get them as gifts sometimes) but I could just as easily have used leftover wrapping paper for that bit. The 'good food' sign is a photo I took on holiday some years ago. I've got it digitally now (scanners are wonderful things) so I haven't lost it - just recycled.

And the wine glass was cut out of a magazine. I don't buy many magazines but I seem to get a lot of advertising things, either through the post or just pushed through the letter box. I always scan them for potentially useful pictures before I put them out for recycling. I keep the retained scraps in an old shoe box to sort through as necessary.

The stars are stickers and I can't remember where I got them, but I could have drawn them or even left them off completely. And if you don't feel confident enough to write a 'thank you' sign for the card design you don't need to have words on your work of art at all!  Just put your message inside.

Don't wait until you need to make a card - start collecting now. Go through the papers that have arrived through your door and tear out anything that looks interesting. You probably have lots of holiday brochures arriving at the moment - they're always good for pictures of wildlife, food, drink, foreign buildings, and lots of other things.  You can even cut words out of the headings if they say things like 'good' 'fun' 'happy' or whatever.