desserts

Five tinned foods that punch above their weight

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I’ve been nosying around my winter survival cupboard today to see what needs topping up, and I am about to make a big trip to the cash and carry to stock up on tins. Interestingly enough, a lot of tinned foods have more vitamins in them than fresh food that things that have been lying around your kitchen for a week or so.  Here are some great additions to a store cupboard that I will be bringing home later.

Tinned tomatoes – these come in different forms but particularly useful are the ones with garlic and herbs already in the mix. Passata in large jars can go onto home made pizza bases with a big of grated cheese and some salami for a Saturday treat.

Pulses – try different kinds such as lentils, chickpeas, borlotti beans, butter beans, mixed spicy beans and canneloni beans. Great with mince, in salads, to bulk out a bolognaise or shepherd’s pie, or to make an instant vegetarian chili.

Stone fruits – cherries, plums and mirabelles make great crumbles and pies, can be served with cream or yoghurt for a quick dessert, and can even be added to smoothies or put on top of muesli.

Exotic fruits – pineapple, lychees, mangos are all wonderful to have around, and give you the makings of a very sophisticated winter fruit salad, but look for tins which state they are in their own juices rather than in syrup.

Fish – Sardines, mackerel, salmon, tuna and even shrimps are all great for sandwiches, pasta dishes, fish pie, salads and little toasts to have as a nibble with a glass of wine.

Image: xedos4 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Dessert recipes for Week 3

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Dessert recipes for Week 3 menu plans and shopping list.

Microwaved chocolate cake (with acknowledgements to the Toshiba Book of Microwave Cooking)

  • 4 oz/125g vegetable spread
  • 3 oz/75g self-raising flour
  • 4 oz/125g caster sugar
  • 1 oz/25g cocoa
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • ½ tsp baking powder

Whisk all the ingredients together until you get a smooth mixture, and put into a microwaveable bowl or soufflé dish and cook on high in a microwave oven for 6 minutes. Good served as a sponge pudding with cream, ice cream or custard.

Poached pears and marscapone

  • 1 pear per person
  • 100g sugar
  • Glass white wine
  • Juice of half a lemon

In a heavy saucepan bring wine and sugar to boil. Simmer for 5 more minutes to burn off alcohol. Add lemon juice and pears. Cook for 10 minutes over medium to low flame. Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or tablespoon of marscapone.

Boiled fruit cake

  • 12 oz (300g) value mixed dried fruit (raisins, sultanas, currants and candied peel)
  • 4 oz (100g) butter or vegetable spread
  • 4 oz (100g) sugar (preferably brown)
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • ¼ pint (100ml) water
  • 8 oz (200g)self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp ground mixed spice or ½ tsp each of ground cinnamon and ground ginger

Heat the fruit, butter, sugar and water in a saucepan until the butter has melted, stirring regularly with a wooden spoon. Leave to stand and cool for 20 minutes for the dried fruit to swell. Add the eggs and stir again, before adding the flour and beating thoroughly. Pour into a 2lb (1kg) loaf tin lined (silicon, non-stick, or lined with baking parchment) or 2 x 1lb (500g) loaf tins. Great for packed lunches or to give as presents, or eat it Yorkshire style with apples and cheese for the ultimate supper by the fireside. An optional dash of whiskey or brandy in the mix adds to the flavour, especially at Christmas time, and then it makes a lovely present.

Chocolate mousse

  • 12oz/320g strong dark eating chocolate
  • 1 oz/30g unsalted butter
  • 6 large eggs

Break the chocolate into small pieces and put in a bowl set over a pan of boiling water. Add the butter and allow it to melt with the chocolate. Stir occasionally and take off the heat when they are done, allowing to cool for a moment. Separate eggs into yolks and whites. Whisk egg whites to soft peaks. In a separate bowl, beat the yolks. Stir the yolks into the chocolate and butter mix. Fold in the whisked egg whites very carefully so as not to lose the air. Pour into a dish and refrigerate for a few hours until it is set.

Week 1 dessert recipes

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Use these recipes in conjunction with the Week 1 menus

 

 

 

 

 

Rice pudding

  • 1 pint/500ml whole milk
  • 1-2 oz/50g short grain pudding rice or risotto rice
  • 2-4 tsp sugar

Boil 1 pint milk and add 1-2 ounces of rice and 2-4 tsp sugar. Simmer for 20 minutes or until rice is soft. Serve with jam, honey or rosehip syrup.

Microwaved chocolate cake (with acknowledgements to the Toshiba Book of Microwave Cooking)

  • 4 oz/125g vegetable spread
  • 3 oz/75g self-raising flour
  • 4 oz/125g caster sugar
  • 1 oz/25g cocoa
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • ½ tsp baking powder

Whisk all the ingredients together until you get a smooth mixture, and put into a microwaveable bowl or soufflé dish and cook on high in a microwave oven for 6 minutes. Good served as a sponge pudding with cream, ice cream or custard.

Poached pears and marscapone

  • 1 pear per person
  • 100g sugar
  • Glass white wine
  • Juice of half a lemon

In a heavy saucepan bring wine and sugar to boil. Simmer for 5 more minutes to burn off alcohol. Add lemon juice and pears. Cook for 10 minutes over medium to low flame. Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or tablespoon of marscapone.

Image: africa / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Healthy diets, the 1910 way.

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As you have probably read on other pages of this blog, my starting point for investigations into housekeeping practices and their effect on family wellbeing started with a series of home management books produced for schools in 1910, written by Wilena Hitching (previously a headmistress and school inspector). These books were designed to give a thorough, almost scientific introduction to the study of housekeeping to girls between the ages of about 11-14, with a view to preparing them for lives as wives and mothers. While some of the advice she gave sounds dated today, most of it has surprisingly significant relevance for men and women a hundred years later, particularly in times of financial constraint. My focus today will be what Miss Hitching considered to be a healthy diet for families, viewed through a 21st century lens.

Breakfast options (served at 8am)

Porridge

Bread crusts soaked in warm milk

Brown bread and butter and an egg

Bacon

Smoked Finnan haddock

Hot milk for children

Cocoa for adults

Most of these are high in fibre and protein, with very little sugar evident and comparatively little fat (with the exception of the bacon). This is clearly an idealised diet – Miss Hitching does permit the drinking of tea and coffee, but regards it as somewhat stimulating and less preferable than cocoa.

Luncheon (which took place mid-morning, around 10.30 am, and was really for children)

Hot milk and a biscuit

Brown bread and butter and a banana

Dinner options (which took place in the middle of the day, around 1pm). A good housekeeper would prepare a two or three course meal, depending on the weather and the type of work family members were engaging in.

Pea soup

Lentil soup

Haricot soup

Roast meats, leftovers minced or served in shepherd’s pie (for example)

Chops or steaks

Offal

Poached fish

Vegetables

Potatoes

Savoury Yorkshire pudding (served alongside roast meats or before the meal with gravy as a kind of appetiser)

Savoury or sweet suet puddings, such as steak and kidney pudding or jam roly poly (but not both in the same meal!)

Macaroni or rice pudding

Stewed fruit and custard

These are high protein meals, comparatively high in saturated fat, but the amount of sugar used in the desserts is comparatively low – a teaspoon of sugar here, a little bit of jam there. There is ample use of fruit, vegetables and pulses, simply prepared, meaning the meals are comparatively high in fibre as well.

Tea (served mid-afternoon, around 4pm; again, mainly aimed at children)

Bread and butter

Watercress, lettuce or radishes

Stewed fruit (apples, rhubarb, prunes, etc)

Once again, this is a high fibre meal with more fruit and vegetables, designed to maximise satiety (feeling of fullness). Watercress is packed full of vitamins, iron and other minerals, representing a kind of Edwardian superfood.

Supper (served before bed, around 7pm) – one or more of the following might be served.

Bread and butter or bread and dripping

Hot milk

Porridge

Boiled onions

Cream crackers, butter and cheese

Simple fare, and perhaps less extensive that in modern times for the time of day. This is presumably because the bulk of the calories needed was taken in during breakfast and lunch, and the family had had the opportunity to gather together for a hot meal during the middle of the day as well. The need to give the stomach a rest from meat overnight is emphasised in Miss Hitching’s book.

I look at all this food, and wonder whether personally I could plough my way through all of this every day, even taking out the ‘luncheon’ and ‘tea’ on the basis of not being a growing child. It is also intriguing to wonder what might happen to the body, were we to start eating like this regularly. Given that the calorific intake is probably higher than we are used to today, would we end up fatter? Or would the simple nature of the food allow our bodies to process the fats and sugars more effectively than we tend to now, leading to fewer metabolic problems such as diabetes and obesity. I think I have an inkling as to the answer, when I think about rationing that was to come thirty years later during World War II, which involved a diet not too far removed from what we are seeing in this 1910 list, albeit with less meat. This led to an improvement in the nation’s health, so perhaps the answers to the obesity epidemic lie in what our grandmothers already knew about choosing food for the family?

Having a delicious weekend

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To maximise your relaxation time this weekend, make sure you have done your food shopping by 12 noon Saturday at the latest. Even better if you can book a delivery now for first thing tomorrow, or have it done in person by close of play tonight. Treat yourself by stocking up your cupboards and fridge with healthy things you like eating, rather than the boring run of the mill things you eat every week anyway.

While the weather seems to be good today, we have a good few days of light rain ahead of us, so think about making a light summer soup for lunch tomorrow, for example plum tomato and basil, followed by a cheeseboard and an artisanal bread or a ciabatta, preferably home made if you enjoy that sort of thing.

For dinner, grilling a bit of lamb and serving home made potato salad with Jersey royal potatoes and a few designer leaves makes cooking easy. Perhaps follow it with some English strawberries with freshly squeezed orange juice and a little black pepper ground over the top.

For Sunday brunch you might want to make up some pancake batter and using a decent non-stick pan, make crepes for the family topped with lemon and sugar or melted leftover Easter egg if you have some to hand (mix a bit of double cream in to the melted chocolate to make a smoother, more delicious sauce).  If you prefer to concentrate on Sunday lunch as the focus of the day, think about serving roast chicken (organic free range ones seemed to be half price in Waitrose this week, and a real bargain) with green beans, carrot batons and boiled Jersey potatoes tossed in butter and fresh mint from the garden or window box. Dessert could be a lemon meringue pie if you have lemons left over from earlier in the day, or if you have older kids or are child free, affogato is an excellent simple dessert. For this, pour a measure of espresso coffee over a scoop over the most perfect scoop of quality vanilla ice cream and serve in a tea cup or cocktail glass.

Sunday supper can be a few cold cuts – the best ham you can afford, leftover chicken and a bit of Italian or French salami, with tomato and red onion salad, leftover potato salad from the day before, and Gem lettuce and cucumber (ridge cucumber gives a slightly better flavour although it’s a little more expensive). You can cook a rice pudding with selection of dried fruits (plump sultanas, apricots, dates) at lunchtime while you are doing the chicken, and then chill to eat Spanish style after supper that evening.

Image: Suat Eman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net