Sunday, October 25, 2009

Cooking for one is fun................

and what makes it so, is to prepare for four people instead of, just one. Leftovers can be put in the freezer for another day, but often enough, they come in handy to add to other dishes and of course, the flavour is so much better after a day or two.
I always make large quantities of various soups and these are a mainstay in my kitchen. I find particularly, tomato soup is rich in flavour after having been caramelised, then further enriched with garlic, coriander, onions, celery, chilli and so on: it is the base of all my cooking. Whether it's a casserole, chicken dish, or whatever comes to mind.
Another thing I find useful, is keep French sticks in the freezer, some already with garlic butter or herbs, and ready to just pop into the oven. Stale bread, put through the food processor, provides enough crumbs for several meals, and these are kept in an air tight container in the pantry.

Of late, I have been cooking up quantities of vegetables and putting smaller lots into the freezer for later use.
Very little ever gets wasted in my household and there is always a meal at the ready. Particularly useful when people arrive unexpectedly: you're not stuck in the kitchen preparing food with a lot of cleaning up and missing out on all the chatter, or trying to concentrate and chat at the same time.

Another reason for cooking this way, is the cost factor: so much cheaper in the long run than buying takeaways, which often happens at the end of a busy working day, when the thought of cooking a meal, is daunting.

I use my microwave only to thaw out food, rather than to heat or cook it. By the time you grill or fry the meat, vegetables and soups (sauces) would have thawed out sufficiently to add to it, then, putting a salad together - is just a breeze.

Gravy mix added to boiling water is quick and easy: Cook in the Pot mixes, both thicken and add flavour to any casserole.
At the end of the day, cooking for one should not cost more that $20.00 a week. This covers seven delicious homemade meals that are both satisfying and healthy.

Desserts are just as easily made and, just as inexpensive. Once again, I make in quantity: a Lemon Meringue Pie for instance, sliced into single portions, thaws out well. Apple Shortcake, Steamed Syrup pudding, Vanilla Cream, Rice Pudding, or whatever you fancy, will keep in the freezer. I generally make these from ingredients I find on special at the supermarket, or from produce markets when ripe fruit is sold off at a really good price.



Shortcake base:
60g butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 cups plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
Soften butter in microwave and then add other ingredients before pressing into a pie dish.

Lemon Honey:
2 lemons
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
75g butter

Grate the thin, coloured outer layer of the lemons, then squeeze out the juice, discarding any pips. Beat the eggs until combined, and cut the butter into small pieces. Place the lemon rind, juice, eggs, sugar and butter into a heatproof bowl. Stand over gently simmering water and stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture is thickened and lightly coats the back of the spoon. Be careful not to let it boil or the mixture will curdle and not set.

3 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 tablespoon vanilla
6 tablespoons sugar
Beat 3 egg whites with cream of tartar and vanilla. Gradually add 6 Tbsp sugar till soft peaks form.

Press shortcake into pie dish, pour over lemon honey, spoon meringue over top of pie. Bake in moderate oven 160 celsius for 12 to 15 minutes.
This is really delicious and well worth making.....................

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Just Pottering.........

Craig has just finished the lawns as we head for more rain. Earlier today, he dashed around the house with the vacuum cleaner getting the place back into shape. I have been spending so much time fiddling with the new camera, not much else gets done at the moment.

Climbing rose Compassion is just coming into bloom and towers over the grapevine. Akebia Quinata is a perfectly hardy fast-growing vine from Japan with magnificent foliage: it produces large clusters of chocolate purple coloured flowers with a delicious vanilla fragrance. Wonderful for covering trellises, verandas, pergolas and so on, the foliage is not bothered by insect pests.

Hybrid tea Uncle Walter, is a bright red large growing rose with shapely flowers that grow in trusses along the branches: it is lightly scented very hardy and perfoms well each year. Mine has grown happily in this part of the garden for over twenty years.

The tomato stakes are in and soon enough the strong little Beefsteak plants will need tying up. In the background, the beautiful Horse Chestnut grows in our neighbours garden across the street and makes quite a statement: a welcome sight at this time, every year.

I love the soft pink leaves of the Copper Beech that appear each year at this time as we head towards summer.  David Austin's climbing rose Graham Thomas has many new buds opening daily and will soon be covered in a mass of golden blooms. Ekeveria lives happily in the hanging basket below and is often visited by the little wax-eyes as they forage for nectar.

Gleditsia Sunburst seems to be reaching out towards the Grandiflora Magnolia and provides a shady area in the garden over the hot summer months ahead.

The rich golden blooms of Graham Thomas are spectacular: Buff Beauty grows alongside and soon enough, the buds will burst into bloom. It has a delightful fragrance which will waft over the newly planted vegetable seedlings that shelter behind the wall.