Saturday, 23 March 2013

The incredible shrinking stuff. Not for girls, though.

You know what they say. Wagon Wheels aren't as big as they used to be.

'Ah well, that's what they say,' returns the argument,' But you were smaller then, weren't you?' 

As if that makes sense.  The logic behind that would appear that  the scale of my foodstuffs decreases as I incrementally increase.

Weetabix are still the same size, in my eyes, they still taste like loft insulation and still have the capacity to soak up milk at a rate of half a pint per twenty seconds.  In fact I've often wondered why the relevant authorities haven't considered a nationwide bank of Weetabix to be distributed in times of potential flooding, a bit like salting and gritting roads.  We would all sleep a little more soundly knowing that it could rain as much as it likes because we have crates of breakfast cereal on standby with the capacity to soak up phenomenal amounts of river water and discharge.  I mean, do I have to think of everything?

This may well be old news, but I do think it sad that we seem to accept the dwindling size of food items
without so much as as blink.

No stiffly worded letters to MPs, no blockades of supermarkets, no sit down protests outside the village hall.  Nothing. It seems we have just got used to it all and accept with crushed acceptance.

For example: Yorkie bars have been slimming down a damn sight faster than I have in recent years.  Once upon a time Yorkies seemed to be the size of yard brush heads.  Vast lumps of indigestible chocolate that could only be tackled efficiently with the spare toollkit in an Eddie Stobbart truck. Hence the whole trucking image thing 'Not for Girls...' stuff.

Three years ago they had shrunk from 68 grammes to 64.5 grammes.   Back in 2002 Yorkie bars were as big as 70 grammes, so the bars have decreased by around 8 per cent in just eight years. There's fewer chunks, I suspect, because something in my head says the word 'Yorkie' was spelled out before, chunk by chunk.

And Aeros - those lovely wispy, airy, minty, frothy morsels have lost ten per cent of their body weight in recent years.  Something I could do with, but as you may have gathered chocolate is one of my things and something I've jabbered on here endlessly about.

Don't get me started on Fry's Turkish Delight. Have you seen the size of that recently?  There are bigger dog biscuits. That hasn't shrunk, it's been savaged.

Of course, they not alone.  Other chocolate bars have suffered similarly as have various other items, food and non-food.

Birds Eye original beef burgers with onion: 16 pack, now 12, price increase; Walkers Cheese and Onion Crisps:  34.5 g now 32.5 g no increase; Finish All in One Powerball Dishwasher tablets: 28 now 26. On it goes; bacterial wipes, furniture polish, take your pick.

And the alternative is?  Well much higher prices I guess, but even so some prices have risen and packs have got smaller.

Not sure which of those I dislike more: rising prices or shrinking.

Would it be commercial suicide just to keep hiking prices up?  Would we just appreciate that rising costs have to be met somewhere by someone at some point? Do we notice less if our furniture polish has 42 available squirts and not 50?

I do think shrinking is generally less noticeable and somehow, we persuade ourselves that it's OK.  At least we're still getting our favourite product.

We've seen how awkward the pricing of something is just this week with George Osbourne's budget and his magnificent gesture in shaving a penny of a pint of beer.

If I'm going to save myself a tenner on a night out tonight at the Dog and Gusset, I'm going to have to shift enough beer to cause a head injury, let alone a hangover.

Five pence, I aint gonna notice George.  Thanks for the offer, appreciated and all that, but you may as well have kept the cash and spent it on useful services.  It looks like the NHS to start with, could do with whatever loose change you have, George. 

Oh dear.  There's no easy answer is there? None.  I may as well stop painting my protest placards because there really isn't a point.  We're just going to have to keep on keeping on putting up with shrinking because the bottom line is we can't keep bashing business. The companies that make all this stuff employ us too.  And whether you think it's more to do with profiteering and shareholders the fact remains that these companies can't soak up all costs forever or risk shedding jobs. There is a whiff of Catch-22 to all this.

As for Wagon Wheels, well the size of the biscuit varies across the world.  It's quite a bit smaller in Australia, for example.  But here, it's barely shrunk at all.  A slither.  So me getting bigger and the biscuit barely changing at all, is probably the truth of it.  Who'd have thought it.

Memories can play tricks, after all. Wish I couldn't remember the Milky Bar Kid.  What a clown.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

One rasher of bacon and half a tomato. Now what..?

Christmas pudding.  At Easter...?   Ermm...

So anyway, I was having a rummage at the back of the fridge and guess what I found.  Christmas pudding. Checks calendar; end of January.

I try to keep rummaging to a bare minimum these days.  When I feel the urge to rummage, it always goes horribly wrong.  The freezer is my worst offence, apparently.  I tend to put stuff in the freezer where there is space.  This, as all sensible freezer users know, is a serious lapse of judgement and needs to stamped out vigorously.

The conversation usually moves around this area.

'You've put a loaf of bread in the middle draw!'
'Well, yes, because there was space there and the bread draw was full...'
'You can't put bread in the frozen veg draw, halfwit...'
'But as the bread draw was full I thought...'
'Well move things around in the bread draw then and make some space...!'
'But there is space in....'
'And there's a pack of mince with the frozen fruit...I mean...are you deliberately dense...'
You get the idea.  Logic is a troublesome thing when rummaging takes hold.  It's at least comparable with my inability to stack the dishwasher.  But I've droned on about that before on here so there's no point in raking over old ground. Anyway, I try to forget these things because you certainly can't rationalise why you can't (apparently...) put forks upside down in the cutlery box, thing in the dishwasher. Or knives. Or spoons. And why are there always less teaspoons to come out of the dishwasher than went in? The airing cupboard is another source of significant irritation, but I'm moving off the point.

Christmas pudding. In January.

So, moving a pack of cheese in the fridge, carefully to one side which was a risk in itself as the cheese was off limits and not housed in the bottom half of a plastic box reserved for cheese and cheese-based products on the top shelf, there sat a small black plastic bowl.  And in the bowl, a morsel of Christmas pud.

It's been there, languishing in the cool of the fridge for a month, hiding behind a marmalade jar mostly, but latterly, as we've just heard, a block of escaped cheese.  Now the reason why there's a bit of pud left when it was only a bite-sized thing in the first place, is because only my wife likes it in our house. She helps herself on Christmas Day after a drizzling a drizzle of rum from a bottle that was bought when Lesley Judd was still presenting Blue Peter at a guess.  She's the only one to like rum too, so the bottle is probably a hand-me-down.

I've tried to like Christmas pudding.  We've tried to be grown up about this - me and the pud - and air our differences, get hang-ups out in the open, talk it through sensibly, to no avail.  There's no meeting of minds.  I can't stand the damn thing, full stop.  And for reasons I can't explain, my wife never thinks of cracking open a tin of Ambrosia and enjoying the last remnants.  She seems programmed to only eat it within a narrow window, late December.

Easter will come and go and I bet you anything that fruity concoction will still be there, shuffling behind pots of jam to avoid attention.

OK.  Now what..?

Food waste. Why not, will not.

Anyway, this all begs the question of what to do with scraps and bits?  We heard just last week on TV news about the staggering millions of pounds worth of food  that never makes it to the plate either because we buy to much or because the supermarkets deem that carrot to be too ugly.

I do try to be careful as I am the food shopper in our house.  I try not to buy in excess and I hate throwing away odd bits of food just because it's an odd bit.  A chicken carcass never leaves the premises until it's released its chicken stock.  I've just had to throw about a third of a cucumber away because it was on the verge of composting.  Heartbreaking.  Seriously, I have a real problem with food waste.  I buy 'value' range of veg from supermarkets just to make a point.  I'm happy, delighted in fact, to buy a bag containing carrots of vastly different sizes and shapes.  As I'm chopping them up most of the time, who cares?  I buy mushrooms that just been plucked from their composty, soiley beds.  Why? Because I am also happy to buy oddly different sized mushrooms that I trim myself in a second or so, because I'm clever like that.

So.  Odds and bits.  I'm thinking of throwing this one open, as they say.  Let's attempt to get sense to apply here.  That day when you find two rashers of bacon and three mushrooms left or half a can of baked beans in the fridge.

What do you do?  You know what I'm talking about, we all find one tomato or slightly off-perfect pepper.

What do you do with the odds and bits that - I'm really sad to say - many people would simply dump in the bin to avoid the question?
Not 'mushroom' for this in your meal..?

What do you do..?

It seems a trivial matter this, but it's not really.  It matters a lot. When so many people struggle to put a healthy meal on the table or eat at all - please, I'm not trying to be overly melodramatic - then we really should all take a minute to think before we chuck.

If you'd like to comment here, that would be great.  I've not tried anything like this before, but I'm interested in what you have to say.  Or you could continue the chat instead on my Facebook page at mikegetscooking.

As for the Christmas pudding.  Well. It looks rather relaxed to me knowing that, unlike the hapless cucumber, it's the SAS of foodstuffs and can hang on in there surviving low temperatures without a second thought.

I could mention this to my wife, of course, but she'd accuse me of rummaging.

Let's not go there.  I think I'll go and reorganise the airing cupboard again.  Just for laughs.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Fancy a squeeze? Leaf it out, will ya?

It's the time of year when grocers where I live start selling citrus fruit with leaves on. Odd

Normally, the tangerines, clementine, orange and lemon ranks are just piled as they are.  Perfectly acceptable in appearance, but just as they are.  But I've noticed more of this creeping in here.  Outbreaks of leaf action in the Christmas run up.  I'm sure that's quite commonplace in uber trendy urban areas where people buy sausages wrapped in brown paper,  and say things like 'Ya it's all very villagey here, don't  you think...?' but not here it isn't.   And another thing.  They're sold in boxes.  Those shallow, flimsy, wooden boxes with printed adverts that I suppose name the grower or distributor or whatever, I can't say I've stopped to read one.  But they do, I confess, look really nice and you always want to use them for something else later, put them in the shed and end up using said box to light the barbecue with seven months later.

So what's this all about?  Why must my clementine or lemon have leaves now and not all year?  I can't pluck up the courage to ask one of the grocers in town, I mean it wouldn't be right, I can just imagine the look on his face.

'Leaves on lemons.  Why now?
'Not with you mate...'
'Why do you sell lemons with leaves on now and not in June..?'
'Can't say I ever thought about it...'
'It's just that it makes no sense, so I wa.....'
'Neither do you mate.'

And off he goes to rearrange his roast chestnut display, which you also only get right now, before alerting the authorities about some bloke who clearly needs professional support and is there any specific help available for lemon obsessives.

Waxed, unwaxed?  Don't ask me I've no idea.

Market forces

It's infiltrated the three-times-a-week market in town too.  They've caught on.  I had a quick look today.

'Yer Granny Smiths a paarrnd.   Yer tomarrtas a paarrrnd.  Yer mushrooms a paarrnd.  Yer lemons and clemetines with leaves on a paaarnd a paarrnd....'

Or whatever.  Last year I fell for it and bought a box.  More clementines than I knew what to do with.

They 're probably sold like that in certain supermarkets too, just not the ones I go to.  There is a particular brand of supermarket that's 25 miles away from here, that doesn't normally cater for my sort.  I needed polenta a few months back in its grain form and could only buy blocks here.  As I happened to be (sort  of) passing that supermarket at the time, I popped in because it was inevitable it would be sold there.  Can't remember when I felt less comfortable.  The mummies in there all had sunglasses perched on top of their heads and had children called Magnolia, Apple White or something, and there was certain sort of more mature lady who bypassed metal shopping trolleys and held firmly to her wicker basket.

Takes no prisoners.  The PChef citrus press.
Juice to the max.
The staff looked sideways at me and seriously considered whether I ought to have a DNA swab to see if I was a suitable customer.  As it happens I found the polenta by the hand knitted pasta and left before there was an incident.

Maximum squeeze from a citrus press

Anyway, the sort-of point to all this is that I seem to get through an awful lot of lemons, for one reason or another, so I suppose that's why I notice these foliage situations.

I won't drone on about zesting anymore.  Done that, been there.  But I've a new friend in town.  The citrus press.  You see, after watching endless TV food programmes, I'm used to the idea of squeezing a lemon with one hand into the other, catching the pips.  We have got a plastic roundish, spiky thing that sits over a container which you twist your lemon into.  Useless.

But I've just taken delivery of a PChef citrus press as in the pic above.  Basically a half lemon shaped
cup, as you can see, in metal. Good Lord.  This boy takes no prisoners.  This is the Marines of citrus presses, the undercover Seals Unit.  Punch its solar plexus and you'd be the one with a sore fist.

Half fruits are turned inside out before your eyes.  Inside out.  The end result rind, skin, whatever, is drier than a wash at full spin.  There's nothing left. I've never seen such viscous juicing in a domestic setting.

I have a cooking show booked in December with a host who is also into her lemons.  She squeezes and turns the fruit - get this - inside out with her thumbs.  Now that's serious.  A woman with thumbs that can inflict that sort of injury isn't to be trifled with. I'll have to behave myself.

All lemon-ed up. Ciao for now

So now I'm fully equipped with my ever-present zester that never leaves my side and my Jackie Chan of a juicer, I'm urged to move into the big league of home-made mincemeat and - wait for this, a bright idea from my wife last night - home-made lemoncello.

'Let's get some vodka at the's dead easy, apparently...'  Says she with enough home-made sloe gin and sloe vodka fermenting for Christmas to kill several armies.

Lemoncello.  Really?  Me?  Mind you, if word got out that I was into that kind of thing, maybe I could go to whatever supermarket I chose.  Even pop into a cafe there, if they have such things, I have no idea, and buy a skinny something or other and bird seed drizzle muffin.

Ciao bella.  Oh Dear.


As always, feel free to leave a comment, join the page or have general chat up at or find mikegetscooking on the Twitter malarkey and Her Majesty's Facebook.  I thank you.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Feta Zesting. Looking for a pizza the action

Feta Zesting.  Try to say that quickly. Go on. Give it a go...  

Zeta Festing...?  What's that? I being a silly again.
Oh Dear....where does the time go...?  Lapsed on the blogging front of late and my excuse is 'time issues'. Hmmm. Anyway...

I haven't stopped working, cooking and trying out new ways to get the best from the kit around me.  If I'm going to invest in high-quality kitchenware, then it had better damn well work for a living and be prepared to get out of it's comfort zone.

Low fat, not as much cheese as usual pizza action

The multiplane zester.  It's job description is: 
Sharp stainless blades quickly grate foods. Easy-grip handles adjust to easel and extended positions. Non-slip feet keep them steady. Includes storage covers. Makes quick work of zesting fresh citrus fruits — one swipe removes the zest and leaves behind the bitter pith.
Well, frankly, I'm more than happy with it's citrus action, which is well documented on here, but I expect more commitment.  Watch the short vid I made and you'll see and hear what I mean....

By the way....just thought I'd say, remember to make a comment if it takes your fancy and join the page.  Follow mikegetscooking on Facebook and twitter, yes OK, I'll shut up now. 

Monday, 22 October 2012

Brownies, cookies and a whole lot of whisking going on.

Brownies and whipped cream given a good pampering, thanks to 

Pampered Chef.  Ridiculously easy.

Recording a Brownie blog.

Cookie on the medium round stone that's clearly seen some action.

Brownies and cookies.  And so easy, thanks to Pampered Chef

Whipped cream with the Double Balloon whisk, faster than you can say, ' shall we whisk some cream then with the Pampered Chef Double Balloon Whisk, thingy?'

And below, have a listen to what happened...

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Whisking cream? I'd better tell the window cleaner.


The smell of whipped cream

You always know when cream is being whisked to a frenzy in my house.  You can smell it.

This perhaps only confirms to you that I have finally lost whatever plot I related to, because as most of us will be aware, whipped cream smells of not a great deal.  Even at a cream to nose distance it's not noted for any discernible perfume or aroma. No.  I don't mean I can smell the cream, whipped or otherwise, what I can smell is the electric whisk thing with its viscous spinning blades.

It must be years old, this electric hand-held thing and frankly I reckon it's past its best. It's certainly been instrumental in the creation of dozens - maybe hundreds - of pavlovas as a whole battery of eggs has been converted into wispy meringue things.

Anyway, what you could smell in my house is the electric whisk's motor.  This thing is at full whack, the blades lashing through egg whites or cream at full pelt, spinning and spinning and the clapped out motor is getting hotter and hotter and so is my wife as she wrestles with ageing  kitchen appliances.  I don't do pavlovas or any other meringue jobs as a rule.

Now before I go any further, let me say right now that I have a solution to all this. A whisk that does not require mains electricity and is ridiculously fast at its whisking ability.  Off the scale, in fact. More later.

Electric Light work. No, not really.

But for now, back to this electric thing and the smoke alarms are now wide-eyed and bushy-tailed and ready to pounce at any time.  They've just bleeped once to make sure they haven't forgotten what to do in such circumstances, are braced and ready for a damn good bleeping. The kitchen now smells like a mechanics workshop.  You couldn't do this randomly without warning key services such as window cleaners, for example, because the vibration through the glass would constitute a health and safety violation and more than likely action through the civil court as the hapless window operative plummets to the ground.  

Not a laughing matter.  Wobbling and equally ageing double glazing has now taken on all the qualities of those badly designed suspension bridges years ago that turned into huge skipping ropes when the wind topped a gusty 5mph and turned Ford Anglias and Hillman Imps into equally poorly-designed Frisbees.

Any window cleaner that happened to call unannounced as a few egg whites were given a seeing-to could expect to move down his ladder quicker than expected in a froth of suds, buckets and taking a slap from a selection of flapping chamois leathers on the way down to the back garden.  

We wouldn't hear his screams obviously because Ken Bruce is shouting his head off on Radio 2 trying to make himself heard over the phenomenal noise from those damned rotating whisk blades.  The egg whites or cream for that matter after three or four minutes of this onslaught is still a flowing stream of liquidy stuff, refusing point blank to stiffen on command and certainly not while that flipping Adele is wailing from Ken's CD player.  The smoke alarms are beside themselves and on the edge of their seats, willing this to go really badly wrong as they sense what could be smoke coming out of the back of the hand-held mixer.

And still my wife is valiantly holding on to the mixer which has now gathered momentum and spinning around the bowl all by itself, squinting through the noise and now acrid stench coming from the glowing motor. The window cleaner, flat out on the patio, would by now  have now stopped his fruitless attempts at rescue by banging on the patio doors and instead be dragging what's let of him towards the road in front, shedding scraps of chamois leather on the way, in the hope of attracting passing paramedics.

And then, a breakthrough.  Just as the loosened kitchen light fittings were about to abandon the ceiling, the egg whites/cream give up the fight and stiffen to acceptable levels after 20 minutes or so of kitchen carnage. 

All quiet after a cream whisking

Then it's...nothing.  That eerie stillness in the air that I can only imagine is the consequence of a hurricane that's passed by.  All except the radio, of course which is still at 10 on the volume knob blasting out an old Moody Blues standard.

'...Nights in White Satin....'

The ancient electric hand-held whisk is slumped on the kitchen bench, throbbing.

'....Never reaching the end...'

Although the motor stinks to high heaven, no actual smoke appeared from it and so the smoke alarms have retreated sulkily back to their comatose state, bleeping just the once more as if to make a point.

'.....Letters I've written...'

The windows and everything else for that matter, finally calms to a rest.

'....Never meaning to send.'

And yet all this is preventable.  There really is no need  for this level of misery just to create an acceptable pudding/ desert whichever you prefer to call it.  

Pampered Chef Double Balloon Whisk to the rescue

There is a readily available device, as I hinted earlier, that can solve this misery with one flick of its wire frame.  The Double Balloon Whisk. For under fifteen pounds you can help save yourself and others from the ordeal as described.  Now, I'd been told this device by other PCheffers, was a winner and would turn double cream into whipped cream in 10 seconds or less.  Which obviously is ridiculous.  And then I saw a video recorded - I guess - on a phone by Sally, a PCheffer and uploaded to the Facebook thing.  It took seconds.  So I bought the double balloon whisk and a pot of double cream. (Heavy cream, I guess it's called in parts other than the UK).

It's a strange looking thing with the sort of face only a mummy whisk could love.  Apparently although it looks like it might, in truth, be a small mobile phone mast, in fact its thin wires and strange shape is to '...maximise aeration for more whipped cream in less time...'

I whisked away full of enthusiasm and guess what?  It didn't work.  Well it did, that's not true, but it took about a minute or more and I was expecting miracles.  I could simply omit this stuff but I try to be an honest chap - that's what happened.


All in the wrist action when it comes to whipping cream 

I bought another pot and changed my technique.  With the cream out of the fridge for a little over an hour and poured into a bowl out of the cupboard, I stirred rapidly instead of the up an into the cream whisk action I'd tried before.  Everything about stirring like a spoon seemed wrong.  And for a glimmer the cream was stubbornly liquid.  And then after about 10, maybe fifteen seconds, the clouds parted, the sun shone and the cream thickened visibly.  Transfixed by what I was seeing, I went to around 20 seconds and ended up with a mousse-like cream.

Bizarre.  I shall now try with egg whites to see if the same happens. And more cream to see if it was a fluke. But I see no reason why it would be.  It's just a different technique to the one I'm used to.

Try it my friends.  Embrace the weird wires and get yourself fully aerated and whipped accordingly.

I can think of a few window cleaners that would be very happy if you did.


P.S  You can always join me in the wonderful world of interactive social media thing, stuff by following me on facebook and twitter: both are mikegetscooking, or even YouTube for goodness sake.  In fact I'd be very pleased if you did and then you'd maybe comment a tad here and there.  Ta ta for now.  

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Warning: May contain information

There's nothing funny about food allergies.  Of course they can have dire consequences for those affected.

I'm just guessing now that it's the reason we see so many warnings on packets and boxes of foods these days.  You need to know if nuts are anywhere in vision if you have an allergy to the things.  That's somewhat obvious.  Around 1% of  Britons and North Americans are allergic to peanuts and other nuts.

But it does mean that some of the wording on boxes, bags and whatever do seem to have  gone off on one of late.  I mentioned on these pages a while back about a box of lamb grills that was heading for a BBQ of ours that had the instructions, 'do not grill'.  Odd when you consider that grill featured heavily in the job description of that particular product.

Now maybe that's more to do with just daft language.  The rest, I'm thinking, is more to do with a spin off of the warnings train of thought or arguably a rather literal interpretation of ingredients. The above picture is a classic of it's type, spotted by my son.  A bag of fish fillets.  The ingredients lists fish.  Not such a surprise, in fact I would go as far as to say we would feel pretty cheated to open a bag of fish fillets only to find that fish was not the dominant component part.  You can't really have a bag of fish that's fishless.  

But closer inspection shows that that the allergy advice of a bag of fish fillets is a stark warning (exclamation mark) that the bag may contain fish.  Just thinking this through, I know,  but if I was allergic to the previously mentioned fish, what the hell I am doing with a bag of fish in my hand? 

If you had  the nut allergy pointed out earlier, you wouldn't select a bar of fruit and nut chocolate and say, 'Oh for goodness sake, they've only gone and put nuts in a bar of fruit and nut, haven't they?  I mean how stupid, how dense do they have to be?  Lucky I spotted that one in time...'

I've got a bag of salt in the cupboard that 'contains salt.'  I don't know what to say really except... good.  Thanks for clearing that one up.

There are plenty of other bizarre twists of language out there when it comes to the obvious.  And it's not just the food industry.

For example:  On a box that contained hair curling tongs.  For external use only.  I think you'd need to be fairly up to speed on advanced torture techniques or have unusual tastes in the bedroom to consider that electric heated hair tongs had any internal applications available.  Hairdryer:  do  not use in the shower.  I wish, I really wish I was making these up but sadly I'm not that clever.  A bottle of dog shampoo: Caution, the contents of this bottle should not be fed to fish.

So the warning is clear and obvious, next time the Labrador is a tad dank and in need of a spruce up, don't get confused with Tiddles the Goldfish doing several laps of his bowl with his tongue hanging out.  Trust me: dog shampoo and fish food are significantly different.

My eyes have been itching of late and I know it's because I have to be careful what I slap on my delicate little face.  It took a few years of frog-like facial expressions in a range of Mediterranean destinations to work out that I'm allergic to suntan lotions dripping into my eyes when mixed with a sweaty brow.  I now use a suntan lotion for babies less than a day old and it seems to work.  The rest of me is bathed in factor whatever, just not from the neck up.

The fact that my eyes have been itching recently means that I'm going to stop now and head for the shower to check on something.  Like most women, my wife's shampoo contains ground pearls, gold leaf, the extract from leaves only found in one acre of Brazilian jungles and so on.  I strongly suspect she's got me something from the value range at Pets R Us again.

Something fishy's going on.  

Friday, 5 October 2012

Ketchup? Make mine brown any day.

No, seriously, I can't be doing with tomato sauce, ketchup, whatever you'd like to call that weirdly red thing.

But you're not really supposed to say that out loud.  I get some very funny looks from those that are clearly major fans of the red stuff.  I'm not sure what the look is; it's not pity, it's more bordering on loathing, like you've admitted you have a fondness for Dallas or doing something unusual in the bedroom with bananas.  They just don't get it, they can't understand what your problem is.

I only mention this because I heard, fleetingly on a newspaper review on the tele, that we're not buying bottled sauces like we used to.  Can't tell you which paper it was in because I only caught a sentence or two.  But what I did hear surprised me somewhat.

We certainly haven't cut down or fallen out of love with bottled sauces.  I'm a brown sauce kind of bloke.  Now, I suspect no-one outside the UK will have a clue what I mean by brown sauce and it's a bit difficult to explain.  I'll try in a minute.

A quick peek in my cupboard and there's Worcestershire sauce, soy, brown, the hideous ketchup and various  remnants of various hot sauces.  In the fridge a fish sauce, and I think that's it. No, hang on, salad cream and mayo, if you count them as sort of sauces.

Hot sauce can be deadly

I like reasonably hot food, as in spicy.  A chilli has to be a lip-smacker for me or it's just mince. I have been known to blob a dab of hot sauce on a range of stuff that's on my plate much to the disagreement of my wife who sees it all as...well, I'm sure what she sees it as, but it's certainly worth an audible 'tsk!'  So stocking filler Christmas presents or a present from someone you get a bit of something for, for me will usually include at least one bottle of hot sauce.  And naturally they've got welcoming labels such as ' Death Sauce' or 'Eternal Damnation Sauce' or Burn your Trousers if you Spill This Sauce.'

I've still got a bottle of unopened hot sauce I was given last year in the cupboard.  Which reminds me, I'd better check the sell-by date.  I've not bothered yet probably because I remember the other bottle that came in the set.  It was allegedly a reasonably hot marinade in a bottle.  So I got meat - can't remember what now - and did as per instructed then cooked said meat.

I think my wife gagged on the first mouthful from memory and I have no recollection of what happened to my face for a few hours.  Good Lord, it was hot. The sort that makes you go from dry to moist to wet through in under a minute. Hells Bells.  It may well be the ideal cure for athletes foot, except that most of the good skin would probably go too after a smear.

So I couldn't bring myself to even look the other bottle in the eye and there it's sat next to a box of sea salt and it's infinitely milder cousin the Tabasco for almost a year.

HP sauce on everything

Anyway: Brown sauce. Any readers from outside the UK may be confused at this point do I start.  I guess the best known variety is HP Sauce.   The original was invented in Nottingham and registered by Frederick Gibson Garton.  That was 1895.  The HP bit is a reference to the Houses of Parliament but the exact connection is a little muddled.   For what ever reason, Fred made a bit of a hash of it, didn't get it to market by all accounts and sold his sauce invention to clear debts for £150 to Edwin Moore. Moore owned a vinegar company and launched HP Sauce in 1905.  

Basically it's a vinegar base with dates, tomato, tamarind extract, sweetener and untold spices. And I put it on too many foods to be honest.  I suppose I prefer it over ketchup because of that spice element rather than the sweet taste of the tomato.  But then, I don't like sweet and savoury together. Whoever first thought of putting pineapple on pizzas needs a damned good telling off. Or their ear flicked, or something. A Chinese burn.

Quite why bottled sauces are dropping in popularity with younger eaters wasn't made clear.  Odd considering they must have the taste for tomato based sauces anyway as so many consume their body weight in fast food burger rubbish.

One one my offspring accused me recently of putting fish sauce in a chilli I was cooking, which is slightly bonkers and not something that would have occurred to me.  Which makes me think.  Maybe there are just too many sauces now.  When I was a kid there were three TV stations to choose from.  It was either Blue Peter, Magpie or nothing because BBC2 didn't start until early evening.  Now with my Freeview Box (I can't be arsed with Sky) I can choose any number of 1980s repeats or gaze in a glazed state as a man spends an hour on the edge of his seat with excitement as he sells me some XXXXL fleeces in battleship grey or olive green on a shopping channel.

A saucy sandwich over the sink

There was tomato sauce, brown sauce and Heinz Salad Cream.  Oh, and Lea and Perrins aka Worcestershire Sauce.  That's it.  We had yet to hear of soy sauce, fish sauce, salad dressings, etc and so on, and olive oil was sold in tiny bottles at the chemists which you dropped in your ear to loosen ear wax.  If you were seen putting it on your salad then, you would probably have been bundled into a secret institution at Her Majesty's Pleasure.

So maybe we've found the answer.  Too much choice.  Choice can be good but it can chip away at what we had and cherished.  Which doesn't mean we should stop and never move on.  We're programmed now, I suspect for the new thing and long may that continue because so much of what has made our lives more tolerable or pleasurable or even just interesting  is the result of that curiosity.

The girlfriend of one of my sons eats ketchup sandwiches.  In fact she favours sandwiches that, quote ' you have to eat over a sink.'

If that's not a good reason for not buying bloody ketchup I don't know what is, frankly.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Zesting cheese and walnut whips. It's all getting out of hand.

Nothing's safe at the moment, from the zester

I've got a terrible addiction.  Actually that's not true. I've got several, but there we are.

Some I've already confessed to elsewhere on these pages.  Chocolate for example.  I'm a big girl when it comes to chocolate.  I could eat the stuff everyday (but don't) - on a biscuit, wrapped around a chocolate bar filling or just a solid bar of it.  Don't care.  I worked with someone years ago who did clearly have an addiction to chocolate. She was eating it by the sack and had become a real issue for her, so whilst for me it's just a slobbering desire, we shouldn't forget that for some people, these things take over lives in a most unpleasant way. Eating a whole pack of Penguin biscuits plus a multi pack of Mars Bars nightly is at best, unusual I would have thought.

I was prompted because on the tele last night I saw a piece about a young woman who shifted, I think, because I was only half watching, six litres of cola a day.  She rarely ate anything but said nothing quenched her thirst properly other than cola.  There was some extraordinary statistics in there; eating the weight of a four year old child in sugar over a year or something bizarre. I wish I'd paid more attention. A team of doctors got her off the stuff in the end but she was biting the walls on the way there as she came off it. She now eats three meals a day and - as they say - has a balanced diet. I'm full of admiration for people that manage successfully that kind of struggle.

Sweet childhood memories

So this puts into perspective somewhat my 'desires' rather than addictions. I drink too much tea and coffee, but have never smoked, so in my head (incorrectly) one cancels out the other. Back to chocolate for a minute, I've rediscovered Crunchies; that honeycomb in a choccy coat is just fab.  Well, it is at the moment.  I've had fads.  I favoured Mars Bars but haven't eaten one now for years. Snickers, or Marathons or whatever they're called this week have lost the appeal.  And I do occasionally hanker after my youth.  Whatever happened to Spangles?  Not choc, I know, I'm just meandering. Aztec Bars.  Sherbet Fountains.  They were a yellow paper tube full of the kind of sherbet that once in your mouth turned your lips inside out and made your eyeballs lurch violently backwards inside their sockets.  Inside the tube and hanging out of the top was a stick of fairly acrid black liquorice.  Magnificent, they were. Can't remember the last time I saw one.

My memories are
whipped into shape
For years I questioned the absence of a half walnut in the bottom of a coffee walnut whip.  As a kid I hated the damned walnuts for being too bitter.  Now of course with a shift of palate, I like them. Anyway. I was convinced a semi walnut resided there at the very bottom of the Whip. Chomping one a few years back the Whip was sans walnut. Disappeared.  So anyway the conversation about the 'thin end of the cost-cutting wedge', 'how dare they abandon my childhood with such a dismissive attitude towards nuts', 'no respect for tradition, culture and heritage' rumbled on for months with me going increasingly round the bend.

All for half a damned walnut, I know.  I'd lost it.  The big questions of life were passing me by. Bear in mind this happened years ago, I'm since recovered, but as I said, the big issues of the day such as why was Robson and Jerome in the Top 40 and which vindictive halfwits were responsible for buying the damned records, were not reaching my radar.  It reached such a peak, I had to contact Nestle's/Rowntrees (I think) and demanded an explanation for their damned cheek.  Around a million walnuts are used by the company every week on Walnut Whips and they've been a crucial ingredient since 1910.  So in my eyes a walnut whip without a walnut is falling well short of expectations and fundamentally alters the description. In that scenario it's just a Whip. End of. Unsatisfactory.

Whipped into shape

'What the hell are you playing at woman...!'  I bellowed down the phone to some hapless and admirably polite PR lady on the other end.  You can see I was at the end of my tether, and I'm not proud, let me make that clear.

Turns out there was never a half walnut on the bottom of a coffee walnut whip.  It seems the original vanilla whip did enjoy a half nut on the chocolate base, inside the mallow, and not on the top. As a marketing ploy, a walnut was later added to the top and the nut inside was removed not long after.

My childhood memory had let me down badly and I retreated, embarrassed to lick my wounds and hang my head.

Anyway.  Back to addictions.  Or as I say,'desires' because I suspect the word addiction is a bit strong. I can't stop zesting.  I'm zesting everything.  I've mentioned this before and I thought it was a phase but clearly not.  It's sitting there smirking at me on page 17 of the new Pampered Chef catalogue.  The Microplane Zester.  Quote: one swipe removes the zest and leaves behind the bitter pith. I'll say it does.  No citrus fruit is safe in my house, or nearby supermarket for that matter.  It safely gathers all the fragrant zest effortlessly which just sits, patiently, at the top of the zester, waiting for instructions.  Try as you may, the revolting white pith is nowhere.
The medium round stone

Pampered Chef microplane zester multitasks

I've become adventurous.  Not content with fruits I've moved onto cheese - feta in particular.  At a recent cooking show, I was making a pizza on the round flat stone (medium round flat stone with handles to give its proper name) and I grated or zested some feta cheese on top.  The point being I hardly used any cheese - so healthier - and my little zesting friend was more than able to cope with a cheese as incredibly soft and crumbly as feta.  Small wisps of feta floated down like dessicated coconut.  It was a win.
The snag is of course it's done nothing to ease my appetite for seeing what else I can zest that was never intended for such treatment. And before you even suggest the heels of your feet, you can think again.

Now I've caught a whiff of childhood, I'm off to see if I can buy a pack of Munchies. Or Treets.  I don't hold out much hope though.


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