We all get used to our own kitchens and all the familiar things around us. I know that when I want fast boiling and steaming, it’s the left hand front ring. For a little gentler simmering, either of the back rings and for just about keeping warm, the little ring front right. I have a range of cookware tucked away at the back of the peninsular unit – just waiting for the day when I have more than one person to cook for. A choice of slow cookers – one is over forty years old, another less than five. Also, two really old pressure cookers – well past their safety date but clung on to for sentimental reasons. I am awaiting delivery of a brand new automatic soup maker – my previous two gave up the ghost early in their careers. Who’d have thought that I could wear out a cooking implement? Ha ha.
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As summer has so rudely departed – after taking up a vast amount of our time and causing endless worries about heat stroke and lack of rain, she goes off, leaving us with a tumultuous rainy season to contend with. This year has really caused us to look log and hard at how we plan our gardens and what we need to get from them. I for one am going to look at changing some of my plants, to suit more challenging climates. I have also been trying to do my bit down the high street, using a favourite little shop for my fruit and vegetables. The giant supermarkets have all but decimated high street shopping but the tide is turning. I demand only paper bags and to be able to buy just the number of each item that I want, not a whole plastic box load of them. Shoppers taking back control of what’s on offer is the way forward!
I helped out at a country house that was hosting a national daliah festival at the weekend. I am pretty used to arriving for duty and finding something utterly remarkable was taking place just in the main courtyard or in the famous walled garden. This year’s festival included workshops on fruit gathering, pickling and storing fruit and veg. Jam making sessions also took centre stage. There was much disappointment amongst the crowds when the supplies of home made jam ran out during the second demonstration. So popular is the ethos of home made food. The younger families are not geared up for doing it themselves so revel in the glory of experts who are. Some websites are fantastic sources of home making equipment. Cooking vats, pickling gear, jars, et. You just need a ready supply of the fruit and veg to get pickling and Bob’s your uncle, as they say.
Having discovered that winter has really gone, spring sprang in and out again quickly, and now summer has definitely come and we are already being bombarded with suggestions for the Christmas festivities. Even more annoying was seeing a delivery made to a famous high street toiletries store – it included chocolate fondant eggs for their storage rooms! I know now that’s what all stores do when they want to discount them just before the season actually begins. Bring out old stock. Never mind, we won’t even think about that in the winter when the fire is wafting heat and joy through the flames. We will have forgotten about he searing heat and humidity. We might just remember this summer though, it has been filled so far with much football – world cup year. Wonder if we’ll still be cheering a victory in November, when it’s dank, cold and miserable every morning?
We’re thrilled about that summer has arrived – in fact, we are a little bored of summer now. It’s been blisteringly hot for over two weeks and there appears to be no let up. How we wish for those thunder storms and that down pouring of rain! The climate has definitely changed year on year and we are now living in the once projected and feared world that has globall warmed. One of the things that we must try to do more often is clean our homes and particularly the kitchen and food storage, preparation and serving areas. We can start with more careful selection of shopping and the handling of our produce. There seems to be no end to the number of different bugs that can be caught in a kitchen. Thoroughly cleaning the food prep areas is a must and swapping from dish cloth to sponge that can be microwaved for a couple of minutes after each use.
I have begun using one of those new fangled food delivery services – a young lass came to the door, very cheerful and confident – she more or less bulldozed her way in to my kitchen and wouldn’t take my lame excuses for not being a customer. Every time I put forward a reason, she would counter it with the opposite. That is exactly my tactic when faced with someone who is unduly negative or difficult to get on with. So of course, after half an hour of this door step challenge, I finally caved in and let her demonstrate how easy it is to get logged on with an account and choose three boxed meals. This young lady was an excellent example of how a really good business promoter can get interest in his subject without really making it obvious. She was so happy for a start and utterly confident in the product she was marketing. Win win.
When you book into any kind of lesson, there has to be some level of expectation on the part of the buying student and the tutor – it’s no good them coming to a cookery course for example, assuming that the student has even the first idea about the subject. Presenting the lesson in a format that will please all the candidates is often a chancy thing, some prefer to be led by the hand, item by item and then be astounded by the brilliance of the finished product. Other folk like to have a hint, just the mearest nodding in the right direction, and then be left to fathom out some of the later parts themselves. The results are not always the principle object here – simply the enjoyment of finding out their strengths, weaknesses and fundamentally, their limitations! Cookery workshops are a great way to meet like minded folk too.
When the winter finally leaves us and we start to seriously contemplate basking in the sunlight to come, does our mind turn to the pleasures of the flesh – steady on, not that kind. I’m thinking of the flesh of tomatoes and other luscious salad and vegetable matter that can be grown in the few weeks before winter races back again! Mind you, there are some other things that can be put in place to really enjoy the summer months to the max. Taking a cookery course may seem rather an odd suggestion but there are many out there that offer a truly insightful way of changing the manner in which we cater for family and friends. How to make the ery most of the abundance of british fruit, salad and vegetables – trying to cut our personal footprint and that of the delivery drivers. Grasp those lessons for life now and make your bit of difference.
I love going round kitchen and cookery workshop suppliers – there used to be a truly fantastic emporuium in my local town. It was filled from floor to ceiling with rack after rack of the most divine culinary objects – many of which it would be almost impossible to hazard a guess its purpose. This small independent family owned retail outlet was really well known in the wider area, mainly because they were prepared to get into stock jut about anything innovatie and useful. They also souced the unusual item for the serious chef or cook. Fish kettles in 10 sizes, minute single sauce pans, utensils in every shape, size, metal, colour. They would display everything in mini kitchen displays so there would be for example, a huge expensive mixers/food processors with every conceivable attachment would take centre stage, then the rest of the company’s kitchenalia list would be spread around it. Absolute culinary heaven!
I had the chance to enrol with chums at a chocolate making workshop the other summer. It was actually part of a a whole host of hen party activities and we all had to select from a choice of 8 things, which ones we wanted to attend (and pay for). No one will be at all surprised that a full house wanted the chocolate based activity! As it happened, for all the expense, we didn’t make the chocolate – that was already made and we just made different choccy sweets, adding flavoured fillings and all sorts. This was a bit disappointing, although I guess 20 giggly women with expensive ingredients could make an awful mess! It did inspire me though to look at the more serious side of the venue’s menu of courses and bought into the fish buying and preparation and how to cook sensibly and economically for one. A good outcome from a sticky beginnings.