29 June 2015

Starting a dripping pot

At the risk of sounding ancient, which I'm close to, or old-fashioned, which I often am, I want to write about dripping today. I know!  Scary stuff in these fat-free times. But a little bit of fat won't do you harm.  All things in moderation, so the saying goes.  Dripping is what we used to call the fat that rendered down off roasted meat. Dripping is beef or lamb fat and pork or bacon fat is called lard. Dripping and lard were a valuable ingredients in many pre-1970s homes. Most households had a dripping pot which was usually aluminium, pottery or an old china bowl.  Most dripping pots had a lid and a well fitted strainer to collect bits and pieces from the cooking. These were discarded or kept in the fridge until the next stew.

Tricia and I never had it but our mother, father and grandmother all talked, with affection, of eating bread and dripping. It was quite common pre-world war 2 to use dripping instead of butter on bread. I have fond memories of my mother's dripping pot, usually full, sitting in a dark cupboard, although I think she would refrigerate it now. And although I've never eaten dripping on bread, I still use dripping in cooking and I hope I can get you to make up a little dripping pot to try it yourself.

This is a little dripping pot I've just started - it's an old jam jar used for preserving, so the glass is toughened.  I'm on the lookout for a proper pot and when I find one at the second hand store, I'll grab it, give it a good scrubbing and use it for the dripping I save.

I only have a fraction of the dripping my mother collected. Meat is leaner now, we don't eat meat everyday and often I make a sauce with the dripping and don't collect it. But I do save the dripping from our roasts and also from bacon. I strain off the dripping through a strainer or sieve and store it in the fridge until it's needed. After you've saved dripping from a few roasts, you'll see a small dark layer under a lighter colour layer of fat on top. The dark layer is full of flavour but when I use the dripping, I dip the spoon right down the bottom and take some of the dark layer too. Although you can turn the pot on it's head until it's set and have the jelly layer on top.

Dripping can be used to cook roast vegetables or to make delicious gravy. Whatever it goes with it give a lovely flavour to because it has the concentrated flavour of the meat in it. If you brown your meat in dripping when you're making a casserole, it will add an extra level of flavour to the meal.

To make gravy, I take two tablespoons of dripping, add 1½ tablespoons of plain flour, salt, pepper and a small sprinkling of paprika (for colour). Stir the dripping and flour together over a medium heat and let it brown while you stir.  When you reach a good rich brown colour, add enough water to make a gravy to the consistency you like.  

If you're raising your own beef or pork, you probably know more about rendering fat than I do and you're might be using it in your soap as well, I'd love to hear from you to know how you're processing that fat and what you're using it for.  But if you have a small amount of dripping left when you cook and usually throw it out, try this and see if you like the extra ingredient and the ability to use as much of the animal as you can.


26 June 2015

Weekend reading

And here we are again with another end of week post. I'm pretty sure time moves much faster these days. I hope you've had a good week and can take time out to slow down for the weekend. Thanks for your visits and comments. xx

Ten tops books about working life
Tarragon chicken - I love recipes such as these. I haven't made this yet but it looks too good to keep to myself

22 June 2015

Getting value for your food money

It's always good to get value for money, no matter what your income level or age bracket. However, if you're in a low income group or on an average income with high costs, getting value for the money you spend in essential. I think you have to get into the habit of always looking for ways to save and not wasting what you already have. When you develop that habit, there is a long list of things you can do.

For most of us, apart from rent/mortgage payments, food is our biggest expense. So it follows that if you can save money on food, you've been making a real difference to your own budget. I'm taking it as a given that we're all cooking from scratch, even though there will be some who don't, it is the best starting point for all of us - for our finances, our nutrition and our health. This is one of the ways I use to stretch a chicken so that it not only gives us meals we enjoy, the meals are easy to make and instead of a small chicken feeding us for one meal with leftovers for lunch the next day, this one covers our main meal for three days.

I started off with a small free-range chicken, of 1.5kg/3.3lbs. On the first day I made a stuffed roast chicken with vegetables. The stuffing was stale bread, a small onion with sage, parsley and an egg from the backyard. It was delicious and satisfying. The following day I had one half of the chicken left, still on the bone. I removed the leg and breast, then chopped the carcass in two and put it in a pot with about 1.5 litres/quarts water, salt and pepper and with the lid on brought it to the boil and simmered it for about an hour. The herb stuffing seasoned the stock perfectly and gave it a real boost. For about the last 5 minutes of the simmering, I put the chicken in the stock and warmed it up. Two teaspoons cornflour in the stock thickened it slightly and on the second day we had skinless chicken mashed potato with onion and parsley, some pumpkin from the previous say, peas and a little of the chicken gravy made with the stock.

On the final day of the chicken, I noticed the chicken stock was set like a jelly in the bowl because so much magnesium, collagen and glucosamine had leached out of the bones. A truly nutritious broth. So, all the meat was stripped from the bones, the thick gelatinous stock reheated with the chicken pieces, parsley, salt and pepper added and boiled with a hand full of small shell pasta - a delicious satisfying soup on a cold winter's day. And that was the end of the chicken. It was only a small bird had it been a bit bigger it would have done us for four or five days, but then I would have frozen a couple of meals for later.

It's a simple thing to stretch out food like this. It doesn't take any extra time but you have to have the idea to do it and know what you're doing. Making a list of ideas to stretch out chicken, fish, beef etc. is a great way to start. There must be a hundred ways to serve a chicken but I hope you add this to your repertoire because it will give you value for the money you spend on the chicken and you'll know you're providing healthy and nutritious food, with no waste. How do you stretch your food dollars?


19 June 2015

Weekend reading

I did the grocery shopping at Woolworths yesterday afternoon. Oh what a dismal place that is. Aisle upon aisle of useless products that I don't even walk into. I got what I needed and I was home again in less than an hour. With the weekend ahead and perfect weather, I think I know what I'll be doing for the next couple of days.  That will make up for the shopping trip. :- )  I hope you have a lovely weekend doing something you love.

How to hold an art exhibition in your home
Love is alive and well
Roundup banned in France
Organising the kitchen
Can the Ikea generation buy into vintage furniture?
How to clean a shaving brush
10 food scraps to always save
Beautiful underground railways
Free motion quilting step-by-step
All the beautiful things
The croissant has evolved

18 June 2015

Nothing fancy, just ordinary day stuff

This is what today looks like: I'll let the chickens out soon, give them some warm porridge and watch as they push past each other so they can be the first out the gate. It's been raining here on and off for about a week so there'll be worms and bugs for them to catch; extra protein in their diet to turn into delicious golden yolked eggs. Then I'll feed Hettie before I go back inside to have breakfast, after which, I'll wash up. Today's lunch will be roast chicken with fresh herb stuffing, Brussel sprouts, potatoes and pumpkin. A hearty meal on a cool day will keep us fuelled up for work in the afternoon.

But this morning, apart from preparing the roast, I'll make bread rolls and clean out the fridge. The bed needs to be stripped and clean flannel sheets put on the bed. That will make one load of washing which I'll put on and Hanno will hang out. I washed three wool jumpers yesterday so hopefully they'll be dry enough to press and put away. While the press is hot, I'll also do a small pile of tablecloths and pillowslips sitting there. That's not the end of the ironing but the rest will have to wait a little longer. I don't want to spread myself too thin today. After we eat lunch, I'll wash up and surface clean the kitchen then sit down for an hour. There may be some knitting done then. I'm knitting Hanno some mittens in pure Merino with a strand of baby Alpaca for extra warmth. Since he had an accident with a chain saw and nearly cut off his hand, the circulation in that hand is a bit slow and it's always cold. These mittens are to warm up his hands while he's on the computer or watching TV.

After lunch, finally, I'll be able to do some work with the new plants and pots I bought on Tuesday. I'll start potting new plants in the pots and if time allows, I'll repot a few hanging baskets. On the weekend, I'll need Hanno's help to move some roses in the front garden so I can plant new salvia and Chinese lanterns where the roses once grew. There is a lot of pruning to be done out there but I think that's a weekend job too.

So many things to do, but I'll get to all of them, eventually. All of it has waited patiently for me for these past few months, another day or two will make no difference. I have to do a small amount of grocery shopping, dust and rearrange my cook books, bake a cake, scrub the outdoor table on the back verandah, clean and organise the green house, clean the bathrooms, make soap. Oh, the list could go on and on. I'm sure you know the score and have similar, if not identical, work in your home. It's nothing fancy, just ordinary day stuff, but it feels so good to be doing it again.  What are you doing today?

15 June 2015

I've missed the housework

I'm slowly creeping back towards my real work. I have greeted the light at the end of the writing tunnel and while I still have some odds and ends to deal with this week, the bulk of the work is done. Yesterday I spent some time in the kitchen making spicy pineapple and chilli chutney, apple turnovers and a litre of fresh ginger syrup.  It feels good to get back to cooking whatever I like and not just what we'll eat that day. Housework and creative cooking keep my enrichment levels high.

Today I'll be reading and organising chapters in my file manager so I know where everything is. At the moment I have quite a few different versions of the same file and I want to sort them out immediately so I can delete what I don't need and safeguard what I hope are the treasures.

There won't be much time for housework today, tomorrow we plan on going out for lunch to celebrate, but on Wednesday, I'll look at getting back into some sort of routine. There is a lot to be done here and although Hanno was a great help while I've been writing, we've been operating on the bare essentials. I have some rooms to tidy up and I want to use the French press on a few household linens.  There is a lot of sewing to do, I'm taking on the grocery shopping again and I have a lifetime of gardening to start.

Years ago, when I first realised that housework would be the one thing that would shape my days and give meaning to the hours I spend here, homemaking became a significant part of my life. Not working how I usually do for the past six months has shown me, all over again, what this work has done for me. Of course there are some people who hate housework and there are some parts of it I don't like, but the work I do here in our little home makes me see sense in a sometimes nonsensical world. I've missed it.


12 June 2015

Weekend reading

Last weekend, making cheese and cherry strudel.

Not much time for reading this week so it's a shorter list.  Last chapter due next Tuesday then a few bits and pieces after that to finish up. :- )  I hope you all have a lovely weekend.

Spectacular new species of waterlily discovered in Australia
Seven new species of miniature frogs discovered in cloud forests of Brazil
Our ageing population isn't a disaster. We have the tools to make it a triumph
No place like home
...aprons come off: time for tea - community baking
No knead bread recipe variations
How I simplified and organized my house, room by room
Joey doesn't leave his mum
Plaiting/braiding garlic - You Tube

Recession is very interesting and thought provoking thread at the forum that has a lot of us thinking. Erica started it by writing:
I can't help feeling that we are in for a doozy of a recession, that it is not a matter of if, but of when. Having lived - and lost - through the recession we had to have, I am concerned to say the least.

What does everyone else think?

What is going on in your neck of the woods?

Do you notice a change coming?


8 June 2015

A guide to simple living

Thank you all for the good wishes and prayers sent yesterday. My high temperature didn't rise or turn into anything worse. I started feeling better and things only improved after that. It's lovely to have friends who drop by and share their concerns. Thank you for taking the time to send a message or write a comment. Even though we're sometimes a world away from each other, this community is always a close and caring one.

As most of you know, I'm coming to the end of my book writing and have just started on the last chapter. It's been an intense period of sitting at my desk all day, almost every day for the past five months. I have only baked a couple of loaves of bread during that time and I haven't done much pickling or preserving either, but almost all the other culinary tasks I carry out have been done in between paragraphs or when I needed to get off the computer and think something over.

Soap and laundry liquid have been made, I cook from scratch every day and I enjoy time well spent in the garden with Jamie. Hanno has been a great help with washing up, grocery shopping, peeling vegetables and doing whatever I ask of him. But it is this life itself - simple life, that has help us through these busy months. If we weren't living slow and simple, I doubt I would have attempted another book, and I know I wouldn't have been able to do it in that timeframe. I sometimes hear people say that as soon as they get busy, they don't have time for simple living. I feel the opposite, it is because we live simply that I can cope so well with the busy and frantic times.

Simple life builds reliability and organisation into every day, it makes people who live this way resilient and strong. It does seem like more work and often it is but the work itself is its own safeguard. Our bills are paid on time because we've organised our money and created a budget, we have a stockpile of food on hand so we don't have to shop every week, we're healthy because we're eating from scratch and have rid our home of harsh chemicals, menus are planned, work is driven by easy routines, we're relaxed and accepting of everyday life. We know where we're headed.

I'm not sure if I would have been able to commit intellectually or psychologically to such a rigorous writing timeframe if I was living as I used to. But since I slowed down and came to understand myself a whole lot more, I knew I had the strength to do it, a family who would support me and a way of life that would help me cope with not only this, but anything that came my way.  This life has made me much stronger than I used to be, and that has given me the confidence to say yes to so many things that have enriched my soul.

And so to those who think you can only do all those simple life things when you have the time to do them, I encourage you to dive right in and just do it. Don't underestimate simple life, or yourself. You'll be surprised what a great support it becomes around you - from the practical things like a food stockpile to feed you when you can't buy what you need, and routines that help you get through your work, to the strength you need to move forward with confidence when things look shaky. Instead of thinking you can't have the life you want, just start doing things that will sustain you. Stop mindless shopping, create a budget, work in your home, develop a generous and kind attitude, let this new life create itself around you and then rely on it. It may not look like anyone else's life but that's fine. Genuine simplicity is a unique, flexible and moveable feast.


I'm sick

I'm sick, which is unusual for me. I felt okay on Saturday then by the time I went to bed, I was freezing but felt hot. Obviously a fever but our thermometer had a low battery so I couldn't take my temp. Hanno brought me two paracetamol. I had a hot shower, turned the electric blanket on high and still it took hours to warm up. And I kept waking every hour, so at 3am I gave up. Got up and got dressed and felt miserable for the next few hours. 

Yesterday I was still hot and freezing at the same time but kept working on the book while Hanno and Jamie went to the local university for World Environment Day. I was so tired while I sat at my desk, at one point I just caught myself as I fell asleep at the computer and my head started dropping towards the keyboard.  When Hanno came home I went to bed and fell into a deep sleep all afternoon.  I think it's a virus because otherwise, I feel healthy. I'll see how I go today and hopefully will be back here with you tomorrow.

5 June 2015

Weekend reading

My friend Kathleen sent me this little book during the week. It's a collection of recipes from the Australian War Memorial's Research Centre and copyright to them (awm.gov.au). It's full of basic recipes from WW11 and pictures of posters used to promote austerity during the war.

Thanks for visiting me this week and for your comments.  I hope you have a wonderful weekend.

Berlin becomes first German city to make rent cap a reality
Havoc by Tim Winton
The Small, Happy Life
I ditched the quiet carriage in favour of crunchy crisps, kids and conversation
The Women's Institute to serve tea and cake at Glastonbury this year
Joe Biden's wise words on death
American Red Cross squandered aid
A Beginner’s Guide to Whittling
Want to enjoy the deep, mystical sleep of our ancestors?
Make Your Own Energy-Saving Thermal Curtains

3 June 2015

I should not complain

I should not complain. I know that. But here I go again. I want my old routines back. Once upon a time I had this very comfortable routine where I rose early, did a few outside tasks, had breakfast, made the bed, cleaned the kitchen and had bread on the rise before 9am. Starting each day with that unremarkable jumble of activities set me up for the day and seemed to launch me into hours of productivity and, occasionally, creativity.

Work was done, ordinary days were lived, life was simple.

Let me say before it's too late to include it that I know I'm fortunate to have the extraordinary opportunity to write a book. Knowing it's going to be read by a lot of people all over the world still makes me think: who? me!!  My publisher, Penguin Random House, is incredibly supportive. And yet I can hardly wait until the writing phase is over and I'm back to what I think of as my real life.

I long to get back to ordinary days just doing what needs doing around my home. I want to use my sewing machine to make what we need, I want to clean up my green house and repot baskets and pots and increase the number of plants on my front verandah until we can hardly move out there. I want to sit, read and talk to Jamie. This beautiful age will be over soon and maybe I'll forget that he makes me laugh by saying: "that's marvellous" or "it's bad news, grandma." He's so wise as his just turned four year old self, I want to pick his brain for more unforgettable things. I have much to tell him too.

I'm glad there is only a short time to go. In four weeks I'll be finished. Four weeks and my written message to you will be at Penguin with Jo and Andrea and they'll send it to the designer, send me samples and I'll become excited and proud once again. So maybe it's okay to be an old curmudgeon this one time - get it all out and then settle in for the final four weeks. I am really happy I chose a short writing period and met every deadline. And soon I'll have that book in my hands and know that putting my routines aside for six months was a small price because it will give us the chance to travel around again, talking to people and hopefully encouraging everyone to work to routines and be happy doing it.  ♥︎


1 June 2015

Chocolate mistake cake

When I first started living simply, I had to learn a lot and make many mistakes before I felt that I knew what I was doing. The mistakes were an important part of my reinvention. Learning that results from a mistake is the best kind of learning. Instead of working through a step-by-step process, you start with a problem and you have to analyse the steps and work out why you went wrong. That involves active thinking instead of plain old following the steps, and you remember it.

I made a chocolate cake the other day. It was supposed to be my usual Nigella-inspired gluten-free and dairy-free chocolate cake, made with almonds.  Oh dear.

The recipe is:
  • 150ml olive oil
  • ½ cup cocoa mixed with ½ cup boiling water
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 150 grams almond meal
  • ½ teaspoon bicarb soda
  • pinch salt
  • 200 grams castor sugar
  • 3 large eggs
Preheat the oven to 170C.
  1. Mix the cocoa and water together and stir until the cocoa has dissolved. Add the vanilla to the cocoa mix.
  2. In a medium bowl, add almonds, bicarb and salt and mix together.
  3. Into a mixer bowl, add the sugar, oil and eggs and beat on high for 3 minutes, when it will be light and fluffy. Pour in the cocoa mixture and mix in.
  4. Take the mixer bowl off the stand and fold in the almonds, bicarb and salt.
  5. Pour mixture into a prepared round cake tin that has been oiled on the sides and has a round of paper on the base.
  6. Bake in oven for about 40 minutes.
The cake will rise up in the oven and deflate a little when it comes out.

And that last line alerted me to my mistake. My cake hadn't risen much. I went through the steps again in my mind and realised I hadn't added the oil.  So my cake was gluten-free, dairy-free and oil-free. LOL And it was delicious. It was moistly, densely, heavenly chocolate.

So this time my mistakes have taught me to pay more attention to what I'm doing and that leaving an ingredient out isn't always a catastrophe. Although don't bake bread without yeast because that always is.

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