Thursday, October 27, 2011

Pickled Cucumbers

This week's Recipeshed is being hosted by The Boy And Me and the theme is Preserves and Chutneys.
In my quest to get back to basics vis-a-vis food, I've tried to eliminate all sorts of processed and ready-made foods. This also makes grocery shopping a lot cheaper. I'm not fanatical about it and I still buy yogurts, butter and cheeses, jam, mayonaise and other condiments, dried pasta, bread, and frozen rolls of flakey pastry. Frozen vegetables are a Godsend and I sometimes indulge in oven chips. One thing that has always bothered me, however, is tinned food. For a start they use up so many resources to make and they can be dangerous when disposed of in landfill. I also question their safety when we are advised not to store remaining food in the opened tin.

Soups were the first to go and pasta-type foods - both of which are quick, easy and tastier to make from scratch (with the dried pasta of course). Most tinned vegetables come in frozen packets. I found that it was cheaper to buy olives by the kilo in the deli-section of the supermarket. The hardest tins to give up were the Heinz Baked Beanz but I eventually found that I was able to be mean with the beanz [Mum]. So I was down to pickled cucumbers and tinned tuna. The tuna is here to stay I fear, but the pickles are not even missed anymore.

I've always wanted to make my own pickles and I did quite a bit of research in my own collection of cookery books and on the internet. One friend shared a family recipe with me, and others have confirmed that her pickles are delicious. But there were so many ingredients and a number of stages. I knew it had to be simpler than that. Finally I have hit upon a recipe that takes five minutes to make, involves four ingredients (including the cucumbers), and is cheap to boot.

I buy about 20 of the small Mediterranean cucumbers (no problem as I live in the Med-region) wash them and top'n'tail them. I put three tablespoons of demerrara sugar in a glass (pyrex) dish and dissolve it with a cup of boiling water. Then I pour in about 1 litre of the cheapest vinegar on sale. I arrange the cucumbers in the liquid (adding water if they are not covered by the liquid), cover the dish and leave in the fridge. They can last a couple of weeks or more - but rarely do. I also add baby onions but you don't have to. You can use the same liquid for a second round of cucumbers - they come out milder but just as tasty.

DD loves munching on a pickled cucumber - "A big one Mummy, and don't cut it!" I cut both the cucs and the onions into my chopped salad (basically with a tomato and dress with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper). Also useful to have something to grab when you feel that you may be on the way to the biscuit barrel.

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Vegetarian Above The Law

In Julia's 100 word challenge this week's prompt is a hamburger to be viewed from the perspective of vegetarians. Sorry Julia but I chose my own picture of the hamburger before the mincer (Google Images, Someone once asked me if I was vegetarian because I loved animals. 'No,' I replied, 'I'm vegetarian because I hate animals.' The truth is that I'm not vegetartian at all but my kitchen at home is totally meat free. And I don't hate animals as long as I can view them without touching. Read my 100 word vegetarians's perspective and then click on the link to read the others.

The Rabbis decide the rules. They keep a tight rein to justify their jobs. They need to make money for their minions. So they charge annually  for kosher certification, require  businesses to hire inspectors, publish lists permitting only  foods  from  paid-up companies. It's not divinity, it's politics.

I found a way, perfect in its simplicity, to opt out of that whole area of extortion and manipulation. My kitchen is vegetarian and thus above the law. Besides, when we enjoy a  festival meal with  family and  friends, there must be a better way to celebrate than to eat God's dead animals.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Accidental Crispy Kugel

Recipe ShedI wanted to link up to Recipeshed at Reluctant Housedad this week as the prompt is rice, pulses and pasta. Perfect for my vegetarian kitchen and I have wanted to experiment with Majadra (rice, lentils and fried onions) or maybe a veggie Kedgeree. However, what with the bad back and all, I never got round to it. I'm up to writing but can't get my head round the cooking and taking the photo. Then I suddenly remembered that I have a pasta dish in the oven. It's a total accident on all fronts - serendipity if you like.

Yesterday I made my usual pasta with frozen green beans thrown in to the water for a little healthy extra at no extra effort. But I was lazy and instead of cooking the pasta al dente and then adding a sauce, I threw in some sauce ingredients with the cooking pasta and let it absorb. Nice idea but you can't make a rissotto effect out of pasta and I ended up with mushy pasta which neither of us were thrilled about. Lots of it.

A word about Kugel. It's Yiddish for cake or bake. We use it to mean any base ingredients (noodles, potatoes, vegetables) seasoned, mixed with eggs and flour and baked in the oven. So I took my mushy pasta with beans, spiced it up with salt and plenty of pepper, mixed in three eggs and a couple of spoonfuls of flour, and put it in a hot oven for about an hour. when the top was all dark and crispy, I turned it over in the dish and chopped it up a bit. It was then returned to the oven for more crisping. Finally I sprinkled it with grated cheese and popped it back in the oven just to make sure it was absolutely dead.

I took the picture and voila - we have been picking at it all afternoon. Not what you'd put in your recipe book but just as good as nachos and cheese. And far better than wasting a whole pot of pasta.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Autumn Leaves

Over at Julia's Place I decided to join the 100 Word Challenge - except that this week Julia has shortened it to 50 words (not including the title words). It's a short post to ease me back into blogging after a couple of weeks' break (more about that tomorrow). Short but meaningful I like to think. I would have liked to provide my own photos but these are from Google Images. The top one taken in Kent by Mandy Barrow and the bottom one is my old Primary School in Stanmore. Coincidently it is also the view from my bedroom window - almost, as we lived directly opposite the lightning tree in the centre of the field. Read my 50 words on: The Autumn Leaves, and then click on the link to go read the other entries.

The autumn leaves, early evenings, bonfires in the gardens. Walking home from school in the days when I wore short skirts and woolly tights in sensible school shoes. I think my legs were longer then. The air was fresh and the leaves were crisp. My dreams were ambitious and my hopes were high.

Alyward School 1975 - from the playing field

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

An Angel In Pink

The Gallery theme this week is colour and Tara suggested we choose one from the great outdoors. In England they are enjoying an Indian Summer - hot days against an autumnal backdrop. Here in Israel the weather is, at last, getting cooler. We have already turned the clocks back so it gets dark earlier. And we are in the middle of the New Year (Rosh Hashana) and Atonement (Kippur) holidays. The ten days between the two are called the Days of Awe. Days of reflection and resolutions. Days of repentence and forgiveness. Days that we hope will end with us being inscribed in the book of life for another year. I took this photo from my balcony. It's yellow, orange, pink and blue. You may not be able to see it, but there seems to be an angel watching over us.

Go over to Sticky Fingers to see  more Gallery posts and a riot of colour.