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.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tea And Sympathy

There's a blog-hop for almost everything these days. For almost every post you can find a blogger promoting that particular theme and add your link to the list. It's a nice way of participating in the blogging community and supporting other bloggers whilst promoting your own post to a wider audience. I was going to write about my week of being flat on my back anyway. I was going to write about it by way of an explanation for my sudden absence from the blogosphere. But then, although I'm starting to feel better, I couldn't muster up the motivation to write a long whinge about it. Who wants to read a long whinge?

meme2Well apparently Rebecca at Here Come The Girls (you can click on the link for more tales of woe and self-pity. There's even a badge and a set day) has seen the need, filled the gap in the market, and provided a forum for whingers in which we can wallow when necessary. So I'm taking full advantage. Here is my account of being incapacitated with a 2yo and no other adult to take her out of my hair for five minutes, give her a bath, take her out for some fresh air, let me go to the doctor...

10 days ago I woke up with a crippling pain under my right shoulder blade (in the vicinity of the muscles that took the brunt of me schlepping too many heavy books around in a shoulder bag) accompanied by shooting pains like darts down my right arm. A friend assured me it would get better after a couple/3/4 days. It didn't. The only comfortable position has been lying down propped up by pillows - and even this becomes uncomfortable after a while.

I have lain on the sofa and been miserable. The sink piled high with dirty dishes. DD's toys have become a layer of chaos covering the floor in every room as I cannot bend down to pick them up. I have seen puzzle pieces disappear under the carpet and wonder when I will ever be in a position to retrieve them. The area around the coffee table where DD sits to eat is sticky and full of crumbs that I cannot get to - I expect an army of ants will deal with it for me soon. As I type the entire collection of dvds is hitting the floor and sliding under the bookcase. I have managed to put the washing machine on a few times and hang out the clothes. A small mountain of clean but crumpled clothes is sitting on the spare bed waiting to be conquered.

Luckily this week has been an academic break for the last of the Jewish festivals that fall in September/October. However, I'm due to start teaching two new courses next week and they require a ton of preparation - I've done nothng and it's getting scary but I can't sit up at the computer for more than 10 minutes. I am now able to write with the laptop propped up on my knees so I hope I can do something later today. So far, every time I try to do some work DD climbs on me and wants to press the buttons - there is no other way I can work so I end up shouting at her, crying in desperaton for her to leave me alone and go away.

I can't push the buggy so we are confined to places DD can walk to. And even then I am reluctant as it makes me nervous to be out on the streets knowing that I can't run after her if she runs too far ahead or into the road. Two days ago I gave up and she and I have been in our pjs watching dvds ever since. Last night she had a cereal bar and a yogurt for supper.

Last week Nadge picked us up and took us to the Kibbutz for a couple of days. I was a difficult guest - I just lay on the sofa and did nothing while everyone else looked after my 2yo child. I feel guilty and sorry whilst also very very grateful and appreciative that DD had a break from my illness for a while and could play with the other children and run around outside. Not to mention being fed with some proper nutritious food.

The doctor prescribed strong anti-inflammatory pills and advised me to book an appointment with a physio-therapist. I can't do that until DD is back at nursery after the break - hopefully it won't be necessary by then. On the other hand, tomorrow we have to walk the 15 minutes to the supermarket and do a shop (delivered) as we are running out of fresh food. Theoretically I have loads of friends I could ask for help.

When we were on the kibbutz Mrs Nadge kindly found a ride for us coming back to Jerusalem on Friday afternoon (it's about 1 1/2 hours drive). The driver warned me that she would be leaving late and may have to drop me off at the Central Bus Station after the buses have stopped running for Shabbat (the Sabbath). Ordinarily this would not be a problem as I could take a taxi for the last leg. But I lay there, on the sofa, worrying about how I was going to keep hold of DD whilst carrying our bag, my handbag and her carseat, find a taxi and put the carseat into it - leaning and stretching being agony... A friend offered to meet me at the drop off point as he would be returning from Tel Aviv in the mid-afternoon. Then the driver changed her plans and we left in a hurry at 10am. Another worry, another panic.

As it happened, the driver's destination was five minutes drive from my home so she brought us all the way. And, as I said, I have friends. But sometimes you just want one person who will cancel any other plans because you need them rather than 50 friends who will see if they have time and gladly fit you in at their convenience. As in this case, things usually work out ok, but I'm tired of the uncertainty and the panic involved in trying to find the available friend and co-ordinate my need with everyone else's life.

A few years ago a friend of mine bent down to take a packet of Wheatabix out of the bottom drawer and was on her back for a year, culminating in an operation on her spine. Every now and then she says it still reminds her that it's there. I read the blogs of women who bring up their children whilst suffereing chronic pain with no hope of relief. I am so grateful for my generally good health and the fact that my back pain is already feeling much better. I  really do appreciate that my week was a small blip in my otherwise smooth life. I know there are people I can turn to in a real emergency and I'm thankful for that. I cried whilst writing this post and my daughter came and stroked my cheek, laying her head on my chest by way of a cuddle. In a few years time she'll be able to add a cup of tea to the gesture - I am not alone here, the 2yo is a person and a comfort aswell as being a whirlwind demolition machine.

It's almost over now. I'm in discomfort rather than pain. We have survived with no great loss in the grand scheme of things. And the phone just rang. It was a friend asking if I need anything. She said, "Do you have enough food in the house for you both? Do you need any help? Rachel, I know you're terribly British but I'm just round the corner and you can call me any time." She is also a single mother with a baby under a year old and I wouldn't dream of putting her out. So maybe it's just me being a martyr. Ignore me and I'll endeavour to resume normal service as soon as possible.

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.