Category Archives: Cooking

TOURS IN THE TIME OF COVID (With a nod to Gabriel García Márquez)

The cut-out policeman looks so real I nearly wished it Good Morning!!

Before Covid, we’d been on bus tours in Spain and to Prague, Vienna and Budapest, and on River Tours on the Rhine and the Danube, but now our tours seem to be confined to Tours of London Supermarkets.

I was born and brought up in the East End of London, then a poor, mainly Jewish district. We lived in a cold-water tenement on the third floor of Wentworth Dwellings in what was known as Petticoat Lane, though Petticoat Lane hasn’t existed as such for nearly 300 years. After a boundary rearrangement it was renamed Middlesex Street. We first lived in a third floor flat opening onto Goulston Street and then in one overlooking Wentworth Street, both streets crowded with food stalls on weekdays.

My mother went shopping every day – there were no fridges in the 1930s. We tried to stop milk going sour, and butter melting, by storing them in a mesh-fronted cupboard on our tiny balcony. We were rarely successful. There always seemed to be a cheesecloth bag hanging from the kitchen tap with soured milk turning into cream cheese.

One of my chores was to buy our bread, usually from Kossoff’s bakery opposite. If the total added up to a few pennies and one farthing (¼ penny), the assistants would tell me to forget the odd farthing, rather than bother to give me three farthings in change. My mother wouldn’t accept charity from anyone, so, having climbed the six sets of steep stone stairs to our flat on the third floor, I would have to go down again and take the farthing to the shop.

Now, of course, we have fridges and freezers and in a district like ours, where individual food shops have virtually disappeared, we shop once a week in supermarkets, not daily – usually Tesco or Sainsburys and occasionally Waitrose.

My favourite white bread flour is Allison’s Very Strong White Bread Flour. I first found it in Tesco but the last time I was about to run out they no longer had any in stock. I ordered some online from Amazon Fresh (Morrisons) but the road works in Victoria blocked the lorry entrance to our flats. To my chagrin, the delivery driver gave up and took my shopping back to the warehouse.

I saw online that both ASDA and Morrisons stock that flour and decided to visit each of them for the first time. Both are designed to make everything look as if it is at a cheaper price – some definitely cheaper than in our usual supermarkets but sometimes just less in the packet, so not really any cheaper.

After our Tour in the Time of Covid, we’ll stick to Tesco and Sainsburys alternately – we like some versions of our favourite products in one and some in the other. We’ll make an occasional trip to Waitrose – the most spacious feeling of them, for things not available at our usual stores.

However, when I next run out, if Tesco and Sainsburys don’t have my favourite flour in stock, I’ll make up a delivery order from ASDA or Morrisons, rather negotiating the nightmare junction that is at Elephant and Castle, and traipsing up the Old Kent Road or Walworth Road.

Read more of Abby’s stories in her memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’ and her previous posts Abby’s Tales of Then and Now. You can Look Inside on the Amazon site and get a taster for free. ‘Woman in a White Coat’ is £2.99 for the Kindle version and £9.99 in paperback. ‘Abby’s Tales of Then and Now’ is £2.99 for the Kindle version and £12.99 for the 7” x 9” paperback. Both are illustrated in colour.
Woman in a White Coat

 

 

HAVING FAMILY TO DINNER AGAIN

Until Janice pointed it out, I hadn’t realised it was eighteen months since I last saw my daughter-in-law. She and Simon live near Bath, though Simon comes up to London for work four days a week and, once it was allowed, sometimes came to dinner. What with Lockdown and her job as a geriatrician, Janice and I just hadn’t met up.

It was lovely having them and our son Bernard to dinner. We had, of course, all carried out a Lateral Flow Covid test on ourselves before meeting up, just in case!!

Josh made one of his delicious signature salmon and asparagus frittatas, accompanied by a mixed salad, and I cooked a Waitrose recipe, plum cake. The cake was delicious, but I should have baked it in a larger springform tin. In the tin I chose, the dough rose so high it buried my pattern of plum slices on the top. The men had their dessert with crème fraiche, while Janice and I indulged in our favourite Puffer Cream.

Plum cake – Waitrose recipe

I enjoy cooking and baking. Not being able to have  friends and family to dinner is something I really missed during Lockdown. I’m sure it’s because I’m not sharing my cooking that I’ve put on the extra four kilos I am now struggling to lose. I shall just have to start counting calories again – the only way it works for me to slim.

Well, not quite the only way. When I was on a ventilator and fed by nasogastric tube after my heart attack, I lost 4 kilos in just 3 weeks. I wouldn’t want to go through that again and nor would my family. Simon told me that for ages he couldn’t bear to cycle past the hospital where I had been fighting for my life. At a meeting of heart attack survivors and their partners, we were invited to revisit the wards where our lives had been saved. A couple of wives told me they had difficulty getting in the lift to go up to the Intensive Care Unit – their memories of that time were so painful.

Another problem is that all my recipes are geared for six – for Josh and me and our four children. And of course, when they were younger and lived at home, the two boys could eat for four. I got used to us clearing up after a two or three course dinner only to hear a plaintive –‘Can I have a Sarnie, Mum?’ from one or both of the boys.

Read more of Abby’s stories in her memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’ and her previous posts Abby’s Tales of Then and Now. You can Look Inside on the Amazon site and get a taster for free. ‘Woman in a White Coat’ is £2.99 for the Kindle version and £9.99 in paperback. ‘Abby’s Tales of Then and Now’ is £2.99 for the Kindle version and £12.99 for the 7” x 9” paperback. Both are illustrated in colour.

Woman in a White Coat

CLICK AND COLLECT WITH A SMILE

Click and Colletc at ASDA

Isn’t it great how a helpful, smiling, shop assistant cheers you up for the day? Even when it’s a cold, grey, miserable day, with the rain pelting down.

There are road works outside the exit to our car park and, though we can drive out, there is no easy passageway for vans or lorries. I’d nearly got through the stash of my favourite Allison’s Very Strong White Bread Flour and the Tesco we patronise no longer stocks it. I prefer the taste and my bread seems to rise more with that flour. Nor was it listed for Tesco online, so we made up an order for Amazon Fresh (Morrisons) to be delivered. Minutes before the delivery was due, a text message ‘Delivery cancelled. Failure of Access’ appeared. The driver could have parked around the corner and walked his trolley to our entrance, but he didn’t. Just took it all back to base.

Online, I found that ASDA stock my preferred flour and I made up a ‘Click and Collect’ order. The Grocery Collection, ‘Click and Collect’, point was clearly marked and had covered parking – a great advantage on a very rainy day. When we arrived, there were instructions to click on ‘I’m here’ on the confirmation email we had received. I’d only registered at ASDA that week and couldn’t for the life of me remember which password I had used. I failed to log on several times, but fortunately, the assistant was just bringing out another customer’s shopping and identified us by name.

She soon brought out our shopping in small crates and we started to load it into the boot of our car only to find that one packet of flour was the wrong one – Strong Bread Flour instead of Very Strong Flour (my preferred Canadian flour). The packets are almost identical except for the title.

‘No problem’, the assistant said, with a smile. ‘I’ll change it for you.’

It wouldn’t have been too annoying if she had been unable to find the right one, as I’d ordered several packets, but she was soon back with the correct one and yet another smile.

We’re all too used to grumpy assistants, especially on such a miserable rainy day, but she was a ray of sunshine. I’m sorry I didn’t ask her name but, by the time we’d finished loading our groceries, she had gone back inside. Maybe I’ll send this piece to ASDA – except I wouldn’t want to get in trouble whoever put the wrong flour in our shopping in the first place.

Read more of my stories in my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’ and my previous posts Abby’s Tales of Then and Now. You can Look Inside on the Amazon site and get a taster for free. ‘Woman in a White Coat’ is £2.99 for the Kindle version and £9.99 in paperback. ‘Abby’s Tales of Then and Now’ is £2.99 for the Kindle version and £12.99 for the  7” x 9” paperback. Both are illustrated in colour.

Woman in a White Coat

 

 

BEIGELS AND CREAM CHEESE

Beigels on Lekue moulds waiting to rise

My widowed grandmother, together with my mother then aged 11, emigrated from Mogilev in Belarus to the UK in the late 19th century. With a grant from the Jewish Board of Guardians, she purchased a willow basket and found a pitch selling bagels on the corner of Wentworth and Goulston Street. She was there, rain and shine, until my parents got married in 1918 and they all moved from Petticoat Lane to Old Kent Road.

It’s quite appropriate then, that our elder daughter and grand-daughter should have become proficient bread makers during Lockdown. They can roll out lovely even rolls of dough, but mine end up lumpy, especially if my thumb joints are sore after playing a series of octaves on the piano.

When I make beigels therefore, I use my two sets of six Lekue beigel moulds. You roll the dough into a ball and push it down over the central spike. After letting them rise, you can leave the dough on their moulds and dunk them in malted boiling water. They float off ready to be glazed and baked.

One thing I’ve never ever tried is the combination of smoked salmon and cream cheese on beigels. As a child, growing up in a cold-water tenement in Petticoat Lane in the East End of London, it would have seemed profligate to have smoked salmon and cream cheese together. We only ever bought a few slices of expensive smoked salmon when people like the aged couple, Marie and Yankel, we called Aunt and Uncle out of respect – though they were no relation – came to tea.

We would certainly never have dreamt of mixing it with our homemade cream cheese. Milk and butter were kept in a cupboard on our tiny balcony and covered with a wet muslin cloth, its ends dipped in water. But there was always soured milk around. Much of the time there would be a cheese cloth hanging from the kitchen tap full of soured milk turning into cream cheese.

Since Lockdown, I not only make all our bread but have recently started to make cream cheese again. I splashed out on a temperature-controlled Lakeland yogurt maker but only used it once to make yogurt – the supermarket Greek yogurt tastes fine and costs only pennies more than a litre of full cream milk. However, I do use it to make what is, after a couple of experiments, delicious cream cheese. I clot the milk with lemon juice and add a pinch of salt and sometimes a few drops of wine vinegar at the end if it’s not sour enough. The best thing about the Lakeland yogurt maker is that is comes with a fine mesh cylindrical sieve for draining off the curds from the whey. No more washing slimy cheese cloths!

Read more of Abby’s stories in her memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’ and her previous posts Abby’s Tales of Then and Now. You can Look Inside on the Amazon site and get a taster for free.

Woman in a White Coat

GREAT TO BE CHOOSING MY OWN BANANAS

 

Lovely to see full shelves

Now that we’ve been vaccinated against Covid and the rules for masking and social distancing are being more generally obeyed, we feel able to go shopping for ourselves, instead of having to have our groceries delivered. As a retired consultant pathologist, I have no problem with wearing a mask – it’s just like the old days!!

Last Friday, the Tesco store in Kensington was immaculate, the shelves stuffed full of goodies. It was lovely – going to the supermarket in person, being able to select bananas of just the right degree of ripeness and choose between Hovis’ own granary flour and Allison Country Grain flour, taking time to read the package details.

Yes of course I take a list, but at least I don’t have to keep checking that my shopping adds up to £40. Oftentimes, as an elderly couple with smaller appetites than in our youth, we’ve struggled to make our orders up to £40 and had to add things we don’t really need yet. Some supermarkets charge £4 –a whopping 10% – to orders under £40, while some, like Waitrose, won’t deliver orders under £40 at all.

I really missed being able to just wander around and get inspired by what is available and choose fruit and vegetables as they come into season.

But then I just love shopping. One of our regular weekend treats was wandering around shops, not necessarily buying anything – interspersed with visits to one of the great art galleries we have in London.

Zoom is super for browsing and online classes, but there’s nothing like seeing art in the flesh. Have to wait to redeem the tickets we’ve booked when finally, lockdown is relaxed.

Read more of Abby’s stories in her memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’ and her previous posts Abby’s Tales of Then and Now. You can Look Inside on the Amazon site and get a taster for free.

Woman in a White Coat’ is £2.99 for the Kindle version and £9.99 in paperback. ‘Abby’s Tales of Then and Now’ is £2.99 for the Kindle version and £12.99 for the 7” x 9” paperback. Both are illustrated in colour.

Woman in a White Coat

WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO STOCK UP ON??

My favourite bay in Tesco’s

We shouldn’t go crazy and be selfish but it’s only sensible to check that we have enough of the essentials for when the dreaded Coronavirus rears its ugly head again. There are spikes all over the world, though we have to hope that the race between a deadly pandemic and the vaccine is won in our favour.

I have to admit that I was worried enough to pay a silly price on eBay for a giant pack of toilet paper when toilet paper completely vanished from the shops. We still have some left now, when the supermarket shelves are full.

The commodity I missed most was bread flour. We hate stodgy supermarket highly processed bread and, except for an occasional artisan loaf, I bake all my own. As an aged and vulnerable couple, we were able to book supermarket delivery slots, but week after week there would be bread flour on their product list, but my grocery would arrive with a ‘flour out of stock’ notice. Same for yeast and baking powder. I was able to buy bread flour from a baker in 2.5kg packages but being a 5 foot nothing lady I found it quite a thing shlepping 10 kg of flour. So, I’ll make sure I have a reasonable amount of flour in stock. I am only just finishing the 500gm pack of Fermipan dried yeast I found online and have a spare ready for the next few months.

I was delighted to read in Martynoga’ s excellent book ‘The Virus’ that soap is as good or better at killing the virus than sanitisers because it dissolves their essential outer membrane. I bought a packet of antiseptic wipes as well as a little bottle of sanitizer but prefer to use the antiseptic wipes to wipe down surfaces I must touch.

Our older son got us some pretty masks, but the elastic pulls out my hearing aids – apparently a common problem. I bought some extenders, but the elastic still caught.  I ordered a mask that goes over the back of your head, rather than over your ears. Silly me!! I then realised that I could alter mine by cutting the elastic that fits over your ears in half and re-joining it so that it slips over your head. Easy/ peasy!!

When we come home from our short outings, I wash my masks in hot soapy water and as an extra precaution use them in turn and I don’t have to stock up on disposable masks.

Read more of Abby’s previous posts in her book Abby’s Tales of then and Now. It is £2.99 for the Kindle version and £12.99 for the 7” x 9” paperback. Both are illustrated in colour. You can Look Inside on the Amazon site to get a taster  for free.

 

 

 

 

 

Or read her memoir

Woman in a White Coat

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FRUIT BREAD AND VEGGIE BREAD

Scrumptious Blueberry and Oatmeal Loaf

I’ve been making walnut and raisin bread and beetroot bread for several years now, but not being able to go to the Saturday market on Pimlico Green for specialist bread or to Artisan bread shops during lockdown, has made me look for something more interesting than my staple White, 50% Wholemeal or Granary loaves.

Baking other veggie bread started because the supermarkets only had carrots in bags of 1 kg that, having made carrot and orange soup, and courgette and carrot spaghetti as a vegetable, I still had too many carrots left. My favourite Bread Machine cookbook is by Jenny Shapter. I bought the paperback years ago at the reduced price bookshop in Southampton Row. Her book is now called The Ultimate Bread Machine Cookbook and seems to be only available as a hardback.

All her recipes have worked out well, even those that seem a bit strange. My Anadama recipe is hers and lately I’ve tried her Blueberry and Oatmeal and Cranberry and Orange loaves. The former, though it contains sugar, does not taste like cake and I’m sure would be great for a savoury sandwich. It seems strange having the whole juice of an orange in bread, but it tastes delicious.

I shall try some other vegetables and fruit but now we can go to the supermarket ourselves and don’t have to buy such large quantities I am less likely to have more vegetables than I need for our dinner.

Read more of Abby’s previous posts in her book Abby’s Tales of then and Now. It is £2.99 for the Kindle version and £12.99 for the 7” x 9” paperback. Both are illustrated in colour. You can Look Inside on the Amazon site to get a taster for free.

https://amzn.to/3hX6z2D

 

BREAKOUT AFTER LOCKDOWN

Lovely to see a full supermarket and more being unpacked.
Just before lockdown, the fruit and veg racks were virtually empty!!

Yes, we were fortunate in that, being aged and vulnerable, after a couple of weeks we were able to get supermarkets slots. It was all very well, but inevitably, although they appeared on their websites, some items would be unavailable on the day. Flour, yeast and baking powder were particularly hard to come by. I was able to buy 10kg of bread flour in 2.5kg packets from eBay at a moderate price but was reduced to paying £7.99 for a £1.50 bag of self raising flour. There were plenty of profiteers out there.

The bliss of being allowed out to shop in person!! We went to a large Tesco’s very early on the first Monday vulnerable people were allowed out. There were hardly any other shoppers and the store was immaculate. Couldn’t believe my eyes when I approached the Baking aisle. Such a variety of different flours! And being able to choose just the size and kind of fruit and vegetables we like.

OK – I’ve been to the Uffizi, glided down the waterways in Venice, seen a giant hippo on the lawn in Malawi, but that Tesco store was right up there with them!! Absence definitely makes the heart grow fonder.

Read more of Abby’s previous posts in her book Abby’s Tales of then and Now is£2.99 for the Kindle version and £12.99 for the 7” x 9” paperback. Both are illustrated in colour. You can Look Inside on the Amazon site to get a taster for free.

https://amzn.to/3hX6z2D

NEW PANASONIC BREADMAKER – YES! BECAUSE I’M WORTH IT

Anadama bread

 

 

 

 

 

The centre groove is where the machine paddle rests

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No, I didn’t really need a new breadmaker. There was nothing wrong with my old one, but I fancied a newer model. Because of the coronavirus buying frenzy, and so many of us deciding to bake our own bread, Panasonic breadmakers vanished from Amazon and Panasonic UK, only for a few to appear on eBay at profiteering prices.

Our daughter Louise, who lives in the Basque Country, found one on Panasonic (Spain). She’d had her old one for at least 15 years and it had begun to leak around the spindle. She tried putting in a washer but it didn’t help. As in the UK, the local electrical stores and Amazon es were empty of Panasonic breadmakers. However, before any re-appeared in the UK at list price, she found one on Spanish Panasonic.

Of course, I had to have the same model but none was available except at a silly price. Finally, my search for a breadmaker resulted in a pop-up note from Amazon offering one at a sensible price from Belgium. I ordered one at once, but when I looked at the site again, to check that my order had gone through, they were once again unavailable. Luckily, my motto is carpe diem and I had seized the moment!!

But it was some sort of con!! After 2 weeks, I contacted the seller who said it had been despatched and then that he had asked UPS to send me a tracking number. I heard nothing more and contacted him again only to be told it hadn’t been sent and did I want a refund!! Fortunately, I had ordered via Amazon who are excellent about refunds and I have already had the money refunded.

I put the code for the breadmaker into Google and was delighted to find that John Lewis had online stock. It arrived today. It bakes beautifully and has the advantage of a window that lets you see at what stage your bread is.

Anadama bread is a traditional New England bread whose yellow colour comes from the addition of molasses and cornmeal. I used polenta, which is a cornmeal made from otto file corn.

It is said to have got its name from a hungry fisherman saying ‘Anna, damn her’ after being served by his wife nothing but cornmeal and molasses for supper, day in day out. In desperation, he (or maybe she) threw in some flour and yeast and so made Anadama bread.

Lots more stories like this in my memoir ‘Woman in White Coat’. Buy it on Kindle at £2.99 or as a paperback on Amazon at £9.99

http://bit.ly/Woman_in_a_White_Coat

Woman in a White Coat

Recipe for Anadama Machine Made Loaf

Basic bread program

360gm white bread flour                                                                    

75gm wholemeal bread flour

65 gm polenta

Continue reading NEW PANASONIC BREADMAKER – YES! BECAUSE I’M WORTH IT

RACKETEERING AND BAKING POWDER

As soon as it became clear that the coronavirus pandemic was here to stay, staple items vanished from supermarket shelves. Wherever you went, there were long shelves empty of toilet paper and sanitisers and bacterial hand-washes. The two back-to-back produce stands in the local Tesco were empty except for one watermelon. I bought in in desperation, but it lasted forever. I don’t think I ever want to eat watermelon again.

On eBay, someone was selling a £10 pack of 24 rolls of toilet paper for £49.99 + postage and you could buy a £3 sanitiser for £30.

When the vulnerable were finally allowed to meet one other person outside, we met with our elder son in our courtyard. He had asked for my recipe for Rock Cakes previously but had unfortunately used bicarbonate of soda instead of baking powder. They tasted so awful he had to put them on the compost heap.

I thought I would make him some Fruit Scones using the same recipe I’d been using for years. It calls for soaking the raisins in orange juice for at least 30 minutes beforehand and I used some juice from some rather sour oranges delivered by the supermarket a few days before. I left one of the scones out for my husband Josh to have with his coffee and caught him spitting it out.

‘It’s vile,’ he said. ‘Tastes of bicarbonate of soda.’

I tasted one. He was right. It was awful but I thought it was the sour orange juice the raisins had been soaked in. I binned the scones and made another batch. They were just as bad. Then I realised that when I reprinted the recipe, I doubled the amount of baking powder to be added to the self-raising flour.

I wasn’t going to risk another batch, so I made some Rock Cakes instead. Josh likes them because they don’t contain sugar, just have a little demerara sugar sprinkled on top.

By now, of course, I had run out of self-raising flour and neither of the supermarkets we can get slots for had any. I looked on eBay. A 1kg bag of self-raising flour costing £1.50 in supermarkets was listed at £11.99 + postage!! Finally, Tesco listed it but every time I put in on my order, when our grocery arrived it was UNAVAILABLE.

I still have some baking powder left but I thought it possible it had ‘gone off’ and put it on my order. Needless to say,  when our order was delivered it was UNAVAILABLE.

I so wish we weren’t elderly and vulnerable, and could go shopping for ourselves. I know we should be grateful we can get supermarket delivery slots but like everyone else, I wish it was all over!!

Roll on the Covid-19 vaccine!!

At least this batch of Rock Cakes worked

Lots more stories like this in my memoir ‘Woman in White Coat’. Buy it on Kindle at £2.99 or as a paperback on Amazon at £9.99

http://bit.ly/Woman_in_a_White_Coat

Woman in a White Coat

Recipe for Rock Cakes

Makes 24

Bake at 200°C 15-20 mins Continue reading RACKETEERING AND BAKING POWDER