Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Grandpa's Birthday

My husband and father in law turned the tv on just now to watch a programme about how long a piece of string was. Seriously. It's party central over here. Sigh.

I then secretly found myself fascinated by the chat for all of five minutes when the discussions and answers ranged from '12 inches' to' infinite'. I have nothing more to add on the subject though. Without jumping from a window.

With three little children off again today, I decided to investigate; it seems between 40-60% of the children at the school have been off at least twice since September and are easily reinfected; their seems to be trouble building immunity. I looked at their diet; lots of fruit, vegetables, homemade food, fresh juices and water. What to do. Any suggestions, my worthy, clever bloggy friends? I'll be homeschooling them soon, at this rate.

Grandpa is 84 today. He had the choice between eating out or in and if in, braised beef with dumplings, mince and tatties, rigatoni al forno or another meal of his choice. He chose rigatoni al forno because he'd never had it before...he's a cool old dude...and a Victoria sponge for dessert. The meat sauce was prepared first and simmered for an hour before I started to make the bechamel sauce. So often, meat sauce is cooked quickly when it should be treated like a stew. Go on, you're worth it!

Meat sauce
The meat sauce could be made using my usual tomato sauce but I went for something a little different and a bit chunkier this time. I blended an onion and 2 garlic cloves in the blender and fried in olive oil for 10 minutes. I then added 500g minced beef steak and browned. A good handful tomato puree and two tins of chopped tomatoes were tossed in opened of course and after stirring and bringing to the boil, I added in a splash of good red wine....there is no point using something you wouldn't drink by the glass...and stirred once more, brought to the boil, added a sprinkling of sugar, salt and pepper and simmered on a very low heat for 1 hour with the lid on.

I checked the sauce after the hour, added a good grating of nutmeg...at least a quarter of a whole one....checked the seasoning and sprinkled in a few pinches of dried herbs...oregano, thyme, bay etc. The lid was put back on as I got on with the bechamel.

Melt butter in a pan over a medium heat. I cut around a thin slice of butter per 100g of pasta to be cooked but really, truly, measurements don't matter with this sauce; the more butter, the more flour...the more flour, the more milk etc.

Once the butter has melted and began to foam, add the flour and stir constantly until a roux is formed (looks like a soft paste). Add a dash of milk and incorporate into roux. It may look a little curdled, don't worry, keep stirring! Keep adding milk, a little at a time, quickly stirring all the time. Don't panic! It may not look good but it will. Eventually, it will look like thick cream although you can make this thinner if you prefer...just add more milk. Once the desired thickness has been achieved, let it simmer for a minute, then add white pepper, some salt (I always use unsalted butter, check taste first before adding any salt if your butter is already salted) and a really good grating of nutmeg.

Mix the pasta into the bechamel sauce and then throw in half of the sauce. Mix well and pour some more on the top. Package up the rest for later. Add a good handful or two of grated Parmesan. We also added some cheddar and Gruyere. At this stage, we usually bake the pasta but everyone was champing at the bit and I just served it instead. This was 500g pasta and it will easily feed 8-10. We all had two servings and the rest was packaged up (two dishes full) for another date and frozen.

The kids helped to make the Vicky sponge and dad made the butter icing.

How do you know if your kids are feeling better? Just look at their faces.

And if in doubt, just watch them playing teddy bear picnics behind the couch.

I have so many fruit cake, bread and loaf recipes and this is one of the simplest. Most of the recipes for fruit loaf are simple and this one is boiled first. I made it for supper last night and so that there was some for breakfast for grandpa as a nice start to his birthday.

Feel free to swap the sugar for muscovado as this is lovely in this cake.

200g sultanas

250ml milk

200g sugar

125g Marg
(marg works well in this but feel free to use butter)
250g Self Raising Flour

1 egg

1 teaspoon cinnamon or mixed spice

Put sultanas, milk, sugar and marg in pan, bring to boil stirring all the time. Once it has come to the boil, turn off and remove from ring. Leave to cool for 10 minutes.

Fold in the flour and mix, add the egg and mix again. Pour into greased loaf tin and put in a pre-heated oven at 160 degrees for 1hr. Leave to cool before serving. How simple is that?

Helen's dessert....skinny cow lolly...actually delicious.

A gift from Barry....kids couldn't wait to open them and of course, disgusting. Hope you don't serve these in your restaurants, Barry!


Laurie said...

Hi Helen! I'm over from SITS. You said you were last, but alas, it was me!

Speaking of being late, it's 6:16PM here in Virginia, USA and I need to start dinner!!

Your blog is making me hungry ...

I'm glad your kids are feeling better.


Lee the Hot Flash Queen said...

I hope the kiddos can go to school tomorrow! So, what time is dinner??

ModernMom said...

I have friends who swear by oil of oregeno? have not tried it myself, but like you may consider it soon to boost up these babies immunes systems.
Hope all is well...OH and your table looked lovely!

Judy Harper said...

It does look simple and delicious, but what are sultanas? I know what the other ingredients are, except to that one. I'm glad the kids are better. One of our schools had a similar problem. The closed the school down, then the teachers, janitors, all school personnel and volunteers, washed walls, desks, bathrooms, dishes, I mean everything, down with disinfectant. Apparently it worked.Thanks for the recipe!

Helen McGinn said...

Laurie, thank you and welcome!

Lee, for you, anytime you arrive!

ModernMom, I'll have to look into that; thanks!

Judy, sultanas are blonde raisins. They are usually plumper and from the white or green grape as opposed to the red. Raisins work equally as well in this recipe however I use sultanas a lot in Indian cooking and they look beautiful if mixed with raisins in Christmas pudding etc. You can usually find them next to the raisins or near the other dried fruit. xx

Protege said...

Grandpa looks great for his age, congratulations.;)
As for the immunity, all I can say that I have never been so sick (ever before) as this year. This is my 4th flue an I hardly ever get sick usually.
Your food pictures are incredible.;)

Grannymar said...

Sounds like Grandad's birthday was enjoyed by all. I hope the cherubs behind the sofa are bursting with energy again.

Now if I tell when my birthday is.... will you cook me all my favourite foods? ;)

Scotsman said...

Lots of fruit, veg, and homemade food? That's not the Glasgow way to avoid the flu. It usually involves ready made meals and takeaways. :)

Shelle said...

Lucky Grandpa!!!

Haven't heard sultanas mentioned in a while. You've again posted recipes I need. I can't get my meat sauce to taste good, but I'll have to try this one, easy and a little more 'special'....I've been making meatballs but my oven died. and I just realized, I forgot to get onions yesterday...just saw that yummy french onion soup (I'll have to freeze some semolina bread dh just bought before it disappears)

My Mum's fruit cake recipe is great..also a boiled fruit cake but I've lost it again for the 100th time.

That's rather scary about the flu. I use Sambucol which is from Europe or Scandinavia - it's elderberry concentrate to build up immunity. Expensive (I get it free w. coupons) but it works for me and I give it to the kids.

Anna said...

i have been getting sick quite often as well-- im thinking mine has more to do with the fact i have a terrible sleep schedule, i eat snickers and pop for breakfast as i zoom to class, and stress myself out far too much.

but really, send well wishes to your lovely family. i wouldn't want to watch a show about strings with anybody else! ; )


Catherine said...

Wow! I love that dish of pasta! Your recipe for the fruit bread sounds fabulous! Happy Blogging! :)

When did I become my Mom said...

Your kids are adorable!! Here from SITS.

gaelikaa said...

Another lovely food post - yum!