Saturday, December 30, 2006

A Matter of Choice

Reading through umpteen recipes, it is amazing how many contain the same ingredients, give or take a few, yet will still turn out a completely different dish. The other week I mentioned serving salmon with small (newish) potatoes and peas, plus a wonderful sauce I had 'invented' using mayonnaise, yoghurt and a small amount of horseradish sauce. Yesterday I saw a recipe using the same ingredients (sans sauce) in a different guise, but infinitely more interesting and one that I will be serving next week as all the ingredients will be to hand.
Within this recipe there are choices as to which way to cook the potatoes, if at all, and also an alternative fish. Which means this dish can be served in several different ways, especially if you start playing around with it by adding other ingredients such as herbs.

Potato, Salmon and Pea Grill: serves four
approx 1 1/2 lb small potatoes, or use canned potatoes
4 oz (100g) frozen peas,
200g piece of fresh salmon*, or can of salmon, or tuna
200ml creme fraiche or yoghurt/mayo
4 oz (100g) cheddar cheese, grated
Note:*If using fresh salmon, poach then flake.
With potatoes, cook whole until just tender (either boil or microwave, leaving the skins on)
or use canned potatoes which can be heated with the peas. Cool only enough to handle and then slice. Whichever way you cook the peas (alone in water, or with the canned potatoes, or in the microwave, they need about 4 minutes cooking). Drain everything well.
Put the flaked salmon and peas in a dish and bind with a very little creme fraiche or the alternative. Add most of the potatoes and toss gently. Season to taste and turn out into a shallow ovenproof dish.
Scatter the last of the potatoes over the top and cover with the rest of the creme fraiche or a blend of yoghurt and mayo, then sprinkle over the cheese. Place under a preheated grill and cook until bubbling and golden.
Tip: Never discard the bones from a can of salmon (or sardines) as they contain a lot of calcium, just crush and mix in with the fish.

As ever, I give quantities for four people. Please remember that as my budget is for two people, the ingredients for some recipes will normally be halved for us (although my husband has such an appetite he can eat enough for two on his own). Throughout the Challenge all foods used will be accounted for so - at the end of ten weeks -we will all know exactly how much the meals have cost, how much food is left over (if any) and how much I have had to over-spend to get there. Or maybe not.

Yesterday evening I put 100g each of butter beans, red kidney beans and pinto beans in separate bowls to soak in plenty of water. As expected the red beans took up the most water.
Today, before cooking , I will drain, weigh and see if there is any difference between them, then do the same again after cooking. 100g of dry beans is said to be one serving, but looking at them this morning, I can promise you these beans should go further. Once cooked I will spread the beans on a baking tin and open-freeze them. Then bag them up. for 'free-flow'. It is possible to buy several varieties of canned beans quite cheaply, but home-cooked will always remain very much cheaper. It's up to us to choose how much we want (or need) to do to penny-pinch.

Tomorrow sees the advance preparation for the start of the Mean Cuisine Challenge. Bread will be baked (being easier to slice the following day). Ice-cream will be made, enough to last a week or more if I can keep my husband away from it. A further fruit cake, (the last one not even being given the chance to mellow, it's all gone sob, sob). Maybe a batch of tomato (pizza type) sauce to pot up and freeze. Oh, yes - how about some chicken liver pate? Looks like a day of kitchen activity coming up and I can't wait. I really do enjoy rolling up my sleeves and getting on with it. You can just lie back and think about doing it if you wish, but as the recipes have all been given in previous postings, have you really got a good excuse not to try at least one?