Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Best of Biscuits

With the holiday period in about 6 weeks, we will stocking up with the best cheeses, so why not bake great biscuits to go with them.
Digestive Biscuits - makes savoury or sweet
6 ox (175g) wholewheat flour
pinch salt
3 oz (75g) S.R.flour,
1 level tsp baking powder
2 oz (50g) each lard and margarine
very little milk to mix.
For sweet version add: 1 oz (25g) granulated sugar
For savoury version: add 1/2 tsp celery salt, or 1 tsp. dried herbs, black pepper
Mix the dry ingredients together and rub in fats thoroughly (you could blitz these in a processor). Mix in only enough milk to give a firm dough. Knead lightly then roll out on a floured board to approx. 1/4" thick. Cut into 3" r0unds and place on a greased and floured baking sheet, prick well and bake at 190C, 375F, Gas 5 for 10-15 mins until just browning. Cool on a cake airer.
Tip: to make chocolate digestives, spread a thin layer of melted chocolate over the underside and drag a fork through to make a wiggly pattern. Keep in a tin when set.
To give a professional look to biscuits, buy a round 'needle holder' from a florists who use and sell these to hold flower arrangements. Keep yours just for pricking biscuits or pastry.

8 oz (225g) fine oatmeal *
good pinch of salt
1 1/2 oz (40g) lard
Mix together the oatmeal and salt (* you can blitz porridge oats down to make a rough flour). Add the melted fat and only enough boiling water to bind. Knead in a bowl and turn out onto a board sprinkled with the oatmeal. Roll out thinly and cut into rounds, oblongs or triangles.
Place on a prepared baking sheet (as above) and bake at 200C, 400F, Gas 6 for 5-10 minutes until just crisp. Cool on a wire rack.

Small Savoury Crackers - makes 6 - 7 dozen
9 oz (250g) S.R.flour
1 tsp salt
2 oz (50g) margarine
cold water
Additional flavours: Parmesan, celery salt, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, black pepper.
Sieve flour and salt, rub in margarine and mix to a firm dough with water. Turn out onto a floured board and knead well. Decide how many flavours you wish to use and divide the dough into that amount. Roll out each ball into an oblong and sprinkle with chosen flavour. Fold into three and repeat twice more. Finally roll out thinly and cut into circles with a 2" cutter. Repeat using each ball with its own flavour. Prick the biscuits and place on greased baking sheets. Bake at 180C etc. until light gold and turning crisp.
Tip: Remove a biscuit after 5 minutes to check if it is cooked. If not, keep checking every 30 seconds or so until you are satisfied. Remember you can always return biscuits to the oven if not crisp enough. Always store biscuits in an airtight tin.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Frozen Assets

Not such an early start for me today as my Beloved has returned after a four week absence. I've discovered it's not much fun cooking for just me and more than once I ended up eating baked beans straight from the tin. Saves the washing up I told myself, uses no hot water, better for the environment. I am the queen of excuses.
Back to the topic of the day. Freezers. We bought one in 1989 which had a 14 c.ft. capacity. After about ten years the compressor went, but it was far, far cheaper to have a new compressor installed than to buy a new freezer. It kept going until my husband decided we could do with a large American style fridge freezer a year ago. So the freezer went and also our even older (c.1960) fridge, also still working - and such a part of my married life I gave it a cuddle and shed a tear when it went. Be warned, these large America style cabinets seem to be made for American style doors, as they just won't get through the British standard size. Luckily our house is Edwardian, the doors are wider, but even so, the kitchen door had to come off, also the doors from the fridge/freezer before it could be installed.. We had to choose the style that had no ice-cube dispenser in the door, for that would have needed to be sited by the incoming water pipe. Otherwise fine, the large fridge section is a boon, but with a smaller freezer capacity there is just not the space to store all the home-grown fruits, and oddments that would normally be kept 'to use up later'. In time it will become my friend and to this end we have named it 'Boris'.

With a large freezer we had room to store the unexpected: dried milk, instant potato, nuts, some rarely used flours, anything dry that had a shortish shelf life. Ice-cube trays were put to good use by freezing cubes of tomato puree, chicken/vegetable and beef stock, lemon and lime zest and juice, egg whites, chopped fresh herbs...
Meals made in bulk were frozen individually for later. Grated cheese stored, home-made pizza bases rolled out and covered with pizza sauce then frozen (add the topping after thawing). Quality home-made beefburgers, fish cakes, unfilled sponge cakes, bags of filled profiteroles, filo filled samosas, all were made when there was time to spare. With the various frozen vegetables fruits, fish and meats, we needed a large freezer.
Now I need to be very selective in what is kept frozen and I have still not got it quite right. Arguments are had with my husband who brings in several tubs of his favourite ice-cream and demands a shelf for all to himself. At least, with the long hot summer over, and his absence, I have filled that gap to capacity.
Space in the freezer will need to be found ready to prepare food for the festive season if only to save labour on the day. Breadcrumbs can be made, stuffing balls, uncooked mince pies, even the turkey can be cooked ahead, sliced and frozen in stock ready to re-heat. Trifles can freeze well if you use a quick jelly glaze instead of the standard jelly cubes, cartons or cans of instant custard freezes without splitting, also sweetened double cream also. But with any new products do experiment first on a mini-scale to find out.

If there is room in a freezer, it is worth bagging up and storing plenty of ice-cubes - some with slices of orange, lemon and lime. Especially if parties are planned. The type of job that can be done later, but worth reminding now. The more done in advance the easier it gets.

There are several experiments I'll be working on this week, hopefully one in particular will solve the greatest problem we have when freezing home-made meals. More on that later.
Tip: when making mince pies, cut out a shape in the pastry lid. This allows steam to escape when baking and prevents all that sticky stuff that often oozes out. Extend mincemeat by adding grated apple. Mince pies can be frozen cooked, but preferably freeze uncooked, remove from the tin and then pack in bags. Pop a few in the oven to cook when it is on for something else.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Saucy Puddings

Here are a couple of self-saucing puddings which are always fun to serve. As with all recipes, read the method first which gives us a chance to prepare any containers, heat the oven to the right temperature, above all to understand the whys and wherefores of why things are done.

Hot Fruit Pudding
1 large can pineapple pieces (or use any canned fruit)
20 (50g) each butter, sugar and flour
2 eggs, separated
Drain the fruit, keeping back 1/4 pint.
Cream butter and sugar until fluffy, then beat in the egg yolks. Add the flour gradually, then beat in the 1/4 pint of the juice. It may look odd but that's OK. Beat egg whites and fold them into the mixture. Pour into a buttered dish and stand this in a roasting tin of cold water. Bake at 180C , 350F, Gas 4 for 40 - 45 minutes. The mixture rises to a souffle type topping with the sauce underneath. Heat the saved fruit and serve with the pudding.

Hot Chocolate Pudding
a bare 6 oz ( 150g) flour,
2 tsp baking powder
6 oz (150g) sugar,
2 tblsp cocoa
pinch salt,
5 fl. oz milk
2 oz (50g) melted butter,
Sift together the dry ingredients, then add the butter, milk and flavouring. Mix until smooth.
Pour into a buttered dish. Add topping ingredients.
Topping: 4 oz (125g) sugar, 3 tblsp cocoa. (water)
Mix together the dry ingredients and sprinkle over the batter. Pour over 15 fl.oz boiling water which should float on the top. Do not stir. Bake at the same temperature and for the same time as the preceding recipe. The batter mixture bakes into a cake and the topping sinks below to make a sauce.
*Flavourings: vanilla, coffee or orange go very well with chocolate.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Advance Planning

Why is it we buy so much more food for a festive meal we would for a normal one? Most of the time we have so much left over we tend to eat the same foods, in different guises, day after day until it is all used up. Or have the bother of making up meals to freeze away when we would rather be sitting with our feet up.
The answer is to buy less food, prepare and freeze ahead as much as you can, and turn the meal into something special - more by the presentation than over-loading the table. Tradition is not what it was when you can buy turkey all the year round, but adding the trimmings makes all the difference.
Allowing that the main meal for Christmas Day is the traditional one, we can still be frugal, but add atmosphere, by scattering around the house bowls of nuts, dishes of (home-made) sweets, bowls of fresh fruit particularly oranges, plates of flapjack. Previously made gingerbread
biscuits hang from the tree, and maybe there is a gingerbread house for the children.
Have carol music playing in the background to welcom guests, and - if the gorgeous smells from the kitchen are not enough - then light a cinnamon and orange scented candle. Dim the lights, pour the drinks and there you go....not that difficult is it?
During the next few weeks I'll be passing on loads of hints and tips and recipes, so that Christmas this year will be festive, economical and also environmentally friendly. Above all,
making it easy on the day, for the one that does the cooking.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Taking the Biscuit

Get ready for Halloween and begin an early start to seasonal celebrations by making your own biscuits. Home-made is comparable to the most expensive on the supermarket shelves, yet you make your own for the price of some of the cheapest.
If you have small children, then make smaller biscuits. Just allow a little less cooking time. Please read the tips at the end to avoid over-baking.
Fork Biscuits - basic mix
4 oz (100g) butter or soft margarine
2 0z (50g) caster sugar
5 oz (150g) S.R.Flour
For orange or lemon biscuits add grated rind of the fruits.
For chocolate biscuits replace 1/2 oz flour with cocoa powder.
For ginger biscuits add 1 level tsp. gr. ginger .
To make:
Soften butter (or use soft marg,) and put in a bowl with the sugar and using a wooden spoon beat them together with any citrus zest or flavourig if using. Work in the flour and, using clean hands, knead it gently into a dough. Pull off lumps about the size of a small walnut and roll into balls, (makes about 20). Place well apart on a greased or non-stick baking tray. Dip a fork into water and press down on the balls to flatten. Bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4. for about 15 minutes until pale golden. Remove and cool on a cake airer.
Tips: If possible line baking trays with a special non-stick liner, this prevents the underside from browning too much. Also check biscuits just before cooking time is up, they will carry on crisping when taken out of the oven and left on the baking tray for a minute or two more. If taken out too early and when cold they are still too soft, then return them to a hot oven for a moment or two more.

Make-ahead Cheese Straws. (F)
These are best eaten fresh, but freeze very well and hardly need any thawing.
4 oz (150g) plain flour
3 oz (75g) softened butter
2 oz (50g) strong Cheddar cheese
2 med. egg yolks.
Parmesan cheese
Put the flour and butter into a bowl and rub together to make crumbs. Grate the cheddar cheese and stir this in. Season with a little black pepper if you wish. Add one egg yolk and half the other and stir until mixture combines. Pop into a poly bag and chill for about half an hour.
Roll out on a floured board to about 1/4" thick, then cut into strips of the same width.
Cut these strips to the length you require (4" will make about 30).
Place on greased baking trays and brush with the remaining egg yolk then sprinkle over finely grateed Parmesan cheese (or you could use sesame seeds on some).
Bake at 190C, 375F, gas 5 for between 10-15 minutes until golden. Cool on cake airer.
Freeze when cold.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Making the Most of - PUMPKINS

Yesterday I read this interesting fact - "pumpkins have the peculiar quality of absorbing and retaining the flavours of the food they are cooked with... and that stewed with plums, apples, rhubarb or gooseberries they taste exactly like them when used for puddings and tarts". So plenty of food for thought there. Cooked pumpkin puree and soups can be frozen to avoid eating pumpkin every day, although pumpkin in all it's different guises (as with potatoes) can turn out to be a seasonal worthy in it's own right.
Pumpkin Soup (F without the cream)
2 tblsp. grated onion,
1 pint of pumpkin flesh, roughly chopped
1/2 pint chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 pint milk,
1/2 tsp sugar,
1/2 tsp ground cloves or grated nutmeg
1 tsp. lemon juices, plus 2 drops of Tabasco
pinch salt,
4 tblsp. double cream
Put a knob of butter in a large pan and gently fry the onions until transparent. Add the rest of the ingredients except the cream. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 mins.
Puree the mixture. (This can be frozen at this stage) Or carry on and stir in the cream, but do not boil. Serve hot with croutons.
Tip: instead of lemon and Tabasco, you could substitute orange zest and juice to taste.

Pumpkin and Pineapple Curry
1 onion, diced,
3 tblsp. Thai curry paste
around about 1 lb (500g) diced pumpkin flesh
1/2 can (or 200ml) coconut milk
a handful of green (string) beans, cut in pieces
diced pieces of red (bell) pepers (optional)
4 canned pineapple rings (drained) cut into pieces
Put a little sunflower (or chosen) oil in a frying pan and lightly fry the onion. Stir in the curry paste then add the coconut milk and stock. Simmer until the pumpkin is tender. Add the beans and the pineapple. Serve when heated through. Garnish with coriander leaves. Serve with rice or cous-cous.
Tip: When using part of a can of pineapple, use the liquid to make up a jelly, and freeze the
remaining rings separately so they can be used in stirfries or cheesecakes etc.

Pumpkin and Lemon Curd
1 lb pumpkin flesh, diced,
2 lemons
1 lb gran. sugar,
2 large or 2 med. eggs
Put the pumpkin in a saucepan without water, and simmer very gently until soft. Mash or puree this until smooth. Beat the eggs and add them to the pumpkin then stir in the sugar. Add the grated rind and juice of the lemons. Cook over a low heat stirring until thickened (about 30 mins). Pour into hot sterilise jars, seal and keep chilled. Eat within a month.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

As each day I aim to post up recipes, hints and tips and anything topical to do with food, this means an earlier post will disappear from the bottom of the page. These can be retrieved through clicking on Archives, but worth while making your own index in a little notebook and maybe printing out any recipes and tips you find interesting. I have a horror of my computer breaking down and it might take a week or more for me to get it sorted - if at all. In any event, stick with me...
By the way - I've managed to change the time to British Summer Time, yes I know the clocks go back next weekend, I'm a bit slow on the uptake sometimes.
Please, don't let this blog be all about me - send me any queries, or requests for certain recipes and I promise they will get priority with the answer up the very next day if at all possible.

Wizardry of Oz

The following cake recipe would make a great cake for Christmas and everyone will ask you how it is made and please can they have the recipe. Feel free to pass it on.

Australian two-tone Fruit Cake - made in three stages
1 cup - 8 fl.oz.
Basic Batter:
250g butter,
1 cup sugar,
4 eggs
2 cups plain flour,
1 tsp. baking powder
pinch salt
Cream butter and sugar and beat in eggs, sift the flour with the baking powder and salt and fold into the creamed mixture.
Dark Fruit Mixture: mix together
1 cup raisins,
1/2 cup stoned prunes, chopped
1 cup walnut pieces,
1/2 cup mixed peel,
2 tsp. mixed spice,
1 tblsp. black treacle.
Light Fruit Mixture: mix together
1 cup sultanas,
1 cup semi-dried apricots, chopped
1/2 cup chopped almonds,
1/2 tsp ground ginger
4 slices glace pineapple,
juice of 1 lemon
Method of assembly:
In one bowl mix half the batter with the dark fruit mixture. Using another bowl repeat with the light mixture. Spoon the dark mixture into a greased and lined 10" round cake tin. Top with the light mixture. Bake at 150C, 300F for 4 hours or until cooked. Tent with foil if browning too quickly. Leave to stand for 15 minutes or so before turning out onto a cake airer. When cool, peel off paper, re-wrap in fresh paper and then wrap tightly in foil to allow flavours to develop. You can if you wish spike the cake with a skewer and drizzle over a little brandy or rum before wrapping.
Tip: Instead of using glace pineapple, buy a pack of semi-dried pineapple/mango or use a tropical fruit mixture.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Reading that over a million pumpkins were sold last year solely to carve up for Halloween lanterns, and as 90% of the flesh was binned, we are now being advised to put it on the compost heap instead! My advice (for what it is worth) is COOK WITH IT, so, during this week I will be posting up several great pumpkin recipes.
We are also being encouraged to recycle almost everything and it made me smile when I saw on breakfast TV how a family are dusting down virtually unused presents such as pasta makers and yogurt making machines which they will start using to avoid unwanted packaging to dispose of. Any excuse to get the nation being more self-sufficient and starting to cook again gets the thumbs up from me.

Penne for your Thoughts

Earlier this week I commented on the difference in price of pasta penne and baked beans. After cooking some of the pasta (30 pieces of each), and then alternatively eating some of each, there was a noticeable difference. The cheaper pasta (8p a portion) was a bit limp, had no flavour at all but I feel would be accepted more by small children as it did not require much chewing. The more expensive pasta had more adult mouth appeal and, as this works out at only 20p a portion it can still be counted as an economical ingredient. I ended up mixing the two together in my storage jar to give me the best of both.
As to the baked beans, I prefer quality beans on my toast, yet find the cheapest beans work well in a dish such as this variation on a Cassoulet.
Not quite a Cassoulet
2 onions and one carrot, both thinly sliced,
8 oz minced beef and 4 chicken winglets
garlic flavoured or spiced sausage, sliced
1 can cheapest baked beans,
1 dessp each tomato puree and honey
fresh breadcrumbs
1 tsp dried mixed herbs or two dessp. fresh
Fry the chicken winglets in a little oil until browned. Drain, keeping the fat in the pan. To this add the onion and beef and fry until browned, then drain. Also drain the beans keeping the liquid. Place layers of vegetables, beef, chicken, sausage, beans in a casserole . Mix together the tomato puree, the honey and the bean liquid together, and make up to 3/4 pint with chicken or beef stock. pour this into the casserole . Cover and cook at 150C, 300F, Gas 2 for 30 minutes. Remove lid and top with breadcrumbs, herbs and a grind of black pepper. Continue baking for a further 3/4 hour, two or three times breaking up the crumb topping so that it absorbs some of the liquid. At the end of baking the cassoulet should have a wonderful crusty topping. Serve from the pot.
Note: leftover chunks of cooked ham can be also used in this dish and stuffing mix makes a good alternative to the breadcrumb topping. Remember, you may be able to get chicken winglets free with chicken carcases from your butcher if you ask nicely), alternatively use the (free) cooked chicken flesh from the bones.

Not quite a Cauliflower Cheese
12 oz quick cooking penne or similar,
1 onion, sliced
appr. 8 oz cauliflower florets
vegetable stock cube
1 tsp Dijon Mustard,
sour cream
4 - 6 oz grated cheddar cheese
1 slice of bread crumbed, melted butter
To a large pan of boiling water add a good pinch of rock salt. then stir in the stock cube. When dissolved, drop in the pasta, onion and cauliflower. Cook for 6 minutes. Drain but reserve 1/2 pint of cooking liquid. Return this liquid to the pan and re-heat, stirring in the mustard and enough sour cream to make a pouring sauce. When simmering point is reached, stir in the pre-cooked pasta and vegetables along with 2/3rds of the cheese.
Pour this into a shallow dish and sprinkle over the breadcrumbs which have been mixed with a little melted butter and the remaining cheese. Brown under a pre-heated grill. Leave to stand to cool slightly, meanwhile preparing a side dish of green salad.
Note: to sour cream, add a teaspoonful of lemon juice to a small carton of single cream. Alternatively use creme fraiche. OR just make a cheese sauce in the normal way.
To add more colour to the dish, use broccoli florets instead of cauliflower.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Useful things to Make

Two store cupboard favourites I make in bulk, one is a barbecue sauce, the ingredients of which can be altered according to what you have in store. The other is a stock sugar syrup, which has several uses.
Barbecue Sauce - use this as a marinade, or for brushing over spare ribs and any other meat you wish to have a sticky glaze.
2 tblsp each honey, soy sauce, tomato ketchup and plum jam
1 tblsp vinegar, 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp dry mustard
Blend all ingredients in a pan over a low heat and bring to the boil. Boil for one minute then pot into hot sterilised jars. Seal and use as required.
Note: You can substitute golden syrup for honey, tomato puree for ketchup, and any sharp jam or marmalade for plum jam.
Stock Sugar Syrup
Heat 1 kg granulated sugar and 700 ml of water in a heavy pan until the sugar has dissolved. Aid this by swirling the water in the pan but do not stir (otherwise there is a danger of crystals forming after cooling). Then bring to the boil and simmer for four minutes. Cool and store in sterilised bottle. Best kept chilled. Use this syrup for sorbets, fruit salads, soft drinks, Turkish oranges , and for making candied peel.
Note: other recipes for making this syrup suggest using equal measures of sugar and water.

Turkish Oranges.
This is a dessert which can be made days in advance and kept in the fridge.
4 or 5 small oranges, sugar syrup
With a sharp knife remove all peel and pith from oranges (keeeping some), then slice the oranges through to make four rings. Hold these together with cocktails sticks leaving a slight gap between each slice. Place in a bowl and cover with sugar syrup. Remove any pith from some of the peel and cut the peel into fine shreds. Put this in a little water and bring to the boil. Strain, and repeat twice (this takes away any bitterness in the peel). Add the shreds to the oranges in the syrup. Keep chilled. Serve with cream.

Candied Peel
Save orange, lemon, lime and grapefruit peel (you can freeze peel until you have enough).
Wash the peel and simmer for 1 - 2 hours in water until the peel is tender. Change the water 2 or 3 times to remove any bitterness. When the peel is soft, drain well and put into a heavy pan. Cover with sugar syrup and bring to the boil. Remove from heat and leave the peel in this to soak overnight. Next day repeat. On the third day simmer until the peel has absorbed nearly all the syrup. Place the peel on a wire rack to drain. Once the peel has dried out, store in a clean screw-top jar.
Note: cook the peel in large irregular pieces. To use in cakes, dice when needed.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The secret side of Shopping

Reading a trade magazine yesterday, I noticed many mentions of 'mystery shoppers', a term which was first introduced to me by an earlier comment from someone who earns quite a bit of money through this. If you enjoy browsing round shops, supermarkets or even wish to travel further afield then this is worth thinking about. Some work can even be done from home. Type in mystery shopper in Google Search, then you will find more about it.

Whilst I firmly believe we should buy the best quality foods we can afford, this usually means fresh produce, especially meat. When it comes to storecupboard ingredients, we can often save if we compare prices, first checking nutritional values before we buy. For instance, this week I purchases one tin of own brand baked beans (17p) along with a four-pack of my favourite brand (44p per can), same weights, virtually the same protein content, the main difference being in the taste and thickness of the sauce.
Tip: drain excess sauce from baked beans and use to add to a spag.bol. sauce or cassoulet.
Mix drained cheap beans with the more expensive ones in thicker sauce and maybe no-one will notice.

Checking other products a 500g bag of a well-known brand of quick-cook pasta penne (£1.00), was bought along with a 500g pack of the stores own brand penne (39p). They both take the same amount of time to cook and each had a shelf-life of b.f. autumn 2008. Strangely the cheaper pasta had slightly more protein content.
Tip: Remember the 3 'C's' -
Check prices - Compare nutritional values - Choose the better buy.

Use it or Lose it

With umpteen years of evolution behind us, we still instinctively follow old ways of finding and dealing with food. We scavenge - now usually in the supermarkets who, knowing this, move foods around so that we have to hunt even harder to find them. We hoard, particularly coming up to the winter months. Men, who won't even acknowledge what a kitchen is for, suddenly become cook of the tribe the minute a barbeque is lit. The thing to remember is that along the evolution trail, how to cook food was learned much later and more by accident, so these survivial techniques need to be handed down generation to generation. And still need to be despite what the supermarkets wish us to believe.

I can relate to scavenging, now bringing it under control by ordering on-line several days before delivery, filling my basket willy-nilly, and then, after calming down, deleting what I don't really need (which is most of it). Do you - like me - still feel the urge to buy when you know you could keep going for several days more?
Hoarding, now this I do really well. It satisfies my sense of security, which is one of the main reason why creatures do this- if you don't hoard you can't live through the winter - but in this 21st century no need for that, so then I take pleasure working through most of what I have bought before I start all over again. See an earlier posting where I got this down to a fine art.
A reminder: it is always important to use foods before or around the time of their use-by date to avoid having wasted money. But not necessary to throw out (as so many people do) when they arrive at their 'best-before' date. These always keep a good while longer.
Tip: Even if you haven't been taught to cook, you can still teach your children - just get a good cook book and learn together.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Incredibly Inexpensive

Last month I mentioned free chicken carcases (review this in Archives), so am offering a couple of dishes which use their potential. Most of the other ingredients are on the less costly side of shopping, so now is the chance to start saving for the holiday season.
Chicken and Barley Soup
approx 1 lb chicken bits (wings, necks, carcase etc).
1 pint water or pre-made chicken stock
2 carrots, diced, one large potato diced
1 celery stump, chopped, 2 onions, chopped
3 -4 oz pearl barley, cooked* or uncooked
mushroom stalks, chopped fresh herbs
Put the chicken and water/stock into a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Skim off any scum that rises to the surface. Add the vegetables and simmer for 30 mins. Season with black pepper. Add the barley and mushroom stalks and simmer for a further hour (30 mins. if barley is precooked). Remove chicken pieces and discard any skin, gristle and bones. Return flesh to the pot Stir in herbs and serve with crusty home-made bread.
*The barley can be the left-overs after making Lemon Barley Water.

1 onion, chopped, 8 oz. cooked chicken bits
3 large potatoes, cooked in their skins cooled and diced
2-3 quality cooked sausages, chopped
1 small can each baked beans and whole kernel sweetcorn
Fry the onion in a little oil until golden brown then add the remaining ingredients including liquid from cans. Cook for 10 minutes until really hot. Serve with a green vegetable.
Tip: Instead of sausages you could use diced corned beef.

Lemon Barley Water
1 oz each pearl barley and sugar. 1 lemon.
Put the barley in a pan and cover with water. Bring to the boil, strain and rinse with cold water then return barley to the pan. Cover with 1/2 pint of cold water and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for 45 - 60 mins.
Peel the rind from the lemon as thinly as possible, removing any pith and squeeze out the juice Strain the barley liquid* into a heatproof jug, add the lemon rind, juice and the sugar. Stir well and leave to cool. Strain and pour into a sterilised screw top bottle. Dilute as required and serve with slices of lemon and ice cubes.
Note- this drink will keep undiluted in the fridge for a day or two, but for longer keeping suggest making it in bulk then freezing in small containers.
* use the cooked barley for the first recipe above, this could be frozen for later use.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Making the Most of - JELLY

Each time we use an inexpensive food product, we should have money left from the budget to spend on quality ingredients such as meat, organic vegetables, or a few luxuries. Jelly in the packet, is very low cost, and when made up is not only great for children, but can also be turned into a dessert that guests will be more than happy to be served.
Fruit Mousse: Chill a small can of evaporated milk in the fridge for 24 or more hours. Make a jelly up with 3/4 pint water, and when this is nearly at setting point, whip the evaporated milk until very thick and start pouring in the jelly. Continue whipping until all the jelly is taken up.
Pour into a dish, put in the fridge until set. Eat as-is or garnish with fruit and cream.
Jelly Wedges: Make a jelly using half the recommended amount of water. Pour into halved orange shells (flesh and juice removed), and leave to set. To serve - cut through jelly and shell in half to make two wedges. Use different citrus flavoured jellies (lemon, lime, orange etc) and alternate the wedges around a plate. Can be eaten in the hand.
Adults Only: Dissolve a strawberry jelly in a small amount of water, cool and make up to the correct amount using Babycham. Experiment with other flavours and other drinks. Alcopops (never tried them) sound as though they should work.
Fruit Terrine: Line a loaf tin with cling-film. Pour in a little jelly. When set start layering fresh or canned fruits. Carefully pour in remaining jelly to cover. Note: when using both canned and fresh fruits, they divide naturally, the canned fruits sinking to the bottom. Chill the terrine and turn out when set, removing film. (For adults, make up the jelly with a little white wine),
Salad Mousse:
1 pkt. lime jelly, 8 fl.oz ginger ale, chilled
2 tblsp. mayonnaise, 4 oz cottage cheese
7 oz can pear halves, drained and chopped
2 oz celery, finely chopped,
2 tblsp. walnuts, chopped
Dissolve jelly in 1/4 pt. water. Cool, then stir in ginger ale. Leave to stand for 15 minutes.
Place jelly, mayonnaise and cheese in a blender and blitz until smooth. Pour into a bowl and leave until starting to thicken. Fold in the prepared pears, celery and walnuts. Pour into a wetted ring mould (or individual dariole moulds) and chill for at least 3 hours until firmly set, then turn out to serve.
Zig-Zag: Make three or four different coloured jellies using a little less than the recommended amount of water. Tilt a plastic container (ice cream tub etc), and pour in some jelly. When set, tilt in another direction and pour in a contrasting colour. Keep repeating, tilting in different directions each time and using different colours. Chill and turn out onto a white serving plate.
Useful tips: when squeezing out citrus juice, remove membrane from shells and store shells in the freezer until needed. Use fresh fruit juice or the syrup from a can of fruit to make up a jelly. Tiny snippets of chopped pkt. jelly scattered over a trifle make a good alternative to candied fruits.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

More than Just....

Semolina is one product we should keep in store. Cheap in price, and a byproduct of wheat, we can use it in many ways. Even the basic semolina pudding can be enhanced by stirring in a chunk or two of chocolate, or some jam to make it more child acceptable. This first recipe uses semolina as a cake ingredient. Do try making it, for you will love it.
Fragrant Cake -
3 oz each butter, caster sugar, S.R.Flour, and semolina
grated rind of one orange and 2 tblsp of orange juice
2 eggs.
Cream butter and sugar with the orange rind until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time and stir in the sifted flour, semolina and the orange juice. Turn into a well-greased cake tin (about 7" by 3") and bake at 189C, 350F, Gas 4 for 50-60 mins. This could also be baked in two sandwich tins at the same temperature but for 30 mins. Turn out onto a cake airer, and dust with icing sugar before serving.
Tips: you could use soft margarine instead of butter. Also with the one-tin cake, if using an electric oven, turn off the heat for the last 10 minutes to let the cake finish cooking in the residual heat.

Rich Semolina Pudding - this is a traditional Asian recipe eaten on special occasions. You could add more banana to make an extra serving. Yes, I know it will be frowned on by the health conscious, but once in a while shouldn't do too much harm.
5 oz (150g) each, butter, semolina, sugar, and mashed banana
15 fl.oz (450ml) warm milk
(optional - 1/2 tsp. ground cardamon, and 2 tsp raisins),
In a pan, melt the butter and stir in the semolina. Fry until it turns pink. Reduce heat and stir in the sugar. When this has melted, add the banana and finally the milk.
Half cover pan with lid and simmer until the semolina is cooked. The mixture will be fairly thick.
If using, add the cardamon and raisins. Serve warm.
Tip: There is a use for banana skins! They can work as a polish for leather. Rub the inside of the skins over shoes and buff up with a cloth.
Semolina tips: Sprinkle over pastry before adding soft fruit and it will soak up the excess juices. Works the same with crumbles. Use to coat fried food instead of using crumbs. Use instead of cornmeal (polenta) to make Gnocchi. Toss lightly boiled potatoes in semolina before roasting.
When you seldom use semolina, then keep it in the fridge, or - even better, the freezer, then it will long outlast its use-by or best-before date. This also works with dried milk, instant potato, other wheat products...

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The appealing Potato

Thank you for sending sandwich fillings such as scrambled eggs and shrimps; also Brie and fried bacon on French Bread (grapes on the side). More please. As usual my mind went on to other uses for these fillings, came up with the idea they would make good Jacket Potato Fillers. As potatoes are one of our staple foods so cheap with it then this is the topic of the day. Recipes coming up...

Potatoes Mexicana - from the Royal House of Hohenlohe
1 baking potato per person, oil and salt/pepper
a little butter, cream and yogurt and paprika
grated cheese.
Rub each potato with oil and salt and wrap in foil and bake in hot oven.
Cut in half lengthwise and scoop out potato. Mash this with butter, cream, yogurt, paprika, and season to taste. Pile back in the shell and cover with grated cheese. Bake in the oven until heated through and golden on top. Good to eat on their own for lunch or with cold or grilled meats.

Potato, Courgette and Tomato Bake - to serve four
4 medium potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
4 medium courgettes, unpeeled and thinly sliced
1 large onion, and 4 firm tomatoes, also thinly sliced
oil, chopped parsley, breadcrumbs,
salt and pepper
Put a very thin layer of oil in a fireproof dish and arrange layers of the vegetables sprinkling parsley and breadcrumbs, and season between layers. Repeat until dish is full. Finish with a layer of potatotes and sprinkle with oil. Bake at 200C, 400F, Gas 6 until a brown crust has formed.

Magical Mash - to serve 3
1 lb mashed potato,
1 egg, separated
1/8th pint (75ml) double cream
grated nutmeg, salt and pepper,
1/2 oz (12g) butter.
Whisk the egg yolk into the cream then beat this into the mashed potato. Season to taste.
Beat egg whites until very stiff and fold into the mash. Put into a buttered ovenproof dish and top with slivers of butter. Place under a very hot grill until the top is golden brown.
Tip: Always make mash using baked jacket potatoes, as they are much drier than using the normal boiled potato., they also seem to be lump free. The potato skins can be lightly brushed with oil and popped back into the oven to crisp up to use as 'dippers'.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Living on the Bread Line

How to manage on a small amount of money can be quite a challenge. The easiest way to approach this is to divide the weekly allowance for one (say £21) by seven (£3 for each day of the week), and that by three (for the three meals of the day) then at least we have a guide to how much can be spent per head, on each meal. With breakfast, this need cost no more than 25p. Porridge, made with milk and water costs very little and is one of the best breakfasts you can have, substantial enough to last you through to lunch. Or instead eat toast, choosing from a variety of toppings - baked beans, scrambled or poached egg, tomatoes, or mushrooms. Or boiled eggs on their own with 'soldiers'. Brown bread is far more filling than white so you don't need to eat so much. With breakfast costing so little, there will be 75p left over to add to the main meal of the day.
An inexpensive lunch will be soup, again eaten with bread. So again, more money left over to add to supper (do allow for any tea and coffee that will be drunk during the day). This probably means there will be now around £2 to spend on the main meal. Easy enough once you know how.
Here are three soup recipes I've discovered that are interesting to say the least. They also work.
Bread Soup - a traditional French soup. To serve four.
i/2 lb (250g) bread, broken into pieces
1 1/2 pints water (or milk, or stock)
2 oz (50g) butter
1 egg, pinch salt
Put the bread and water in a saucepan and leave to soak for 30 minutes. Add a pinch of salt and half the butter and simmer for 20 minutes, breaking the bread up with a spoon and, when quite smooth, break the egg into a soup tureen, drop in the last of the butter, pour in half the broth and stir well, then finally stir in the last of the broth. Serve hot.

Onion Soup - said to dispel the affects of intoxication (also called drunkard's soup)
Saute one onion in a little butter, stir in 1 tsp flour and cook until the onions are dark golden.
Add 15fl oz water and cover pan. Simmer for 30 minutes. Put a thick slice of bread into a soup tureen and pour the soup over the bread, season with a sprinkle of salt. Serve hot.

Boiled Water - said to have extraordinary virtues. A translated proverbs says that "boiled water" saves your life.
In a pan put one pint of water, 6-8 garlic cloves, a pinch of salt. Bring to the boil. After 10 minutes add 1 bay leaf, 1 sprig of sage, and 2 tblsp of olive oil. Cook for a further five minutes then remove pan from heat cover and stand for 10 minutes then strain. Put a couple of slices of bread in a heated soup tureen, cover with grated Parmesan cheese and pour over the 'boiled water'.
Tip: Do buy the best bread you can afford. Peferably brown or granary. Even better make your own. The French often use stale bread as it soaks up more liquid, and they believe that bread should be up to five days old to count as stale. Have you noticed the cheap flabby white wrapped bread hardly ever goes dry? It stays damp so quickly goes mouldy and no use to anyone.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Paying the Price

This weekend I've been 'researching' (makes it sound good) the way we eat, and came across an interesting fact: that we each eat a ton of food a year, divided into around a thousand meals (which doesn't count snacks). This is possibly (it didn't say) the right amount to eat to keep us well nourished. But it will all go terribly wrong if a lot of those meals consist of junk foods. For which of course we have to pay over the odds. So bring back home-cooking using quality ingredients and we'll all end up all feeling bright-eyed and bushy tailed.

Today's recipe is a way to use up a small amount of mince to feed more than you expect.
Meat Loaf:
4 oz each minced beef and grated apple, 1 onion and 1 carrot, grated
1 slice brown bread, crumbed, 1 egg, beaten
1 tblsp. each tomato puree and honey, dash of brown sauce
Mix together everything except the tomato puree and honey, and press into a small greased loaf tin. Blend the puree and honey together and spread over the meat mixture. Bake at 170C, 325F, Gas 3 for one hour then cover with foil and turn out the heat. Leave in the cooling oven for a further 15 minutes. This can be eaten sliced hot or cold.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Sweet Thoughts

Making our own sweets is fun to do - children love to get involved. Here are some easy ideas, followed by a couple of recipes.
Use the best dark chocolate, although children may prefer some milk chocolate to make an assortment. Melt the chocolate in a bowl standing over hot water, then start dipping pieces of no-soak apricots, tiny squares of fudge, glace cherries, marzipan, pieces of cinder toffee.. Use a fork to remove and let the chocolate drip off for a second or two before placing on parchment paper to dry. The longer you leave to set the easier chocolate is to remove (If using moulds, leave for at least 24 hours).
Make after-dinner-mints by dipping small thin circles of peppermint flavoured fondant (just add a drop of peppermint essence to fondant icing and knead. Or sandwich rolled fondant between thin layers of chocolate and cut into squares
Tips: To easily remove fragile flat chocolate shapes from paper,first lay the paper on a table-top, then drizzle over the shapes you require. Once set,. pull the paper towards the edge of the table then downwards - as the paper goes down, the chocolate moves on towards you and can be carefully captured with a piece of cardboard.

Cinder Toffee keep children away from the making as it uses boiling sugar.
4 oz (three heaped tablespoons) golden syrup, 7 oz caster sugar
1 1/2 oz butter, 1/2 tsp vinegar, 1 rounded tsp. bicarb of soda
2 tblsp cold water, 1 greased loaf tin
Put syrup, sugar, butter and water into a heavy based saucepan and stir until dissolved. Bring to a rolling boil until the mixture reaches 290 F. (when mixture becomes still and snaps when a little is dropped into cold water). Remove from heat and stir in the vinegar and bicarb. soda,
Immediately the mixture rises in the pan, pour this into the loaf tin. Cover with another tin so prevent the toffee from subsiding too much. When quite cold, remove from tin and break into pieces, any leftover bits can be crushed and used as topping for ice-cream etc.

Economical Marzipan
8 oz (225g) icing sugar, 2 0z (50g) each caster sugar and ground almonds
1 tsp. golden syrup, 2 drops almond essence, 1 egg white
Put everything into a bowl and mix together. Knead until smooth. Keep wrapped and chilled if you are not going to use it immediately.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Filling the Gap

Some time back, one of my cost-cutting-trials was to buy from a supermarket several different packs of sandwiches, which I then needed to eat, you understand, for research purposes. After making copious notes the plan was to have a go at making them myself. In every case I saved AT LEAST £1 per pack even giving myself a bonus of more filling between the slices of bread. It is always worth taking a wider look at how a small amount saved each week can mount up. Of course the savings needn't be on sarnies - any planned saving works the same way.
Trust me on this - over a working life of 40 years, and allowing for holidays and illness, £1 saved each working day and banked will add up to more than £10,000. When retirement arrives, a round the world cruise paid for just by making your own lunch. Worth thinking about.

Here are some suggested fillings, some based on bought packs of sarnies..
Baked Bean and Bacon:
Mash drained beans with chopped spring (or pickled) onion, add some crumbled fried bacon, dash of Worcestershire Sauce and spread over lettuce. White bread.
Cheese, Pear and Ham
Well drained canned pears, mashed with low fat cream cheese and chopped ham, season with freshly ground black pepper. Suggest granary bread.
Egg, salad cream, and Tomato
Mash hard-boiled eggs with salad cream, season to taste. Chop up a little tomato (the firm tops are best for this), and fold in. Alternatively, add chopped chives or cress. White bread.
Tuna and Cucumber
Flake a drained can of tuna, mash with a little salad cream or mayo, and spread half over buttered bread, cover with thin slices of cucumber and top with rest of tuna and bread. Use canned sweetcorn as an alternative to cucumber.
Thin slices of mature cheddar cheese, pickle of your choice, thin slices of tomato and red onion, lettuce and mayonnaise. Granary bread.
a Taste of Italy
Slices of beef tomatoes, thin slices of mozzarella cheese, on bread spread thinly with pesto.
Tips: If a filling contains mayo, spread this on bread instead of butter. Use pitta bread or tortillas as a wrapping instead of sliced bread. Experiment, and send me some of your favourite sandwich fillings.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Always worth a try

To puzzled readers - my daily posting is done through a blog site that seems to originate in the USA as their time is behind ours. If I put up a post before 7am then this is dated the previous day. My grandson managed to get the site re-routed through my own domain name - www.shirleygoode.com. Anyone interested in starting their own blog site will find the one I use for my postings : www.blogger.com , very easy to understand. And it's free.
Now it's getting on for 8.00am so time for today's posting.
Yesterday I noticed one lemon in a net containing several that I had bought, had a nasty blue bloom over it. So I opened the net and was just about to throw the lemon into the bin when I recalled an old tip that I had heard about: to clean a microwave - cut a lemon into quarters, put into a bowl, cover with water and put into the microwave on full heat for about five minutes. This I did, using a shallow plastic dish and the grotty lemon, and hey presto, after removing the turntable, all I had to do was wipe the inside and door down with a damp sponge and it was instantly clean. Believe me, it wasn't before. So that WORKED.
Then, I was just about to throw the net into the bin when I recalled another tip: gather all the nets that cover food, push them tightly all into one net and use as a scouring pad. With various produce delivered with nets covering them, I followed directions and managed to clean out a non-stick pan that had burnt food sticking on it.
Another enjoyment was my supper. Although I love cooking for anyone else, I just can't feel the enthusiasm when I am the only one eating. So my meals need to be very speedy, easy to prepare, but tasty. Two days ago I sliced some mushrooms, did the same with some slices of chorizo sausage, fried these in a little oil, tipped in a drained can of black-eyed beans and finally stirred in some pasta penne which had been boiling alongside the frying pan. I use quick-cook pasta which takes all of four minutes. The whole meal only took five minutes from start to finish. I enjoyed it so much, I did the same again yesterday adding a sliced onion to the last of the mushrooms and chorizo, and this time adding butter beans. It seems such an easy way to use up bits and bobs. I enjoy the chorizo, but this could easily have been sliced cooked sausage, or chunks of corned beef or even Spam (yes, I do like Spam). Possibly this is my variation of Succotash which is similar in some ways, but different to mine. Next time I might omit the pasta and pour over a couple of beaten eggs. There is always a way to make things different.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Creative Baking

Noticing many craft shops had items such as fridge magnets and decorations made from oven-baked clay, I looked into the possibilities of making these at home. There are many books on the use of Baker's Clay (recipe below) -these can be borrowed from a library - but it is so simple that anyone with a pinch of creativity should have a go. Perfect for both adults and children to make tree decorations or to give as presents this Christmas. By the way, why do we always feel we need to spend a lot of money on presents? I personally never do, because I can't afford to, but remember - time equals money - so by spending hours going round car boot sales and charity shops to hunt out suitable gifts for friends and family who collect things is also fun as well as finding the perfect present. Home cooks can make up small food hampers - always a great favourite. Get children collecting stamps again - an album, hinges and several packets of used stamps will keep them happy for hours. And if children want to give grandma something, then a home-made book of vouchers with tear-out slips offering to clean windows, mow lawns, do the shopping... is as good a gift as you can get.
Baker's Clay
In a bowl, mix together 4 measures of unsifted plain flour (use own brand cheapest)
1 measure of table salt and 1 1/2 measures water
Knead on floured surface for about five minutes until mixture holds its shape, adding a little more water only if necessary. This will keep for some time in a plastic bag and stored in a tin.
To make tree decorations, fridge magnets or other gifts, tear off pieces from the 'clay' and roll out- about the thickness of a pound coin - between two sheets of clingfilm. Use fancy cutters for tree decorations or mould shapes by hand. Make shapes and impressions using forks, spoons, chopsticks, toothpicks etc. Moisten any additions before adding to the clay. If needing to hang shapes, make a hole in the top before baking in a moderate oven for one hour or until hard. When cold paint with poster paint and spray with varnish (or hair lacquer).
The main thing to remember is keep everything the same thickness so that it will bake evenly, and - if needing to make anything other than a flat shape - mould and bake over a cup or crunched up foil or it will collapse.
Tips: Reminded by the mention of hair lacquer, and completely out of season - but I will have forgotten to tell you come next spring - if you spray dandelion clocks with lacquer, and stick a cocktail stick up the stem, you can use them in flower arrangements.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Try before you cry

Whenever we home-cook a meal, or just one dish, we do need to be sure it is edible before we offer it to someone, so the tip of the day is to always practice first to discover problems if any. Often a recipe may be correct but each and every oven can be different, so a burnt offering is not always our fault. Today with Halloween and Bonfire Night on the horizon, time to practice making Gingerbread and Treacle Cake, both with a difference.
Apple Gingerbread
5 fl oz apple puree, 2 oz soft brown sugar, 4 oz golden syrup
3 oz butter, 6 oz S.R. flour, 3 level tsp gr. ginger
1 level tsp mixed spice, 1 egg, beaten
Into a pan put the sugar, syrup and butter and heat until melted. Remove from heat.
Sift together the flour and spices and stir into the syrup mixture with the apple and the egg.
Pour mixture into a greased and lined 7" square tin and bake at 180C, 350F, Gas 4 for about 35 - 45 minutes until brown and cooked through. Cook for five minutes before turning out onto cake airer. When cold wrap in greaseproof and then foil and keep for at least a day before eating.
Treacle Cake - adapted from Grandma's recipe when eggs and sugar were in short supply, and originally made with molasses, chicken fat and sour milk - my version uses somewhat different ingredients. .
2 oz soft margarine,
2 good tblsp. black treacle,
8 oz plain flour
1/2 tsp. bicarb. soda,
1 tsp. ground ginger,
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tblsp. yogurt blended with milk to make it up to 4 fl oz.
Beat together the margarine and treacle until light and fluffy. Sift together the flour, bicarb and spices and stir into the treacle mixture together with the milk/yogurt. Add a little extra milk if too stiff. Pour into a greased and floured loaf tin and bake at 180C, 360F, Gas 4 for about 45 minutes until centre springs back when gently pressed. Turn out and cool on rack. As for above recipe, wrap and keep for a day before eating.
Tip: You'll maybe have noticed that in most of my recipes I use the same baking temperature. This is to save me having to remember. Your oven may need a slightly higher or lower temperature (esp. a fan oven), but once you've got it right, remember your temperature and ignore mine.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Low-fat treats

The strangest thing - Jamie Oliver was on TV yesterday talking about grandma's cookbooks and urging us to keep the old recipes going. Have to say I felt pleased because I had mentioned the same thing a couple of postings ago, so I was on the right track. This coming Thursday is Home-Cooking day, and you can find out more about this if you visit Jamie's website.

Today my offering to you is more a method than a recipe because the end product can be used in many ways. Above all it is SO easy to do. Just fold some dried fruit into a chosen yoghurt (2 parts yoghurt to one part fruit), then leave it in the fridge overnight. The next day you will find the mixture will have thickened dramatically.
This makes a great alternative to cream as a cake filling. Even more perfect for a cheesecake filling as the biscuit base will absorb even more liquid.
For a touch of luxury, pour a thin layer of single or whipping cream over the top of the
cheesecake and cover with demerara sugar. Leave overnight in the fridge and the sugar will have partly dissolved in the cream and then reset to a crunchy topping.

Must finish with a mention of our favourite curry side dish - Raita. I used to make this by stirring finely chopped mint OR finely diced cucumber into Greek yoghurt, but experimented and now I add both to the yoghurt with half a teaspoon of icing sugar. Make plenty because the next day it can be eaten as a dip.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Worth it just for the read

A quickie to remind readers that every posting contains one or more tips, so even if you are not interested in the chatty bit, or even the recipe, it is always worth hunting out the tips.

Cooking the Books

A friend has been staying with me and together we have tidied my shelves, working our way through hundreds of old cookbooks not to mention the gifts of many handwritten recipe books passed on to me by grown-up grandchildren We even found an old Be-Ro cookbook so beloved by our own parents, I remember it being the one my mother used to teach me how to make scones when I was about five. Without fail, all these old books and recipes still show how inexpensive cooking can be, but will today's youngsters ever discover this when none of these give metric weights? Time to write up old economical and easy family recipes in a form that today's grandchildren can understand.
Here is my son's favourite recipe, much loved by all the family and a great way to use up ripe bananas.
Banana Bread
8 oz (225g) S.R..flour, sifted with 1 level tsp. baking powder,
1 egg
3 oz (75g) each butter (or marg) and granulated sugar
1 heaped dessp. apricot jam,

2 or 3 ripe bananas, mashed.
few chopped nuts, optional
Cream the fat and sugar until light and fluffy, add a tsp. of the flour and beat in the egg.
Fold in the rest of the flour and remaining ingredients.
Pour into a greased and lined 1lb loaf tin and bake at 180C, 350F, Gas 4 for about 45 minutes until golden brown and firm to the touch. After 30 mins. if browning too early, tent with foil. When cooked, turn out and cool on a wire rack.
Tip: To prevent browning put foil shiny side up. To aid browning put foil shiny side down.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Planning Ahead

There are many recipes which use pre-cooked ingredients. Kedgeree is one, and the following recipe, is another. Worth collecting recipes such as these, then you can plan to cook extra ingredients for one meal to put towards another.
Koulibiac - Russian Fish Pie
The traditional recipes uses fresh salmon, but between you and me it works just as well using canned fish, and - as the other ingredients (all but the parsley) need to be cooked and cooled before assembling - they can just as well be leftovers from yesterday's meal. There are no exact amounts, but allow roughly 2 - 3 oz fish and half-a hard boiled egg per person.
Cooked flaked fish,

onions, carrots, celery, all precooked and chopped
Mushrooms, fresh or raw, chopped,

cold cooked rice
Hard boiled eggs, finely chopped,

fresh parsley, chopped
freshly ground black pepper, melted butter
enough short crush pastry to wrap it all up.
Combine all ingredients except butter and pastry. Roll out half the pastry, place on a baking sheet. Brush pastry with a little butter, pile the filling on top and drizzle over some more butter. Place the remaining pastry on top, seal edges and make a few slits to let out steam. Bake at 180C, 350F, Gas 4 for about 30 mins. until golden. Serve with a mustard sauce and green salad.
Tip Turn this into posh nosh, (I call them Neptune's Pasties), by lining the inside of the top half of a scallop shell (which is deeper than the base) with pastry, put on filling and then cover and seal with pastry. Prick and bake these individual pies in the shells, turning out after about 20 minutes to continue browning the underside which will now have taken the ridged shape of the shell. They look so impressive. The shells, which can be obtained free from places that sell fresh fish, can be washed and used again and again.
Further tip: Hardboiled eggs can be more easily peeled if the eggs are not too fresh. Put eggs into cold water, bring to the boil and boil for no more than eight minutes. Immediately place eggs into cold water, changing water as it warms up. Tap eggs on side of bowl to crack all round, let them rest in more cold water for a bit, then the shells should slide off. If you colour the cold water with food colouring, and soak the cracked eggs in this before peeling, the eggs will take on a marbled appearance, useful for certain dishes but not Koulibiac.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Who needs meat?

Firstly - a thank you to those who send comments. In answer to Mo's query, the recipe in the previous posting could be altered by substituting ground almonds for the coconut and adding your chosen flavouring. Worth a try. So pleased you are all enjoying my blog.
Now, on to the recipes for the day, burgers made without meat.
Cheese and Lentil Burgers
5 oz red lentils, cooked until soft then drained,
1 egg, beaten
2 canned plum tomatoes, drained and chopped,
2 oz cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 pint fresh breadcrumbs, crumbed,
salt and pepper to taste (add at end)
1 tsp. dry mustard (optional)
flour or crushed crisps
Put everything but the flour/crisps into a large bowl and mix well. With floured hands, form into eight rounds and pat into burger shape. Dip in the flour or crisps to coat and fry in shallow oil until golden, turning once.

Potato Kugel serves 4 - 6
6 medium potatoes, skins on, grated,
3 carrots, topped and tailed, grated
1 large onion, finely chopped,
1 slice brown bread, crumbed
2 eggs, lightly beaten with 2 tblsp cooking oil,
2 tblsp. chopped parsley
2 oz grated cheese,
1/2 oz butter or margarine
Mix together the potatoes, carrots and onion. Pour over the eggs/oil. Stir in the parsley and breadcrumbs. Pile into a greased heatproof dish and level top. Dot with the butter and bake at 190C. 350F, Gas 4 for half and hour. Sprinkle with the grated cheese and cook on for a further 15 or so minutes until the cheese has melted and browned.
Serve hot with a salad. Any leftovers can be eaten cold with a mug of hot soup.

Friday, October 06, 2006

The dish that works magic

This is every busy cooks ideal pudding. Not only is everything made in one go, the pudding separates all by itself during the baking. Once you've made it and you see what happens, then you can happily experiment with different flavours.
Normally I use imperial measurements, because that's my preference , I do try to use metric but am not so comfortable with it. The American way of using cup measurements I feel to be one of the easiest ways, and the 'cup' (a measure that holds 8fl.fl oz ) is used in this recipe. I find most mugs hold this amount but check first. Worth buying a set of plastic cup measures.
Triple Layer Coconut Pudding
1/4 cup soft margarine, 1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup plain flour, pinch salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder 2 cups milk
1 cup dessicated coconut, few drops vanilla essence
4 eggs, lightly beaten
Put everything into a food processor and whizz until just mixed.
Pour into a greased 9" pie dish and bake at 180C, 350F, Gas 4 for 1 hour.
Serve whilst still very warm.

Tip: The weight of any ingredient that will melt, such as butter/margarine, can be taken as if it was liquid, so 1/4 cup margarine is the same as 2 (solid) ounces. Another way of judging (children would like to try this) is to use the Eureka principle - fill the cup with 6fl oz water, then drop in cubes of butter etc. until the water reaches the top of the mug and is just about to overflow.
Other ingredients can weigh heavy (sugar) or light (flour), so if you prefer your recipes to be in grams or ounces, weigh the above ingredients as you go and write them down in your preferred weight.
For those that wish to be exact, one 250g pack of fat is equal to 9 ounces, and one (medium) egg is taken to weigh 2 ounces (beaten egg is liquid so that is also 2 fl.oz) . In recipes that require exact amounts, and only large eggs are to hand, break and weigh, and/or adjust other ingredients accordingly.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The name of the game

Strange how often we are enticed to eat a dish by its given name. Reading 'Crushed potatoes' - a new arrival to a restaurant menus- always makes me smile. Maybe some chef found that mashing potatoes correctly would take too long and had to find a reason to serve them partly prepared.. So, wearing a chef's hat I offer my favourite cheapie under a French name, and apologies if it isn't a correct translation. This is such a tasty dish that makes the most of the least interesting of meat cuts, but please try this, and you will be - as they say - well impressed. Just don't tell anyone that it is Breast of Lamb with Cabbage.
Poitrine d'Agneau au Chou
One small cabbage, finely shredded, 1 large onion, finely chopped
2 oz (50g) bacon scraps, 4 oz (110g) porridge oats
1 breast of lamb, zest and juice of 1 or two lemons
black pepper, fresh parsley, chopped
Steam the cabbage until tender. Fry the onion and bacon in a very little oil. Stir in the cabbage, until coated with the bacon flavoured oil, then stir in the oats, lemon zest and juice.
Place this mixture on the base of a greased shallow heatproof dish. Separate the lamb into ribs and place on top of the cabbage mixture, fat side up.
Season with pepper and bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 until the meat is tender. Sprinkle with parsley, and serve with rice or jacket potatoes.
Tip: There are many very interesting cuts of meat which are really inexpensive. Mutton is cheaper than lamb and has better flavour for curries and casseroles. Normally, the cheaper the cut the longer it takes to cook. One exception is lamb's liver, my husband's favourite, this is cut into 'gougons' (finger-shaped strips), dusted with flour and fried in a large pan with bacon, stirring steamed cabbage and small cooked potatoes in the pan juices just before serving.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Waste not Want not

The 'throw-away' society, that's what they call us and I suppose even in the kitchen we happily discard fruit and vegetables trimmings that we could and should have used. The nutritional part of most vegetables is contained in the outer leaves or skin, so instead of throwing away the darker lettuce or cabbage leaves, we really should eat them. Don't have piles of potato peelings, just scrub and cook them in their skins. Likewise scrub carrots and cook as you wish. Remove broccoli stalks - slice thinly and use in stir fries, or simmer until very soft then puree, along with some cooked broccoli heads to make soup. Keep celery stumps to add to stock, or grate down to flavour soups and casseroles. Even onion skins give a good rich colour to gravy. Radish leaves have a peppery flavour and are great added to salads. Parsley stalks and stems and roots of fresh coriander have even more flavour than the leaves, again use for stock. Remember that many vegetables trimming can also be used to make vegetable stock.

Being faced with puff pastry scraps which I couldn't use, I changed from cutting round vol-au-vents to making square, oblong and triangular cases . This worked a treat and they were much easier to eat in the hand, and - with absolutely no waste - made more cases.
Tip: Heard on a TV prog. Instead of pricking puff pastry with a fork to prevent rising, slash instead with a knife - reason being tiny holes close up on cooking, slashes don't. Also puff pastry makes a great pizza base, but I suggest making a square or oblong one instead of the traditional round shape.

Maybe I go too far sometimes, but I even keep the vinegar left after the pickled onions have been eaten. It's great sprinkled over chips.
Please send comments with your tips re wastage and I'll pass them on.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Winter warmers

With a chill in the air it's time to start thinking about how to keep warm without increasing the fuel bills. As far as food intake goes, there is nothing so good as eating a bowl of porridge to keep us glowing. The fact that porridge is probably the cheapest breakfast is just a bonus.
Move on to substantial broths and casseroles and we should gain enough inner heat during the day to turn the thermostat down a degree or two when we settle down for the evening.

The Goode life is not all to do with food - so here are some tips on how to cosy up and be comfortable despite falling temperatures. Colour plays a big part, change cushion covers, throws, bed linen and towels from lighter shades to a deeper warmer tone. Follow the old-fashioned way of wearing thick socks or two pairs of tights to keep the feet warm. Turn the thermostat down a degree or two. Heat rises, so sitting with feet raised on a stool could mean more comfort. Use a cuddle blanket (make your own patchwork throw out of odds and ends of material) and use whenever the weather gets colder. An unzipped sleeping bag works even beter. Nothing wrong with shawls, bedsocks, duvets or hot water bottles if - like us - you prefer fresh air in your bedroom and keep the transom window open. They do say that it is far healthier to live in a house when the windows are frequently opened.
Tip: A good way to store single sleeping bags is to roll them up and put them into a pillowcase, these then make good emergency pillows.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Autumn treats

Time of the year to start stocking the shelves with home-made pickles and preserves. Normally I buy a favourite branded product, as I've never had much success with the home-made, that is until I was given these two wonderful recipes and now I could eat a jar in one go.
Beetroot Chutney
3 lbs beetroot, cooked and peeled. 2lbs apples, peeled cored and chopped
3 lbs onion, peeled and finely diced. 1 1/2 pints vinegar
2 lbs sugar 3 tblsp cornflour, slaked in a little water
In a large saucepan put apples, onions and vinegar and cook until the apples are just tender.
Meanwhile chop the beetroot into very small pieces and add to the pan. Season to taste.
Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the sugar, stir until dissolved, then add the slaked cornflour and simmer for a further 15 minutes.
Pot into hot clean jars and cover.

Apricot Chutney - this can be made at any time of the year
8 oz no-soak apricots , 6 oz raisins, 8 fl.oz white vinegar
10 oz soft brown sugar, 1 tsp ready made mustard 6 cloves
Put the apricots into a pan with 1/2 pint water and the raisins.
Leave to stand for 30 mins. Add the rest of the ingredients.
Stir over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved then simmer for about an hour until the chutney has thickened. Pot into hot clean jars, cover and store in a cool dark place.

Elderberry Chutney - not one I normally make, but a great recipe if you have an abundance of elderberries.
2 lbs ripe elderberries, 1 large onion peeled and diced, 1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger, 4 tblsp sugar, 1 pint vinegar
good pinch each cayenne pepper and mixed spice 1 tsp mustard seeds
Put the berries into a bowl and crush to almost a pulp. Put this into a pan with the rest of the ingredients and boil, stirring frequently, until the mixture becomes a thick mass. Pot up while still hot into heated clean jars. Cover and store as for other chutney.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Sharing the Load

Anyone interested in cost-cutting will almost certainly have like-minded friends, so a great way to save money is to shop in pairs. Sharing a car halves the expense of the fuel. Large packs of dry goods often work out cheaper than smaller sizes so can be divided. When fresh produce is sold by the unit, few are exactly the same weight. Some may appear larger but are not necessarily heavier (iceberg lettuce for example) so wherever possible weigh before you buy. Whole cucumbers, bags of onions, boxes of mushrooms, sticks of celery, nets of lemons and satsumas all worth sharing. As long as you both use them, take advantage of 'buy-one-get-one-free' (bogofs) - especially bags of potatoes. and packs of cheese.
Moving beyond the kitchen we can share large economy packs of loo rolls, laundry powder, and certainly divide packets of seeds.
Tip: When the family prefers a branded product (ie cornflakes), buy a cheaper brand and mix some into the favourite replacing into the higher-priced container. Chances are no one will notice. Blending brands also works well with baked beans, coffee etc,.
With non-foods, the cleaning products can take quite a chunk out of the housekeeping. Change to the tried and tested traditional ways by using the very much cheaper storecupboard ingredients - vinegar, salt, bicarbonate of soda, lemons - to keep the house clean and fresh.

When sharing foods we get less wrapping, so less to throw away. Feeding the family with home-cooked food, and using natural products to clean the house we not only save, save, save - we are following government guidelines. We do all this to protect the family and the environment. No need ever to mention it is because we really can't afford to do otherwise. A win-win situation don't you think?