Thursday, January 25, 2007

Winter Warmers and Cool Dips

Yesterday, when I went to the butchers, someone came into the shop and asked for a sheep's heart. I was overjoyed that the 'forgotten' meats were still being cooked. Not so, it seemed that it was for the school to be dissected in a biology class. But they are cheap enough £1 a pound the butcher said, so I must look up recipes - just in case.
The butcher was selling Toulouse sausages, the first time I have seen them there, so I bought two as they are a traditional garlic-flavoured ingredient in Cassoulet, which is a great winter casserole and one I intend making when my friend is staying with me. The rest of the balance of the money set aside for meat was spent on several thin pork sausages. As I often say to my butcher, I have only x pounds left to spend, so just give me enough (sausages in this case) to cover that. I am never embarrased about being short of money.

It has occured to me that I rarely say much about breakfasts, brunch or lunch. But of course these are all taken into account. Generally, they just use up bits and bobs already paid for, and anything extra is also costed. My husband is now hooked on Ryvita for breakfast, I/we often have 'brunch', toast with cheese, pate or Marmite. Plenty of soups. Occasionally I have porridge, you may have seen oats mentioned in the costings. It costs less than 5p to make a good bowlful (the traditional way with water and salt). On the less chilly days I like to nibble dips with raw vegetables. But today it is cold and I have a mind to make some French Onion Soup. Maybe a spag.bol for supper, or Beloved may prefer Chilli con Carne. He is still fast asleep in bed, so I'll have to wait to find out.

The Goode Cassoulet: serves 4 - 6
8 oz (225g) haricot or butter beans, soaked
1 pint chicken stock
1 piece of pork - (pork chop, belly pork etc)
chicken winglets
2 garlic (Toulouse) sausages, sliced
1 carrot, thinly sliced
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 dessp. clear honey
2 tblsp tomato puree
1 tsp. dried herbs
2 slices bread,, crumbed
Drain the beans and cook for one hour in the chicken stock. Drain but keep the stock.
Place layers of beans, pork, chicken, sausage and vegetables in a casserole. Mix together the honey and tomato puree with the reserved stock. Pour into the casserole. Cover and cook for an hour and a half at 150C, 300F, Gas 2 . Remove lid and cover with half the breadcrumbs and the herbs. Cover and cook for half an hour then remove lid, press the breadcrumbs down into the cassoulet and sprinkle over the remaining crumbs. Finish cooking without a lid for a further half hour. Take the pot to the table and serve from the pot.
Tip: With only small amounts of meat (eg. 1 pork chop), then cut this up so that each person gets at least one piece. Ham shanks are also ideal.

A good dip to make when you have avocados that need using up.
2 ripe avocados
juice of one lemon
1 garlic clove
1 shallot or dessp. finely chopped onion
2 tblsp olive oil
dash of Tabasco
Mash the avocado flesh with the lemon juice. Finely chop the garlic and shallot and stir into the avocado with the oilive oil and Tabasco. Add salt to taste. Serve immediately.

14 oz (400g) can of chick peas, drained
1 -2 garlic cloves
2 tbslp tahini OR smooth peanut butter
4 tblsp olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
pinch of cayenne pepper
Put the chick peas, garlic in a blender or food processor and blitz until broken down, then slowly add the oil and lemon juice. Stir in the pepper with a pinch of sea or rock salt to taste. If too thick, slacken with a little cold water. Serve with crudites, or spread on hot toast.
Tip: Buy a pack of dried chick peas, soak half overnight then cook until tender. This works out much cheaper than the canned. Freeze in small packs ready to use to add to casseroles or to make hummus etc.
I had a comment sent re this - spray cooked chickpeas with oil and season with herbs, spices or curry powder, cook in a hot oven until crisp. Sounds a great idea.

As we've had discussions on making crisps, it's worth while mentioning that thick crisps are best for scooping up dips. Other 'dippers' (apart from vegetables) are breadsticks, tortilla chips, cheese straws, crispy potato skins, dried wedges of pitta bread. Even toasted crusts of bread. Don't dismiss the unlikely part of a vegetable. I was left with the root end of a lettuce and discovered the rib (base) part of the leaves absolutely perfect to use with a dip.

Pasta Carbonara:
Pasta shapes or (traditonally Spaghetti)
Double cream (or creme fraiche)
Parmesan cheese, grated
Cook the pasta in salted boiling water. Meanwhile fry some some diced bacon until crisp. Drain but leave the fat in the pan, add a little olive oil only if necessary. When the pasta is cooked, drain and put the pasta in the heated fat, toss to coat. Add the bacon and a dollop of cream (as a coating sauce), heat to almost a simmer then remove from heat and immediately stir in the beaten egg. The heat from the pasta will cook the egg. Stir in some Parmesan cheese. Season to taste and dish up. Add more Parmesan if required.
Note: no proportions of ingredients have been given, it is more a matter of adjusting to suit what you have. If you add the egg while the pan is over direct heat it may scramble.