Monday, May 07, 2007

A Little Can Go a Long Way

Today my offerings are a hotch-potch of my cost-cutting recipes, hints and tips. Hope you find them to your taste.

Meat Loaf: - very economical and very, very good
4oz (110g) grated apple
4 oz (110g) minced beef
1 slice brown bread, crumbed
1 carrot, grated
1 onion, grated
dash of brown sauce
1 egg, beaten
1 tblsp. tomato puree
1 tsp. honey
Mix together the first seven ingredients and press firmly into a small loaf tin. Blend the tomato puree and the honey together and spread this on top. 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. Serve sliced, hot or cold.

Hints and Tips:
Buy tomato puree in the large cans or jars. Spoon contents into ice-cube trays and freeze. Then bag up cubes once solid. Usually no need to thaw, just stir one or more into stew, bolog. sauce, or whatever it needs adding to.
Chicken breasts have a small loose chicken'fillet' on the underside. Remove these, freeze and use for stir-fries, chicken strogonoff amd kebabs etc.
Use up surplus whipped double cream by piping it into rosettes and open-freezing. They freeze even better if a little icing sugar has been whipped in. When solid, store in a lidded container, and use for topping trifles and other desserts. These thaw out quite rapidly.

Coffee Cream Dessert:
2 oz (50g) dried milk powder
1/2 pint (400 ml) black coffee - hot
2 tblsp. sugar
2 eggs
Stir the milk powder and sugar into the coffee until completely dissolved. Break the eggs into a bowl, beat well and then gently whisk in the coffee mixture . Strain into a jug and pour into individual pots. Stand pots in a roasting tin with hot water half-way up the sides (bain-marie), and place in the oven and cook for one hour at 150C, 300F, gas 2. Remove pots and cool. Best served chilled with a rosette of cream on top.

Another use for an individual Yorkshire Pudding tin.
Small amounts of left-over pastry are often enough to roll into a saucer size. Keep a stack of these frozen flat as, once thawed, they are perfect for lining the four individual hollows in a Yorkshire Pudding tin. Follow the tip below and you can end up with four completely different dishes, all baked at the same time.
Line each depression with thinly rolled shortcrust pastry, and fill one with a quiche mixture, another with a cooked meat and vegetable filling (topping with pastry to make a meat pie); in the third spread a little jam over the pastry and fill with a little sponge cake mix to make a Bakewell Tart; the fourth fill with cooked apple and again top with a pastry lid to make apple pie (or use other fruits). Bake at 180C, 350F, Gas 4 for about 20 minutes or until the pastry is golden.
Ideally eat the meat pie on the day it is cooked (although it can be reheated thoroughly the following day), The rest will keep quite well to be eaten over the next few days.

Coconut Cookies:
These are a cross between a bun and a biscuit, as they can either be removed from the oven when just cooked through - to be eaten like a cake - or, baked on for a little longer, they turn into a crisper biscuit. Either way, they are delicious. Makes 2 dozen, so why not make 12 of each!
4oz (110g) margarine
4 oz (110g) caster sugar
few drops vanilla extract
1 tblsp honey
1 egg
7 oz (200g) plain flour
2 level tsp. baking powder
2 tblsp. milk
desiccated coconut and glace cherries)
Cream the margarine and the sugar, beat in the vanilla, egg and honey. Sift together the flour and baking powder and blend alternately with the milk into the creamed mixture. Drop heaped teaspoonfuls into a dish of dessicated coconut and roll into balls. Place on greased baking sheets leaving room to spread and flatten slightly, pressing a halved glace cherry into the centre of each. Bake at 200C, 400F, Gas 6 for about 10 minutes or until just turning golden. If wishing to make them crisper, cover lightly with foil, turn out the heat and leave them to cook on for a further five or so minutes.
For an alternative, coat with crushed cornflakes and decorated with a halved walnut.

Hints and Tips:
To prevent pancakes, drop scones etc. from sticking to the pan, heat the dry pan over a medium heat for several minutes before using. Add fat just before frying.

Meringue Crunch:
2 egg whites
5 oz (150g) caster sugar
6 oz (175g) 'crunch'
(crunch = crispy cereal, broken biscuits, chocolate chips, nuts etc)
Beat the egg whites with half the sugar until thick, then beat in the rest of the sugar until the meringue is really thick. Carefully fold in the 'crunchy bits'. Line 3 baking sheets with foil and either dot with spoonfuls of the mixture, or form three large circles of the meringue(one on each sheet), spreading flat. Place the meringues in a pre-heated oven (around 200) and immdiately turn off the heat. DO NOT OPEN THE DOOR for at least 8 hours (ideally plan to leave this overnight). They should then be completely dried out. Peel off the foil and store in airtight tins. They should keep crisp for weeks or even months. Sandwich layers together with whipped cream and fruit (I used orange segments and slices of kiwi fruit).

Weight and See:
When fresh produce is priced by the unit they may appear to be the same size but differ in weight, often by many ounces. Wherever possible weigh - or if no scales you can often judge by holding one in one hand and one in another - especially iceberg lettuce, cabbage, even celery, because the looser the leaf the larger they may appear, but the lighter they will always be. No sense in paying for air trapped between the leaves.

Tips: Use a scone cutter to cut through the centre of large (party size) round quiches, fruit flans, cheesecakes etc. This make for an extra 'centre' helping (sometimes this can be cut in half to make two helpings) and you can cut neat wedge-shaped portions from around the side - leaving no tips to drop off on your clothes.

Pick herbs for drying during the morning (but wait until the dew has dried from the leaves) because this is the time the leaves will have their most intense flavour - after mid-day it diminishes. This is a scientific fact.