Thursday, September 20, 2007

Easy but Impressive

Today am giving a few recipes and suggestions on how to make a simple meal turn into something special. Hope you like them.

Chargrilled Vegetable Pie: serves 6 (V)
one pack of shortcrust pastry
2 oz (50g) grated hard cheese
1 red onion, cut into wedges
red, orange, yellow peppers, cut into chunks
2 courgettes, sliced
1 -2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 tblsp olive oil
salt and pepper
4 oz (100g) feta cheese, cubed
1 tomato, sliced
1 egg, beaten
Put the oil into a large frying pan and fry the onion, peppers, courgettes and garlic until just browning (this may need to be done in batches). Transfer to a plate and season to taste.
Roll the pastry out to a 12" (30cm) circle (or a rough square, it doesn't matter if it is a bit of an odd shape), and lay this on a baking sheet which has been sprinkled with flour. Pile the vegetables into the middle, flatten slightly, leaving plenty of pastry around the edges, and tuck in the pieces of feta cheese. Take the edges of the pastry and pull over towards the centre making a rustic open parcel shape. Glaze the pastry with egg and sprinkle over the grated cheese. Bake for half an hour at 190C, 375F, gas 5.

Upper Crust Fish Cakes: serves 4
1 1/2lb (675g) potatoes
8 spring onions, trimmed and finely chopped
1 lb (450g) fresh salmon (ends of tails would do)
2 oz (50g) capers
1 lime
dash Tabasco
2 tblsp fresh flat-leaf parsley or tarragon
1 egg, beaten
salt and pepper
3 tblsp sunflower oil
Peel two thirds of the potatoes, leaving the skin on the others. Boil them together in a pan of salted water, for about 7 minutes, then remove the unpeeled ones whilst still hard enough to grate. Drain these and rinse under cold water. Continue cooking the remaining potatoes for a further 8 or so minutes until tender. Drain and mash. Scrape the skin off the part-cooked potatoes and grate coarsely. Peel off skin from the salmon and chop finely. Taking a big bowl, put in the salmon, the mashed and grated potato, stirring in the capers, lime juice and Tabasco. Chop the chosen herb finely and add this to the mixture together with the spring onion. Add the egg and fold gently just enough to bind the mixture together. Season to taste.
Using a 3" (7.5cm) scone cutter as a mould, gently press in the mixture to make 8 cakes. Chill these for up to 2 hours until needed. To cook, heat the oil in a frying pan and cook for 3 -4 minutes on each side until really crusty. Drain on kitchen paper before serving with tartar sauce.
quick tartar sauce:
Mix together 142ml carton soured cream (or creme fraiche or yogurt) with 3 tblsp mayo. Stir in 2 tbslp each finely chopped gherkins, capers, fresh parsley (chives or tarragon). Chill until needed.

Maple Pork with Sage: serves 4
4 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
2 tbslp Dijon or wholegrain mustard
4 tblsp maple syrup
salt and pepper
4 pork chops
1 lb (500g) small or new potatoes
Put the sage, mustard and syrup into a bowl and mix together. Season with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Spoon half into a shallow dish, place in the pork chops and spoon the rest of the marinade over, making sure the each chop is thoroughly coated. Cover with clingfilm and leave to rest in the fridge for an hour. Boil the potatoes in the normal way (adding them to salted boiling water), this takes about 15 minutes. Then grill the chops, turning them once for about 8 -10 minutes, until tender and cooked through. Drain the potatoes, put them back in the pan and add any remaining marinade, heat through thoroughly (remember raw meat has been in that marinade), tossing the potatoes to coat with the marinade, then serve with the pork chops. Serve with baby carrots, string beans, or your choice of vegetables.

Sherried Chicken Livers with Tagliatelli: serves 4 -5
3 x 100g packs chicken livers
3 tblsp olive oil
1 onion, finely sliced
3 bay leaves
3 tbslp sherry
2 tblsp tomato puree
2 tblsp water
salt and pepper
1 lb (450g) pack tagliatelli
3 oz (75g) Parmesan cheese, grated
Remove chicken livers from the packs, rinse and cut away any stringy bits. If possible soak in milk overnight, then drain and continue: Begin by cooking the pasta as this takes the longest to cook. Cut the livers into small strips, heat the oil and fry the onion for 5 minutes. Add the livers and bay leaves and stir-fry over a low heat for five minutes. Add the sherry and cook for a further 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato puree with enough water to bring it to sauce consistency. Season to taste. Drain the pasta, add it to the livers in the pan and toss until the pasta is coated with the sauce. Serve in a deep warm dish, sprinkling over the Parmesan.

Instead of serving pasta noodles, peel long thin strands from carrots, courgettes, parsnips etc. These will be quick to cook and when drained and piled on a plate look remarkably like coloured pasta. Tastes more interesting though.
Similarly, one beaten egg, one third poured into an omelette pan, in a very thin layer, then fried, one side only - as the top will dry out almost immediately placed on a plate, then with more egg - one egg should make three pancakes - stacking one upon the other. Roll up and then slice thinly from the end to make alternative 'noodles' .

Boozy Cups of Chocolate: serves 4
5 oz (150g) quality cooking chocolate*
2 - 3 tblsp brandy, rum, Cointreau or Grand Marnier etc.
400g pot of fromage frais
Coarsely grate enough chocolate to sprinkle over four pots. Break up the rest of the chocolate, place in a bowl with the spirit of your choice and melt over simmering water.
Remove from heat and stir in fromage frais. Spoon into four coffee cups (the wide shallow type, but any individual bowls would do), sprinkle over the grated chocolate and chill until ready to serve.
Note: use only the best chocolate for this, the one with 70% (or more) cocoa solids

Moist Gingerbread: (F)
4 oz (100g) margarine
4 oz (100g) light muscovado sugar
5 oz (150g) black treacle
5 oz (150g) golden syrup
2 eggs
8 oz (225g) plain flour
2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp bicarb. of soda
2 tblsp milk
2 eggs
Put the margarine, sugar, treacle and syrup into a warm bowl and whisk together until thoroughly blended, then beat in the eggs. Sift the flour with the gr.ginger, stir the bicarb. into the milk, and fold the flour into the mixture first then finally the milk. Pour this into a greased and lined 7" (15cm) square cake tin. Bake at 160C, 325F, gas 3 for one hour, then reduce temperature to 150C, 300F, gas 2 for a further 15 - 20 minutes until the gingerbread is well risen and firm to touch. Remove from oven and cool in the tin for about 15 minutes then turn out onto a cake airer to finish cooling completely. Wrap in clean paper, then foil or clingfilm and leave for a couple or three days before cutting.

Treacle Parkin:
6 oz (175g) black treacle
5 oz (150g) margarine
4 oz (100g) muscovado sugar
6 oz (175g) plain flour
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
10 oz (275g) medium oatmeal
1 egg
5 fl.oz (150ml) milk
1 tsp. bicarb. of soda
Put the treacle, margarine and sugar into a pan and heat until all have melted. Put to one side to cool slightly. Sift the flour with the spices and add the oatmeal. Mix together the egg and milk then stir in the bicarb. Add to the dry ingredients together with the treacle mixture and stir well to combine. Pour into a greased and line 7" (18cm) square deepish tin and bake at 180C, 150F, gas 4 for one hour or until firm to touch. Cool in the tin for 15 minutes, then turn out to finish off cooling on a cake airer. Wrap in greaseproof or parchment paper, then overwrap in foil or clingfilm and leave for at least a week before cutting.