Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Make Instead of Buy

Sorting out my cupboards for the impending move (which still might be months away), I found I had several jars of spices - some still unopened - in the back of a dark cupboard, then discovered some recipes where I could have made my own blends from what I had, rather than buy complete in yet another jar. So if you fancy making your own Caribbean blend, or Chinese spice (Indian garam masala was given in an earlier posting) , here is how to do it:

Jerk Seasoning:
A great 'rub' to use on meats and makes a fantastic marinade. A good pinch or so gives a real kick to omelettes and scrambled eggs. This recipe makes enough to coat 8 chicken thighs.
4 tsp ground allspice
2 tsp chilli flakes
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp dried thyme.
Mix everything together.

Caribbean Marinade:
2 fl.oz pineapple juice
juice of half a lime
1 tblsp brown sugar
2 tsp jerk seasoning
1 tsp salt
1 chilli, deseeded
2 spring onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic
Put everything into a blender and process for half a minute until smooth. Store in the fridge until ready to use - it needs at least 2 hours resting to infuse the flavour. Make a very good marinade for chicken joints.

Chinese Five-Spice Powder:
Very good with pork and duck. If the spices are whole, grind in a pestle and mortar or use a coffee grinder if you have one (if not pestle and mortar put the spices into a bowl and use the end of a rolling pin). This amount makes enough rub for 8 pork chops.
2 tblsp ground star anise
2 tsp ground fennel seeds
1 tsp ground cinnamon
half a tsp ground black pepper
good pinch of ground cloves
Mix everything together

Five-Spice Marinade:
4 fl.oz (100ml) dark soy sauce
2 tblsp finely grated root ginger
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tblsp sesame oil
2 tsp Five-spice powder
half a tsp chilli flakes.
Put everything into a bowl and whisk together to combine flavours. Rub this marinade into the meat and leave overnight in the fridge for the flavours to infuse. Use this marinade with pork, beef and any poultry.

Moving on to the festive period, here are two ways to make cranberry sauce, the cheap and cheerful (the one I tend to make) or the frankly more luxurious. They will both keep for up to a week in the fridge, so worth making in advance to heat up on the day.

Easy Cranberry Sauce: serves 6 - 8
approx 1 lb (450g) cranberries
5 fl oz orange juice
1 tblsp gran. sugar
Put everything into a pan and heat gently. The sauce will be ready when the cranberries begin to 'pop' (i.e. burst).

Top of the range Cranberry Sauce: serves 6 - 8
14 oz (400g) cranberries
zest and juice of one orange
2 tbslp dark brown sugar
3 tblsp port
4 cloves
half tsp ground ginger
1 oz (25g) butter
Put everything except the butter and orange zest into a pan and simmer gently until the cranberries burst*. Stir in the butter, check the flavour adding more sugar if desired. Put into a bowl and garnish with the orange zest before serving. (If wishing to prepare it ahead, cook up to * and then keep in the fridge. Reheat at serving time, stirring in the butter and garnishing with the orange zest.

The strange thing is we rarely hear of a DIY fanatic grumble about the hours spent fitting in a wardrobe, or putting up a flat-pack. Likewise gardeners will spend hours digging, sowing, cutting, pruning and love every minute of it. Cooking should be the same, not a chore, more a hobby that can be enjoyed every day and surprisingly relaxing, as many people I know who work long hours, come home and find real pleasure in cooking the evening meal.