Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Spice of Life

Variety, they say, is the spice of life. So today am posting up some recipes that are again, slightly different, and - as usual - give everyone a chance to put their own stamp on it.
Starting with a quiche which can use frozen broad beans (or other vegetable of your choice), any hard cheeses (although you can guess from the name, which one is used in this dish) , some oddments of ham, even a way to use up the scraps of short pastry that might have been collected when making mince pies.
Lancashire Broad Bean and Cheese Tart: serves 6
12 oz (350g) short crust pastry
10 oz (300g) frozen broad beans, thawed
4 oz (100g) cooked ham, diced
6 on (175g) Lancashire or other cheese
4 eggs
1 x 200ml tub creme fraiche
4 fl.oz (125ml) milk
salt and pepper
Roll out the pastry to fit a 9" (23cm) flan tin and bake blind at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 15 minutes, removing the foil or paper and baking beans, and leave to cool slightly. Reduce the oven temperature to 190C, 375F, gas 5. Boil the beans until just tender, drain, rinse with cold water and pat dry (much improved if the outer white skin is then taken off - tedious but worth it). Scatter the beans and ham over the base of the pastry case and crumble the cheese on top (or grate it if preferred). Whisk together the eggs, creme fraiche and the milk and season to taste. Pour this over the beans and ham and bake for about 30 minutes until golden and puffed (this time it can souffle up a bit as it is eaten whilst still hot). Remove from oven , place on a serving plate and serve warm, with salad.

Whether for buffet parties, or feeding small offspring, these mini-frittatas have the advantage of being able to be made several hours ahead, and just reheated in the oven. You could say they are almost a quiche without the pastry.
Mini-frittatas: makes 18
1 tsp olive oil
4 oz (100g) streaky bacon, diced
8 eggs
12 fl.oz (350ml) double cream
2 tsp each finely chopped parsley and chives
4 oz (100g) grated Parmesan
salt and pepper
Put the oil in a frying pan and fry the bacon until crisp. Drain on kitchen paper and set aside. Beat the eggs into the cream and season with a pinch of salt and plenty of black pepper. Stir in the herbs, Parmesan and the bacon.
Grease a 12 hole muffin tin with plenty of butter, and spoon in enough mixture to two-thirds fill each hole (there will be some mixture left for a further batch). Bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 20-25 minutes until firm. Carefully remove to a wire rack, clean and rebutter the tin and spoon in the remaining mixture (into 6 more holes), and bake as above. These can be made up to 4 hours ahead. Can be eaten, hot, warm or cold.
To reheat, place on a baking sheet and tent loosely with foil and place in oven at above temperatures for about 10-15 minutes.

Freezer space is at a premium at this time of year, but if you can find room, these mini Baked Alaskas can make an almost instant pudding.
Winter Snow Balls: makes 6 (F)
1 slab Madeira cake (or sponge slab)
1 tblsp brandy
6 big scoops vanilla ice-cream
4 egg whites
8 oz (225g) caster sugar
icing sugar to dust
Slice the Madeira cake into six and cut out approx a 3" (8cm) circle from each (or if using a home-made sponge slab made in a Swiss roll tin, cut the circles from that. Save/freeze all cake trimmings to use in trifles etc.
Place the circles onto a baking sheet that will fit in the freezer, sprinkle the brandy over the cake and place a scoop of ice-cream in the centre of each. Place them in the freezer while you make the meringue (if you wish you can make the meringue a day or two later). Make the meringue in the normal way, beating the egg whites and sugar together until stiff, then remove the cake/ice-cream from the fridge and, working quickly, spoon the meringue over the ice cream making sure it covers it all and comes right down the sides of the cake. Either cook immediately in a hot oven (230C, 450F, gas 8) for 3 minutes intil turning golden, or they can be frozen again, to be cooked when needed. To serve, sit the snowball on a plate and dust with icing sugar, serve immediately.

Booze free Mulled 'wine':
1 carton cranberry juice
1 carton orange juice
1 orange
8 cloves
1 cinnamon stick
freshly grated nutmeg
Stud the orange with cloves and cut into quarters. Place in a big pan together with the two fruit juices and cinnamon, adding a little nutmeg. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for five minutes. Remove from heat and either decant into a punch bowl or serve directly from the pan.
If serving in a bowl, a few more slices of orange floating on the top makes it look festive.
Experiment with other fruit combinations such as pomegranate and orange. Or for chilled drinks, apple and mango, pineapple and grapefruit.
For a great chilled drink, use two parts of pink grapefruit juice, two parts of lemonade, and 1 part of cranberry juice. Serve with slices of lime and plenty of ice cubes.
Tip: freeze cubes of lemon juice, lime juice and other berry juices to pop into drinks. These won't dilute the drink, just give it more flavour as it thaws.