Sunday, December 02, 2007

Forever Learning

A very interesting day yesterday in which a lot had been learned. Still more learning to do today, but not in the kitchen.
My son had come over and spent much time on the comp transferring all my recipes to some sort of spreadsheet so that he could get them into alphabetical order, but only that he is fixing it up so that if I type in the name of the main ingredient (which needs to be part of the name of the dish, not not necessarily the first word) all recipes with that ingredient will appear listed separately. This will be make it much easier and speedier for me to find a specific recipe that has been requested. As to adding new recipes to the list, if I am incapable of adding them myself, including the refinements which make it all worthwhile, all I need do is email each month's new recipes by way of attachment and he can do it from his end. This morning I hope to learn how to cope with all this extra knowledge.

Now to my foodie news. Luckily I remembered to jot down things that were interesting enough to mention, and although I expected to spend all day in the kitchen, the main work took barely more than three hours, and very pleasant they were. You may not be the slightest bit interested on to how I approach my cooking, but at least it gives a good idea of the way my mind works, and the silly things I sometimes do.

The first job of the day was to remove from the freezer cooked chicken and pork pie, plus two sausages which would later be cooked, and a pack of kippers). Left-over bits of pastry brought out from the fridge. These were then all put to one side.
A short time was then spent preparing a trifle for supper. First melting the jelly in a small amount of water in the microwave, adding a little cold lemon and lime juice I had saved in the fridge, and making it up with cold water to the required pint. Then ripped up some trifle sponges, put them in my glass trifle bowl, glugged over them some sherry, and poured over half the jelly to be put the dish in the fridge to set. The next job was to make half a pint of custard, using Bird's powder of course, and this also made in the microwave then left to cool - with a stir now and then to prevent a thick skin forming on top (had I sprinkled sugar over the top this would also have prevented a skin forming).
By then it was time for the viewer to call, but he was nearly an hour late, and it was the one who never turned up the other day, so I was not well pleased. He spent much time looking round, and - being a property developer - gave the impression he would gut the place and start all over again, so I expect will offer only silly money. Beloved has to phone him some time to see. After he had gone I sliced up 2 bananas, put them onto the set jelly, poured over the remainder and replaced it back in the fridge. More stirring of the custard.

Meanwhile, back to the main cooking of the day. This began around half past twelve, with me deciding to have a go at making that kipper quiche I mentioned some postings ago. There were three lumps of leftover pastry that had been saved, one was well wrapped, the other two had been carelessly done and had dried out quite a lot. I used the wrapped pastry for the flan, rolling it out thinly to line a deepish 7" flan tin and, as the recipe did not suggest it being baked blind, this I didn't do.
Only two kipper fillets were called for, and I had thawed out the whole pack, which contained three fillets. They didn't have to be cooked as they would cook on in the quiche, however I stuck them in a jug and poured over boiling water to be on the safe side. The recipe for this quiche I will give below - my version. But two fillets would have been enough, as personally (after sampling) three did made the flavour a bit overpowering - but only for me it seemed. Everyone else loved it.

Three medium whole eggs plus one yolk and a quarter of a pint of single cream were the ingredients called for, but I sat and pondered - deciding to change this to three yolks and one whole egg. My eggs being larger anyway, and by gaining surplus whites, these could then go on to be used for something else. Also, the cream (I had other plans for the cream) thick Greek yogurt was substituted.
Suffice to say, I then behaved myself, following the rest of the recipe. Baked and left it to cool.

Next came the annoyance of what to do with the remaining scraps which included the rather dry pastry and decided to roll it out and make cheese straws. However it kept cracking as it was rolled out, so I gathered the lot into a ball and kept kneading it in my hands until it softened considerably and felt more like putty. You would expect this would ruin it, but it didn't.
Then I had a brilliant idea (well I thought it was) - asking myself that if puff pastry works because it is rolled out in layers with butter between, then wouldn't the same thing work if I used grated cheese instead of the butter? and so decided to experiment with several minutes of rolling out, grating cheese over half, folding it over, rolling out, repeating about five times, and then rolling out thinly. Using a 2" (5 cm) scone cutter, I cut out at least 2 dozen circles and the remainder of the pastry was gathered into a ball (obviously mucking up the layers) then pinched into small bits off each rolled between the palms of the hands to form thin sticks 2" long. This must have made at least 3 dozen. ( I tried cutting a few flat strips but they broke very easil, both raw and when cooked, so rolling into sticks worked much better - these didn't break at all and looked a lot more rustic once baked).

After the quiche was cooked, I then was about to cook the cheese pastry (using the same temperature) but thought the circles were a bit thicker than intended, to got the rolling pin and gave each a roll in one direction only so they then became oval - which made a much more interesting shape and a larger biscuit. Some were cooked on the tray I use when baking oven chips (it has holes in the base) others cooked on a flat baking sheet.
The biscuits took about 7- 10 minutes to become golden. The cheese strips took a little less time. All I can say is check after five minutes, then keep checking as once they start changing colour, they can do so quite rapidly.
Once cooked they were put onto a wire cake airer to cool. I tried eating a hot one, a bit disappointed in the flavour, a bit weak on the cheese I thought, but they were delightfully flaky and crisp.

Firstborn came in and sampled one - then three, four and more. "These are good", he said "very moreish". Then he went back up to the comp. Later coming down and picked at them again. I gave him a bowlful to take back up with him, half of the batch already gone, some had to be left for Beloved, who came in later and immediately took one "just like my mother used to make" he said, and ate more and more. By then they had gone cold, and I tried a biscuit and this time you could taste the cheese. By supper time all the biscuits had been eaten, hardly any by me. All I can say is that these appear to be very well worth making, and - with a pinch of paprika, poppy seeds, dried herbs, salt, parmesan cheese... many different flavoured biscuits could be made using leftover shortcrust.

But even before Beloved had returned home I had beaten up the saved egg whites, turned them into Italian meringue with boiling sugar, when cool stirring in thick cream and yogurt, fine flakes (almost dust) of 72% chocolate - a free pack which makes it even better) and some finely chopped crystallised ginger. Beloved tested it, although it was not fully frozen, and he pronounced it blissful.
And just to prove that it wasn't all a chore, 99% of the above was spent sitting at the table. Why stand if you can sit?

Although not intending to serve the fish quiche with supper (cold meat platter), Beloved said it could made a good starter, so they each had a small wedge to try and the comments were that it was surprisingly light. Later I tried a wedge myself, and thought there was too much fish (flavourwise), but the filling had great possibilities, being much lighter than expected. Other fish could have been used, smoked mackerel, canned salmon or tuna. Smoked salmon. A variation could be blitzing the eggs yolks and fish together, yogurt stirred in, all seasoned well, finally beaten egg white folded into the mixture, then baked in a ramekin dish, this might just turn into a souffle starter. I will experiment with this idea and let you know the outcome.

Biscuits keep much crisper if stored in one of those tins that have a container holding silica gel crystals (usualling fitted into the lid, but removable so it could be popped into another container). Some biscuits, such as the cookie type, never turn very crisp, if any of these are stored with a crisper biscuit, they all end up soft.
Biscuits taken from a container, placed on a plate, often absorb moisture from the air, and if put back in a tin with others that are still crisp can turn those soft in the same way.
A home-made moisture-gatherer can be done if you place a layer of cooking salt in the bottom of the container, covering it with muslin or a layer of kitchen paper, and placing the biscuits over that. It works with puff pastry vol-au-vents (unfilled) keeping them crisp for several days, so should work with biscuits. If it does work, perhaps worth making a muslin bag, filling it with salt (not too much, keep it fairly flat) and use this. If moisture is extracted it can be easily dried off in a warm place before replacing in the container.

Time for just one reipe today - the fish dish:
Kipper Quiche:
short crust pastry to line a 7" (8 cm) flan tin
1 onion, diced
1 oz (25g) butter
2 kipper fillets, skinned, flaked, bones removed
5 fl. oz (160ml) Greek yogurt
3 egg yolks, one whole egg (or vice versa)
salt and pepper
Line the flan tin with the pastry. Fry the onion in the butter until softened and just turning golden. Beat the eggs with the yogurt, season to taste, and fold in all the flaked fish and half the onions (including buttery juices). Spread the remaining onions over the base of the pastry and pour in the egg/fish mixture. Bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 35 - 40 minutes until just firm in the centre. Remove from the oven and leave to cool before removing from the tin.