Friday, December 14, 2007

In The Deep Midwinter

But first, we have to get through Christmas, and with a supermarket brochure (a bit more upmarket than Tesco's) by my side, it is worth mentioning a few items that could be made easily at home. I will give you the retail price and leave you to work out just how much you can save by making them yourself. It seems the 'in' word at the moment is Artisan. Who thinks up these names? Obviously someone who believes that it makes the plain sound a lot more upmarket. Perhaps the difference being that someone actually handled bread dough twice during making, rather than being left mainly to a machine. In that case we home cooks can move ourselves several more rungs up the ladder, for the home-made is becoming much sought after. Incidentally, I think almost all the below have been covered on this site over the past months. So no excuse.
Artisan inspired Rye Bread 400g (14 oz) loaf: £1.69p
Puff pastry cheese straws: 225g (8 oz) £2.49p
Fresh Bread Sauce: 300g (11 0z) £1.29p
Mushroom and Nut Roast: 550g (1 lb and a bit) £3.49
Selection of winter roasting veg: 400g (14 oz) £2.49 (includes a drizzle of honey)
Raspberry Eton Mess (raspberries, meringue, cream): 500g (1 lb) £3.99 (incl. the bowl)
Sherry Trifle (raspberries, sponge, sherry, cream, custard) 1 kg (2.2 lb) £9.99
Brandy Butter (butter, icing sugar, brandy): 150g (5oz) £2.49
Stollen: 720g (1.5 lb approx): £5.99 (decorated by hand no less!)
Artisan inspired Boule (that's just a round white loaf): 400g (14 oz) £1.69
Roasted Beetroot and Horseradish Dip: 170g (6 oz) £1.49

Am leaving you today with a so-called austerity dish. A good one to make if you have any small pickling onions as yet unused, but larger onions cut into quarters would substitute. Most of the ingredients we should have in store, so for something different - try this:
Onion Crisp: serves 1 - 2
12 small onions
half a pint (300ml) milk
4 tblsp frozen peas (thawed, cooked)
3 oz (75g) butter
2 oz (50g) flour
2 oz (50g) breadcrumbs (probably one slice)
2 tblsp minced (chopped or crushed) salted peanuts
Peel the onions and boil them with the milk (adding a little water if necessary) until tender, then remove them whole and place in an ovenproof dish with the peas. Make a sauce by melting 2 oz (50g) of the butter in the saved liquid, thickening it with flour. Season well with the pepper (no need to add salt as that comes free with the nuts). Pour the sauce over the onions, sprinkle over the breadcrumbs and the nuts, and dot with remaining butter. Place under a hot grill until browned.
Tip: work equal quantities (by weight) of flour and butter together and form into balls. These can be kept in the fridge or frozen. Use to thickening sauces, by dropping a couple of balls into half a pint of the liquid and stirring until dissolved, adding more as necessary until the required thickness. This helps to prevent lumpy sauces.