Sunday, December 16, 2007

Low Cost High Quality

Myself, I discover new things every day - such as yesterday, when I stirred a little leftover custard into some of the last of the mayonnaise and to my surprise it tasted very like salad cream. Not expecting anyone to go that far, but it just shows how the oddest combinations can sometimes give surprising results. So never miss an opportunity to try something new.

With blue cheese in the fridge around the Christmas season, broken savoury biscuits in the barrel, and packs of cream cheese which I one of my 'basics', this next offering makes is a worthy starter, best flavoured with tarragon, or you may wish to choose your own herb. The original recipe used Gorgonzola cheese, but again any good blue cheese could be substituted.
Blue-Cheese cake: makes 8 starter portions
5 oz (125g) savoury biscuits
2 oz (50g) butter, melted
12 oz (350g) cream cheese (Philly type)
3 spring onions, finely chopped
4 oz (100g) blue cheese (Stilton, Gorgonzola etc)
1 tblsp chopped fresh tarragon
salt and pepper
5 fl oz (150ml) double cream or creme fraiche
Crush the biscuits into fine crumbs and stir in the melted butter. Press into the base of an 8" (20cm) springsided tin or use a flan ring (if you have neither, form a collar of cardboard fixing the ends together cover with foil, and stand on the serving plate).
Put the cream cheese into a bowl and beat until softened. Add the spring onions, tarragon and crumbled blue cheese. Season to taste. Whip the cream until just holding its shape (or use the creme fraiche as-is as that should be fairly thick), then fold into the blue cheese mixture. Pile onto the top of the biscuit base and smooth to fill the ring. Place in the fridge to set overnight. Serve cut into wedges with a garnish of orange segments, and watercress or rocket leaves.

This next is an unusual way to serve a pizza - part baked, part fresh, and for ease (just for once) I suggest using a ready made dough (pizza) base to bake through. But no reason why home-made bases couldn't be made, shaped and then frozen to be covered later. As ever, the fresh topping can be changed to other items that may be in the fridge, but do use crisp and fresh, anything that has been languishing for a while is better off being cooked.
Pizza with a Fresh Top: serves 2
2 medium uncooked pizza bases
3 tblsp tomato (pizza) sauce, or puree
4 oz (100g) mozzarella, sliced
half an avocado, sliced
1 pack rocket leaves
8 cherry tomatoes, halved
4 slices Parma ham, or thin chorizo
4 thin slices cooked ham
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
Spread the tomato sauce/puree over the top of the two pizzas and bake as directed on the pack. When crisp, remove to warm plates, and either arrange the toppings over in the order you wish, or pile them into bowls and let each person assemble their own. Eat while the base is still warm.

Chicken livers are very inexpensive, you get a lot for 50p (either fresh or frozen from the supermarket). If frozen, thaw, trim off any green or white bits, and soak them overnight in milk. They make an excellent pate, but also a great starter, fried for a very few minutes in butter, adding a drop of Worcestershire sauce, and a few orange (or satsumas- membrane removed) segments. Even better with a dash of sherry, brandy or Madeira. Serve a few scattered over a small plate of assorted salad leaves, drizzled with a little of the juices from the pan.

If you have been following my postings over the year, you will probably realise that most of the ingredients in the given recipes are normally ready to hand in my own fridge, freezer or cupboard. But of course, not necessarily yours. Even so, by now you will have a good idea of what I keep, and by stocking most of them yourself, you can try almost any recipe the moment it takes your fancy.
With Christmas almost upon us, it is worth tucking a few recipes up your sleeve ready to dispose of surplus turkey, which - together with the stored ingredients - can turn into this very tasty dish:
Turkey, Apple and Mustard Saute: serves 4
2 tblsp olive oil
2 leeks, washed and sliced (or use onions)
2 red apples, cored and cut into wedges (peel left on)
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
5 fl.oz (150ml) chicken or stock
2 tbslp whole grain (or Dijon) mustard
1 x 200ml pot creme fraiche
1 lb (450g) skinned leftover turkey
Heat the oil in a pan and saute the leeks (or onions) and apples for 8 minutes until just tender. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Blend together the stock, mustard and creme fraiche and pour into the pan. Bring to the simmer. Cut the turkey up into large pieces and add to the pan. Simmer for 5 minutes then serve hot with a side salad or a pile of hot mashed potatoes (a little crispy bacon in the potatoes can only improve the dish).