Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A Medley of Dishes

A meat that has sadly been neglected in my postings is pork. Perhaps because we, as a family, seem to prefer beef, lamb or chicken. So - having purchased a pack of fresh boneless lean pork steaks and all the other ingredients are around the house - as not all food is kept in the kitchen, because at this time of the year my fridge is full, and apart from always keeping a bowl of fruit in the hall, the porch (on frosty days being the same temperature as our fridge) is a good keeping place for white cabbage, carrots, celery and several other vegetables.
Parmesan Pork with Red Apple Coleslaw: serves 4
4 pork loin steaks, fat trimmed off
2 slices white bread
handful of fresh sage leaves (or 1 tsp dried)
1 oz (25g) finely grated Parmesan cheese
black pepper
1 egg, beaten
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1 small white cabbage, finely shredded (grate the core)
3 tblsp creme fraiche or plain (pref Greek) yogurt
2 red apples, cored, halved and sliced
Lay the pork steaks between two sheets of clingfilm (or baking parchment) and bash with a rolling pin until quite thin (no more than 1 cm thick). Blitz the bread in a processor with the sage until crumbed, then mix in the cheese and tip into a shallow dish. Season with the pepper. Take each steak, one at a time, and brush each side with the beaten egg (this way the egg goes further than if dipping the steaks into the egg, but you could dip if you prefer), then lay into the crumb mixture, coating both sides, patting the coating in so that it sticks.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the steaks for 3 - 4 minutes until heated through. Meanwhile mix together the cabbage, creme fraiche/yogurt, and apple and season to taste. Serve the cooked steaks with a helping of coleslaw on the side.

Although the larger dried fruits - such as apricots and dates - are welcomed as a tasty treat by most of us, prunes seem the poor relation of the family. Perhaps if we called them dried plums, instead of giving them a different name, we might think differently. But whether or not they are used for this tart, the different way of making the pastry case is always worth trying, as it can be used for other fruit tarts.
Prune and Almond Flan: serves 8
3 oz (75g) butter, softened
2 oz (50g) icing sugar,
2 eggs
6 oz (175g) plain flour
To make the pastry by hand, cream the butter until smooth, then stir in the icing sugar and just ONE of the eggs, then add the flour. Or, put the butter, sugar, one egg, the flour and 2 tsp water into a food processor and pulse until just making a dough.
Whichever method is used, wrap the dough in cling-film (or put into a plastic bag) and chill to firm up. At this point it can be frozen for up to a month.
Roll out the pastry between 2 sheets of floured cling-film and use to line a 9" (23cm) flan tin. Cover this with baking parchment or foil and fill with beans. Then freeze the pastry until solid (takes up to 1 hour), then place immediately onto a baking sheet (preferably pre-heated in the oven) and bake at190F, 375F, gas 5 for 15 minutes. Carefully remove beans and paper, and glaze the inside of the case with the second (beaten)egg - this prevents leakages - then put back in the oven and bake for a further 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the filling -
4 oz (100g) butter, melted and cooled slightly
4 eggs, beaten
6 oz (175g) light muscavodo sugar
4 oz (100g) flaked almonds
20 prunes, stoned
Stir the butter and sugar into the beaten eggs. When the case is ready, sprinkle half the almonds over the base, then cover these with the prunes, spooning over the filling as evenly as possible . Sprinkle the remainng almonds on top and bake for 25 - 30 minutes until firm. Dust with icing sugar and serve hot, warm, or cold with creme fraiche, pouring or whipped cream, or just custard.

If there is a can of chestnut puree in the cupboard, then this is a really easy yet decadent dessert well worth making.
Chocolate Chestnut Dessert: serves six
8 oz (225g) plain chocolate
7 oz (175g) margarine or butter
7 oz (175g) caster sugar
1 x 425g (15oz) can unsweetened chestnut puree
1 tblsp rum or brandy
Break up the chocolate and place in a bowl standing over simmering water. Leave until melted.
Beat the marg or butter with the sugar until very light and fluffy, then beat in the chestnut puree followed by the chocolate and chosen spirit.
Pour the mixture into an oiled and lined 1 lb (450g) loaf tin, smoothing the top. Chill for 8 - 12 hours. Turn out onto an oblong serving plate and leave as-is or decorate in any way you wish. Serve sliced, with cream or ice-cream.

The final recipe for today is a type of muesli bar, good for packed lunches, for picnics, and especially at this time of the year, make smaller ones to pile high on plates for a quick snack. Best kept for children over the toddler stage as the seeds may be too large for them to cope with. At the other end of the age range, perhaps softer cakes such as gingerbread may be easier for teeth to cope with.
Chewy Bars: makes 16
11 oz (300g) porridge oats
4 oz (100g) pumpkin and/or sunflower seeds
2 oz (50g) sesame seeds
2 oz (50g) desiccated coconut
2 oz (50g) plain flour
7 oz (200g) butter
7 oz (200g) golden syrup
5 oz (150g) soft brown sugar
5 oz (150g) chopped dried fruits*
1 tsp vanilla extract
Put the oats, seeds, coconut and flour into a bowl. Put the butter, syrup and sugar into a pan and heat gently until melted, then stir in the fruit and vanilla. When combined, add to the dried ingredients in the bowl and mix well together.
Press the mixture into a lined 12" x 8" (30 x 20cm) Swiss roll tin and bake at 170C, 325C, gas 3 for 25 minutes or until golden and slightly firm. Cool in the tin, then lift out together with the paper, and cut into bars of the size you wish. Remove from the paper and store in an airtight container. Will keep for up to a week.
* Note: use any dried fruits you wish, chopped dates, no-soak apricots, prunes, figs, raisins, sultanas, dried or glace cherries etc. You could also add chopped nuts instead of all or some of the seeds.