Thursday, December 06, 2007

Storecupboard Specialities

So today I am offering recipes that use just the basics and, although my idea of basic may not be yours, the ingredients are cheap enough. Also, as ever, many of the ingredients can be substituted with another of the same kind.

Starting with a delightul party fish dish that has the advantage of being made a day ahead of use and will also freeze. The cream cheese in the recipe (Philadelphia) is always in my fridge, bought when either reduced or bogof, and in various types, 'light', 'extra light', 'garlic and herb'. It has so many uses both in sweet and savoury dishes, used instead of butter in sarnies, spread on biscuits for snacks, tucked into celery stick grooves for party nibbles. The uses of this cheese are endless. Unopened and kept chilled it also keeps quite a bit longer than the use-by date.
The sardines that I buy are the cheapest (35p can) and having tested the flavour against a well-known brand (same weight, much more expensive) I prefer the cheaper one.
Bread is the padding for this dish - preferably home-made granary, but bought wholemeal would work just as well. Although the recipe specifies using an uncut loaf, medium thickness ready-sliced would do at a pinch. Just roll the slices thinner with a rolling pin.
Sardine and Parsley Layer: serves 8 - 10 (F)
4 oz (100g) butter, melted
1 lb (400g) cream cheese, at room temp.
2 tins sardines, drained
1 tblsp lemon juice
1 - 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
salt and pepper
handful of parsley, finely chopped
1 small wholemeal or granary loaf, thinly sliced
Take a 1lb loaf tin (9"x 5"/23 x 12 cm) and butter it generously. Put the cream cheese into a bowl and begin mashing it up with a fork, add the sardines and work these in with a wooden spoon, adding the lemon juice, garlic and 3 oz of the melted butter. Work together until well combined. Season to taste.
Pour the remaining melted butter into a bowl and stir in the chopped parsley then spread this over the base of the prepared loaf tin, pressing it down to flatten. Remove crusts from the bread and cut a slice to fit the base of the tin. Spread with a thick layer of the sardine filling and place the bread, filling side up, on top of the parsley. Cut another slice of bread to cover (remember each slice will be slightly larger due to the tin becoming wider as you move up), and keep layering with bread/filling/bread ending with the bread. Cover with foil and chill overnight (at this point it can be frozen for up to a month).
To plate up, dip the tin quickly in and out of hot water and invert onto a serving plate - the layered loaf should slip out easily. Smooth the sides with a knife if looking a little ragged. Keep chilled until ready to serve. If frozen, thaw overnight in the fridge then turn out as above.
Tip: if you like a touch of zing, add a tsp of horseradish sauce to the filling mixture.

This next recipe for soup is one traditionally made on Boxing Day, using the leftover vegetables, turkey stock, and a few other ingredients normally lying around. By using the recipe as a guide you can adapt to suit what you have on the day you feel like making it. If vegetarian, use vegetable stock. Make stock using a cube if you have none home-made.
Warming Winter Soup: serves 4 (F)
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 ribs celery, finely chopped
12 oz (350g) potatoes, peeled, chopped
2 tsp curry paste (or more to taste)
2 pints (1.2lts) chicken, turkey or veg. stock
20 oz (550g) cooked veg: sprouts, carrots, parsnip, squash
Fry the onion in the oil until softened. Add the celery, fry for a further five minutes, then add the potatoes. Stir-fry for five more minutes then stir in the curry paste. Pour in the stock, stir well, bring to the simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Chop the leftover cooked vegetables into small pieces and add to the pan. Heat through for a minute, cool slightly then blitz the soup in a blender or food processor. Thin down if necessary with water or more stock (at this point it can be chilled and frozen). To serve, heat through, season to taste and serve in individual bowls with a dollop of yogurt or creme fraiche on the top.

Another warming winter soup, this time made with proper storecupboard ingredients if you count the stock as being made using stock cubes. If no cumin or curry powder, substitute curry paste to taste. If neither, then add a dash of chilli sauce. Or season with cayenne or paprika. I use canned plum tomatoes as they are cheaper and have more flavour than the chopped, but they also have seeds, in which case you may prefer to sieve them out. Otherwise used cans of chopped tomatoes.
Spicy Lentil and Tomato Soup: serves 6 (F)
1 onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely diced
5 oz (150g) red lentils
2 x 400g cans plum tomatoes
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp mild(ish) curry powder
2 pints (1.2 ltrs) vegetable stock
salt and pepper
Put all the ingredients, except the seasoning, into a saucepan, bring to the boil, cover and simmer for half an hour or until the lentils are very soft. Cool slightly then blitz in a blender, this may take several batches, season to taste (at this point it can be chilled and frozen). Reheat and serve with that dollop of creme fraiche or yogurt on the top.

Next comes a dish which works equally well if you have cooked ham in the fridge, or use canned ham. Myself am very partial to Spam, so might use that instead, or again - might not. But this is one of those recipes where substitutions can be made, using canned salmon or tuna instead of ham. It doesn't matter which pasta shapes are chosen, the pasta bows just look the prettiest. Amuse yourself and see how it ends up. Remember, never throw away mistakes, if not burned, then eat them, or process them, turn them into something else (amazing how almost any savoury dish, when blitzed in a blender, can made a very good soup). Just never discard.
Pea and Ham Pasta: serves 4
4 oz (100g) butter
4 oz (1oog) frozen peas
4 oz (100g) cooked ham, diced
salt and pepper
12 oz (350g) farfalle pasta (bows)
grated hard cheese, pref Parmesan
Put the butter in a pan and heat until melted. Add the peas and ham and cook over low heat for 10 minutes. Season to taste. Meanwhile cook the pasta according to the packet directions, drain well then add to the pan of peas and ham. Toss well, put into a warmed serving dish and top with the grated cheese.

Today's final recipe has only 3 ingredients (plus a pinch of salt) and it is said that Queen Victoria enjoyed eating these biscuits with her afternoon tea. One way to remember the quantities (by weight) is: one part sugar, two parts butter, three parts flour, then you can make as many or as few as you wish. I will give you the original recipe although you may prefer to make the mixture up slightly differently.
Balmoral Shortbread: makes 3 dozen
12 oz (350g) plain flour
pinch salt
4 oz (125g) sugar
8 oz (250g) butter
Sift the flour onto a pastry board and sprinke in the salt. Make a separate pile at the side with the sugar. Using both hands, work the butter into the sugar then begin kneading in the flour a little at a time. When all the flour has been used, you should end up with a firm ball of dough. Roll out very thinly onto a lightly floured board to the thickness of eighth to a quarter inch thick (3 - 5mm). Cut into circles about 2 1/2" (5 cm) diameter and prick with a fork (it says domino fashion - giving three pricks, but I have yet to work this out).
Bake on a greased baking sheet at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for half an hour (don't overcook or they may beome too brittle, my words not theirs).