Friday, June 29, 2007

Salsas and Sauces

Today I'm giving several recipes for Salsas and Sauces, all require no cooking and are very easy to make. Salsa is just a chunky version of a sauce, a relish falls between the two and sauce itself can cover anything from dips to mayonnaise. So here goes.

Spicy Tomato Salsa: serves four
This can be made up to 24 hours ahead of serving.
1 lb (450g) fresh ripe tomatoes OR 1 can plum tomatoes
1 shallot
2 cloves of garlic
1 handful of basil leaves
2 tblsp olive oil
2 green chillies, seeds removed then diced
salt and pepper to taste
Peel and halve the shallot and garlic. Put into a food processor with the basil and pulse until finely chopped.
Quarter the tomatoes and add them to the basil mixture, pulse again until finely chopped. Turn the motor to slowest speed and slowly pour in the oil. Season to taste. Put into a bowl, stir in the prepared chillies. Serve at room temperature.
Tip: instead of the chillies, you could add a few drops of Tabasco to taste.

Pineapple Relish: serves four
Good eaten with grilled or barbequed chicken and also with bacon.
1 400g can of pineapple pieces (crushed)
2 tblsp light muscocado sugar
2 tblsp wine vinegar (pref. white)
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
4 spring onions, finely chopped
2 red chillies, seeds removed and finely chopped
handful of fresh basil leaves, shredded
salt and pepper to taste
Drain the pineapple but reserve 4 tblsp of the juice and put this juice into a saucepan with the sugar and vinegar, heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Season with salt and pepper. Put the pineapple, garlic, onions and chillies into a bowl and mix well. Pour in the sauce. Allow to cool then stir in the basil.

Almost Smooth Satay Sauce: serves 4
Drizzle over grilled or barbequed chicken or use as a warm dipping sauce for skewered chicken.
7 fl.os (300ml) coconut cream (or thick coconut milk) unsweetened
4 tblsp peanut butter (pref. crunchy)
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
few drops of Tabasco to taste
Put the coconut into a saucepan and heat gently until just warm. Stir or beat in the peanut butter until well blended. Do not boil. Add the W.sauce and Tabasco to taste, pour into a bowl and serve warm.

Red Bean Chilli Dip: serves 4
Serve warm with a bowl of grilled pitta bread or corn tortilla chips.
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 tblsp sunflower or vegetable oil
1 - 2 tsp. hot chilli powder
400g can red kidney beans
3 oz (75g) Cheddar Cheese, grated
Fry the onions and garlic in the oil for about five minutes until softened. Drain the beans, keeping the liquid. Keep back 3 tblsp beans and mash the rest with a potato masher (or puree in a food processor if you want a smoother texture). Put the mashed beans in a pan with 2 - 3 tblsp of the bean liquid. Heat gently stirring to mix the ingredients. Finally stir in the cheese and the whole beans you saved. Heat through for a few minutes until the cheese has started to melt. Season to taste. Put into bowls, serve warm.

Basil and Lemon Mayo: serves 4
Great with salads, jacket potatoes and chips.
1/2 pint (300ml) mayonnaise
1 tblsp lemon juice
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
handful of basil leaves, torn into small pieces
salt and pepper to taste
Stir everything together, put into a bowl and serve chilled.

Stilton Salsa Dip: serves 4
Eat as-is with ripe pears, or add more yogurt or milk to make a salad dressing
5 oz (150g) Stilton (or any blue cheese), crumbled
5 oz (150g) cream or soft cheese
5 tblsp Greek yogurt
salt and pepper
Put the Stilton crumbs into a bowl and using a wooden spoon work them into a soft mixture together with the cream cheese. Slowly beat in the yogurt until you have the consistency you require. Season to taste (plenty of black pepper, only a pinch of salt). Serve chilled.
Tip: For additional crunch, stir in some finely chopped walnuts.

Sweet Pepper Salsa: serves 4
1 yellow (sweet bell) pepper
2 tomatoes
3 tblsp finely chopped parsley
1/4 pint (150ml) Greek yogurt
1/4 pint (150ml creme fraiche
sest of 1 lemon (optional)
Remove core and seeds from pepper then finely dice the flesh. Deseed the tomatoes then finely dice the flesh.
Blend the yogurt and creme fraiche together, stir in the parsley followed by the pepper and tomatoes. Put into a bowl, garnish with lemon zest and chill before serving.
Variation: omit the pepper and substitute chopped avocado and diced cucumber.

Spicy Carrot and Orange Salsa/Dip:
Serve with breadsticks, wheat crackers and/or crispy tortilla chips
1 onion
3 carrots
grated zest and juice of 2 oranges
1 tbslp curry paste (mild or hot to taste)
1/4 pint (150ml) natural yogurt or creme fraiche
1 -2 tblsp lemon juice
few drops of Tabasco, to taste
handful of fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
salt and pepper to taste
Peel and grate the carrots and onions. Put these in a pan together with the curry paste, orange rind and juice. cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Cool slightly then put into a food processor and blitz until smooth. Leave to cool completely. Stir in the yogurt, basil, enough lemon juice and Tabasco to your taste. Serve as soon as possible at room temperature (best kept no longer than a couple or so hours after making).

Methinks aubergines should soon be coming into season, so will leave you with this final dip:
Velvety Aubergine Dip: serves 4
Wonderful spread on slices of toasted French bread, or crostini.
1 large aubergine
1 small onion, or 2 shallots, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 tblsp olive oil
1 handful parsley, chopped
5 tblsp creme fraiche
few drops of Tabasco to taste
juice of one lemon, or to taste
salt and pepper
Place the aubergine on a baking sheet and place under a preheated grill and cook, turning occasionally, for abot half an hour until the aubergine is soft and the skin has turned wrinkly and blackened. Remove from heat, cover with a clean towl and leave for 3 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, fry the prepared onion and garlic in the olive oil for about 5 minutes until softened but not browned. Peel away the skin from the aubergine and mash the flesh into a puree. Stir in the onion, garlic, creme fraiche, parsley and add Tabasco , lemon juice and seasonintgto taste . Serve in bowls warm or cooled down to room temperature.
Variation: to make the classic baba ghanoush cook 3 aubergines as above to the puree stage, then blend in 2 tblsp tahina (sesame seed paste), 2 crushed garlic cloves, and 3 oz (75g) yogurt. Stir in lemon juice to taste. Pour into bowls and garnish with black olives and chopped parsley. Drizzle a little olive oil over before serving.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Year Moves On

Today the recipes are for some classics-with-a-difference.

Raspberry Nut Traybake: makes 12 slices
8 oz (200g) plain flour
8 oz (200g) porridge oats
250g pack butter, diced and softened
6 oz (175g) soft brown sugar
zest of one lemon
approx 4 oz (100g) whole almonds (chopped) or pine nuts
9 oz (250g) raspberries
Put the flour, oats and butter into a bowl and rub together with your fingers until like coarse crumbs. Add the sugar and lemon zest and 3/4 of the nuts. Mix in well, still using your fingers (less utensils to wash!) then gather together in your hands to form stickly clumps, not too large. Put just over half of this mixture into a greased 9" (23cm) tin, spreading it out and pressing down lightly - it shouldn't be packed firmly. Put the raspberries on top then sprinkle over the rest of the mixture, finally scattering the remaining nuts on the surface. Press down gently to make a flat surface and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for approx 45 mins. until pale gold. Cool in the tin but cut into 12 bars while it is still warm.
Variation: Use other soft fruits instead of raspberries and alternative nuts. You could also try stirring the raspberries into the mixture instead of layering.

Nutty Cheese Biscuits: makes 15
4 oz (100g) softened butter
3 oz (75g) light brown sugar (muscovado type)
1 egg, beaten
2 oz (50g) porridge oats
2 oz (50g) walnuts, finely chopped
3 oz (75g) plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
Beat the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy (about 5 minutes by hand or 2 mins using a food processor). Beat in the egg then stir in the oats, walnuts flour and baking powder. If the mixture is too slack add a little more flour, it needs to be a dropping consistency. Drop dessertspoons of this mixture onto a greased baking sheet allowing room to spread and bake for 15 mins at 180C, 350F, gas 4, until pale gold. Cook on a cake airer. Store in an airtight container for up to a week. For a real treat serve spread with cream cheese and slices of strawberry or kiwi fruit.
Tip: to easily remove the skins from Kiwi fruit cut off a thin slice from each end then push a teaspoon between the skin and the flesh of the fruit and work the spoon round the fruit to lift away the skin. Cut this away and then the flesh is ready to slice.

The "I've run out of flour" Chocolate Cake: serves at least 8
4 oz (100g) butter,
5 oz (140g) dark chocolate, best quality
6 eggs, separated
5 oz (140g) ground almonds
3 oz (85g) caster sugar
cocoa powder
Break the chocolate up into pieces and melt this in a bowl over hot water together with the butter. stir until smooth and allow to cool slightly. Stir in the egg yolks and ground almonds. Beat the egg whites until they have formed soft peaks then beat in the sugar a little at a time until the meringue is stiff. Add two tblsp. of this mixture into the chocolate mixture and fold in to slacken, then fold in the remaining meringue. Spoon this into a greased lined and floured 9" square (preferably springform) tin and bake for 30 - 35 mins at 170C, 325F, gas 3. It should be well risen and just firm to the touch. Remove the cake and the paper. Dust with the cocoa and serve with whipped cream or creme fraiche.
Adult Variation: add a tblsp of orange or coffee flavoured liqueur to the mixture when adding the eggs.

Broken Biscuit Bars (needs no cooking) makes 8 - 10
8 oz (200g) digestive biscuits
4 oz (100g) butter
3 tblsp golden syrup
2 tblsp cocoa powder
2 oz (50g) raisins or sultanas
4 oz (100g) good quality dark chocolate
Put the biscuits into a large polybag lay flat on the table and bash to uneven crumbs with a rolling pin, meat basher, milk bottle or your fist. Melt the butter and syrup in a pan, then stir in the cocoa powder and dried fruit. When this is mixed well stir in the biscuit crumbs. Tip into a 7" (18cm) round sandwich tin and press down to flatten. Melt the chocolate in a bowl standing over hot water, stir well then pour onto the top of the biscuit mixture. Put in the fridge for at least half an hour to set. Serve, cut into wedges. To keep for up to a week wrap in foil.
Tips: Save your broken biscuits to use in a recipe such as this (keeping savoury biscuits separate - these can be crushed and used to coat fish, chicken etc) . Nuts, candied peel or chopped glace cherries could also be added. To flatten the biscuit base easily, either cover with cling film and smooth with a spatula, or omit the film and press down with the cut side of a lemon or orange (both of which will also add a subtle flavour).

Orange Biscuits with a Marzipan filling: makes about 20
3 oz (75g) butter
4 oz (100g) self-raising flour
3 oz (75g) ground almonds
2 oz (50g) caster sugar
zest of one orange
2 oz (5og) marzipan
Rub the butter into the flour, add the sugar and stir in the ground almonds together with the orange zest (alternatively whizz these in a food processor until the mixture begins to hold together). Gather together into a ball and knead gently. Divide the dough in half and roll each out thinly. Roll the marzipan also thinly. Take two scone cutters, one smaller than the other. Using the large cutter, cut out circles (or squares if you prefer) from the biscuit dough mixture, and cut out similar shapes in the marzipan using the smaller cutter. Sandwich together by putting one piece of marzipan between two pieces of biscuit dough and seal the edges. Chill for half an hour. Bake for 18 - 20 mins at 170C, 325F, gas 3 in the low part of the oven. Cool on a cake airer. Dust with icing sugar.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Hot and Cold food for cold and hot days.

Today I am giving you choices, some soups that can be chilled, some that can be eaten hot or cold, and some warming ones.
(Note: Cold soups have less flavour than when served hot, so add more seasoning and herbs than you would do if serving a similar soup hot.
The quickest Chilled Soup ever: serves four
1 pack (about 10 oz/275g) frozen vegetables (green beans, peas or carrots etc)
2 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 pints chicken or vegetable stock
1 shallot or large spring onion
3 sprigs parsley (remove stems)
seasoning: sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cut any large frozen vegetables into chunks and put in a blender with the rest of the ingredients except seasoning. Whizz until pureed, season well to taste.

Hot or Cold Tomato Soup : serves four
4 cups beef stock
1 can of chopped tomatoes
1 shot of white vermouth or vodka
8 parsley sprigs (without stems)
zest of 1 large lemon (variation - use zest of an orange)
Bring the stock to a boil and simmer for five minutes, add the rest of the ingredients and cook for a further five minutes. Put into a blender and puree. Serve hot, or chill to serve cold.

Hot or Cold Squashy Soup: serves four
2 oz (50g) butter
6 courgettes or half a butternut squash
1 shallot, chopped
1 3/4 pints (1 lt) chicken stock
4 springs of parsley, stems removed
paprika pepper
Put the butter in a pan over low heat, add the shallot and cook until softened. Cut the courgettes into thick slices (or peel the butternut and cut into cubes), and add to the pan. Stir for a few minutes then add the stock, bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Puree in a blemder, season with paprika to taste.

No need to season Celery and Almond Soup: serves four
1 1/4 pints (725ml) home-made chicken stock
1 head of celery, using about 12 of the inner, paler stalks
20 whole almonds with skins
Heat the stock and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove any strings from the celery and cut into small pieces, and add to the stock. Simmer for about 8 minutes until softened. Pour into a blender and whizz until creamy then add the almonds and whizz again until they are coarsely chopped. Serve hot.
(Note: Home-made chicken stock should be full of flavour, stock cubes are too salty. Almonds eaten with their skins are said to be very beneficial to health).

Cucumber and Cream Soup: serves two to four helpings
1 large cucumber, peeled
1 large or 2 small gherkins, chopped
juice of 1 large lemon
3 tblsp grated onion
6 fl oz (15 - 30 cl)
salt and pepper
1 tblsp chopped dill
Remove some thin slices from the cucumber to use as garnish, and roughly chop the rest. Put the chopped cucumber into a blender with the gherkins, lemon juice and onion. Whizz until smooth, pour into a chilled tureen, stir in the cream, season to taste, add the dill if using. Garnish with cucumber slices and serve chilled.
Just for One Soup: serves one
2 tomatoes
1 tblsp each lemon juice and olive oil
pinch sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Fresh herbs, finely chopped, for garnish
Put the ingredients into a blender, and fast blend for 2 minutes. Serve chilled with a sprinkle of fresh herbs.

And - if you are really in a costcutting mood, try this traditional Italian soup!
Zuppa Mituna: serves 6
10 oz (300g) stale home-made bread, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, halved
4 pints (2 litres) chicken or beef stock
2 tblsp chopped parsley
Put the bread on a baking sheet and dry out thoroughly in an oven heated to 180C/350C/gas4. Meanwhile heat the stock. When the bread has dried out, rub each slice with the garlic cloves and put into an ovenproof tureen or deep casserole. Pour over the hot stock a little at a time so that it is absorbed by the bread. Put back into a hot oven (200C/400F/gas 5 for 10 - 15 minutes. By then the top should be browned. Sprinkle with parsley just before serving.
Tip: use up odds and ends of hard cheese, grate and put on the bread before pouring over the stock.

...or this Portuguese version
Acorda Alentejana: serves 6 - 8
8 oz (250g) dry bread, broken into pieces
1 spring coriander (or herb of your choice)
3 - 4 garlic cloves
pinch salt
3 tblsp olive oil
4 pints (2 litres) boiling water
Pound together (or blitz in a small processor) the coriander, garlic and salt. Put into a bowl and add the oil. Mix well the pour in the boiling water and add the bread. Mix together until smooth.
This soup is often served with grilled fresh sardines.

For my final offering (I've given a more concise method, she does go on a bit- look who's talking!):
Hannah Glasse's delicious Onion Soup: serves 4 - 6
8 large onions, chopped
6 oz (175g) butter
2 tblsp flour
2 - 3 pints (1 - 1.5 ltrs) boiling water
4 oz (110g) stale bread, crumbed
pinch salt
2 egg yolks
2 tsp vinegar
Melt the butter in a large pan, add the onions and fry gently for about 15 minutes. Add the flour and stir to coat the onions. Cook for a further 3 minutes then add the boiling water, stir to blend and thicken, then add the bread. Season with salt to taste (pepper if you wish). Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, and remove from the heat. Meanwhile, beat the egg yolks with the vinegar, add a little of the soup to this mixture then add to the hot soup and mix well. Pour into a heated tureen and serve.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Tempting flavours

With flavour in mind, here are some recipes with a difference. First a potato recipe just packed with herbs of your choice. Herbs are like spices, use different ones and the flavour of the whole dish changes.
2 lb (1 kg) made up from six even sized potatoes
1 large onion, very finely chopped or grated
1 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tblsp olive oil
6 fl. oz measure of finely packed chopped herbs
Bring a pan of water to the boil, add the potatoes and boil for exactly 4 minutes. Drain the potatoes and put on one side to cool enough to handle, then grate them into a bowl, using the coarse side of the grater (or disc if using a food processor). Add the rest of the ingredients and stir together until thoroughly mixed.
Put a good tblsp of oil into a large frying pan over a medium to high heat and when hot add all the potato mixture and press down firmly with a fish slice or potato masher. It needs to be compact. After five minutes take the pan from the hob and place 3" under a pre-heated grill and cook for up to 8 minutes longer or until the top is golden brown. Cool for a couple of minutes then slide onto a heated plate and serve in wedges.
Tip: To make individual rosti, use poaching rings, or make your own from cardboard covered with a double layer of foil. Put these into the frying pan and fill with the rosti mixture. Turn after five minutes and cook for a further five minutes. Remove rings, place the rosti on a baking sheet and keep warm while you replace the rings and continue in the same way until the mixture has been used up. Add more oil to the pan if needed.

Cauliflower with Broccoli Sauce: serves 4 - 6
1 onion, finely chopped or grated
1 lb (500g) broccoli florets.
8 oz (225g) cream cheese
juice of one small lemon
2 tblsp white wine or vegetable stock
1 tblsp arrowroot or cornflour
few cardamon seeds
good pinch cayenne pepper
2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
1 medium cauliflower - approx. 1lb/500g.
(4 oz (110g) cheddar cheese, grated
Put a small amount of water on to boil, add the onion and cook until softened, then add the broccoli and cook/steam until this is tender. Save any cooking liquid. Put the onion and broccoli into a blender together with the cream cheese, lemon juice, wine/stock, spices and arrowroot/cornflour.
Blitz for a few seconds, it needs to remain slightly chunky, then pour into a saucepan and heat very gently until thickened, adding the saved cooking liquid until it is pouring consistency. Stir in the chopped eggs.
Meanwhile, steam the cauliflower until tender, then put into an ovenproof dish, pour over the sauce and sprinkle with the cheese. Bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for five or ten minutes or until the cheese has melted and turned golden.
Variation: Switch the ingredients and make the main part using broccoli and the sauce using cauliflower. Try adding different spices, and using different, well flavoured cheeses such as Stilton.

Pasta with Leek and Blue Cheese Sauce: serves four
8 oz (250g) pasta shapes such as penne
1 oz (23g) butter
8 oz (250g) leeks, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tblsp dry sherry
1 oz (25g) wholemeal flour
small grating of nutmeg
6 fl oz (175ml) vegetable stock
3 fl oz (75ml) creme fraiche
4 oz (110g) Stilton, or any blue cheese,crumbled
2 oz (50g) cheddar cheese, grated
ground black pepper and chopped parsley to garnish
Cook the pasta until tender, then drain and rinse. Melt the butter in a pan and gently cook the leeks and garlic for about ten minutes or until the leeks are softened. Add the sherry and raise the heat to medium and cook until the sherry has evaporated (about 5 mins). Stir in the flour and nutmeg, and after one minute stir in the stock followed by the creme fraiche. Cook on until a thick creamy sauce then stir in the cheeses. Remove from heat, stir in the pasta, put into a warm serving dish and sprinkle over the pepper and parsley.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Very berry good for you

Dark berries are full of nutrition, as they have just got around to telling us. So the blueberries, blackberries, elderberries and sloes are the ones to gather, freeze and preserve.
Elderberry Jelly - to be eaten with pork.
This can also be made with bilberries
2 lb (1 kg) cooking apples
2 lb (1 kg) elderberries
water and sugar
Wash the apples, remove any bruised pieces but leave on the peel and cores. Roughly chop. Place in a pan with just enough water to cover and barely simmer for one hour until the fruit has turned to pulp. Meanwhile, wash the berries and put them in another pan, with just enough water to cover and also simmer these for one hour until the fruit is soft and tender. Mix together the two lots of fruit with their juices.
Spoon this into a jelly bag or muslin bag suspended (the way I do it) from the legs of an upturned stool and leave to strain into a large bowl for at least 12 hours. Do not squeeze the bag if you want clear jelly.
Discard the pulp (unless you can turn it into some sort of dessert, I hate throwing anything away), measure the juice and return it to the pan with 12 oz (375g) sugar to each pint (300ml) of liquid. Heat gently until the sugar has dissolved then boil rapidly for 10 minutes by which time it should have reached setting point. If not, boil it a little longer. Remove any scum, pot up into small, clean jars, cover and store.

Blackcurrant Jelly:
4 lb (2kg) blackcurrants
about 2 1/2 (1.5lt) water
No need to remove currants from their stalks. Just put the lot in a pan with the water, and simmer for one hour until the fruit is really soft. Stir occasionally. Spoon into a jelly bag (as in above recipe) and strain for at least 12 hours. Discard the pulp (if wanting to add it to an apple pie then remove the stalks at the start), measure the juice and put into a pan with 1 lb (500g) sugar to each pint (600ml) of juice. Heat gently until the sugar has dissolved then boil for 15 minutes or until setting point. As above, remove scum and pot up.

Bilberry Jam:
2 1/2 (1.5kg) bilberries
1/4 pint (150ml) water
3 tblsp lemon juice
3 lb (1.5kg) sugar plus a knob of butter
8 fl.oz( 227ml) bottle of pectin
Wash the berries then put into a pan with the water and lemon juice. Simmer for 10 - 15 minutes or until the fruit has softenen but not turned too pulpy. Remove from heat, add the sugar and butter and rapildy boil for just 3 minutes. Remove from heat, add the pectin, return to heat and boil for a further minute. Cool slightly before potting up in the usual way.

Sloe Gin:
1 lb (500g) sloes washed and stripped
3 - 4 oz (75 - 100g) sugar
few drops of almond essence
75 cl bottle of gin
Prick the sloes all over with a thick needle or skewer, and put them in a screw topped jar. Add the sugar and essence, cover with gin and screw down tightly. Leave in a dark place for 3 months, shaking the bottle once every fortnight,. Strain through muslin until clear. Bottle the gin and enjoy.
Tip: if you don't want to discard the sloes you could try making some into sloe jelly or add some to fruit salads. Or freeze until you find a use for them.

Cassis: otherwise known as Kir
1 lb (5oog) blackcurrants washed and stripped from stalks
1 pt (600ml) gin or brandy
gran. sugar
Crush the blackcurrants and put them into a screwtopped jar with the gin or brandy. Fasten down the lid tightly then leave in a dark place for 2 months. Strain, then add 6 oz (175g) sugar to each pint (600ml) liquid. Pour into a jug, cover and stand for 2 days stirring often. When sugar has dissolved, strain through muslin, bottle and keep for 6 months before using.
To drink Cassis/Kir : put a dash of this into a wineglass with a twist of lemon peel and top up with white wine.

Blackberry Liqueur:
This can be made with or without the spices. Either way my husband just loves it.
4 lb (2 kg) blackberries, washed
1 pint (600ml) water
1 level tsp each whole cloves and grated nutmeg
1 lb (500g) sugar
1/2 pint (300ml) brandy
Place the blackberries and spices in a pan with the water. Simmer gently until for about 15 minutes until the fruit has softened. Remove from heat and leave to get cold.
Strain, measure the juice and add 1 lb (500g) sugar to every pint (600ml) water. Put into a pan and heat until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat, cool slightly then add the brandy. Bottle and store until needed.

Blackberry Cheese: this can be made with other fruits
2 lb (1kg) blackberries, washed
1 lb (500g) cooking apples, peeled and cored
1 pint (600ml) water
Dice the apples and place in a pan with the blackberries and water. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for about half an hour until the berries are tender. Using a nylon sieve and a wooden spoon, press the fruit through into a bowl. Return the fruit puree to the pan and add 12 oz (375g) sugar to each pint (600ml) puree. Heat gently until the sugar has dissolved then raise the heat and boil for about 20 minutes until the mixture is very thick. It is ready when a wooden spoon can be drawn through leaving a clean line at the bottom of the pan. Pot and cover into small wide-mouth jars, leave to set and cover in the normal way - or if you prefer put the cheese into small moulds so that you can turn out the cheese onto a dish and serve it cut into wedges to be put on scones, eaten with bread and butter and even with soft chceese.

Pickled Blackberries:
2 lb (1kg) blackberries, washed
1 lb (500g) gran. sugar
1/2 pint (300ml) pickling vinegar
1/4 oz (7g) each: whole cloves, allspice, cinnamon stick
Put the sugar and vinegar in a pan. tie the spices in a musling bag and add this also. Simmer for 5 minutes then remove the spices, add the blackberries and cook for 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the berries from the pan and place in clean hot jars and keep warm. Continue boiling the vinegar until it has turned to a syrup then pour this over the fruit. Cover with airtight and vinegar proof lids. Keep for 2.3 weeks before using.

Remember, all you pennypinching people, that bottles of gin, brandy, rum etc, can also be 'free' if you ask for them as a birthday, anniversary or Christmas gift.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Something different

What can you substitute when you haven't the ingredients ? When making pancakes, try using flours other than plain white. Try all wholewheat, or two thirds buckwheat with one third wholewheat. Or make them with gram (known also as chickpea or Besan) flour, or use cornmeal (polenta) or even rice flour. And for something completely different...
Potato and Onion Processor Pancakes: makes about 20
8 oz (225g) onion, cut into chunks
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 lb (450g) potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
4 oz (110g) wholewheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
salt and pepper
2 eggs
4 oz (100ml) milk
Put the garlic and onions in the processor and begin to blitz them adding the potatoes as you go. Aim for finely chopped but not pureed. Depending upon the size of the bowl this may need to be done in batches.
Sift the flour, baking powder and seasonings into a large bowl, then add the potato mixture. Beat the eggs with the milk and stir together just enough to combine.
In a large frying pan heat a little oil, just enough to coat the bottom. When hot drop the mixture in by tablespoonfuls, keeping each pancake well apart as they will spread. After 2 - 4 minutes the underside should be brown, so flip them over and cook until brown on that side. Remove, drain on kitchen paper and keep warm while you cook the rest of them.
Good served with large fried field mushrooms and a tomato sauce. Wonderful with apple sauce or maple syrup. Why not make it a breakfast dish with a mushroom on top and a fried or poached egg on top of that.

Instead of making a guacamole try this alternative:
Herby Dip:
1/2 pint (300ml) creme fraiche or fromage frais
1/4 pint ( 150ml) each yogurt and single cream
2 large handfuls of fresh mixed herbs: parsley, mint, chives, dill, coriander etc.
2 tblsp lemon juice
Chop the herbs finely and mix together with the other ingredients except the lemon juice, then beat this in at the end, a few drops at a time to prevent curdling. Chill to use as a dip. But it can be gently warmed to be used as a dressing over fish, chickpea fritters, chicken Kievs etc.

a variation of coleslaw:
Celery and Courgette Slaw with Cheese.
celery sticks, courgettes, apples, Red Leicester cheese, mustard, mayo, honey and horseradish sauce.
Slice the celery, courgette, apple into very thin strips (matchstick size). Grate the cheese and mix all together. Blend some mustard, mayo honey and horseradish sauce to taste and thin down slightly if necessary with either lemon juice or water. Pour over the prepared ingredients, toss and serve.

try this version of a vegetarian sausage:
Glamorgan Sausages
1 lb (5oog) wholewheat breadcrumbs
1 small onion, finely chopped
6 oz (175g) finely chopped nuts (almonds, brazil, hazle nuts etc)
8 oz (225g) Cheddar cheese, grated
2 tsp dried sage, or 1 tblsp very finely chopped fresh sage
1 handful of chopped parsley,
2 large eggs, beaten
seasoning to taste
Mix everything together thoroughly (if too wet add more breadcrumbs, if too dry add more egg or a little water). Form into sausage shapes and place on a non-stick baking sheet (or one covered with baking parchment) and bake for 20 minutes at 170C, 325F, gas 3 until just firm. Do not overbake or they will dry out and be less appealing.
Note: make your own alternative flavours by using different cheeses and different herbs.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Recipes with a Difference

Some years ago I made Rose Petal jam and it is lovely. Use dry rose petals that haven't been sprayed for aphids etc. It goes without saying if you can use heavily scented roses the better the flavour of the jam. If you have red roses without scent then add rose water or essence (see note below).

Rose Petal Jam - makes 1 lb
8 oz (250g) deep red scented rose petals
1 lb (500g) sugar
2 pints (1.2 litres) water
juice of 2 lemons
Pick the roses when in full bloom, remove the petals and snip off the white bases. Tear the petals into small pieces but not too finely, and put in a bowl. Pour over half sugar, stir, cover, and leave to stand overnight.
The next day the sugar will hav absorbed the scent and the petals will have become darker. Put the remaining sugar into a saucepan with the water and lemon juice and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the rose petals together with their sugar, stir then simmer gently for 20 minutes. Bring to a full boil and after five minutes the jam should be thickened. Setting point does not apply with this recipe. Pot into small clean jars, cover and store in the usual way.
Note: If you have only unscented red roses or are using any with very little scent, then substitute some of the water with rose water. or rose essence according to taste, don't overdo it as the flavour should increase as the water evaporates.

Freezer Jam - makes 7 lb
This jam is uncooked and has a loose texture similar to a conserve.
3 lb (1.5 kg) strawberries or raspberries, hulled
4 lb (2kg) caster sugar
4 tblsp. (60 ml) lemon juice
8oz 227 ml) bottle of commercial pectin
Place the fruit in a large bowl and gently crush with a potato masher or fork. Stir in the sugar and lemon juice, and leave at room temperature for an hour, stirring from time to time to dissolve the sugar. Stir in the pectin and continue stirring for 2 - 3 minutes. Pour the jam into small plastic containers leaving a little head room. Place on lids, and leave at room temperature for 24 hours. Then freeze (remember to label). When needed, thaw at room temperature for about one hour.

Quick Apricot Jam: makes 3 lb
3 x 15oz cans (3 x 425g) cans of apricot halves in syrup
2 tblsp (30 ml) lemon juice
1 lb (500g) sugar
Drain the fruit, but keep the syrup. Put the apricots in a blender with 1/2 pint (300ml) of the syrup, the lemon juice and the sugar (best done in small batches). Blend until smooth, then pour into a saucepan and boil until thick. Pot and cover in the usual way.

Love Apple Jam makes 3 lb
5 unwaxed lemons, cut in half
2 lb (1 kg) red tomatoes
2 lb (1 kg) sugar
knob butter
Skin and quarter the tomatoes and remove their cores and seeds, but keep these to one side. Squeeze the lemons and keep any pips. Scrape out any flesh from the lemon shells and keep this also. Remove all pith from the lemon shells and discard this then cut the rind into thin strips. Place the rind in a saucepan with about 5 fl oz water and simmer, covered for 15 minutes.
Put the lemon pips and flesh with the tomato cores and seeds and tie together in a piece of muslin. Make up the lemon juice to 3 pints (150 ml) with water and put into a preserving pan. Cut up the tomato flesh into shreds and add to the pan with the lemon shreds, their liquid and the muslin bag. Simmer for about 45 mins until tender. Remove the muslin bag but squeeze out any liquid and return this to the pan. Time now to add the sugar, stir until dissolved, add the knob of butter and boil rapidly for 20 minutes. Remove any scum if it appears. When setting point has been reached, remove from heat and pot up in the usual way.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Be your own Manufacturer

Returning to the olden days, just about everyone tried to stock up their larders with homemade preserves and tracklements. But we can and should still do this for there is nothing better than the flavour of home-made. So here are one or two suggestions:

Hot Scottish Mustard:
2 tsp dry mustard
3 tsp salt
4 tsp caster sugar
4 tsp melted butter
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
the juice of 1 raw onion, or the whole onion finely grated
Mix all the ingredients together making sure there are no lumps (a food processor will do that for you). Add sufficient vinegar to make the consistency of ready-made mustard and pot into small jars with well fitting lids. The recipe states it will keep for up to a year, but hot enough to blow your head off, so be warned.

Crunchy Pickled Shallots:
Peel the shallots (or you could use pickling onions) taking care to remove the membrane under the papery skins so that the onions are white and shiny. Put into dry jars as soon as peeled and cover with cold pickling vinegar. Use vinegar proof lids and they will be ready to eat in two weeks.
Tip: small onions are easy to peel if very hot water is poured over them, then left for five minutes or so. Remove and the peel can then be easily removed. Also make sweeter and less crunchy pickled onions by dissolving a spoon of sugar (to taste) in hot vinegar before covering the onions.

Rillettes du Porc:
Easy to prepare and, if potted up into several small containers, each sealed with the fat, it will keep for some time in the fridge. Once the seal is broken it should be eaten with a day or two.
1 lb (1kg) belly pork
1 lb (500g) pork fat
1 clove garlic
fresh herbs
black pepper
Remove the skin and bones from the pork (your butcher should do this for you). Rub the meat well with salt and leave to stand overnight. Then cut it into very small pieces - the recipes suggests about the size of a match. Pack the meat into an earthenware casserole mixed with the fat which has also been cut into small pieces. Crush then shove the clove of garlic into the centre with a bunch of fresh herbs (sage, thyme etc).
Grind some black pepper over and then add about 5fl oz (150ml) water. Cover and cook in a low oven 140C, 276F, gas 1 for about 4 hours. Don't be put off by the appearance of the meat.
Season well (rillettes require to be well seasoned) and tip the meat/fat into a sieve with a large bowl under.
Leave to drain for about 1/2 hour turning the meat once or twice.
When fully drained, using two forks, pull the meat apart to shred it as finely as possible. Then pack well into small jars and pour over the saved fat (leave any meat dregs behind), filling the jars right to the top so that the meat is covered and will be airtight when the fat has set. Cover with foil lids and store in the fridge.

Mayonnaise made in a blender: keeps for up to four days in the fridge.
1 very fresh egg
4 fl oz light olive oil (or half olive and half sunflower oil)
juice of 1 lemon (or 1 tblsp wine vinegar)
sea salt
ground black pepper
Break the egg into a blender and turn on and off rapidly just to break the egg.
Add the oil in a very thin stream as slowly as possible and keep blending until the mixutre thickens, then add the lemon juice (or vinegar). Pour into a bowl, season to taste, cover and keep chilled.
Variations: to use as a dressing for vegetables, thin down to the consistency of cream with a little vegetable stock.
Or stir in a little Scottish mustard (see above recipe) to make Mustard Mayonnaise.

Mint Jelly:
To a pint of apple juice allow a pound of sugar. Put the juice in a saucepan with a bunch of mint and boil until the liquid is well flavoured with the mint. Remove the herbs, add the sugar and boil unti the jelly sets. Add a drop of green colouring and a little finely chopped mint then pot up into small clean jars. Cover and store in a dark place.
Variations: Use rosemary instead of mint to serve with lamb. Sage flavoured to serve with pork.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Traditional Recipes

Many old recipes are easy to make and very economical. They just need hunting out as few appear in modern cookbooks. Long ago domestic cooks discovered that flavour was much improved by adding herbs, so we should always grow our own whenever possible.
One or two of the following recipes may seem strange, but all the ingredients have nutritional value as our ancestors had discovered, and they made the most of what they'd got.

Scottish Omelette:
4 oz (100g) crustless bread, broken into pieces
1/2 pint (275ml) hot milk
3 medium onions, chopped finely
1 tsp finely chopped sage
1/2 tsp thyme leaves
a pinch of sweet marjoram (opt.)
1/2 oz (12g) butter, melted
1 oz coarse oatmeal
3 eggs, well beaten
Soak the bread in the hot milk and leave to stand for an hour. Mix well with a fork and add all the other ingredients, stirring in the eggs at the end. Season to taste and pour into a greased shallow dish and bake for an hour in a moderate oven (approx 180C).

Cumberland Cheese of the Seven Herbs:
A recipe that dates back at least 300 years
4 oz (100g) grated cheese
2 tblsp thick cream
3 tblsp sherry
2 level tblsp mixed chopped herbs: parsley, sage, tarragon, thyme, chives, chervil and savory.
Put all the ingredients into a double saucepan (or bowl standing over a pan of simmering water), and stir until the mixture is creamy and pale green in colour. Pour into small pots, leave to get cold and use as a spreading cheese.
Note: Obviously, we may not all have the variety of fresh herbs given, but use as many as possible.

Westmorland Easter Ledge Pudding:
Oringinally made with the Easter Ledge herh, this is not essential. Try different herns.
To a pint of cooked pearl barley add two heaped tablespoons of finely chopped herbs and leaves that taste best when young such as black-currant leaves, parsley, dandelion, mint etc. Add one finely chopped shallot, or spring onion. Season to taste, stir in one beaten egg, a little melted butter and bake in a greased pudding dish.

North Country Mint Pasty:
An ancient recipe that is still made to this day by my Yorkshire friend and is most delicious.
Take equal quantities of fresh finely chopped mint , brown sugar and currants. Mix well and pound together to a soft spreading consistency (today they could be blitzed together in a food processor). Spread between thin layers of short-crust pastry, and cook until the top layer is a rich golden brown.

In the 'olden days', when there were no freezers, herbs and soft fruits were preserved into jellies which could be served with colds meats etc. In general, the boiled and pureed fruit was sieved, weighed and then to each pint a pound of sugar was added. This was boiled to setting point and potted up into clean small lidded jars.

Mint and Gooseberry Jelly: serve with lamb or mutton dishes
Cook four pounds of gooseberries in two pints of water until the fruit has softened to a pulp. Rub through a sieve. To each pint of puree use one pound of sugar. Put into a preserving pan and add thirty stems of fresh mint tied up in a muslin bag. Boil to setting point. Remove the bag of mint and pot up the jelly.

Parsley Jelly: good served with cold meats esp. chicken
Fill your chosen pan with parsley and add water to not-quite cover. To each pint of water used, add the juice of one large (or two small lemons) and the lemon rinds. Bring to the boil and simmer for half an hour.
Strain, measure and return the liquid to the pan. To each pint of juice add one pound of sugar . Boil until setting point has been reached then pot up in small jars.
Note: This recipe has a footnote which said it is also good as a sandwich filling with or without chicken.

Tip: To make sure of a good set, use jam sugar instead of ordinary granulated (or use half and half). This should also cut down the boiling time.

As this is exactly the right season to make these vinegars you might like to bottle up some of your own. Do use wine vinegar as our malt vinegar is far too strong.
Tarragon Vinegar:
Gather the tarragon no later than July and in any case BEFORE it comes into flower. Gather when there has been no rain for at least two days (with global warning there is a possibility this can now happen). Pick the leaves from the stalks and put the leaves into a bottle and pour over the vinegar (allow 8 oz leaves to 2 quarts of vinegar). Cork well and leave for a fortnight, strain, bottle again and cork well.
Basil Vinegar: as above
Elderflower Vinegar: as above. The sprays of flowers should be picked when fully open.

Vinegar flavoured with Mixed Herbs:
To a gallon of vinegar allow four ounces each of chives, shallots, tarragon, winter savory, balm and a good handful of mint. Pound the herbs to a pulp (or blitz in a food processor). Add to the vinegar, bottle up and cork well. Place in the sun every day for two weeks. At the end of that time pour through a sieve, pressing the herbs down well to extract all their flavour. Leave the liquid to settle for a few hours then carefully pour through a sieve lined with muslin leaving any sediment behind. Bottle up and cork well.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Summer Meals

A query re sun-dried tomatoes. These I've seen used in many recipes such as adding them to bread dough when making a savoury loaf or a ciabatta. Or used as part of a pizza topping. They can also be whizzed in a blender to make a tomato puree (you can buy tomato puree made from sun-dried tomatoes).
Just think of sun-dried tomatoes as ordinary tomatoes which have been reduced by drying down and so have a more concentrated flavour, then you will be more inclined to add them chopped to salads where you might use ordinary tomatoes in tabbouleh for example).

Green and Red Timbale: serves 8 or more slices
2 lb (1kg) fresh spinach leaves
1 oz (25g) butter
1 onion, very finely chopped
1 tblsp sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
6 large eggs
6 fl.oz (175ml) single cream
2 oz (50g) Gruyere cheese, grated
2 oz (50g) Parmesan cheese, grated
salt and pepper to taste
Keep back about a dozen spinach leaves. Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the onion and cook gently until softened. Chop the remaining spinach, add this to the onions and cook until wilted. Stir in the chopped tomatoes.
Take a large bowl, add the eggs and beat well, then beat in the cream, the cheeses, the onion, and the spinach and tomato mixture, then season to taste.
Put the saved spinach leaves into boiling water for one minute only, drain and leave to cool. Grease a pie dish or loaf tin (approx 2 1/2 pint capacity/1.5 ltr) . Line with spinach leaves leaving surplus hanging over the sides. Fill with the beaten mixture then top with more leaves folding over the surplus. Place in a bain marie and bake for 50 minutes at 180C, 350F, gas 4 until firm to the touch. Leave to cool. When ready to serve, turn out onto a plate and cut into slices.

Mexican Rice: serves 4
2 tblsp olive oil
1 clove garlic
6 oz (175g) long grain rice
2 tblsp sun-dried tomatoes mashed to a paste
2 sprigs of fresh parsley
1 small onions, finely chopped
1 green chilli, deseeded and chopped
2 oz (5og) each, peas, sweetcorn, diced carrots
18 fl.oz (1/2 litre) of chicken stock
Put the oil in a large frying pan and fry the garlic clove until golden. Stir in the rice and cook until the oil has been absorbed. Remove the garlic. Add the tomato paste and cook/stir for one minute then add the rest of the ingredients. Stir then bring to the simmer, cover and cook for half an hour by which time all the liquid will have been absorbed.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Light Bites

Today I am popping in some assorted recipes and suggestions for snacks and light dishes, but you can add extra ingredients to make some of the meals more substantial.
Firstly a lunch-box bite that needs no baking but is full of good things:
4 oz (100g) tropical fruit mix or your choice of mixed dried fruits
4 oz (100g) porridge oats
2 oz (100g) rice crispies or similar
3 oz (75) dessicated coconut
2 oz (50g) blanched and toasted almonds, hazlenuts or unsalted peanutes etc
2 oz (50g) seeds: sunflower, pumpkin, or sesame - lightly toasted
4 oz (100g) light soft brown sugar
4 fl.oz. (125ml) golden syrup
4 oz (100g) butter
Take a large bowl and into this chop the fruit (using scissors). Add the oats, cereal, coconut, nuts and seeds and mix well. Put the sugar, syrup and butter into a pan over a low heat and stir until the sugar and butter have dissolved. Raise the heat to medium and bubble away for about 2 minutes until thickened slightly.
Pour this over the contents of the bowl and mix well until all the contents have been coated.
Spoon into an 8" square tin and press down well to fill the corners. Level the top with a spoon (a cut lemon is perfect for pressing down the contents as it leaves a hint of lemon). Leave to cool and set before cutting.

Goat's Cheese and Garden Vegetable Quiche: serves 6
Use either bought short-crust pastry or make your own in a food processor by whizzing together 8 oz (200g) plain flour, a pinch of salt and 4 oz (100g) butter, chopped. When like breadcrumbs add one egg. Blend to a dough and wrap in clingfilm and chill for half an hour.
Roll out the pastry to fit a deep 24cm flan ring and bake blind for 10 mins at 200C, 400F,
gas 6. Remove foil/paper and baking beans** and continue to cook for a further 10 minutes. Leave to cool.
Lower oven temperature slightly and make the filling:
2 1/2 oz (40g) butter
3 oz (75g) courgettes, sliced diagonally
3 0z (75g) runner beans, stringed and sliced
3 oz (75g) peas (can be fresh or frozen)
3 large or 6 small spring onions,
1 1/2 pint (300ml) milk
1 oz (25g) plain flour
2 large or three smaller eggs
110g soft goat's cheese, half sliced, the rest diced or crumbled
4 small tomatoes, sliced
Chop the green parts of the spring onions and finely slice the bulb. Melt the butter in a pan and lightly fry the onions and all the vegetables until just softening - about 5 minutes. Tip in the flour and stir, then add the milk and keep stirring until the sauce has thickened. Remove from heat and cover with a circle of parchment paper to prevent a skin forming (or just keep stirring) cool for about five minutes.
Beat the eggs into the sauce, add half the cheese (cubed or crumbled) then pour into the pastry case. Lay the remaining slices of cheese on the top alternating with the tomato. Bake for 40 mins at 180C, 375F, gas 5 then cool for about 15 minutes before removing from the tin. Serve with salad.
**Tip: James Martin said when he bakes pastry blind he covers the pastry with foil then fills that with flour instead of baking beans. I tried this the other day and it worked very well indeed. It also gave me the chance of using flour that has been at the back of my cupboard for far too long, normally I would have thrown it out, now I have a use for it.

Tomato Pesto:
Using an airtight container, this pesto is said to keep for up to a month in the fridge as long as it has a covering of olive oil. I would play save and suggest a fortnight. This is great spread on home-made pizzas, or similarly spread on puff pastry before adding the topping then baking. Absolutely lovely stirred into freshly cooked and drained pasta.
Make this quantity once and if you love it (as you will) then why not make lots and freeze the surplus in small batches.
5 oz (140g) sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
5 tblsp olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
7 springs of fresh thyme, leaves only (alternatively 7 basil leaves)
Put all the ingredients into a food processor and give the lot a blitz. When combined, put into airtight containers, press down and cover with a thin film of oil. Put on the lid and keep in the fridge.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Cookbooks - are they worth it?

...chatting about curries:
To the 'fiddly bits'. These are the additions to a curry which I my husband loves to add to his serving. The following are presented in little bowls: dessicated coconut; raisins or sultanas; flaked almonds; mango chutney and lime pickle (although these can be left in their jars), sliced tomatoes (for colour mainly), and in larger bowls, some raita, halved hardboiled eggs (one egg per person). and sliced banana (banana goes with chicken, omit this for other types of curry). Then I make up some onion bhajis as another side dish and finally serve hot naan bread (bought readymade) or some chapatis or poppodums. If I have made a number of samosas (using filo pastry) which I have stored in the freezer, a few of these could also be deep fried and added to the selection. I haven't even mentioned making a batch of Dhal (spiced lentils) as there is only so much I wish to do in the shortest possible time.
Not as difficult as it may sound. Curries are made earlier in the day (or even the previous day as they improve on reheating). Most of the side dishes can be made up, covered and then are ready to put on the table for people to help themselves. Poppadums can be bought ready-made or cooked at home. The naan bread can be heated in the oven or grilled, the batter for the bhajis can be made an hour in advance.

Onion Bhajis: to serve four
thinly slice 2 large oniions and break up into rings or pieces. Make a batter from:
10 oz (300g) Gram flour (also called Besan or Chickpea flour)
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. ground cumin
pinch salt
(optional - 1 tsp baking powder)
Make a thick batter with the ingredients, then add the onions. Stir until well coated.
Heat about 1" oil in a thick frying pan and when hot (drop little batter into the pan and when it immediately rises up and bubbles at the edges the heat is right), using a fork, lift out bundles of the onions and drop into the fat. Do a few at a time turning when the underside is deep golden. They will be uneven in shape which is how they should be. When cooked on both sides and really crispy, drain on kitchen paper . Serve hot or at room temperature.
Tiny cauliflower sprigs and mushrooms can also be coated in the batter and fried .

Put about a quarter of a pint of Greek (or ordinary) yogurt into a bowl. If necessary thin it down slightly with a little milk. Add a bare teaspoon of icing sugar (or caster sugar), and stir in finely diced cucumber which has been deseeded (from roughly a 2" chunk), then add a dessp. finely chopped fresh mint. You can also, if you wish, include some finely chopped spring onions.

Dhal -Spiced lentils
8 oz (225g) red lentils
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1 small onion, finely chopped and fried
1 tsp black mustard seeds
good pinch of salt
1 tsp sugar
Put the lentils into a pan and cover with double the amount of water. Bring to the boil and simmer until cooked (about 20 minutes). If necessary drain the lentils but they need to be fairly slack. Put to one side.
In a frying pan add a little oil and the mustard seeds, heat until the seeds pop then add a lttle water, the onion, sugar, salt and spices. Stir and fry until the onion is transparent then slowly pour in the lentils. Stir until heated through pile into a dish and serve hot.

By adding the side dishes, plus the rice, naan, bhajis and dhal, and by including plenty of onions and carrots to a curry, you can make a small amount of meat go a long way and end up with virtually a feast.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Never Enough Hours - or are there?

Cheese Spread (if serving it as posh nosh call it Cheese Pate)
3 oz (75g) each Danish blue, Wensleydale and Double Gloucester cheese
4 - 6 tblsp creme fraiche
(OR you could use 2 tblsp natural yog. and 4 tblsp. single cream)
2 tsp. each chopped chives and chopped parsley
very little mustard to taste
Put the blue cheese into a bowl and mash with a fork until soft. Grate the other cheeses and add to the bowl with the creme fraiche (or yogurt and cream). Add the herbs and mustard and mix until well blended.
If you have a food processor you could add the crumbled blue cheese and the other grated cheeses together with all the other ingredients and whizz until well blended.
Put the spread into a bowl, cover and chill overnight. Serve with toast, crispbreads etc

Other ideas for cheese spreads are:
Add 2 oz Parmesan or other finely grated hard cheese to softened butter with a pinch of cayenne pepper.
Or mix cream cheese with finely chopped chives and cayenned pepper to taste.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Keep in Step with the Seasons

Summer can be a good time to make up chutneys:
Piccalilli :
3 lb ( 1.35kg) mixed vegetables (cauliflower, small onions, runner beans, cucumber, courgettes, etc)
3 oz (75g) sugar
1 pint (575ml) white vinegar
1 tsp turmeric
1 dessp mustard powder
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tblsp cornflour
Cut the vegetables into small pieces and put into a bowl and sprinkle with salt. Put a plate on top and a can of beans or something to weigh this down. Leave overnight and next day rinse the salt off the vegetables and drain well. Pat as dry as possible with a very clean towel.
Put vinegar, spices and sugar into a large pan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Add the vegetables and simmer for 10 minutes. Blend the cornflour with a little vinegar and stir this into the pan. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 4 - 5 minutes until thickened. Pour into warm sterilized jars and seal with vinegar-proof lids.

Some many years ago I used to make what is called a 'Rumpot'. Made by layering fruits with sugar and rum as they came in season and by the end of the year you end up with a very boozy pot of fruit. The liquid was drunk as a liqueur, and the fruits eaten with ice-cream etc. Here is a different version but made in exactly the same way:
The Brandy Pot:
5 or 6 lb (3kg approx) of fresh soft fruits (see method)
bottle of brandy
2 or 4 lbs (1 kg) sugar
Take a large stone or glass jar, and at the beginning of the fresh fruit season put in about a pound of strawberies (450g), add 8 oz (225g) sugar and cover with brandy. Cover the jar tightly with cling-film.
Repeat this as more fruits come into season: raspberries, peeled and sliced peaches and nectarines, just a few red and blackcurrants, some loganberries and blackberries. Layer each fruit with sugar and brandy stirring gently each time and always cover tightly.
At Christmas it is time to uncover, strain and bottle the liquer, the fruits should keep well in a glass jar for some time but keep an eye on it and serve the fruit with cream, in pavlovas etc.. even add a spoonful to a bowl of muesli.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

An Apple a Day...

Funny how something suddenly comes to mind. Yesterday I had been puzzling how to make a vegetarian pastie with a moister filling. Didn't have any ideas, but then late last night, whilst watching TV, and just about nodding off - adding apple sauce - came into my mind. Apples and cheese do go together so could be one solution. This morning I awoke to the thought of adding grated apple instead of the sauce. Well worth a try.

Today I am including recipes for a vegetarian pie filling, to be cooked with pastry either under a pie lid, or in a pastry case, these might suit for the picnic pasties. Cheese and Corn Pie filling - enough for an 8" pie to serve four
1 oz (25g) each butter and flour
1/2 pt (300ml) milk
6 oz (175g) cooked sweetcorn
4 oz (125g) Red Leicester or Mature Cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 tsp made mustard
1 tblsp chopped parsley
2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
small can of tuna, drained and flaked (optional)
Melt the butter in a saucepan, stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the milk and heat gently, stirring all the time until thickened. Simmer for 2 minutes. Stir in the other ingredients, season to taste and place in a pie dish. Cover with shortcrust pastry and bake at 200C. 400F, gas 6 until golden. Can be served hot or cold.

Ploughman's Pasty filling - makes four or more
1 onion, grated
1 cooking apple, (peeled,cored and grated)
1 large slice of bread,
4 oz Cheddar cheese, grated
1 tblsp chutney
1 tsp. mixed fresh herbs (parsley, chives etc)
1 /2 tsp made mustard
Mix together the grated onion, apple and cheese. Stir in the chutney and herbs, the mustard and add salt and pepper to taste. Use to fill circles of pastry to make Pasties.
Alternatively, roll out pastry to a rectangle (12"x 20") 30 x 25cm , place the filling in the centre and leaving one end uncut to 2"down,cut slanting strips down each side about 1/2 " apart (1cm) apart. Moisten these strips with water and fold over the top end onto the filling then each side alternatively to make a sort of plait. Seal ends, brush with egg and bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 30 - 40 minutes until golden and crisp (cover with foil half-way through cooking time if browning too quickly), Can be served hot or cold with a green salad.

Cheese and Nut Pastie filling - makes four
8 oz (227g) cottage cheese
3 spring onions, finely chopped after removing most of the green part
4 oz (110g) Cheddar, finely grated
4 oz (110g) Wensleydale cheese, finely grated
1 sachet (or three tblsp) cup-a-soup type dry mix (asparagus or broccoli and cauli)
Dash of Tabasco or Worcestershire sauce
2 - 3 (50-75g) salted peanuts, finely chopped
Little milk to moisten as necessary
Place the cheeses, onions, salt and peanuts in a bowl and blend in the soup mix, and sauce of your choice.
Add a little milk to moisten (about 2 tblsp) then use as a pastie filling.
Alternative serving:
Omit the milk and peanuts, shape the mixed filling into a block and refrigerate for one hour or until firm.
Cut into 1" (2.5cm) cubes and toss into the finely chopped peanuts. When well coated, keep chilled and serve as a party nibble.