Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Better to Make than Buy?

Useful tip: If you wish to make your own baking powder blend one measure of bicarbonate of soda with 2 measure of cream of tartar. Another reason to have cream of tartar in the cupboard is that a good pinch of it added to egg whites helps them beat up to a good froth.

Moving on to an assortment of worthwhile recipes adding to the collection:
Mango Chutney:
4 mangoes, thinly peeled then sliced
1 tsp each: coriander, cumin and cardomon seeds
12 oz (350g) caster sugar
1/2 tsp each: turmeric and cayenne pepper
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 onion, finely chopped
walnut size piece of root ginger, grated
4 limes (zest of 2 and juice of all)
4 bay leaves
1/2 pint (300ml) white vinegar
Toast the spice seeds in a dry pan then put into a bowl with the rest of the ingredients but NOT the vinegar. Mix together well, cover and leave for several hours, overnight if possible, to allow flavours to develop. Tip this mixture into a large saucepan and pour in the vinegar. Bring to the boil, then simmer gently for an hour and a half until thick and sticky. Keep stirring often to prevent it catching on the bottom of the pan. Cool in the pan and then spoon it into sterilised jars. Seal in the normal way.
Tip: wash jars, drain well and sterilise in a warm oven - 100C etc. Jars can also be sterilised in a dish washer using the hottest setting.

Apricot Relish: makes enough for three helpings
4 oz (100g) dried no-soak apricots
boiled water
1 fl.oz (25ml) white wine vinegar
2 tsp demerara sugar
1 tblsp chopped parsley
1 small red onion, finely chopped
Soak the apricots in boiled water for about 15 minutes to allow them to plump up and soften.
Mix together the vinegar and the sugar until the sugar has dissolved. Drain and dice the apricots and add them to the vinegar with the remaining ingredients. Stir well. Serve with cold meats, especially good with lamb. Will keep, covered, for a couple of days in the fridge.

Savoury Sweetcorn and Bacon Muffins: makes one dozen
4 oz (100g) fresh sweetcorn kernels (or use canned or frozen)
4 oz (100g) cornmeal (polenta)
4 oz (100g) plain flour
2 tsp caster sugar
good pinch of salt
1 tblsp baking powder
1 tblsp melted butter or sunflower oil
6 fl.oz (180ml) buttermilk
1 large egg, beaten
4 rashers of bacon, crisply fried then chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
Fresh or frozen sweet corn should be blanched in boiling water for one minute, corn from the can will not need blanching but make sure it is well drained.
Mix together all the dry ingredients and make a well in the centre. Blend together the wet ingredients and pour into the dry, gently mixing until just combined. Do not overmix. Add the bacon and onion then divide into twelve lined muffin tins and bake at 190C, 375F, gas 5 for 20 - 25 minutes or until the tops are light cold and they are firm on top. Cool on a wire rack. Can be served warm or at room temperature. Will keep for up to 3 days in an airtight container.

Self-layering Lemon Pud: serves 4
2 oz (50g) butter
4 oz (110g) sugar
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 large eggs, separated
2 oz (50g) self raising flour
1/2 pt (275ml) milk
Cream the butter with the sugar and lemon zest. Add the egg yolks and flour together with the lemon juice and mix well. In another bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff then fold in the rest of the mixture. Do this carefully as you want to retain as much air in as you can. Pour into a buttered ovenproof dish and stand this in a tin a third full of water. Bake for about 45 minutes at 200C, 400F, gas 5 until the top is set and a lovely golden colour. When serving you will discover that the spongy top is covering a layer of lemony custard beneath.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Healthy Eating

Today am keeping to the straight and narrow and offering up some recipes which include some of the good-for-you foods discussed over the previous days. But not only heathy, but delicious.

Oaten Biscuits : makes 16 large biscuits
4 oz (125g) plain flour
1 oz (25g) wholemeal flour
5 oz (150g) porridge oats
7 oz (200g) demerara sugar
8 oz (225g) butter, softened
1 tsp (7g) bicarbonate of soda
good pinch of salt
Mix everything together to form a dough. Add a very little water (only if it needs it) just enough to hold it together.
Chill for a few minutes then roll out fairly thinly between sheets of clingfilm. Using a large 3" (7 - 8cm) scone cutter, cut into circles and place on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment. Bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 10 minutes, then cool slightly before removing (use a fish slice) to a wire airing tray. Best eaten with cheese. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Oat and Walnut Biscuits: makes 16
4 oz (100g) butter, softened
3 oz (85g) soft brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
2 oz (50g) porridge oats
2 oz (50g) walnuts, finely chopped
3 oz (85g) plain flour, sifted with...
...half a tsp. baking powder
Put the butter and sugar into a bowl and cream together until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg then stir in the rest of the ingredients. Drop dessertspoonsful of the mixture onto greased baking sheets, allowing room to spread, than bake for 15 minutes at 190C, 350F, gas 4 until pale gold. Stand for 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Will keep for up to a week in an airtight container. Good eaten with cheese.

Wholemeal Cheese and Herb Scones: makes over a dosen
2 oz (5og) plain flour
6 oz (175g) wholemeal flour
1 tblsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 os (50g) butter cut into cubes
1 oz (25g) Cheddar cheese, grated
1 tsp fresh herbs, chopped (chives are best, but try different ones)
5fl.oz (115ml) milk
1 egg, beaten
Put the two flours, the salt and baking powder into a bowl and rub in the butter until crumbed. Mix in the cheese and herbs. Blend together the egg and milk and slowly pour this into the dry mix. Stir with a knife until it has formed a soft dough. Using a floured board, gently roll out to about an inch (2.5cm) thick. Cut into just small scones (about inch and a half/4cm) across. Place on lightly greased baking tray and glaze with a little milk. Bake for 15 -20 minutes at 220C, 425F. gas 7. Serve spread with low-fat cream cheese with chives.
Best eaten fresh but can be stored in an airtight tin for the following day or frozen and refreshed in the microwave.

Wheaten Walnut Bread: makes one medium loaf for making in a bread machine
half a pint (300ml) warm water
1 tblsp black treacle (or molasses)
8 oz (200g) strong white bread flour
8 oz (200g) wholemeal flour
1 tsp easy-blend dried yeast
1 tblsp. milk powder
1 tsp salt
handful of finely chopped walnuts
Dissolve the treacle in the warm water. Put the ingredients into the bread machine in the order as per manual instruction. choose your choice of crust, then switch on.
Variations: Leave out the walnuts and just make a plain loaf. Or omit the nuts and add a tsp of dried mixed herbs. Instead of using all wholemeal flour, replace a couple of tablespoons with muesli. Instead of the treacle use honey.

Oaty Flapjacks:
6 oz (175g) butter
4 oz (125g) soft brown sugar
2 oz (55g) golden syrup
12 oz (350g) porridge oats
Put the butter, sugar and syrup into a pan over a low heat. When melted, stir in the oats. Pour into a non-stick baking tin (8" square is an average size to use). Press down firmly. Bake at 190C, 350F, gas 4 for 20 - 25 minutes until golden but still slightly soft. Still in the tin, cut through into squares but do not remove from the tin until completely cold. Carefully remove and store in an air-tight container.
Variations: Ingredients such as sunflower seeds, dried fruits and chopped nuts can be added to the mixture. Or use honey instead of the syrup.

Apple Jack Trifle: serves 6 - 8
first make the flapjack:
4 oz (100g) porridge oats
1 tsp mixed spice
2 oz (150g) soft brown sugar
2 oz (5og) butter
Melt the butter in a pan and add the rest of the ingredients. Stir until lightly toasted and crisp. Turn out into a bowl to cool.
Then prepare the filling:
8 eating apples (Coxes or russets for example) peeled and cored
1 oz (25g) butter
1 oz (25g) caster sugar
2 tblsp pureed blackcurrant juice (could use Ribena)
about 3/4 pint custard
283 ml carton of double cream
Slice the prepared apples, not too thinly, melt the butter in a frying pan and add the apples. Fry, turning often until turning golden. Sprinkle over the sugar, stir and continue to cook until the apples are just soft. Put to one side to cool.
Assemble the trifle by making several layers of oats and apples in a glass serving bowl (keep back some oats) .
Drizzle over the blackcurrant puree (coulis) as you go. Finish with a layer of custard. Whip the cream, pile this on top of the custard and sprinkle over remaining crispy oats. Can be served immediately, or made earlier and chilled for no longer than 6 hours before serving.

Tropical Baked Bananas: serves 4
4 oz (100g) chopped mixed nuts
2 - 3 tablsp dessicated coconut
1 tsp ground cinnamon
6 tblsp runny honey
4 large ripe bananas, cut in half across the width
Greek yogurt
Mix the nuts, coconut and cinnamon together and shake/spread over a large plate. Pour the honey into a smaller dish. Coat each piece of banana by first rolling in the honey, then pressing/rolling into the nut mixture, making sure the bananas are fully covered. Put onto a lined baking sheet and bake at 190C, 350F, gas 4, for 20 mins. or until the fruit is softened. Serve with the yogurt and, if you wish, drizzle over more honey. Can also be served with vanilla ice cream. Personally, I feel rum and raisin ice-cream would be even better. Or maybe use the recipe below.

Instant Fruit Yogurt Ice Cream:
11 oz (310g) frozen berries (blackberries, blueberries, blackcurrants, raspberries, strawberries etc)
1 x 500g tub of plain or Greek yogurt, well chilled
2 tbls honey, any kind
Make sure the berries are taken straight from the freezer. Do not let them thaw out. Put the fruit in a blender or processor and blitz for no more than 30 seconds. Add the yogurt and honey and blitz again until smooth. The texture will be like ice-cream, but scoopable. Eat it straight away or put it into a tub, back into the freezer where it will keep for a couple of weeks or so. Allow to thaw slightly before serving.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Mood Food

Seeds and grains are so nutritious that they are said to be nature's superfoods. A spoonful eaten every day is said to help reduce stress. So let's all start using more and end up happy bunnies. A few facts:
Linseed: Contains the same omega 3 and 6 oils as do fish. Best absorbed by the body when ground. Can be bought at health food stores and in the special diet sections of some supermarkets.
Pumpkin Seeds: Lower in fat than most seeds. Rich in Vit K and phosphorus. Use in salads, stir-fries and add to cereals (muesli for instance). Can also be ground down to make dips and sauces. Most large supermarkets sell them.
Sesame Seeds: Nutty flavour, contain the antioxidents selenium and zinc. Use for coating fish or chicken fillets, add to stir-fries, main ingredient of Tahini, used when making Hummous. Lovely when toasted and scattered over salads etc. Most large supermarkets stock them.
Sunflower Seeds: Strong nutty flavour, good for adding texture. Contain large amounts of copper, magnesium, sinc and B vitamins. Toast lightly to bring out their flavour and a handful of these makes a good snack. Found in supermarkets and health food shops. Or why not grow your own?
Barley: Sold either as pot barley, which is less refined than the more usual pearl barley. Use to thicken soups and stews or as an alternative to boiled rice. Rich in fibre, easy to digest and lowers cholesterol. Takes about threequarters of an hour to cook in boiling water. Pearl barley is stocked by major supermarkets, and look in health food stores for the pot barley. One of the cheapest grains on sale.
Bulgar: A cracked grain with a subtle nutty flavour. Can be cooked and used as a substitute for rice and pasta. Not a complete grain it still has a good source of B vitamins and a low GI. Very quick to prepare, either pour over boiling water and leave to stand (as for couscous) or simmer until as soft as you want. Stocked in major supermarkets and health food stores.
Oats: Again a nutty flavour, can be used for many things from making porridge, adding to soups to aid thickening, or use as an extender when making spag.bol.meat sauce. Makes great biscuits and flapjacks. Contains protein and soluble fibre, proven to lower cholesterol. Most food stores stock oats.
Qinoa: Adds texture to salads and stir-fries. A vegetarian source of all essential amino acids. Also contains calcium, iron and B vitamins. To cook, boil in water for 10 minutes until the grains turn translucent. Stocked by many supermarkets in the special health section. Also can be found in health food stores.

Note: To avoid the possibility of choking, don't let small children (under five) eat whole seeds. Either grind them down or puree them so they can still get the benefits.

Breakfast in a Bar: (1) makes 12
4 oz (100g) butter
3 tblsp golden syrup
3 oz (85g) demerara sugar
5 0z (140g) porridge oats
good pinch cinnamon
2 oz (50g) desiccated coconut
2 tblsp linseeds, lightly crushed
1 tbslp sesame seeds
4 oz chopped nuts, either hazlenuts, almonds or walnuts (your choice)
Melt the butter, syrup and sugar in a pan, then stir in the rest of the ingredients. Pour into a greased 9" (23cm) square cake tin and bake for 30-35 minutes at 170C, 325F, gas 3 . Leave to cool for five minutes before cutting into slices. When cold store in an airtight container where it will keep for at least a week.

Breakfast Bar:(2) makes 16
11 oz (300g) porridge oats
4 oz (100g) pumpkin or sunflower seeds (or mixture)
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 apricots, or dried tropical fruits or other (dates etc)
1 tsp vanilla extract
Make up using method as for the first recipe, but using a lined 8 x 12" (20 by 30cm) baking tin. Bake as at above temperature for 25 - 30 minutes until golden and slightly firm. Cool in the tin, remove, still keeping the paper around it, and cut into 16 bars (or whatever size you want). Cool then store in an airtight tin. Note these keep for a shorter length of time - up to four days.

Morning After - stress busting Muesli: serves 2
Said to be a guaranteed hang-over cure
2 tblsp semi-skimmed milk
1 tblsp rolled or jumbo oats
1 tsp oatmeal
3 fl.oz (70g) plain yogurt
1 tsp runny honey
1 small apple, peeled and grated
1 small pear, peeled and grated
4 oz (100g) fresh (or frozen) berries
small handful of pumpkin seeds
1 tsp linseeds
Two ways to prepare. Either warm the milk and pour over the oats and leave in the fridge to soak overnight, or skip the soaking stage and make up with cold milk the next morning. When ready to eat, add the yogurt, honey, grated fruit, berries and pumpkin seeds to the soaked oats then scatter over the linseeds.

Apple Snacking:
Eating apples, cored but not peeled
1 tblsp runny honey
Pre-heat oven to 300C, 400F, gas 6.
Thinly slice the apples, brush on both sides with the honey and bake in the oven for 10 - 15 minutes until lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack. Pack in plastic bags. Makes a good addition to a packed lunch or chop up and add to a morning dish of muesli.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Living the Past, Preserving the Future

Use foil containers to freeze ready-meals, but first line them with cling-film or layering tissue, allowing an overlap. fill the containers, fold over the surplus film then place on the lid. Write the name of the contents on the lid in one corner. Freeze. Once frozen, removed the contents (now well wrapped in film/tissue) and place in a bag with others of the same kind. Put a note in the bag to remind you of the contents. The original foil container should be as clean as a whistle and can be used again - many times. When wishing to heat remove the wrapping and put the meal in an ovenproof dish or in a microwave dish according to how you wish to reheat.

Pickled Plums:
1 lb (500g) sugar
rind of one small lemon, pith removed
2 whole cloves
small pieces of root ginger
half a pint (300ml) malt vinegar
2 lb (1kg) plums
Put all the ingredients,except the plums, into a large saucepan. Heat gently, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved then bring to the boil. Remove from heat, leave to get cold then strain. Return to the pan and bring back to the boil. Meanwhile, prick the plums all over, place in a deep bowl and then pour the bot vinegar over them. Cover and leave to stand 5 days. Strain off the liquid, bring it back to the boil and pour it back over the fruit. Cover and leave to stand a further 5 days. Strain once more, bring the vinegar back to the boil. Pack the plums into hot, sterilized jars and pour the boiling vinegar over. Seal immediately with airtight and vinegar-proof lids.

Plum Jam:
3 llb (1.5kg) plums
15 fl.oz (450ml) water
3 lb (1.5kg) sugar
knob of butter
Place the plums and water into a pan and simmer for about half an hour or until the plums are really soft and the contents of the pan well reduced. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar. When this has dissolved, add the knob of butter, return to the heat and boil rapidly for 10 - 15 minutes or until setting point has been reached. Remove from heat. Using a slotted spoon take out the stones and remove any scum which might be on the surface. Pot up in the usual way.

Plum and Apple Jam:
2 lb (1kg) plums, halved and stoned
2 lb (1kg) apples, peeled cored and sliced
1 1/2 pints (900ml) water
3 lb (1.5kg) sugar
knob of butter
Put both fruits in a pan with the water and simmer for about an hour until the fruit is tender and the contents of the pan reduced by half. Remove from the heat, add the sugar and the butter, and when the sugar has dissolved return to the heat and boil for 10 - 15 minutes. When stetting point is reached, remove from the heat, spoon off any scum and pot up in the usual way.

Plum Chutney:
(you could use ready-made pickling vinegar instead of using the vinegar and spices.)
2 tblsp pickling spice
2 lb (1kg) plums, halved, stoned and chopped
8 oz (250g) tomatoes, skinned and chopped
1 1/2 pints (900ml) malt vinegar
1 lb (500g) onions, chopped
1 lb (500g) cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped
1 lb (500g) carrots, thimly peeled and diced
4oz (100g) sultanas
1 lb (500g) demerara sugar
1 level tblsp salt
Tie the pickling spice in a piece of muslin. Place this and all the other ingredients into a pan , bring to the simmer and cook , stirring from time to time, for about two and a half hours until thick. Remove the bag of spice, and spoon the chutney into pre-heated jars and cover immediately with air-tight and vinegar-proof lids. Excellent served with cold meats esp. pork, sausages and ham.

If you wish to make your own pickling (spiced) vinegar - here is the recipe:
Spiced Vinegar:
2 pints (1.2ltrs) vinegar
2 tblsp blade mace
1 tblsp allspice
1 tblsp whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick (approx 7"/18cm)
6 peppercorns
1 bay leaf
Put all the ingredients into a saucepan, bring to the boil, simmer for 30 seconds then remove from heat, pour into a bowl, cover and leave to marinate for two hours. Strain through muslin, pour into clean bottles and seal with air-tight vinegar-proof lids.
Note: you could substitute 1 - 2 oz (25-50g) of pickling spice instead of using above spices. Some brands of pickling spice might contain chillies, thus the end result will be spicier. Read the pack before buying, in any case, they are usually noticable and can be taken out.

And for something completely different, a recipe which is best eaten the day of making but can be made up to a day before serving, perfect for eating on a summer's day (if we ever get one), either indoors, or outdoors - perhaps supper on the patio, and great to take on a picnic.
Smoked Haddock and Watercress Roulade:
7 oz (200g) cooked smoked haddock (weight after skinning and flaking)
5 tblsp Greek yogurt
5 tblsp mayonnaise
5 large eggs, separated
1 oz (25g) grated Parmesan cheese
1 oz (24g) grated Gruyere cheese
7 oz (200g) watercress (after trimming)
1 oz (25g) parsley (after trimming)
salt, nutmeg and black pepper
Firstly, prepare the baking (swiss roll) tin (9" x 13"/ 23cm x 33cm) by lining with baking parchment. Blend together the yogurt and mayo., season with pepper and fold in the flaked, cooked haddock.
Blanch the watercress and parsley for one minute in boiling water. Drain, pat dry in a clean towel and put into a food processor with the egg yolks and blitz until the herbs are green flecks. Spoon into a bowl and add the greated cheeses, and season to taste with a pinch each of salt, nutmeg and pepper. Whisk the egg whites until peaked and fold them gently into the cheese mixture. Turn the mixture into the prepared tin, spreading it evenly, and bake for 12 - 15 mins at 200C, 400F, gas 6 until puffy and firm to the touch.
Turn out onto a sheet of baking parchment and peel away the paper. Trim the edges (scissors are probably better than using a knife). Leave to rest for 5 minutes, then spreak the haddock filling over and roll up as you would when making a Swiss Roll. Slide onto a plate, seam side down, cover lightly with foil or cling-film and chill until ready to serve.
Variation: This souffle/omelette type of roulade base can carry a wide variety of flavours. Try substituting baby spinach and/or rocket leaves as alternative to the cress and parsley, or choose different herbs. The filling could be finely chopped smoked salmon (or flaked canned salmon) folded into cream cheese which has been whipped into the yogurt or mayo (you don't need both if using cream cheese) with the addition of finely chopped cucumber. Season well whatever.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Stocking your Storecupboard

In times past, cooks would fill the larder shelves with home-made preserves, pickles, relishes and sauces. This was one way to use up surplus garden produce which would then - not having freezers - last through the winter months. Now it may not seem worthwhile to make any of these but as everyone knows, home made tastes a great deal better than bought and is always far cheaper.
6 lb (3kg) - weight after preparation - of mixed vegetables
best ones to use are: marrow, cucumber, beans, cauliflower, small onions
12 oz (375g) salt
6 pints (3,6 ltrs)
9 oz )375g) gran. sugar
1 level tsp. mustard powder
1 rounded tsp ground ginger
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 1/2 pints (1.5 ltrs) distilled vinegar
2 oz (50g) plain flour
2 level tsp turmeric
Remove seeds from the marrow and finely dice the marrow and cucumber. Top. tail and slice the beans, remove skin from the onions and cut in half. Break the cauliflower into small florets. Get a large bowl and start layering the vegetables, sprinkling each layer with salt. Pour over the water, cover and leave for 24 hours. After this time, remove the vegetables and rinse well under running water. Drain to remove as much water as possible.
Using a large pan, put in the sugar, mustard, ginger and garlic, adding 2 pints of the vinegar. Stir to blend then add the vegetables. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes (by then the vegetables should be cooked but still al dente). Blend the flour and turmeric with the remaining vinegar and add to the pan. Stir and bring back to the simmer and cook for 2 minutes. Spoon into warm, sterilised jars and cover with screwtop, vinegar-proof lids.

Sweetcorn Relish:
1 lb (450g) sweetcorn kernels, fresh or frozen
10 fl.oz. (300ml) cider vinegar
60z (175g) mixture of red and green bell peppers, diced
8 oz (225g) white cabbage, very finely chopped
1 large onion, finely diced
1 tblsp demerara sugar
2 tblsp plain flour
2 tsp dry mustard
good pinch salt
1 tsp turmeric
Blanch the corn for 3 minutes in boiling water. Strain. If you wish a smoother relish, either mince the peppers, cabbage, and onion together, or pulse, using a food processor for a few seconds then combine with the corn. Into a pan put the flour, salt, mustard, turmeric and sugar and blend together with the vinegar. Heat until the sugar has dissolved, then bring to the boil. Add the vegetables and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring from time to time. Spoon into hot jars and cover immediately with airtight vinegar-proof lids.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Quick Meals for Busy People

Unless otherwise stated, all the following recipes make four standard servings:

Chickpea and Pepper Salad:
sunflower oil
1 each red, green, and yellow peppers
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
4 spring onions, diagonally sliced
2 x 400g cans (or use home-cooked) chickpeas, drained
3 tblsp cashew nuts
nut dressing (see below)
Heat a little oil in a frying pan and add the deseeded and sliced peppers, the garlic and the spring onions, and stir over a medium heat for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and leave to cool, then put into a bowl with the chickpeas and nuts. Spoon over dressing, toss together, and chill until ready to serve.
Cashew Nut Dressing:
4 tblsp cashew nuts, toasted
2 tblsp olive oil
2 tblsp lemon juice
2 tblsp water
1 tsp chopped coriander
Put everything into a food processor or blender and blitz until smooth.
Variations: Instead of using cashew nuts in the above salad and dressing recipes use toasted pine-nuts. Alternatively use peanuts in the salad and for the dressing use peanut butter instead of the the whole nuts.

Spicy Tempura:
This can either be all vegetarian, or can include peeled and deveined uncooked large prawns. In total allow about eight to twelve tempura per person (or more depending upon appetite or whether it is a starter or a main dish).
Choose from: sugar snap or mangetout peas, cauliflower florets, broccoli florets, button mushrooms, bell peppers cut into chunks, courgette slices...
Prepare the vegetables (and prawns if using) and have them ready to dip into this batter.
Tempura batter:
3 oz (90g) self-raising flour
2 oz (60g) cornflour
1 tsp chilli powder
1 egg, lightly beaten
8 fl oz (250ml) iced water
ice cubes
Sift the dry ingredients together into a bowl, make a well in the centre and add the egg. Pour in the egg and the cold water and whisk together. Add four ice cubes.
Heat enough oil for deep frying and when hot enough to brown a cube of bread in 50 seconds, start dipping the vegetables/prawns into the batter and deep-fry a few at a time for 3 - 4 minutes until crisp and golden.
Serve immediately with a selection of dips, sauces and relishes.
Tip: Uing a carbonated drink (soda,mineral water, even lager) instead of using plain water. Serve a few at a time if you want them crispy, or drain the cooked tempura on kitchen paper and keep warm, and crisp them up again by popping them back into the hot fat for a few seconds to serve the lot in one go.

Seasonal Tagliatelle:
4 oz (110g) each - cauliflower and broccoli florets
8 oz (250g) tagliatelle or noodles
4 tlsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
half a red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 courgette, sliced not too thinly
1 small aubergine, cut into strips
1 oz (25g) Parmesan cheese, grated
salt pepper and fresh basil
Blanch the cauliflower and broccoli in boiling water for 2 minutes, then drain and plunge into cold water to cool down. Drain again. Cook the pasta in salted water for the time given on the packet - until al dente.
Drain, keep warm. Heat the oil in a pan, add the garlic, the peppers, courgette and aubergine and cook for one minute then add the blanched vegetables and cook for a further 4 minutes or until just tender. Tear up the basil and add, with the pasta, to the vegetables and stir/toss to combine. Season with pepper, sprinkle over the Parmesan and serve immediately.

Rustic Lamb:
start by making the Red Wine sauce:
8 fl os (250ml) lamb or beef stock
2 fl oz (50g) red wine
1 tblsp tomato paste
1 tbslp Worcestershire sauce
Put all the above into a bowl and mix together. Use as directed..
cooking the dish:
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1lb (500g) lean lamb, sliced thinly
1 carrot cut into thin strips
2 courgettes, sliced
4 oz (110g) mangetout or sugar snap peas
4 oz (110g) button mushrooms
1 tblsp cornflour blended with 1 tblsp water
2 tblsp parsley, chopped
pepper to taste
Using a deep fryingpan or wok, heat the oil over medium heat and fry the onions for 3 minutes until turning golden, adding the garlic towards the end. Increase heat to high and stir-fry the lamb strips until they are browned. Remove the meat from the pan but keep warm. To the pan add the carrots, courgettes, peas and mushrooms, and stir-fry for five minutes or until tender. Return the meat to the pan, stir in the Red Wine Sauce and the slaked cornflour, bring to the simmer and stir/cook until thickened slightly. Serve immediately.
Tip: Stir-fried carrots can often take longer to soften than other vegetables. Avoid this by blanching the cut carrots in boiling water for 2 minutes, then drain and add them to the stir-fry. this blanching can be done up to a day in advance - just keep the drained carrots covered in the fridge.
Instead of using peas, use string beans (if frozen, thaw first before adding).

An almost Caesar Salad:
4 eggs
4 rashers of streaky bacon
1 thick slice of bread, toasted
6 tblsp mayonnaise
4 tblsp olive oil
2 tblsp lemon juice
1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
2 Little Gem lettuce
2 oz (50g) Parmesan cheese, grated
Make the dressing by whisking together the mayo, oil, lemon juice and W. sauce. Season to taste.
Boil the eggs for seven minutes then plunge into cold water. Grill the bacon for 4 minutes on each side then snip into small pieces. Cut the toasted bread into cubes. Shell the eggs, cut into quarters . Tear the leaves from the lettuce and put them into serving bowl, sprinkle with half the cheese. Add the egg, bacon and the croutons and toss together. Drizzle over the dressing and sprinkle with the rest of the cheese.
Tip: if you like your eggs less firm, boil for five minutes only. Alternatively served poached eggs, which - as mentioned in an earlier posting - can be poached a day ahead, kept in cold water in the fridge, then (normally reheated in boiling water for one minute to serve for breakfast) can just be brought back to room temperature and one (per person) served either cold or re-heated placed on top of the salad. Once cut the egg will drizzle down over the salad.

Sweetcorn, Chickpea and Carrot burgers: can be made in advance and frozen (F)
326g can of sweetcorn (or equal amount of frozen and cookked corn)
420g can chickpeas (or equal amount of home-cooked)
1 large carrot, grated
1 tblsp curry paste
5 oz (140g) porridge oats
1 egg, beaten
oil for frying
Drain the sweetcorn and chickpeas and put into a bowl, mash together using a potato masher (or blitz for a few seconds only using a food processor) until roughly blended. Add the curry paste, 2 oz (50g) of the oats and the egg and mix together. Season to taste. Form into four burgers and coat with the remaining oats. They can be frozen at this point. To cook, put oil in a frying pan and, over a medium heat, cook for 3 - 4 minutes on each side until browned. If frozen, allow to thaw slightly then allow 5-6 minutes each side. Serve with salad, or in burger buns topped with lettuce, sliced tomato, onion rings and mayo.

Muesli Smoosly: one batch serves 2
2 - 3 tblsp muesli
500g tub plain yogurt
2 tsp lemon juice
1 -2 bananas, peeled and sliced
Put all the ingredients into a blender or food processor and whizz until smooth. Pour the smoothie into two glasses and serve.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Meatless Meals

The second 'tip' is to do with avoicados. -put unripe avocados in a bag with a banana and they will ripen almost overnight - this I did, and unbelieveably, two were ready to eat the very next day, and the day after we ate two more. They had ripened perfectly, no brown bits inside, the flesh just buttery enough. Whether this worked because the bananas were also ripe (over-ripe in fact) but a tip worth remembering.

Here are some ideas using pulses. I always cook my own, drain, drizzle with a little oil (helps to keep them separate) then freeze in small bags. But of course canned beans are fine.
Tuscan Bean Stew: serves 4
3 tbslp olive oil
1 large onion, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 small courgettes, sliced
2 carrot, diced
2 x 400 cans chopped tomatoes
450g (can or home-cooked) butter beans, drained
half a pint (225g) vegetable stock
4 oz (100g) Parmesan cheese, or finely grated vegetarian cheese
Put the oil in a pan and fry the onion until softened, stir in the garlic, celery, courgette and carrot and fry for a further five minutes. Add the tomatoes, beans and stock. Simmer for 15 minutes. If necessary, season to taste with pepper, then serve in bowls with a scattering of cheese on top.
Note: a tip given on a recent TV cookery programme was to remove only the brown papery skins from an onion and keep on the first layer of onion proper, even though it may appear slightly discoloured. Said to be the best part (probably nutritionally). I always used to discard this first layer (but kept to add to stock), now I will use it.

Hob-top Bean Coulash: serves 4
2 tblsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 onion, thinly sliced
8 oz (225g) mushrooms, stalks removed and then quartered
2 tblsp tomato puree
2 cans (or 600g home-cooked) cannellini type beans (could use a can of pinto and/or mixed beans)
12 fl oz (350ml) vegetable stock
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp mustard powder
pinch cayenne
1 tsp caraway seeds
bay leaf, salt and pepper
Heat the oil in a pan, add the onion and cookdfor five minutes, stir in the garlic and cook for a further five minutes then add the rest of the ingredients. Season to taste, then simmer for 20 minutes. Serve with mashed potato.

Scotch Eggs (without using sausage meat) makes 6 (V)
1 onion, grated
2 x 300g cans green lentils (or cook your own to that weight)
2 tblsp olive oil
1 tblsp fresh parsley, chopped (or other herb)
2 tblsp grated cheese (vegetarian or other hard cheese)
salt and pepper to taste
6 hard-boiled eggs, shelled
2 eggs, beaten
fkour and fresh breadcrumbs, or see tip below
Put the oil in a pan and add the onions and cooked lentils. Fry gently for 20 minutes. Then mash or give a quick pulse in a food processor. Remove from the heat, add the herbs, cheese and season to taste. Cool then divide the mixture into six and pat each into a flat cake. Place a hard-boiled egg on each and mould the pattie round the egg to coat. Dust with flour, dip into the egg and then the crumbs. You can repeat this egg and crumb coating again if you want them really crispy.
Fry eggs (best no more than three at a time) in deep hot oil until golden brown. Serve hot or cold.
Tip: Change the flavour of the mixture by adding curry powder , or paprika, or even a pinch of chilli powder. Fry these along with the onions and lentils.

BeanFeast on Toast: s2rves 2
1 x 420g can baked beans
1 tsp curry paste
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 tblsp mango chutney
1 tblsp sultanas
1 tbslp flaked almonds
Heat a tblsp oil in a pan and add the onion and curry paste. Stir and fry together until the onion is softened. Add the beans and the rest of the ingredients, mix well together, heat through and serve on hot toasted (preferably brown or granary) bread.

The following recipe was intended to be made using a bread machine, but of course can be made by hand. The two methods are given separately below the list of ingredients.
Courgette Bread : makes a medium sized loaf
5 tblsp buttermilk or yogurt
2 fl.oz (55ml) water
5 oz (175g) courgette, grated (you can leave the skin on if you wish)
13 oz (375g) strong white bread flour
3 oz (75g) wholemeal bread flour
1 tblsp each sunflower, pumpkin and millet seeds
1 1/2 tsp each salt and sugar
1 1/2 oz butter
1 1/2 tsp easy-blend instant dried yeast

to make using a bread machine:
depending upon the machine instructions, either put the yeast in first followed by the flour and lastly the liquids (in this case water and buttermilk/yogurt, or do that is reverse order. Add the sugar , salt, butter and seeds to the flour, and also add the courgette with the liquid. Set the machine to the basic/normal setting, medium crust then start to bake. Remove at the end of the baking cycle and turn out to cool. If you wish, brush the top with a little melted butter and sprinkle over toasted sesame seeds.
Note: Instead of using seeds, make the load using white and granary flour adding a few chopped nuts if you wish.

To make and bake by hand:
Put the flours in a bowl with the sugar, salt and the yeast. Add the liquids and the courgette and mix well. Knead thoroughly adding the seeds. Put into a greased loaf tin and leave to rise (takes about one hour), bake in a moderate to hot oven until cooked (takes about 40 - 45 minutes).

Finally, a recipe for cheese scones - use either vegetarian or 'ordinary' cheese.
Savoury Scones: makes about 30
1 lb 2oz (500g) plain flour
1 oz (25g) baking powder
pinch salt
1 oz (25g) butter
about half a pint (300ml) full cream milk, or use buttermilk
2 eggs
6 oz (175g) finely grated Parmesan or vegetarian cheese
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tblsp milk
Sift the flour with the baking powder, add the salt and rub in the butter until like fine crumbs. Mix together the eggs, milk and most of the cheese (keep back 1 oz/25g))cheese ) then add this to the flour. Stir together then lighlty knead with floured hands to a softish dough. Roll out to 3/4" thick and cut into rings using a 2" scone cutter. Place on a greased baking sheet and leave to stand for an hour.
Brush the tops with the egg yolk and milk glaze and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Bake in a moderately hot oven (100C, 375F, gas 5 ) for 15 - 20 minutes until risen and golden. Serve hot or cold.
Tip: After cutting scones, place them on the baking sheet bottom side up. This helps them rise with straight sides. Also dip the scone cutter in flour each time before cutting and avoid twisting, this also helps them keep upright. Use both tips and you could end up with a batch of scones all standing perfectly to attention.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Recipes by Request

Oodles of Noodles Stir-Fry Soup: serves 2
1 tblsp sunflower oil
6 closed cap mushrooms, sliced
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
half a red bell pepper, seeded and cut into strips
1 head of broccoli,
1 pack 'straight-to-wok' noodles
soy sauce
5fl oz (150ml) water/chicken stock
Heat the oil in a deep frying pan or wok. Remove stalk from broccoli and cut this into thin strips. Separate the head into florets. Into the oil put the mushrooms, garlic, pepper, broccoli florets and stalks and stir-fry until beginning to soften (about 3 - 4 minutes). Tip in the noodles and heat through. Add water or stock, soy sauce to taste. Serve in individual bowls.

Thai Coconut Curry with Broccoli: serves 4
1 tblsp Thai red curry paste
6 fl oz (175ml) water
1 lb (450g) diced chicken breast OR use a meat substitute (Quorn)
8 oz (225g) broccoli florets
6 fl oz (175ml) coconut cream
handful of fresh coriander
Fragrant rice to serve (jasmine or lemon and coriander)
Blend the paste with a little of the water, then add the rest of the water. Put this into a pan with the chicken and simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes until the chicken is tender. Meanwhile, in another pan, boil the broccoli for about 5 minutes until that is tender. Drain, then add this to the cooked chicken. Stir in the coconut cream and simmer for about 3 minutes. Chop the coriander, stir thalf into the pan. Pour into a bowl and sprinkle over the remaining coriander. Serve with fragrant or long-grain rice.

Warm Potato , Tuna and Broccoli Salad: serves 4
1 lb (450g) new or salad potatoes, halved lengthways
8 oz (225g) broccoli florets
1 can tuna, drained
8 cherry tomatoes, halved
3 tblsp mayonnaise
little warm water
chopped fresh herbs (parsley, chives, mint etc)
handful of baby spinach leave, lamb's lettuce, rocket
Cook the potatoes (no need to skin) in boiling water until tender. Drain and keep warm. Boil the broccoli for five minutes until just tender. Drain and keep warm. Mix together the mayonnaise with a little warm water to slacken it slightly and stir in the finely chopped herbs. Put the potatoes and broccoli in a bowl and pour over the herb dressing. Toss to coat. Tip this into a serving bowl, Flake the tuna and add to the salad with the halved tomatoes and the salad leaves. Serve while still warm.
Tip: Instead of the mayo dressing, use a couple of tsp. of pesto sauce diluted down to a pouring consistency with olive oil.

Vegetarian Summer Couscous: serves four (easily extended)
Traditionally made using meat with seven vegetables, this meatless version can be made all the year round using vegetables in season. As butternut squash seems available all year round I have included this. Cut the vegetables into good, even sizes.
3 carrots, scrubbed, topped and tailed, cut into chunks
2 courgettes, topped and tailed , halved and cut into chunks
2 red bell peppers, seeded and cut into chunks
2 potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
1 aubergine, quartered
8 oz (225g) butternut squash, peeled and quartered
(alternative vegetables which can be used are: shelled broad beans, parsnips, turnips, white cabbage, tomatoes)
8 oz (250g) cooked chickpeas (home-cooked or canned)
1 pint vegetable stock
good pinch each paprika, gr. cinnamon, gr. cumin, gr.ginger, and cayenne
8 oz (225g) couscous
half a pint of boiling water
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 oz butter
1 tblsp runny honey
Into a large saucepan put a little oil. Add the spices and cook for one minute then add the stock and bring to the simmer. Add the prepared potatoes. carrots and any other root egetables (if using) and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the remaining vegetables (except the onion) to the stock. Cover and cook for 20 minutes.
Put the couscous into a bowl and pour over the boiling water, cover and leave to stand. In a frying pan melt the butter and fry the onion until softened. Stir in the honey. Add the chickpeas to the vegetables.
Fluff up the couscous, draining through a sieve if necessary, season with salt and pepper, and turn out onto a fairly shallow warmed dish. Top with the vegetables/chick peas and scatter over the onions. Serve any broth in a jug for everyone to help themself
Note: For a more elaborate serving, garnish with flaked, toasted almonds, pre-soaked raisins, some chopped dates. For a spicier (Tunisian) version, stir one to two tsp of harissa paste into the broth and serve this separately to pour over each portion. If no harissa paste, spike up the broth with 2 tsp paprika plus 1 tsp cayenne pepper.


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Hint's, Tips, Recipes...and queries

With the comp. still working I'll keep going as long as I can. Grandson is getting a new one for us - with a flat screen, thanks be (the back of this one sticks out right into the window recess), he advises sooner rather than later as if the hard-drive (I do know what that is) could lose all its memory, so I am madly prinitng out all of my recipes I had put onto Word - which are getting on for 400 (have done about two thirds). I know they could go onto one of those shiny discs but I haven't one of those and wouldn't know what to do anyway. They need to be printed so that I can flick through them (far speedier than doing that on the comp.) Luckily I had already made an alphabetical index.

Today I am concentrating on an assortment of subjects. Firstly let me ask those of you who have told me that you are vegetarians - do let me know if you exclude ALL flesh, or just the red and white meats, but still eat fish? Normally, when asked for a vegetarian recipe I exclude all the above, but sometimes it is a bit limiting and I try to fit the recipes to suit any requests . However, I am collecting up recipes using tofu and Quorn that I can adapt, and am intending to try out both products myself to find out their potential.

LibrarySpy: You wanted ideas to use mint jelly, as - not being a meat-eater - lamb didn't come into the picture. So far, I am not sure which meat-substitute products are made with Quorn, but maybe you could serve the jelly with a Quorn burger or mock-chop if they do one. Mint sauce stirred into lamb mince when making Shepherd's Pie gives a good flavour, so worth trying a version of this using Quorn.

Eileen: yet another courgette recipe for you. I discovered this yesterday, and perfect for a meal-for-one.
Courgette and Pepper Omelette:
1 tblsp olive oil
1 courgette, cut into sticks
1 red (bell) pepper, seeded, flesh cut into strips
half a tsp. fresh thyme leaves
2 eggs, lightly whisked
half an ounce (15g) mature Cheddar, grated
salt and pepper, parsley for garnish
Heat half the oil in a frying pan and fry the courgette and pepper until softened and just browning. Remove with a slotted spoon and put into a bowl and add the thyme. Add the remaining oil to the pan and when hat, pour in the eggs, season to taste. Lift the sides gently and tilt the pan so that uncooked egg runs to the side. When the top is just set, put on the cooked vegetables, scatter over the cheese and fold the omelette over - slide onto a plate, garnish with chopped parsley. Eat and enjoy.

Hints and Tips:
To use up the scraps of cooked chicken, ripped from a carcase either before or after making stock, shred and bind with one of the following flavoursome sauces and pile onto a plate to eat with rice or salads (good also spooned into those little curved leaves of Webbs' lettuce - to be eaten as 'finger food'.
Tuna Mayo Sauce: Blend a can of drained tuna with a good dollop of mayo. Add Greek yogurt if you wish. Season to taste. Fold chicken or turkey scraps into this dressing and serve as suggested.
Mustard, Herb and Nut Sauce: Combine 2 tblsp Dijon mustard with 1 oz (25g) chopped herbs (parsley, tarragon or chives), 1 oz (25g) flaked almonds, handful of seedless green grapes , quartered, and 6 fl.oz (175g) mayonnaise. Add seasoning to taste then fold in the chicken .

Chicken Patties: Take equal quantites of mashed potato and shredded cooked chicken, work together (as when making fish cakes). Add some crushed, crisply-fried bacon. Season well to taste. Mix together and form into patties. Dust with flour (or egg and crumb) and fry until golden on both sides. Serve in a sesame bap with cranberry sauce topping and salad.

Red-Radish Relish: serve this with any cold cooked meats that need a bit of a lift.
Trim 1 lb (450g) radishes and slice as thinly as possible. Put into a bowl with 1/2 tsp salt and the juice of one lemon. Mix well and chill. These will keep in the fridge for up to a week. Stir before serving.

To use up mushrooms past their best - roughly chop and put in a pan with a little well-flavoured stock and Simmer until the liquid has been absorbed by the mushrooms. Stir in some herbs, or add a few drops of Worcestershire or any other well-flavoured sauce. Season to taste. Pile onto hot buttered toast, or cool and use as a sandwich filling.

Rescue overcooked, sticky and/or fluffy rice by spreading on a baking tin and drying out in a hot oven for a few minutes. Remove, put into a bowl, add some peas and sweetcorn, tip into a pan containing a little hot oil, stir and fry, then add one beaten egg - stir this in immediately so it blends in with the rice. Serve as 'egg fried rice'.

When making a batch of pancakes, some may be smaller, uneven or even have holes. All can be used if you stack them, using the best shaped ones for the top and bottom. Either make a savoury stack by layering with alternate tomato sauce, spag.bol. sauce, a vegetable in cream sauce etc. Repeat until the pancakes are used up. Pour over a cheese sauce and sprinkle over grated cheese. Bake in a moderate to hot oven for about 20 minutes until heated through and the cheese is browning nicely. Cut into wedges to serve.
For a dessert, alternate layers of mashed banana drizzled with lemon and honey, maybe a layer of lemon curd or jam, whatever you wish - tent with foil, heat and serve with cream. Serve as above.

To use up stale bread - make into Croutons. Brush slices with oil, remove crusts and cut into cubes. Place on a baking tray and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for up to 10 minutes until lightly toasted. Before baking and slicing the bread could be rubbed with a clove of garlic to make Garlic Croutons.
Most recipes that require 'fresh' breadcrumbs often mean stale crumbs. Because they have dried out slightly they absorb liquid more easily and will make the end result somewhat firmer. Perfect for making bread sauce.

Must leave you now as I have to take the opportunity of printing out more recipes while I have the chance.


Monday, July 16, 2007

Cooking for One

You are asking for recipes for meals for one. Not easy to find, but if you use a standard recipe for four then either divide quantities to make one portion, or make the lot and freeze the surplus three portions.
If money is not too tight, then summer is an ideal way to serve salads with steak or chicken. Less costly would be a cheese omelette which is packed with protein. If you feel slightly more adventurous - make one chicken breast do the work of two as in the following couple of recipes.

Gingered Chicken with Apricots: serves one
3 fl oz water
1 tbls dried milk
1/2 small onion, chopped into wedges
half a chicken breast
1 tsp pinch dried ginger
1 oz butter
4 no-soak dried apricots
2 tsp plain flour
1 slice bread, crumbed
Put the water, dried milk, onion and pepper into a pan. Stir to dissolve the milk powder then bring to the boil. Remove from heat and leave to infuse. Dice the chicken flesh and toss in the dried ginger. Melt the butter in a pan and lightly fry the chicken. Transfer to a greased casserole. Add the halved apricots.
Stir the flour into the remaining juices in the pan,, stir and cook for one minute then gradually pour in the milk (remove and add the onion to the casserole), and cook until you have a thick sauce. Season to taste and pour this over the contents of the casserole and fold everything together. Scatter over the crumbs and bake at 180C, 350C, gas 4 for about 20 minutes until browned on top.
Note: as this used dried milk for economy, fresh milk could be used instead of the powder and water.

Lemony Chicken Stir-fry: serves one
juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp cornflour
2 tsp honey
2 tsp soy sauce
1 dessp sunflower oil
half a chicken breast cut into long strips
1/2 onion, sliced
quarter to half a pint mixture of finely sliced celery and carrot sticks
(other vegetables if you have them - frozen peas, sweetcorn, mushrooms etc)
1 dessp. peanuts or cashew nuts (or flaked almonds)
Measure the lemon juice and add enough water to make it up to 4fl oz (115ml). Blend in the cornflour, honey and soy sauce. Set aside. Heat the oil in the pan and stir-fry the chicken until white, then add the vegetables (start with the ones that take the longest such as carrot, then celery, onion and finish with the mushrooms). After stir-frying for five minutes, add the lemon rind, the cornflour mixture, and the nuts. simmer until the sauce thickens and coats the meat and vegetables. Season with pepper to taste. Serve with rice or noodles.

Kedgeree: serves one
When serving a dish with boiled rice, keep some back to use the following day in a dish such as this. Alternatively (for speed) use half a pack of 2-minute microwave rice (freeze the rest). Also a good dish to use up a hard-boiled egg.
Knob of butter
good pinch of dried ginger
pinch of mustard powder
2 tsp sunflower oil
4 oz (110g) cooked rice
3 oz (110g) cooked smoked haddock, kippers or mackerel
1 hardboiled egg, chopped
Heat the butter in a pan, add the ginger and mustard, stir and cook for one minute. Add the oil, the rice and flaked fish, stir gently and cook over a gentle heat until heated through. Fold in the egg and serve on a heated plate.
Tip: Instead of the ginger/mustard, substitute curry powder to taste.

Old Smokey Soup: serves one
The type of soup that is chunky and virtually a complete meal in one bowlful.
5 fl. oz milk
2 - 3 oz (50-75g) smoked fish, pref. haddock
pepper to taste
knob butter
1 dessp. onion finely chopped
2 oz (50g) potato, diced
2 oz (50g) carrot, finely chopped
1 dessertsp finely chopped celery
1 tsp flour
Put the fish in a shallow pan and pour over the milk. Season with pepper, cover and cook/poach for five minutes. Leave to stand for five minutes then remove fish (keep the liquid) and flake. Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the vegetables, Cook gently for five minutes. Stir in the flour then slowly add the saved milk and stir until thickened. Simmer for 10 minutes then add the flaked fish and cook for a further 5 mins. Serve hot, garnished with chopped parsley if you have some.

Pan-Fry Pizza: serves one
1 tea-cupful of self-raising flour
1 tsp bicarb. soda
1/2 onions finely chopped
1 teacup chopped tomatoes
basil, oregano or marjoram
black pepper
pizza toppings: bacon, mushrooms, sliced cooked sausage, ham, sweetcorn, cheeses
Fry the onions in a little oil until softened. Add the tomatoes and the chosen herb and season with pepper. Simmer until thick. Put to one side.
Sift together the flour, bicarb. and stir in enough yogurt to make a soft but rollable dough (add extra flavour by adding a pinch of dried herbs to the flour). Put a little oil in a frying pan (omelette size is best for a one-portion pizza), roll out the dough to fit the pan and when the oil is hot lay the 'pizza base' in the pan. Cook for a minute or two until golden underneath, then turn with a fish slice (adding a little more oil to the pan to cook the other side). While the underside is cooking, immediately spread the tomato sauce over the pizza and top with anything you want, finishing with grated cheese. Then immediately pop the pan under a pre-heated grill to heat the toppings and melt the cheese. Serve at once. (if you let it stand, the base goes soft).
Note: With practice, and the toppings prepared, this can be made from start to finish in just five minutes. For ease, grate up oddments of cheese and store these in the fridge or freezer ready to add to whatever recipe calls for it. To make the sauce thicker (and take less time to cook) stir in a spoon of tomato puree.
Tip: when opening a jar or tin of tomato puree, decant into ice-cube trays and freeze - then bag up. They will last some time and one cube is equal to one teaspoon.

Poor Knights of Windsor: serves one
A really traditional dish using storecupboard ingredients
1 tblsp. milk
1 egg yolk
2 slices of bread, buttered
for a filling: jam, honey, or mashed banana etc,
butter for frying
Beat the milk with the egg yolk. Make a sandwich with the two pieces of buttered bread, fill with one of the suggestions above.. Cut the sandwich into fingers and dip into the milk mixture and shallow fry in the butter (or you could use oil) until crisp and golden, turning from time to time. Eat hot with honey or yogurt spooned over.

Lentil and Tomato Soup: serves one
7 oz (200g) chopped tomatoes
1 dessp tomato puree
good pinch sugar
5 fl.oz (150ml) chicken or beef stock
1 oz (23g) red lentils
pepper to taste
Put the tomatoes into a pan and add the tomato puree, the sugar and the chosen stock. Stir to blend then add the lentils. Bring to the boil and simmer until the lentils are cooked (about 20 minutes). Serve as-is or blitz down to a puree. Season with plenty of pepper and serve hot with a sprinkling of cheese.

Cauliflower and Stilton Soup: serves 4
1 knob butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 cauliflower, broken into florets
1 pint (600ml) chicken or light stock
1 tblsp cornflour
1/2 pint (300ml) milk,
4 oz (110g) Stilton or any blue cheese, crumbled
chopped parsley for garnish
salt and pepper
Fry the onion in the butter until softened. Add the cauliflower and stock and season to taste. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until the cauliflower is tender. Sieve entire contents of pan in a blender or liquidiser. Return the puree to the pan. Mix the cornflour with a little of the milk, add to the puree with the remaining milk, and bring to the boil. When thickened, stir in the cheese. Pour into warmed soup bowls and garnish with the parsley.
Tip: Other (grated) cheeses could be used, these would tend to melt into the soup so you get flavour without lumps. For fondues etc, use cheese that melts easily such as Gruyere and Emmental .

Mocha Dessert: serves 4
1 tblsp custard powder
1 tsp instant coffee granules
1 tsp cocoa powder
1 1/2 tblsp soft brown sugar
half a pint (300ml) milk
few drops vanilla extract
4 oz (110g) medium fat curd cheese
Blend the custard powder, the coffee and the cocoa together. Add the sugar with the vanilla and a little of the milk. Heat the remaining milk to boiling then pour and stir into the custard mixture. return to the heat, keep stirring until thickened. Cool slightly . Put the cheese into a bowl and work it down with a wooden spoon until softened. Gradually blend in the custard until smooth. Either use a wooden spoon or a whisk. Pour into individual bowls, chill and serve.
Note: This is even nicer when spooned over canned and drained pear halves.
Tip: An easy way to make curd cheese is to freeze tubs of plain cottage cheese. The freezing process breaks down the curds and they can then be easily worked together to make a curd-type cheese.

It occurs to me that not everyone has a blender or food processor, or even one of those blender wands on a stick (the sort you can use directly to puree anything in a saucepan). Alternatively, one of those Mouli (food)-mills woukd work well - as they too puree foods (mine was used originally to make baby foods, latterly to make smooth pates). If none of these, then resort to sieving. Harder work but you get there in the end (well if they worked for our grandmothers, they will work for us too). There is a bonus, using 'old-fashioned' labour is one that will help burn off unwanted calories. Thinking of it as a win-win situation might even get us 'switch on and watch' cooks changing our habits. Think of the electricity we will all be saving.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

New Ideas

Ideally, make your own fish fingers by buying a chunky fillet of fish (haddock, cod, coley - today even salmon might be less expensive). Cut this into strips across the fillet - aiming for finger size allowing for a double coating of crumbs or whatever. Dip each into flour, egg and the final coating which could be dried breadcrumbs, crushed cornflakes, even crushed savoury cheese biscuits or crisps if you want a special flavour. Then, for an even crispier coating, dip again into the egg and crumbs. These can either be shallow fried or given a spray of oil and cooked in the oven. Using really fresh fish, the coated fingers could be frozen to be cooked later.

Fish cakes are also simple. All you need are equal quantites of cooked flaked fish and mashed potato mixed together. Add seasoning to taste and chopped parsley much improves the flavour. As to the fish, it can either be cooked and flaked fresh fish (any white fish, salmon or even smoked haddock, a mixture of fish, or use canned salmon, mackerel or tuna).
The other day, fancying a canned fish sarnie, and bored with the tuna - and salmon always seems a bit insipid - I mixed together a small can of each with a dollop of mayonnaise and spread this on sliced, buttered bread. The sarnies tasted so good that I will always use that blend in the future.
Tip: instead of spreading butter on bread (which is there just to prevent a damp filling making the bread go soggy), spread the bread with a little mayo instead. Or, depending upon the filling, some extra light cream cheese. Slices of cucumber eat well tucked into a fish sarnie, also good with the cream cheese.

Another trial I made recently was using up some instant mashed potato - this freezes so well that I tend to prefer it when making fish cakes to freeze. It is also excellent for topping Shepherd's and Cottage pies which are intended to be frozen. Instead of making up the potato with water (as suggested on the tin) I normally make it up with milk and a knob of butter, also plenty of seasoning. According to what I need it for, I can also add grated cheese, crispy bacon, or crispy fried onions.
Having just made a big pot of chicken stock - this time I made up the potato powder using boiling chicken stock and I have to say it tasted very good indeed.
The thing about home-made chicken stock is that all the flavour of all the vegetables (carrot, onion, celery plus bay leaves and fresh thyme) end up in the stock. I nibble on the cooked carrots and there is absolutely no flavour left in them at all which proves the point. Rather than throw the veggies out - as they still contain the fibre - I blend them with some of the hot stock and presto - a soup.
Tip: It isn't always convenient to make stock when you have a left-over carcase. Don't throw it out, freeze it, collect up a couple more then make the stock when you know you have the time. Just add the thawed carcases to a pot with chunks of carrrot, onions and celery, throw in a bay leaf or two, a bunch of fresh thyme if you have it, cover with water (usually about 3 or 4 pints) cover and simmer, simmer, simmer for as long as possible until all the flavours have gone into the stock. I often do this late afternoon, turn out the pot before going to bed. Reheat the next day, boil for an hour, turn it off and then even do it again the following day. Drain off the stock, it won't be clear because of all the goodness in it. When cool put in the fridge. Remove chicken fat (this can be used for making pastry), re-boil the stock if it has not 'jelled' enough, perhaps reducing it by half, then pour into small containers, cool and freeze. Sounds time-consuming but it isn't, it gets on with it mostly by itself. By the way, remember to pick over the bones and save all the meat that comes off - this can be used in many recipes.

sausages. Thinking more about it, there really isn't much need to give a set recipe. Today, bought sausages need a percentage of meat in them (which I can't recall but is it around 63%? Maybe more). Home-made is another matter - we can use less. A good sausage needs quality meat, which should be finely ground/minced (a quick pulse in the food processor will help with that, or mince it twice). some rusk (which can be very stale - rather than fresh - breadcrumbs), a little fat (which often comes with the meat, otherwise sling in a few grains of suet (which could be vegetarian), and flavouring of your choice. There are so many types of sausage other than plain pork, so look around and see what is on offer. Could be pork and apple, pork and leek, lamb and mint, turkey and cranberry sauce, beef and nutmeg, beef and tomato (suggest using chopped sundried tomatoes), spicy chilli flavoured, even some with prunes and apricots. There are many regional varieties such as Toulouse (heavy on the garlic- the classic sausage when making Cassoulet), Lincolnshire (never found the recipe for those but full of herbs). Cumberland - again herbs and traditionally sold, untwisted, coiled into a circle. I have even seen some advertised which include cheese.

Cooking sausages (in their skins , whether home-made or bought are often difficult to cook perfectly. I find the ones cooked in a pan on the hob tend to be brown on some sides, but due to them curling slightly, they always have an unbrowned sides. Chefs often (this I've tried and it works well) simmer the sausages in boiling water for about five or ten minutes and then finish them off in the pan. This at least means thick sausages have cooked through. Personally, my favourite way of cooking is in the oven, smearing the surface of the dish with oil ( good sausages rarely ooze out fat, so they tend to stick). This way they brown all over without me having to constantly turn them.
Tip: When freezing fresh sausages, always open freeze before bagging up. This way you can take out only the number you need, not have to thaw out a whole pack.

This following recipe uses Chorizo sausage but would work just as well with other well-flavoured sausages, even with meat-balls. Incidentally, make your own (pork) baby meat-balls by removing sausage skins, breaking the sausage meat into four or five pieces, roll into balls and fry until browned.

Spaghetti with Chorizo Sausage and Tomatoes: serves 4.
12 oz (350g) dried spaghetti
3 - 4 tblsp olive oil
8 oz (225g) chorizo sausage, thickly sliced
handful of black olives, stoned and halved (optional)
8 oz (225g sun-dried tomatoes*
2 tblsp fresh thyme leaves
Cook the pasta until al dente (about 8 -10 minutes). While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a frying pan, add the chorizo and fry for 3 - 4 minutes, then add the olives (if using), the tomatoes and the herbs. Fry for a further couple of minutes then season to taste. Drain the spaghetti, add to the frying pan and toss together. Serve hot.
* Instead of sun-dried tomatoes, roast some small, halved tomatoes (drizzled or sprayed with oil) until partly collapsed. This enhances their flavour and they are equally as good as the bought, bottled sun-dried.

Sausages with Bacon and Cheese: serves 3 - 4
8 thick pork sausages
4 oz (100g) Cheddar cheese, sliced
8 rashers bacon, rind removed
3 tblsp fruit chutney
1 can condensed tomato soup
2 fl oz water
Grill or fry the sausages until golden brown. Remove from the heat, drain on kitchen paper and slit each sausage through lengthways, almost through but not quite. Place slices of cheese in the sausages and press back together again. Lay out the pieces of bacon, spread each with some chutney, place one sausage towards the end and roll up slightly diagonally so that all the sausage is covered with bacon. Secure with cocktail sticks.
Lay the sausages in a frying pan and cook until the bacon is golden. Pour off any oil. Mix the soup with the water and pour over the sausages. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until heated through. Serve with jacket potatoes.

Savoury Sausages: serves 4
1 can pineapple pieces
1 oz butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely diced
1 green capsicum (slightly hot pepper) seeded and chopped
2 fl oz tomato ketchup
1 tblsp brown sugar
1 lb (450g) thin pork sausages
Cooked rice to serve
Drain the pineapple and reserve the juice. Melt the butter in a frying pan, add the onion, carrot and green pepper and fry gently for five minutes then add the pineapple and cook for a further 5 minutes. Stir in the ketchup, the pineapple juice and the sugar and gently mix. Simmer for 10 more minutes.
Meanwhile, grill the sausages until golden all over. Place the cooked rice over the base of a shallow ovenproof dish, top this with the sausages then pour over the contents of the frying pan. Cook in a moderate oven (180C etc) for 15 -20 mins until heated through. Serve immediately.

Devonshire Hot-Pot: serves 4
1 lb (450g) sausages or sausage meat
6 potatoes, peeled and sliced
2 large onions, chopped
2 tomatoes, sliced
1 oz butter
5 fl oz chicken or veg.stock
salt and pepper
Seasoning each layer, put half the potatoes in a pie dish and cover with the onions. Lay the sausages on top and cover these with the sliced tomato. Top with the remaining potatoes. Pour the stock over stock and place a few knobs of butter on top. Cover and cook for about 2 hours in a moderate oven (180C etc) removing the lid during the last 15 minutes to allow the potatoes to brown.