Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Bringing home the Bread

Playing around with bread dough can be good fun.
The Ploughman's Loaf:
1 x 500g pack white or granary bread mix
2 tblsp olive oil
3 tblsp Branston sandwich pickle (or other chutney)
1 lb (500g) assorted cheeses, grated
3 stalks celery, finely sliced
1 onion, finely sliced
salt and pepper
milk and sesame seeds
Following directions on the packet, make up the dough adding the oil to the water. Knead well (this can be done in a machine) and when ready, cut in half and roll out each piece to a 10" (25cm) round. Place one round in a flan or shallow tin, spread over the pickle, followed by the cheese, ending with the celery and onion. Season to taste. Cover with remaining dough, brush top with milk, sprinkle over sesame seeds and tent with foil or a cloth and leave to rise in a warm place for about half an hour. Pre-heat oven to 190C, 375F, gas 5 and bake the loaf towards the top of the oven for 40-45mins until golden and sounding hollow when tapped underneath. Cool on a cake airer. Serve in wedges. With salad, a wedge of Ploughman's makes a good packed lunch.
Tip: a newer variety of onion is now fast becoming popular, called the Sweet Onion, it looks like a normal onion, but has a paler skin, and has quite a sweet and very mild flavour, great for eating raw in sarnies and with salads.

The following basic bread dough can be used for making pizza bases, foccacia, sun-dried tomato loaf, and calzone. Recipes given for all.
Italian Bread Dough:
12 oz (350g) strong plain flour
good pinch salt
1 x 6g pk instant dried yeast
8 fl.oz (250ml) warm water
2 tblsp olive oil
Put the flour and salt into a bowl and put it into a low oven to warm through for a few minutes (alternatively use a warm bowl). Stir in the yeast and add the water and oil. Mix together, preferably using your (clean) hands. When it has formed a moist dough, turn out onto a well floured board and knead for about five minutes until the dough has turned smooth and elastic. Placed dough in an oiled bowl, cover with clingfilm or a cloth, and stand in a warm place for half an hour until it is beginning to rise. Then use in the following recipes:

Calzone: makes 6
1 batch Italian bread dough
2 tblsp olive oil
3 sweet or red onions, finely sliced
1 tsp sugar
pinch salt
4 oz (100g) pancetta or smoked bacon (chopped)
1 dessp fresh thyme leaves
6 oz (175g) grated cheese
1 egg beaten with 1 tblsp water
freshly ground black pepper
sea or rock salt
Heat the oil in a large pan and add the onions, sugar and salt. Fry over medium to high heat for 15 minutes until juices have evaporated. Reduce the heat and stir in the chopped pancetta or bacon, and stir in the thyme leaves, cooking until the onions have browned. Put the pan to one side, cool then stir in the cheese and season with the pepper.
Divide the dough into six and roll each out into a 7" (18cm) round. Divide the pan contents into six and pile each onto the centre of each round of dough. Brush the edges with the egg/water then fold the dough over pressing edges together tightly, forming a half-moon shape. Place the calzone on a large, oiled baking sheet, leaving enough room between for the dough to spread, cover loosely with foil or clingfilm, and leave in a warm place to rise for half an hour.
Remove the cover, brush the calzone with the remaining egg, and sprinkle over a little sea salt and bake in a hot oven, 220C, 425F, gas 7 for 15-20 mins or until golden. Serve immediately.

Basic Pizza Base:
The traditional Italian pizza should have a thin crust, crisp on the outside, soft inside, with a passata topping, two or three other ingredients and little else.
one batch, or slightly less of Italian bread dough
5 tblsp passata
toppings of your choice
torn, sliced or grated mozzarella cheese
Roll out the dough to a 10"-12" round. Place onto an oiled baking sheet. Brush round the side of the dough with olive oil - this helps to crisp up without baking too hard. Spread the top of the dough with the passata. Add chosen toppings (see suggestions below or make your own choice) adding mozzarella to finish, and cover lightly with foil or clingfilm and leave in a warm place for half an hour to rise. Remove the covering and bake at 220c, 425F, gas 7 for about 20 minutes or until golden on top and the base is crisp.
Margarita: passata topped with sliced or grated mozzarella and a pinch of dried oregano, a drizzle of olive oil on the top.
Marinara: passata topped with capers, chopped black olives and anchovies.
Sicilian: passata topped with crushed garlic, sliced ham, halved pitted black olives, artichoke hearts, anchovies, and a pinch of dried oregano.
Hot Pepperoni: passata topped with sliced mushrooms, thin slices of pepperoni or chorizo sausage, pitted green olives, sliced or grated mozzarella.
Neptune: passata topped with tuna chunks, anchovies, pitted olives, onion rings, capers, dried oregano, and (traditionally) no cheese. Make up for this by adding more passata or sliced tomatoes.
Tip: make your own passata by draining a can of plum tomatoes (keep the liquid to add to soup), then finely chop or blend the tomatoes. Spread only a thin layer of passata onto a pizza base, too much and it ends up soggy.

The Italian Job: a speciality loaf
1 batch Italian bread dough
2 oz (50g) sundried tomatoes, chopped
handful fresh basil leaves,
4 oz (110g) mature cheddar cheese cubed
1 egg, beaten
Tear up the basil leaves, or chop finely and knead, together with the sun-dried tomatoes, into the bread dough. Divide the mixture in half. Press one half into an oiled, loose-based cake tin 8" (20cm). Pile the cheese on top, leaving the edges clear, them brush edges of dough with the egg and lay over the remaining dough, pressing down to seal the edges. Cover loosely with foil or clingfilm and place in a warm place for a least half an hour or until the dough has doubled in size. Remove the covering and brush the top of the dough with egg then bake in the oven 220C, 425F, gas 7 for about twenty minutes or until turned golden. Remove from the tin and serve warm.

Herb and Garlic foccacio:
1 batch Italian bread dough
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 tblsp chopped fresh rosemary
sea or rock salt
1 tblsp olive oil
Knead half the garlic and half the rosemary into the dough, then shape or roll into an oval roughly 11"x 9" (28 x 23cm). Place onto an oiled baking sheet and press in fingertips to form dimples all over. Blend the remaining garlic with a little oil and brush over the dough, sprinkle with remaining rosemary (alternatively tuck in tiny sprigs of rosemary into the dough), sprinkle over a little sea salt and drizzle the top with a little olive oil so that it pools into the dimples. Cover loosely with foil and leave in a warm place for half an hour, or until the dough has doubled in size, and bake in a hot oven (all the Italian breads use the same oven temperature), for about 15 minutes or until golden. Drizzle over more oil and serve warm.

Nothing to do with bread, but this I unearthed from a pile of copy I wrote years back. Worth repeating as it is very much in tune with the ozone-friendly approach to life we are experiencing these days.
'Sticky Stuff'
Remember those fly-papers we used to use, far safer than breathing in the fumes from an aerosol can of fly-killer. To make your own, all you need are a few store-cupboard ingredients and some brown paper:
4 fl.oz milk
1 tblsp each: white sugar, brown sugar, and black pepper
Put everything into a pan and heat until the sugar has dissolve, boil for five minutes. Reduce heat and simmer until thickened. Leave to cool.
Cut brown paper into strips of the size you want. Make a hole at one end then roll them up tightly an drop into the sticky mixture. Leave until completely soaked through. Uncurl the strips and leave to dry on a cake airer. When they feel sticky, they are ready. Thread cotton or thin string through the hole and hang where flies are likely to be.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

What a Difference a Name Makes

At the moment I am enjoying playing around with flavours, in a way making my own 'fusion food'. Most of the time it works, and works well, so here are a few of my favourites:

Hubble Bubble, Spanish Squeak: serves 4
1 small onion, chopped
2 1/2lbs (1kg) potatoes
salt and pepper
1 lb (450g) green or white cabbage
2 oz (50g) butter
5 fl.oz (150ml) nilk
5 oz (150g) chorizo sausage, skinned and chopped
2 tblsp sunflower oil
Peel and boil the potatoes, drain and mash with the butter and milk. Season to taste. Set to one side. Shred the cabbage finely and boil until tender. Drain well and cool. Skin and finely chop the chorizo and fry with the onion until softened. When this is ready, mix together with the potato and cabbage. To cook, heat half the oil in a frying pan then put in the mixture, pressing flat to fill the pan and fry over medium to high heat for about 10 minutes or until brown underneath. Turn out onto a large plate, put the remaining oil in the pan and reheat, then slide the cake back into the pan with the uncooked side under. Fry till golden brown and heated through. Serve with a tomato and green salad.
Tip: Instead of cabbage, use up left-over brussel sprouts or other cooked green vegetables. The mixture can be prepared a day ahead of cooking, just keep covered and chilled in the fridge.

Mexican Adobe (cottage) Pie: serves 6 (F)
4 fl.oz measure cornmeal
2 tsp. soft marg or butter
pinch each of salt and pepper
pinch ground cumin
10 fl.oz (275ml) water
1 lb (450g) minced steak
1 onion, chopped
pinch chilli powder
1 each red and green bell pepper, chopped
1 carrot, grated
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 can sweetcorn (drained)
few green olives, pitted and sliced
Put the cornmeal, cumin, salt, pepper and water into a pan and bring to the boil. Reduce heat, stir in the fat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring often. By then the mixture should be thick. Turn out into an 8" (20cm) baking tin lined with parchment, smooth and leave to get cold.
Put a little oil into a frying pan and cook the beef and the onion until both are tender, stir in the chilli powder, add the bell peppers and the carrot and cook for a further five minutes, then add the rest of the ingredients and cook until just heated through. Spoon mixture into a deep 8" sqare baking dish and cover with the now-firm cornmeal. (if you wish to use a rectangular shallower dish, cut the cornmeal into squares or triangles and scatter these over the top). At this point the dish can be cooled, covered in clingfilm and frozen. To serve from frozen, remove cling film, cover with foil and bake at 190C, 375F, gas 5 for one hour, then remove foil and cook for a further 10-15 minutes or until heated through.

Trying to think up a name as good as 'Surf and Turf' (a fish and meat dish) you might find the following acceptable:
Coops and Drupes: aka Chicken and Plum stir-fry
half a pint (275ml) fruit juice (orange, apple or pineapple)
2 tblsp soy sauce
2 tsp arrowroot or cornflour
good pinch each ground ginger and cinnamon
good pinch chilli powder or paprika (opt)
6 mushrooms, sliced
2 tblsp flaked almonds
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1 each red, yellow and green bell peppers, cut into strips
6 ripe plums, stoned and chopped
2 skinless chicken breasts, chopped into small cubes
Mix together the fruit juice, soy sauce, and spices with the fruit juice. Set aside. Pre-heat a wok. Stir-fry almonds for one minute, then remove. Add the oil and when hot, stir-fry the mushrooms, peppers and plums until crisp-tender. Add the chicken and stir-fry untilin the cooked through (takes about 2 - 3 minutes). Push contents of wok to the sides then pour the fruit sauce in the centre of the pan, stir/cook until thickened then for one minute longer. Finally draw back into the sauce the mixture from the sides. When coated with the sauce, sprinkle over the almonds. Serve on a bed of rice. Makes 4 servings.
Variations: instead of plums use slices of apple or pear.

Tip: Skinless, boneless chicken breasts carry a much heftier price-per-pound than whole chicken. As the bone, skin and fat (not to mention added water in some cheaper birds) equals half the weight of the bird, sometimes it can be cheaper to skin, portion and bone a chicken from scratch. As I read in an article yesterday (and I still can't work out what it is supposed to be saying), "skinless, boneless chicken breasts are not better value unless they cost less than twice as much (does this mean pound per pound?) as a whole bird".

Finally, one to please all:
Fruity Treacle Tart: serves 6 (or makes 12 bars)
4 oz (100g) softened butter
2 oz (50g) soft brown sugar
6 oz (175g) plain flour
2 Bramley apples, peeled, cored and chopped
1 oz (25g) caster sugar
6 oz (175g) no-soak apricots, chopped
1 orange
8 oz (200g) golden syrup
2 oz (50g) porridge oats
Make the base of the tart by beating the butter and sugar then stirring in the flour until it all binds together. Tip and spread this mixture over the base of a 9" (23cm) square tin. Prick with a fork and bake at 160F, 325F, gas 3 for 15 minutes. Then remove from oven and leave to cool. Meanwhile put the apples into a pan with the brown sugar, cover with buttered paper (butter side down of course), and cook gently until the apples have collapsed. Remove the paper, add the apricots and cook on for about 15 minutes or until the most of the moisture has evaporated. Whizz to a puree in a blender/processor or rub through a sieve. Increase the oven heat to 190C, 375F, gas 5 and while heating up spread the apple and apricot filling over the top of the shortbread keeping it as level as possible. Grate the zest from the orange and mix into the porridge oats with the syrup and 1-2 tblsp of the orange juice. Spoon this over the top of the filling making sure it goes right to the edges. Bake for 25-30 minutes until set and pale gold on top. Remove from oven, mark into portions (six servings or 12 bars) then serve hot with cream or chill completely before cutting through into bars. Cuts easier if the tart is kept in the fridge overnight.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Alternatives to Try

have unearthed a few egg-free versions of mayonnaise.
The Alternative Mayo:
1 x 400g can condensed milk
8 fl.oz (225ml) vinegar
1 tsp dry mustard
salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Store, well covered, in a bowl in the fridge. The recipe says it will keep for weeks (with reason). Serve with salad.

Slimline Mayo:
4 fl.oz (125ml) plain yogurt
2 tblsp. ricotta or low-fat cream cheese
2 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp red wine vinegar
2 tsp apple juice
Put all ingredients into a jar (or blender) and shake vigorously. Makes five servings.
(A feeling of deja vu here, may have already posted this one befoe).

Salad Cream:
half a tsp dry mustard
pepper to taste
3 fl.oz (75ml) evaporated milk
2 fl.oz (50ml) sunflower oil
2 dessp. vinegar
1 tsp sugar
Put the mustard into a bowl with the pepper. Add the evaporated milk and mix well. Slowly beat in the oil. Add the vinegar and the sugar and continue beating. The mixture will thicken.
Store in a screw-top jar in the fridge.
Note: To avoid dark specks, use the fine 'white' pepper that we once used regularly before 'freshly ground black' appeared on the scene.

Wartime Salad Cream:
1 heaped tblsp dried milk
2 tblsp water
pinch salt
tsp sugar
white pepper to taste
half a tsp dried mustard
1 tblsp white malt vinegar
Blend the milk powder with the other dry ingredients, stir in the vinegar until completely smooth. To make it thicker, add more dried milk.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Super Salads, and more..

Today's recipes are mainly salads. Some do contain meat but, having experimented using and eating Quorn over several days I know that vegetarian substitutes would work just as well. All recipes I hope you will also find interesting, and hope that some you will try.

Gado Gado Salad: serves 4
4 tblsp mango chutney
2 fl.oz (50ml) coconut milk
4 tblsp soy sauce
4 tblsp peanut butter
Iceberg lettuce or Chinese Leaves
6 spring onions
1 can pineapple rings
cooked chicken (or veg. substitute)
1 lb (500g) approx. cooked new potatoes
3 oz (75g) beansprouts
2 large carrots, cut into strips and blanched
half a cucumber, cut into strips
2 oz (50g) roasted peanuts
Make a peanut sauce by blending together the first four ingredients. Set aside. Shred the lettuce or Chinese leaves and place on a serving platter. Trim the onion and cut diagonally into strips and sprinkle these over the leaves. Drain the pineapple and use four rings*, cut each in half and lay over the salad together with the rest of the ingredients. Sprinkle the peanuts over last of all and serve the dressing separately.
* Freeze the pineapple juice and the remaining pineapple rings separately, the juice can later be used to make a sweet-sour sauce and the flesh chopped to add to a stir-fry, or both can be added into a fruit-salad.

Three in One Salad: serves 6
Make three different salads and layer them up to make this attractive dish, or make it pick and mix by serving each separately.
8 oz (225g) bulgar wheat
handful each chopped parsley and mint
rind and juice of one lemon
quarter of a cucumber, diced
1 large firm tomato, seeded and diced
couple of spring onions, sliced
1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
3 tblsp olive oil
Put the bulgar wheat into a bowl and add 8 fl.oz (200g) boiling water. Leave to steep for ten minutes. Put in a sieve and press to drain out any excess water (there should be none), then put into a bowl with the remaining ingredients, toss well. Put to one side.
Carrot, chickpea and orange salad:
12 oz (350g) carrots, grated
1 x 420g) can chickpeas, drained
2 oz (50g) sultanas
one orange
2 tblsp olive oil
Grate the zest from the orange and squeeze out the juice. Put these, together with the rest of the ingredients into a bowl and toss well. Season to taste.
Three bean salad:
1 x 420g can red kidney beans
1 x 420g can butter beans
1 x 420g can cannellini beans
2 stalks celery, chopped
handful of coriander, chopped
1 red bell pepper, deseeded and sliced
4 tblsp French dressing
2 Little Gem lettuce
Put the drained beans into a bowl and add the celery, pepper and coriander. Stir in the french dressing. Season to taste and toss well until everything is thoroughly mixed.
Tip: cook your own beans and keep them in the freezer then they are ready for a dish such as this. They don't always need to be the same variety, but butter beans and red beans certainly are worth using. Use less than the above amount as the can weight probably includes the liquid.
Assemble the salad in a large glass bowl. Put the tabbouleh in first, covered by the carrot salad and finally the bean salad. Cut the base from the lettuces , separate and wash the leaves, shaking dry. Place these on top of the salad bowl.

Vegetarian 'burger: makes 6 (V)
These are good served with salad.
1 x 400g can chickpeas, drained (or use home-cooked)
1 onion, finely chopped
1 courgette, grated
1 tsp chilli powder
handful of parsley, chopped
1 egg
fresh breadcrumbs
Put the chickpeas into a bowl and crush lightly with a fork. Add the rest of the ingredients using just enough breadcrumbs to bind the lot together and make the mixture easy to form into burgers. Shape into four patties, dust with flour and chill in the fridge for half an hour.
Shallow fry for a couple or so minutes on each side until heated through. Serve in wholemeal baps. Great topped with fried onion and a dash of tomato ketchup, or stuffed into pitta bread, topped with a thin slice of goat's cheese and a dollop of piccallilli.

Hot Sausage Salad: serves 4
1 lb (500g) sausages (butchers best)
1 onion, halved and thinly sliced*
1 tblsp wholegrain mustard
1 tblsp treacle, OR 1 tblsp light muscovado sugar
1 small punnet cherry tomatoes
2 little gem lettuces
1 large ripe avocado**
half a small cucumber, thinly sliced
1 tblsp red wine vinegar
Using a pair of kitchen scissors, chop the sausages into chunks. Put a little olive oil into a frying pan and when hot, throw in the sausages, shaking the pan. Add the onion and stir round until the onions and sausages are browned. Stir in the mustard and treacle (or sugar) and stir to mix then add all the tomatoes and cook until the tomato skins are starting to split and everything is coated in the mustard glaze.
Meanwhile, remove the base from the lettuce, and separate the leaves. Cut the avocado in half and remove the stone and peel. Cut the avocado into chunks and mix together with the salad leaves and the cucumber. Put onto a shallow dish and, using a slotted spoon, pile on the sausage mixture. Add the vinegar to the pan and stir to pick up any tasty glaze left. Pour this over the sausages. Serve with crusty bread.
* use either sweet onions (now available in some stores), or pref. red onions. Separate slices into individual pieces when serving.
** If an avocado is not ripe enough, put it into a bag with a banana and it should be ready by the next day. Plant the stone (press it lightly into a small pot of damp soil, cover with half a plastic lemonade bottle, keep warm and within a few weeks it will have started to shoot). Repot as it grows. A reminder that avocado leaves can be dried, crushed and used as flavouring,

Pear, Watercress and Blue Cheese Salad:
1 bag watercress/rocket/baby spinach salad
2 pears, cored and sliced
3 tblsp toasted walnuts, chopped
3 oz (75g) mild blue cheese (St Agur or Dolcelatte)
French dressing
Empty the bag of mixed leaves into a bowl, add the pears, walnuts and cubed cheese and sprinkle over some salad dressing.

To end today's posting I must mention the Paneer cheese I made. I left it, uncovered, in the fridge and forgot about it until yesterday. I took it out and tried it, and would you believe it had dried out to almost a Wensleydale flavour and texture. However, I needed to use it in a cheesecake for the evening meal 'afters', so worked in a little milk to blend it back to a cream cheese consistency. It worked well. Have to say there seems to be a lot more potential to that cheese that I first thought and will certainly be making more.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Take a Tub of Yogurt..

Ways to Use Yogurt:
Depending upon how you wish to use yogurt, it can be thickened further by draining for about three hours using a muslin bag (or sieve lined with a new, clean J-cloth). The whey that drips out can be used for making scones or bread, and the thick yogurt left in the sieve can be swirled into a goulash or stroganoff instead of using sour cream. Leave it to drip for several hours more and you have made your own curd cheese which can be used in many sweet and savoury dishes.

To cook with yogurt it need to be stabilised or it will curdle. So when wishing to add to hot soups, casseroles etc, mix a little cornflour into the yogurt (about a tablespoon to each pint), bring it to the boil and simmer for a couple of minutes until thickened.

Piquant sauce for hot vegetables:
Blend yogurt with chopped chives, mint or nuts and serve in a sauceboat to pour over vegetables.
Prawn cocktail dressing:
Blend yogurt with tomato ketchup and a dash of Tabasco to taste. Additional extras can be diced green pepper, chopped eggs, olive and spring onions.
Jacket Potato Topping:
Add snippets of crisply fried bacon to yogurt and spoon into the centre of a hot jacket potato.
Tangy Dips:
Stir into thick yogurt some grated cheese, herbs, a dash of Tabasco and mustard. Serve with crudites and tortilla chips.
Or blend yogurt with roasted red peppers, a very little harissa paste, ground cumin and a squeeze of lime. Best done in a food processor.
Salad Dressing:
Take 5fl oz (125ml) yogurt and blend with a teaspoon of honey, some chopped mint, the juice of one small lemon, and (optional) some crushed garlic.
Fat-free salad dressing:
Whisk together 6 tblsp yogurt, 1 tblsp wine vinegar, 1 tsp Dijon mustard, 1 tsp crushed garlic, and 1 tblsp finely chopped fresh herbs. Season to taste, use poured over hot vegetables or a cold salad.
Mackerel and Broccoli Pasta:
Cook pasta shapes and add broccoli florets for the final three minutes of cooking time. Drain and stir in skinned and flaked smoked mackerel, plus spoonfuls of yogurt which has been seasoned with wholegrain mustard.
Mashed potatoes:
Use thick yogurt instead of butter and/or cream when mashing potatoes. Add extra flavour with mustard, horseradish or cheese.
Cauliflower with yogurt and cheese:
Fry chopped onion then stir in some steamed cauliflower florets. Take half out and put into a blender with a few spoonfuls of yogurt, and paprika to taste. Whizz to a puree. Put the remaining cauliflower and onion in a dish, cover with the puree, scatter grated cheese on top and pop under a grill until the cheese is melted. Omit the cheese, puree the lot and have it as a soup.
Skewered Tandoori Chicken:
Put 5 tblsp yogurt into a bowl with a little grated ginger, juice of half a lemon, and 1 tblsp tandoori curry paste. Blend well together. Add chunks of chicken, stir so that each piece is coated, cover and leave to stand for at least half an hour. Thread the chicken onto skewers and place under a pre-heated grill, turning occasionally. Baste now and again with any marinade that is left. When cooked through serve on a bed of couscous, rice, or with salads.
A side dish usually served with curry, but would make a good dip on its own. Into yogurt stir in some finely chopped cucumer, and finely chopped mint. Add a little icing sugar to taste.
Lassi: a yogurt cooler
Into a blender put 1 pt (600ml) natural yogurt, 10 fl.oz (300ml) water, 2 tsp rose essence,
sugar to taste. Blend all together, pour into a jug and chill. Pour into individual glasses to serve, topping each with a couple of ice cubes.
Yogurt Ripple:
Mash 8 oz (225g) ripe berry fruits and swirl into 18 fl.oz (500ml) yogurt together with one tblsp clear honey. Don't overmix, aim for a rippled effect. Pour into a 2 lb (1kg) loaf tin which has been lined with clingfilm then freeze. Turn out half an hour before serving, remove cling film and cut into slices.
Other suggestions:
Use yogurt instead of milk or cream when making a quiche.
Blend equal amounts of yogurt and mayonnaise together to make a lighter base for coleslaw, potato salad, egg mayonnaise etc.
Blend equal amounts of yogurt with whipped cream to fill cakes, brandy snaps, eclairs, profiteroles, or use instead of full cream when making mousses or fools.
Blend a little honey into thick yogurt and dollop onto the top of fruit pies, crumbles, ice-cream, and even a breakfast cereal.

Spicy Yogurt Cake:
8 oz (225g) self-raising flour
half a teaspoon bicarb. soda
4 oz (110g) soft margarine or butter
4 oz (110g) caster sugar
4 oz (110g) mixed dried fruit with candied peel
half tsp. mixed spice
1 dessp. golden syrup
5 fl.oz (150ml) plus 1 tblsp natural yogurt
Sift the flour with the bicarb and rub in the fat until like fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar, fruit and spice. Warm the syrup and pour into the centre of the flour mixture, adding the yogurt. Mix together to a soft consistency. Bake in a greased loaf tin for one hour at 170C, 325F, gas 3. Place a piece of foil (shiny side up) after about 20 minutes to prevent the top browning too quickly.

Yogurt Walnut Fudge:
7 fl.oz (200ml) yogurt
1 tsp bicarb. soda
1 lb (455g) light muscovado sugar
1 tblsp liquid glucose
2 oz (50g) butter
3 oz (85g) walnuts, chopped
Put the yogurt into a saucepan, stir in the bicarb and leave to stand for half an hour. Add the sugar and glucose and bring the mixture gently to the boil, stirring all the time. Add the butter. When this has melted, continue to boil for about 15 minutes by which time it should have reached soft-ball stage (114C/237F). Remove from the heat and leave to stand for five minutes, then beat until it loses its gloss and has turned thick and creamy. Stir in the chopped nuts. Turn out into a greased shallow tin and cut into squares when cold.
Note: If you haven't a sugar thermometer, have ready a small dish of cold water. Drop a little of the fudge mixture into this and, if you can roll it up into a soft ball, then it is ready.
If not available in the supermarkets, chemists usually stock liquid glucose, which keeps for ages, I would say for years. Mine has anyway.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A Fruit to keep you Young

In all the following recipes, the 'ready to eat, no-soak' prunes have been used, although they may require a short soaking to plump them up. Try some or all and see how good they are.
Prune Bread: (made without yeast)
5 oz (150g) dried prunes
1 level tsp bicarb. soda
boiling water
1 tblsp soft margarine
4 oz (110g) sugar
1 egg
8 oz (225g) wholewheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 oz (50g) chopped nuts
Put the prunes in a bowl, sprinkle over the bicarb and cover with boiling water. Leave to soak for twenty minutes or so. Drain, but keep the soaking liquid. If the prunes are unpitted, remove the stones and chop the prunes coarsely. Cream together the margarine and sugar until light and beat in the egg. Sift the flour with the baking powder and stir this into the creamed mixture, finally stir in the prunes and the soaking liquid (enough to give a dropping consistency, add more water if necessary), then stir in the nuts.
Spoon into a greased and floured 1 lb (450g) loaf tin, and bake at 300C, 150F, gas 2 for one hour. Remove from oven and leave to stand for ten minutes before turning out to cool on a cake airer. When cold, wrap in foil then keep for a day before eating.

Healthy Eating Crumble Bars: makes 8
4 oz (100g) butter
3 tblsp honey
2 oz (50g) jumbo oats
2 oz (50g) porridge oats
2 oz (50g) chopped pitted prunes
Melt the butter with the honey in a saucepan, add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Spoon into a lightly greased 8" (20cm) baking tin, smooth the top and bake for 17-20 mins at 170C, 325F, gas 3 or until golden brown. Leave to cool slightly, then mark into eight bars. When cold, cut right through the marks to separate the bars and remove from tin.

Although adults don't seem to mind eating prunes when included in a beef casserole, you often find children turn up their noses as soon as they see them. Try blitzing some pitted prunes with some minced steak and then turn them into beefburgers or meatballs. The fruit will make them taste sweeter (no child seems to mind that), but are virtually undetectable.

The Italian Job 'burger: serves 4
1 lb 10 oz (750g) minced steak
1 egg
1 tblsp Worcestershire Sauce
1 tblsp Tomato Ketchup
1 small onion, grated
4 prunes (optional) pitted
ground black pepper to taste
olive oil for frying
Put all the ingredients (except the oil) into a food processor and give a quick blitz to give a smooth texture (but not as smooth as a puree). Put this mixture into a bowl and form into eight balls, pat these down into burger shapes. Put a little oil in the base of a frying pan and when hot, fry the burgers for 4 - 5 minutes on each side. Stick a fork into a burger and if the meat juices runs clear they are ready, if it still pink then cook for a moment or two longer.
Serve in small buns, or with a salad and oven chips or what you will.
Tip: To make more burgers with the same amount of meat, add more onion and include some fresh breadcrumbs. You may need an extra egg (either just the white, yolk or both).
The meat does not have to be beef, you could use lamb, chicken or pork mince. If using other meats, instead of adding the above sauces, experiment using grated apple or apple sauce with pork, with lamb add a dash of mint sauce or jelly, with chicken a spoonful of cranberry sauce, or include a little tikka paste and yogurt for a spicier version.
Instead of tucking burgers into buns, wrap each in a lettuce leaf - perfect when eating on the hoof so to speak.


Sunday, August 19, 2007

Gravy Train

There is a great divide with gravy lovers, you either like it thick, or you want it thin. With the recipe below, the gravy makes itself while the meat cooks above it. Surplus gravy can be reduced down and frozen in ice-cube trays for later use.

Beef Gravy:
2 large carrots
2 onions
1 leek
sprigs of thyme
2 tblsp olive or sunflower oil
5 fl.oz (150ml) red wine
1 pint (600ml) beef stock
extra beef stock or water
Roasting joint of beef
Chop the vegetables up roughly. Pour the oil into the roasting pan and scatter over the vegetables, tucking in a few sprigs of thyme. Stir to coat in the oil then roast in a hot oven for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, in a pan containing a little oil, sear the beef on all sides. When the vegetables have begun to caramelise, remove from oven and stand the beef on top. Pour the wine and beef stock into the pan in which the beef was seared and stir well to collect up all the juices, then pour this into the roasting tin around the vegetables.
Roast the meat for the chosen time, basting with the pan juices every fifteen minutes or so (this gives added flavour to the gravy). When the meat is cooked, remove from pan to a plate and let it rest for fifteen minutes. Take the roasting pan to the hob, spoon out excess fat, then add up to half a pint (300ml) more beef stock or water to the pan, stir well and bring to the boil. Simmer for five minutes then pour through a strainer into a jug. You now have your gravy. If you prefer a thicker gravy, it can be reduced down but as the flavours will be more intense start with less wine and stock and make up the balance with water. Otherwise, thicken in the normal way with flour or cornflour.
Tip: if eating the meat rare, then juices may flow from the meat while it is resting. These can be drained off and added to the gravy before the final simmering or reduction.

A short-cut to making beef gravy is to add extra liquid (stock, beer etc) when making a dish such as beef carbonnade. Freeze the excess and use this as an 'instant' gravy (it also makes a good soup). Although it may split on thawing, frozen alone (without added meat), it can be whisked back to smoothness as it is simmering. Always remember to thoroughly re-heat all gravies before serving.

The following is an excellent party dish which mades the most of an inexpensive cut of beef. Although a set amount of meat is given this can be reduced and the loss made up with onions, and even more onions. As it is mainly the gravy that makes the dish, as long as some meat is served to each person, it needn't be that much.
Beef Carbonnade: serves 4
1 lb (450g) stewing steak, diced
1 lb (450g) onions, sliced thinly
2 tblsp plain flour
1 pint (600ml) brown ale
1 pint (600ml) beef stock
2 oz (50g) brown sugar
good pinch dried mixed herbs
Melt a knob of butter with 1 tblsp oil in a large frying pan, and add the onions. Fry over medium heat until turning brown. Drain well, returning any oil back to the pan. Add the beef and stir/turn until brown all over. Remove from pan using a slotted spoon and layer the beef and onions in a casserole dish. Add the sugar to the juices in the pan and stir/cook for two minutes. Stir in the flour, and when it has absorbed the oil, slowly whisk in the brown ale, followed by the stock and herbs. Heat until thickened, then pour over the meat and onions. Cover and cook at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 2 - 3 hours or until the meat is very tender. An interesting way to serve is to spoon into large hot, individual Yorkshire Puddings, with side dishes of carrots and green vegetables. Omit the Y.Pud and include roast or mashed potato.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Making it Easy for Yourself

Here are a couple of recipes, which although called 'mock', in their own way, are just a variation of the 'real' thing:

Mock Capers:
nasturtium seeds (the knobbly seedheads)
pickling vinegar
Pick the seeds on a dry day and give them a wash, check there are no insects (blackflies adore nasturtiums). Weigh the seeds and put into a large bowl. Make up a brine solution (2 oz/50g) salt dissolved in one pint (600ml) water for each 1lb (500g) seeds. Pour this brine over the seeds and leave to stand for 24 hours.
Drain and rinse the seeds then pack into small jars leaving a half-inch (1 cm) space at the top so they will be covered by the vinegar. Pour in the cold vinegar and seal with airtight, vinegar proof lids.

Mock Olives:
Too late for this season, as you need plums before the stones have properly formed (test by pricking with a needle), but one recipe worth keeping for next year.
small young green plums
pickling vinegar
Make the brine as in above recipe, again amounts for each pound of fruit. Put the fruit into a bowl and pour over the brine, leaving it to stand for 3 days. Then drain and dry well using kitchen paper. Pack into clean jars, cover with the cold vinegar and seal in the usual way.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Different Tastes

A recipe for Cauliflower Bhajia (sometimes called Pakoras). Again, as mentioned above, adjust the spices to suit. I tend to use just the turmeric and cumin and if I haven't any coriander, well that's left out. The traditional flour used is Gram (chickpea) Flour, which is sold in the major supermarkets. At a pinch, plain flour could be used but it won't taste as good, and - as with most recipes - the main ingredient should be the correct one.
Phoolghobi Bhajia (Cauliflower Fritters) serves 4
5 oz (150g) gram flour
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tblsp coriander leaves, chopped
half a teasp. bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt
Sift together the flour with the bicarb and powdered spices, add the rest of the ingredients making it up to a thickish batter with water.
Take about 10 oz (300g) cauliflower and cut into medium sized florets. Heat sunflower oil in a deep pan (a wok is ideal) until really hot (but do take care). Dip each floret into the batter and gently add to the oil, frying no more than four at a time. Reduce heat and allow the cauliflower to cook through. Fry until golden then drain on kitchen paper. You will need to raise the heat again for the next batch, then reduce to allow to cook. Repeat until all the cauliflower has been used.
Note: When making these, I find the first ones have lost their crispness, so when all have been done I raise the heat for the last time and add them all to the hot fat to crisp them up again. Drain and serve immediately. Very thinly sliced onions, dropped into the batter, gathered up into clumps with a fork and fried (no need to reduce the heat for these) I find are even better than the cauliflower. Try mushrooms another time, or do a mixture of the three.
Tip: Don't throw out the cauliflower stalk. Chop this up and cook in a little milk, along with any bits of florets that may be left, and when soft, blitz in a blender as the basis for a soup.

Yesterday I had another go at making Paneer. H ere is my version of the recipe:
1 pint (600ml) full cream milk
juice of 2 lemons
2 heaped tblsp Greek yogurt (ordinary should still work)
Bring the milk to the boil, stir in the lemon juice. Blend the yogurt with a little of the hot milk then stir this into the rest of the milk. Simmer for a few minutes, then remove from the heat. Leave to stand until cold. Line a sieve with plenty of muslin, place this over a deep bowl and tip the contents of the pan into the sieve. Leave to stand until the whey has drained out (you will see the cheese has shrunk away from the sides of the muslin. Gather up the muslin and wrap the surplus around the cheese as tightly as possible. Place the cheese on an upturned plate which is standing in a dish and place a heavy weight on the top of the cheese. This weight needs to be the same size at the cheese so that all of it is pressed. Once firm and set the cheese can be cut or broken to be used as required. This will keep in refrigeration for 3 - 4 days. The whey can be used to make scones or when making bread dough.
Note: One recipe states using 2 tablespoons lemon juice 'or as much as required to set the cheese' with no mention of yogurt. Another recipe mentions using either lemon juice OR yogurt, neither recipe suggests using both. Well if it worked for me, then why not?

Friday, August 10, 2007

Dishes with a Difference

Today is a mixture of recipes, some healthy, one certainly perhaps not (but delightful to look at). which I hope you will enjoy making and eating (or at least some).

Easy Focaccia: makes one loaf - serves 6
1 x 5oog pkt bread mix
3 tblsp olive oil
2 tblsp sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
OR same amount of stoned black olives, chopped
fresh rosemary and thyme
salt and ground black pepper
Put the bread mix into a bowl and add the yeast, oil and recommended amount of water. Mix to a soft dough then turn out and knead on a floured surface for ten minutes (or make the dough in a bread machine), Put the dough to rise for until doubled in size (this could take up to 2 hours), turn out then knead in the tomatoes or olives. Gently roll out the dough to 10" (25cm) diameter then place on an oiled baking tray, tent with foil and again, leave in a warm place to rise again, this time for only half an hour. When risen, push your fingers into the dough to give a dimpled effect then press in small sprigs of herbs. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper on top and drizzle over a little olive oil. Bake for about 40 minutes at 200C, 400F, gas 6 until golden brown.

Sweetcorn, Chive and Parmesan Bread: serves 6
4 fl.oz (120ml) milk
2 eggs
4 tblsp olive oil
8 oz (225g) plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
5 oz (150g) grated Parmesan
4 tblsp finely chopped chives
1 x 198g can sweetcorn, drained
salt and pepper
Put the milk into a bowl, add the eggs and oil and whisk together. Chop the sweetcorn (or give a short blitz in a food processor. Sift together the flour and baking powder, put into a bowl together with the cheese, chives and sweecorn. Season to taste. Stir in the liquids then pour into a greased and base-lined loaf tin 21 x 11cm (approx 8" x 4 1/2"). Bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 45-50 mins. or until cooked. Cool in the tin then turn out and serve in thick slices. Lovely buttered.

Two-way Beetroot: serves 4
This can either be served as a relish, or pureed - as a side-dish or as a soup.
2 tblsp olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
6 cooked beetroot, peeled and sliced
3 tblsp red wine vinegar
2 tblsp tomato puree
4 fl.oz (100ml) vegetable stock
2 tblsp creme fraiche or double cream
Put the oil in a frying pan and add the garlic. Fry gently for no more than five minutes, just enough to flavour the oil, then remove garlic and add the onions. Fry for about 10 minutes until turning golden, then add the beetroot, vinegar and tomato puree. Cook gently for about twenty minutes until thick, sticky and caramelised. At this stage it can be served as a relish. To continue making a beetroot puree, put the mixture into a food processor, pour in the stock and creme fraiche and blitz. Serve as-is or reheat.

Microwave Vegetable Biriyani: serves 4 (V)
9 oz (250g) basmati rice
1 x 400g pack special mix frozen vegetables*
2 tblsp sultanas or raisins
1 pint (600ml) vegetable stock
2 tblsp korma curry paste
handful of roasted cashew nuts
Using a large microwaveable bowl, put in the rice, vegetables and dried fruit. Stir the curry paste into the stock then pour over the contents of the bowl. Cover with cling film, pricking the film to allow steam to get out. Cook on full power (850 watts) for 12 minutes. If your microwave is less wattage, allow 2 minutes longer. Remove from the m.oven, and leave to stand for 5 minutes (it will continue to cook), then remove clingfilm, fluff up the rice with a fork and add the nuts. Serve at once.
* The special mix frozen vegetables usually contain peas, sweetcorn, diced red pepper, finely diced carrot, and chopped green beans. You could part-cook your own (sensible) choice of fresh vegetables than use these instead.

Refreshing Orange and Red Pepper Salad: serves 4
Based on a recipe which contains chunks of cooked chicken, this is still a very good salad to eat if you leave out the meat and instead add cubes of goat's or feta cheese, walnuts or maybe a scattering of cooked (pulse) beans to add protein.
2 oranges
juice of one small lemon
1 red bell pepper
1 Little Gem lettuce
1 bag of watercress, rocket and baby spinach salad leaves
3 tblsp olive oil
chunky pieces of cooked chicken or alternatives
Grate the zest from one lemon and place in a bowl with the olive oil. Cut the peel/pith from the orange and remove the segments (do this over a bowl to catch any juice), then squeeze the orange membrane to extract any remaining juice. Add the lemon juice. Tear the leaves from the base of the lettuce and rip into smaller pieces, then mix with the cress, rocket and spinach leaves. Cut the pepper in half and remove stalk and seeds and cut into thin strips. Add this to the salad, together with the orange segments and meat/alternatives, toss gently to combine. Stir the oil, orange zest, lemon and orange juice together and pour over the salad when ready to serve.

Jewel Studded Refrigerator Cake: makes about 10 slices
1 lb 2 oz (500g) white chocolate
4 oz (100g) mini marshmallows
7 oz (200g) pink Turkish Delight, cut into small cubes
3 oz (75g) pistachio nuts, chopped
2 tblsp golden syrup
Melt the chocolate in a bowl standing over (not touching) simmering water then stir in the rest of the ingredients. Spoon into a 1lb (450g) loaf tin which has been lined with clingfilm. Level the top then place in the fridge for about 4 hours or until solid. Ease out the cake by sliding a knife between the film and the tin then upturn onto a plate, remove film and serve in slices. This will keep in the fridge for several day, covered.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

So, What's New?

The soya bean is the richest, natural vegetable food known to man - and the dullest as it has little or no flavour. The bean curd is similar to Paneer in that it too has no flavour, but treated in the Indian way can make a very good curry.

Tofu Mayonnaise:
1 block tofu (approx 1lb/450g)
2 fl.oz (50ml) each olive oil and vinegar
1/2 tsp honey
1/2 tsp sea salt
Put the tofu into a blender and blitz until liquified, slowly add the oil, followed by the honey and vinegar. Taste, then -depending upon whether you want it tart or sweet, you could add a little more vinegar or honey. Do not heat or it will separate, but can be used as a topping for hot vegetables, once plated up.
Tip: When blitzing, add herbs and spices to give extra flavour. Dill for general use, tarragon for cold vegetables, a pinch of caraway seeds when making this mayo as a binder for coleslaw.

Home-made Tofu:
1 cup (8 fl.oz measure) soya flour
4 cups (32 fl.oz) water
4 tblsp lemon juice
Mix the flour with the water and leave it to soak for half an hour, giving it an occasional stir. Then bring the mixture to the boil, stirring all the time. The minute it boils, lower the heat and simmer for five minutes. Keep stirring. Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice. Stir until the mixture begins to curdle. Allow it time to curdle thoroughly, then tip into a muslin lined seive, tie the ends and hang the bag up to drain (as you would when making curd cheese). When fully drained the tofu should be a compact white curd (with very little taste!). This can be preserved if placed under water and chilled. Will keep in the fridge for several days.

A final food for thought: I came across a feature dealing with wartime rations. So everyone out there, who wishes to cut down on their food bills , might like to try surviving for a week on the following:
The 1944 allowance per person, per week is as follows:
Bacon and ham - 4 oz (110g)
Sugar - 8 oz (225g)
Meat - 1 shilling and 2 pence worth (about 1lb/450g) mince or stewing meat
Cheese - 2 oz (50g)
Butter - 2 oz (50g)
Margarine - 4 oz (110g)
Cooking fat (lard) - 2 oz (50g)
Shell eggs - one per fortnight
Dried eggs - 1 pack per month
Milk - 2 1/2 pints.
There were a few other items, tea, flour, tea etc. but the above gives a very good idea of the very low amount of food a person had to live on. Perhaps worth costing it out at today's prices.
Vegetables were off ration, but hard to obtain unless you grew your own. Onions were worth more than their weight in gold. No fresh vegetables or fruits were imported. Some canned food was available on a points system. At the end of rationing it was said that the country was far healthier than ever before. So something good came of it.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Lower Calorie meals

Nowadays health warnings suggest we cook with far less fat, so todays' offerings are aimed at cutting calories rather than costs, though in some instances the two may go together.

Yogurt Salad Dressing: serves 6
5 fl.oz (150ml) plain, low-fat yogurt
2 tblsp. low-fat ricotta or cottage cheese
2 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp red or white wine vinegar
2 tsp apple juice
Put everything in a blender and whizz together (if you haven't a blender put into a screwtop jar an shake vigorously until well blended. If too thick, add a tsp more or lemon or apple juice (lemon if you like it tart, apple juice if you want it sweeter).

Tuna Melt with Potato Wedges: serves 4 (V)
750g frozen oven-cook potato wedges
3 - 4 tblsp. low-fat mayonnaise
1 shallot, finely chopped
4 oz (100g) grated low-fat chedar cheese
2 x 160g cans tuna packed in spring water or brine
bunch parsley, chopped (opt)
Tip the potato wedges onto a large baking sheet so they are in a single layer. Bake in a hot oven 220C, 435F, gas 7 and bake for 7 minutes. While they are cooking, drain the tuna and put into a bowl with the rest of the ingredients and mix well together. Tip the potato wedges into one large (or four individual) ovenproof dishes and top with the tuna mixture. Return to the oven and bake for a further 12 minutes until bubbling hot.
Variation and tips: instead of tuna, used shredded cooked chicken. If you wish to make your own potato wedges, first cook a jacket potato, cut into wedges and spray with a very light coating of oil. Also spray the baking tray. To aid even browning, put the tray in the oven when heating and it will start browning the wedges (or chips if you prefer) underneath immediately.

Pasta with melting Cheese Sauce: enough for two servings (V)
2 portions of freshly cooked pasta
4oz (100g) extra light cream cheese
handful of snipped chives
small amount of Parmesan cheese
freshly ground black pepper
After draining the pasta, return it to the pan and add the cream cheese, stir until melting and add the chives and Parmesan. Season to taste with the pepper. Serve immediately.

Roasted Vegetable Sauce: (V)
1 each red and yellow bell peppers
1 red onion
4 ripe tomatoes
1 courgette
Slice peppers in half, remove stalk and seeds and cut into large chunks. Cut the onion into thin wedges. Halve the tomatoes and slice the courgettes. Place on a baking tray, spray with oil and roast in a moderate oven 180C, 350F, gas 4 for about half an hour or until softened and beginning to brown at the edges. Cool, then rub through a coarse sieve. Season the puree to taste. Put into a dish, cover. Will keep in the fridge for up to three days. To use, prepare pasta as in above recipe, stir in the sauce adding chopped herbs if you wish, and heat through. Serve hot with a sprinkling of Parmesan.
Variations: If you wish to make a chunkier version (which can also double up as a cold salsa or dip), roast the peppers, onion, courgette and tomatoes on a ridged griddle pan and remove the skins from the peppers and tomatoes. then pop them into a blender together with a couple or so stoned black olive, a teaspoonful of capers and a tblsp. chopped parsley. Give a quick blitz just enough to chop down but not form a smooth puree. Season to taste.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Favourite and Seasonal Foods

Today I posting up some recipes using foods/ingredients that you have specifically mentioned and hopefully are your favourites. So here comes an assortment for you to try.

Spicy Gravy: (V)
1 small onion, finely chopped or grated
1 red bell pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
1 tsp mild curry paste (or hotter if you wish)
1 can plum tomatoes
2 oz (50g) red lentils
Fry the onion in a little oil until beginning to soften. Stir in the curry paste and cook for a further four minutes then stir in the pepper. Continue frying for a couple more minutes. Tip the contents of the can of tomatoes into a sieve and rub through (this makes your own passata), then add this to the pan with the lentils and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the lentils are tender. Add a little water if necessary. Use as-is poured over sausages, meatballs, fish cakes, or make even smoother by blitzing in a blender for a few seconds. In which case, as well as used for gravy, it could make a good soup. So why not make a double batch?

Butterbean Sandwich Spread: serves 6
1 410g can butter beans (drained) or 14 oz (400g) home-cooked
2 tblsp olive oil
2 tblsp lemon juice
125g pack of low-fat cream cheese (Philadelpia type)
1 clove garlic, crushed
chopped chives or other chosen herb
salt and pepper
This spread can be made by mashing with a fork, but most easily done in a food processor. Whizz together the beans, oil and lemon juice. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. When it has formed into a smooth paste, add a little garlic (don't overpower it unless you absolutely adore garlic), the cheese and herbs. Blend until just smooth then put into a container and chill. This will keep up to three days in the fridge. To use: spread on the inner surfaces of pitta bread and tuck in some of the coleslaw salad (recipe above). Or spread on hot toast and pop under the grill until heated and browned. Spread onto sliced granary bread instead of butter and make tomato sarnies.
Variations: Use a cream cheese which already has herbs included. Or add a pinch of paprika to give a spicy bite.

Butterbean Soup: serves 4 (V)
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tblsp. olive oil
1 410g can butterbeans (or use home-cooked)
1 200g can of sweetcorn (or use frozen)
1 3/4 pint (1 ltr) vegetable or chicken stock
Herb garnish - mint or parsley, chopped
Fry the onion in the oil until softened. Add the drained beans and sweetcorn, stir and fry for a further minute. Pour in the stock, season to taste, and bring to the boil. Simmer for 15 minutes. Serve as-is or blitz in a blender or food processor if you wish for a smoother soup. Garnish with herbs.
Tip: Dried butterbeans last for years if kept in an airtight container. As they are so much cheaper (weight for weight when cooked) than canned beans, it is worth cooking your own. Make up a whole packet by soaking overnight in plenty of cold water, then bring to the boil and simmer for about 45 minutes until tender. Drain, rinse, drizzle over a little oil to help keep them from sticking together when frozen. Spread out on a flat baking sheet and freeze, then put into bags as 'free-flow', or just bag up in small quantities and freeze.

Shirley's Supper:
This I made yesterday just to use up bits and pieces. Really loved it, so thought you might like to try it.
1 large onion, thinly sliced
fingerlength piece of chorizo sausage,
1 small pack home-cooked butterbeans
1 small pack of Dolmio roasted pepper tomato based sauce
The onion was fried until golden and beginning to caramelise. To this I stirred in the skinned and chopped chorizo and continued to fry until the onion was taking up the chorizo flavour. Then I added the butterbeans, stirred those well in and finally poured over the roasted pepper tomato sauce. Any other well flavoured tomato sauce would have done. Heated it through and ate it. It would have served two but I was hungry. Would certainly have served two, three or four if served as a sauce with pasta.