Friday, November 30, 2007

Use Not Lose

I managed to get onto the site, which needs closer attention when I have time, but inspired me enough to be even more diligent as to what I keep and what I throw.

Before I move onto the food, here is a 'recipe' to make up your own scented soap using those scraps of soap so often discarded. Just collect them up and when you have enough, turn them into soap balls. If the soap was originally scented, then just substitute water for the rose water, and 1 tsp olive oil for the lavender oil.
Soap Balls:
7 oz (200g) soap scraps
2 fl.oz (50ml) rose water
2 - 4 drops lavender oil
more rose water
Grate or chop the soap and put into a basin. Heat the rose water to almost boiling and pour this over the soap. Allow the mixture to stand for 15 minutes then mix well. Using a wire whisk, beat in one drop of oil at a time (or this can be done in a slow running blender), leave to cool slightly before pouring into a round container. Leave in a cool place (not the fridge) for three days. Once it has begun to set and dry out, then remove and - if you wish - roll it into smaller balls. Allow to dry out in the sun or on a window ledge above a radiator. When almost dry, dampen hands with rosewater and rolld the balls until shiny and smooth.

Moving on to the recipes. Again, using up oddments, left-overs, or foods from the stores. The first being an unusual way to use up yesterday's rice and scraps of cheese. Not to mention the crusts from a loaf.
Indian Cheese and Rice:
1 oz (25g) butter
4 tomatoes, peeled and chopped*
salt and pepper
2 tsp curry powder
4 - 5 oz (120g) grated cheese
8 oz (250g) cooked rice
Toasted bread
Melt the butter in a pan and add the tomatoes and curry powder. Simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the cheese and rice, and heat until the cheese has melted. Serve on a hot dish surrounded by triangles of toast. Serve immediately.
Note: instead of fresh tomatoes, canned could be used. If not needed to use a whole can of tomatoes, always removed the surplus from the can and store in a glass or plastic container. Use within 3 days if kept in the fridge, or they can be frozen.
Tip: empty a whole tin of plum tomatoes into a fine sieve and rub through, discarding any seeds or skin. This puree is now passata, and works out much, much cheaper than buying it ready made.

During the war, the MOF used to issue Cookery Leaflets, and the following adaptation comes from one of these. Don't think of this dish as less than the best. It is full of nutrition and by today's standards (and the name I have given it) would fit happily into the recipe section of any foodie mag. Use the water in which the root veggies have been cooked as the stock.
Vegetarian Pie with a Thatched Top:
1 1/2 lbs (750g) cooked, mixed root vegetables
2 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
10 fl.oz (half pint/300ml) vegetable stock
2 oz (50g) oatmeal
2 oz (50g) mashed potatoes
2 oz (50g) grated cheese
salt and pepper
4 oz (100g) flour
1 oz (25g) fat (butter, marg, lard or oil)
Place the cooked vegetables in a pie dish and sprinkle over the parsley. Pour in the stock and season to taste.
To make the 'thatch' top, mash the potato with the fat and mix in the oats, flour and cheese, adding a little salt to taste. Mix to a stiff dough with the water. Place on a floured board and roll out. Cover the pie with this, trimming the edges. (f you wish, run a fork over the pastry to make ridges. Bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for about half an hour or until the thatch is cooked.
Variation: Instead of adding water to make pastry, use the potato mixture as a type of crumble, or forking it up as you would topping for a Cottage Pie.

Getting children to eat vegetables can sometimes be difficult, so here is a very good dessert recipe, based on a wartime speciality. The original was made using wholewheat pastry, but I'm suggesting you keep the oddments of shortcrust in your freezer until you have enough to make this. Eating carrots is supposed to help to prevent night blindness, hence the name I have given this dish. Although the carrots can be boiled, steaming retains all their vitamins. You could use freshly cooked carrots, or sieve/process/blend leftovers to make the carrot puree.
See in the Dark, Chocolate Tart:
12 oz (350g) shortcrust pastry
half a pint measure of carrot puree
1 tblsp sugar
few drops vanilla extract
2 tblsp cocoa
Roll out the pastry thinly to line a greased sandwich tin. Mix together the carrots with the rest of the ingredients and spread this over the pastry. Decorate with criss-crossed strips of pastry and bake for about half an hour at 220C, 425F, gas 5 or until the pastry is cooked.

Another wartime favourite, but popular long before the wars and again coming into fashion. Purists will make it using crustless bread, crumbed, but for a more rustic version use those end crusts from a loaf.
Treacle Tart:
shortcrust pastry
2 tblsp golden syrup or black treacle (or half of each)
2 tblsp breadcrumbs
quarter tsp ground ginger
Roll out the pastry and line a sandwich tin, mix the breadcrumbs with the ginger, stir in the sticky stuff (whichever you have chosen to use) and spoon into the tin, smooth to flatten top and bake at 220C, 425F, gas 5 for 20 minutes. Cool. Eat warm or cold with or without cream.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Making the Best of It.

Yesterday I picked up a magazine (someone elses's for a change) and came across some useful info when making cakes - which I will now pass on. My personal asides are given in brackets (which is not unusual for me):

Always use ingredients at room temperature (temperature not specified, but I would suggest a warm (summer) room temperature as butter can be rock hard in my kitchen during the winter).
Cold eggs can cause the creamed mixture to curdle (books suggest adding a bit of flour if this begins to happen and this I always did do, BUT...). Adding flour to prevent this can cause the baking cake to dome and crack.
If the creamed mixture does begin to curdle, place the bowl over a pan of warm water and beat well.
When making a fruit cake (I do like this tip) push down any visible fruit into the cake or they could burn during the baking.

On Rosemary Shrager's 'School for Cooks' yesterday, they were showing how to make sausages, and yet another useful tip given which I did not know about, but as always, makes perfect sense when you think about it.
This is - add fat to the lean meat when mincing, then add flavourings and some water (I didn't know water was used, but it seems it is) before adding the rusk. If you add the rusk first, it absorbs the water, and then the fat runs out of the sausages when they are cooked (and however healthy this might sound, it makes for a very dry sausage). Adding the water first, it combines with the meat and stays there. Then, adding the rusk at the final stage this then remains dry - thus, when the sausages are cooked, it is ready to soak up the melting fat, which remains in and makes the sausages a lot more succulent.

Most recipes do not give 'the reason why' when they give the method of making. Often it is not necessary, but where I can I try to include as much info as possible, because the more we understand about what can or will happem if such and such is done, the easier cooking can become and the more our experimenting is likely to work.
There is a tendency to make cakes by throwing all the ingredients into a food processor and blitzing it together to make the batter which is then baked. But the result will never be as light as if the butter and sugar were creamed first for up to at least 10 minutes (preferably by hand)to the lightest fluffiest mixture before eggs (room temperature remember) were beaten in and twice sifted flour then carefully folded into the batter. Much cookery today depends more on speed than the final result, and from the nutritional angle, it doesn't really matter, because food is food is food (as long as it is home-made and not the ready packaged stuff). So when it comes to home-cooking, suit the way best for you. But for perfection, worth taking that little bit more time.
For my final recipe today is a modern version of one from the past. Very quick and easy to make, you then leave it to stand and - well, all I can say is eat and enjoy (yes I know cream is expensive, but once in a while).
Grandma's Lemon Custard Cream: serves 6
1 pt (600ml) double cream
6 oz (175g) caster sugar
juice 2 lemons
sprigs of mint or grated chocolate for garnish
Pour the cream into a saucepan and stir in the sugar. Bring to the boil and bubble rapidly for 3 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in the lemon juice and mix well. Pour into 6 individual serving glasses (warm these first to prevent the hot dessert cracking the glass). One the custand cream is cool, chill for at least an hour. Garnish with a spring of mint or dusting of grated chocolate.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Tales of the Unexpected

Forgive me if I give only one recipe today. However, this one would make a good Christmas gift, especially if you have raspberries in the freezer that you may have grown yourself.
Raspberry Vinegar:
3 lb (1.5kg) raspberries
4 cups (32 fl.oz) white wine vinegar
Put the raspberries into a container, pour over the vinegar, cover and leave to stand for ten days. Stir gently each day, then - when the time is up - strain through muslin, leaving until all the drips have stopped, but do not squeeze the bag or the end result will be cloudy.
Measure the vinegar, and to each 16 fl.oz (2 cups) of liquid allow 1 lb (500g) sugar. Bring the vinegar gently to the boil and stir in the sugar. Simmer for 10 minutes, skimming if necessary.
Cool, bottle and seal securely. Store in a cool place.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Waste Not, Want Not

These days we are all urged not to waste anything, and very few can afford to waste food, yet so many still throw out foods still edible (mainly because of the craze for sticking to the 'use-by' dates) not realising the old method of giving whatever it is a sniff and a wee taste is still the best way to tell if food can still be eaten. I have even heard well known cooks on TV suggest that 'use-by' dates are more to protect the shop and most, if not all, have several more days of life before they need be discarded. They also suggest the 'sniff and taste' approach.
Catching the end of 'Food Poker' yesterday, I was intrigued by the way cooks made use of their ingredients, one using melted chocolate with creme fraiche, and I think diced stem ginger and also making a mint syrup to either add in or pour over. I have yet to add an ounce or two of dark chocolate to my next batch of spag.bol meat sauce, but I understand that does wonderful things to the flavour. As they say 'watch and learn, watch and learn'. Then try.

The Italians have a saying: wash your hands but never the rice. To wash rice removes starch which needs removing if you are aiming for 'free-flow' (as usual with Indian dishes). But with Italian risotto rice, the starch is needed to make a creamier dish.
Green Rice: serves 2
1 1/2 pints hot chicken stock
2 tblsp butter
1 shallot, peeled and diced
1/2 pint measure Arborio rice
1/2 pint measure spinach leaves
6 sprigs parsley inc. stems
salt and pepper
Parmesan cheese, grated
Heat the stock first and keep it simmering at the side of the hob. Remove the parsley stems and put them into the stock to add flavour. Put the butter into a frying pan and add the shallot and saute for a few minutes until transparent but not browned. Stir in the rice until glistening with butter, then add a ladleful of hot stock and cook for a few minutes until absorbed. Repeat with a further ladle. Chop the spinach leaves and the parsley sprigs and stir these into the rice. Add more stock until the rice is tender but still firmish inside. It should not be overcooked. Once the liquid has been absorbed, place over a lid or plate. Turn out the heat and leave to stand for 3 minutes. Then remove cover, scatter over the cheese, and serve at once.

The following recipe makes use of chicken wings which in an earlier posting I suggested be collected, to be frozen until a suitable recipe is found (see also Spicy Buffalo Wings 11/11/06). This recipe also gives an easy way to make a type of Chinese Plum Sauce.
Chicken Wings and Plum Sauce: serves 2
approx 1 lb (450g) chicken wings
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1 shallot, peeled and roughly chopped
4 fl. oz measure plum jam
1 small piece fresh root ginger, grated
..OR 1 tsp ground ginger
1 tblsp soy sauce
1 tsp Dijon mustard
juice of one orange
If using fresh chicken wings, remove wing tips (this should be done before freezing anyway as they go into the stock pot), and lay the wings in an oven dish.
Into a blender or processor put the shallot, ginger, jam, soy sauce and mustard and blitz for a few seconds. Add the orange juice and blitz again. Pour this marinade over the chicken, turning the pieces so they are coated on all sides. Place in a really hot oven and bake for 10 minutes (240C, 475F, gas 9). Serve with boiled rice.

Shelled nuts have a fairly short shelf life once opened. But keep far longer in the freezer. If, however, you have some almonds you have had around too long, then turn them into praline.
1 measure granulated sugar
1 measure blanched almonds
Put the sugar into a dry frying pan, place over medium to low heat and stir gently until the sugar has melted. Add almonds, and keep stirring until the mixture is golden brown - this takes about 3 - 4 minutes. Pour into a buttered baking tray and leave to cool and harden. Lay over a piece of parchment paper and give the 'toffee' a good tap here and there to crack into large pieces. Either put the pieces into a bag and crush with a rolling pin, or put into a food processor/blender and blitz until crushed. Store in an airtight jar and use as an ingredient or as a topping for desserts.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Pot Luck or Planning?

It might be worth a mention, just for those who believe you have to know everything for anyone to take you seriously, was because it my ability to cost out a meal very accurately, that got the media interested - nothing to do with the actual food. In truth, costing was just about all I could do at that time. In the early stages I would suggest dishes that could be made for very low cost, and would then be asked to make several the following week which they would film. Naturally I agreed (always saying 'yes' to everything, which is not always a good idea as I often found out, but too late to do anything about it). Costing yes - that I could do with my eyes shut - but cooking NO (nearly always a disaster). But as I had agreed, then needed to practice like mad - with even a simple Swiss roll a nightmare at first attempt. It was a matter of keeping just one step ahead of the next filming. Knowing only what was needed at that time and nothing more (and due to clever editing, and two cuts of the cake, the big air holes in the sponge were never seen).

At least now, I do know what I am doing, but mainly at a domestic level, having never bothered to persue the haute cuisine because it seems a bit of a waste of time. What is the point of cutting the sides off a carrot to make a perfect bar, cutting this into accurately measured strips and these into equal sized batons, and go on to cutting the batons into perfect little cubes? This is the top level of cooking, but does not add anything to nutrition, and purely for the presentation effect. It leaves offcuts that could be thrown away, but probably - as in all good kitchens - are used to make vegetable stock, with all the extra labour that entails. No stick to Peasant Cookery (so fashionable at the moment), and everyone will expect and even enjoy more, the rustic.

My favourite meals come under 'pot-luck', where you just make do with what you've got. Sometimes I think up new ways, my newest fantasy is shredding a white cabbage into noodle sized strips, cooking them lightly and tossing in some garlic and herb Philly cheese to melt down into a sauce, a kind of 'vegetable pasta' dish. But as yet haven't attempted it. Not even sure if I have a cabbage. Must check. Have plenty of Philly as they were reduced and I bought too much, but they keep well. If I served the cabbage 'noodles' in their creamy sauce, they would go well with some frozen meat balls I made some time back - here I am thinking aloud, writing down my thoughts as they come to mind. Which is what I do normally anyway. But I must keep some semblance of order for who knows where my mind will wander to if I lose control.

With a hoard to feed and only one pound (500g) minced beef - how can you make a chili to serve a dozen? The answer is add more and more of the cheaper ingredients, onions, beans, chopped tomatoes, and herbs.
Meat-stretching Chili con Carne: makes 12 servings
1 lb (500g) minced steak
1 dessp sunflower oil
2 - 3 large onions, chopped
2 cans red kidney beans
2 cans chili flavoured red beans
3 cans chunky chopped tomatoes
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tsp dried oregano or marjoram
1 - 3 tsp chili powder to taste
1 tsp hot paprika
Put the minced beef into a bowl, pour over the oil and work together with your fingers (this will prevent the beef forming clumps in the pan when frying). Put the beef into a large dry pan with the onion and cook over medium heat until the meat is browned, stir in the garlic. Fry for a further minute and then stir in the chilli powder, herbs and paprika. Cook for a further minute then add the canned beans (no need to drain), and the tomatoes. Bring to the boil and simmer for up to one hour (half an hour longer if using cheaper mince), stirring occasionally, until the chili is the right consistency.
tip: because this is quite a cheapo meal, I would be inclined to stir in a pack of ready-made chili mix instead of using the garlic, herbs, chili and paprika powder, the liquid from the canned beans and tomatoes usually enough to thicken, but add water if you wish.

This next soup is a type of pot-luck in that both lentils AND pearl barley are used. Normally I add one or the other to a soup I am making. But as one is a legume, the other a grain, they work together boosting up the protein content of this vegetarian dish and both come under the 'cheap ingredients' banner.
Lentil and Barley Soup: serves 6 (V)
2 large onions, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed or minced
2 oz (50g) butter
3 pints water
2 can chopped tomatoes
6 fl.oz measure dry red lentils
6 fl.oz measure pearl barley
3 tblsp Marigold bouillon powder (or 2 veg. stock cubes)
half tsp dried rosemary, crushed
half tsp dried oregano or marjoram
pepper to taste
1 large carrot, thinly sliced or diced
half pint measure of grated hard cheese
Into a large saucepan put the butter, and when melted add the onion and celery, saute for 4 minutes then stir in the garlic. Add the water, tomatos, lentils, barley, the stock powder, herbs and pepper to taste. Bring to the boil, stir well, reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook for 45 minutes. Add the carrots and simmer for 15 more minutes or until tender. Ladle into individual soup bowls and top with the grated cheese.

A Christmas dessert, and will keep well for several days in the fridge.
Christmas Compote:
2 x 8oz (2 x 200g) packs dried mixed large fruits*
2 oz (50g) crystallised ginger
2 oz sugar, pref demerara
2 lemons
1 orange
2 - 3 tblsp rum
(* dried fruits can be no-soak apricots, dates, figs, apples etc - any large cut to the same size as the rest).
Put the dried fruit into a bowl, cover with water and leave to soak overnight (or do this early in the morning and leave to soak all day). Drain well and put into a saucepan with the ginger (chopped small), the sugar and the juice from the lemons and orange. Bring to the boil, cover the pan and simmer gently for 30 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in the rum, pour into a serving bowl and leave to cool. Serve with cream.

Mindful of a recent posting for a professional way to make pastry using butter and lard, here is a recipe which was given as the one to use when making mince pies, as it contains no sugar am sure it would eat well with anything that goes with orange - from a savoury beef pie, to a chocolate tart. A variation could be made using lemon instead of orange, which would again eat well if used for making a fish pie or lemon meringue. And not forgetting other additions to pastry: dried herbs or even spices. With a little thoughtful addition, plain pastry can turn into something just that little bit special.

Orange Pastry: enough for 12 mince pies
8 oz (225g) plain flour
4 oz (100g) butter
2 oz (50g) lard
2 tsp grated orange zest
orange juice
Cut the fat into the flour and rub with the fingers (or process) until like breadcrumbs. Stir in the grated zest and, using a knife, add just enough orange juice until it just begins to form a ball (err on the low side with the liquid). Wrap in parchment, clingfilm or foil, and chill for half an hour before using.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Flavour and Colour

Turkish Delight:
1 large cup boiling water
2 generous cups sugar
1 oz (30g) powdered gelatine
1 tsp citric acid
red or pink food colouring*
vanilla extract
lemon essence
icing sugar
In a saucepan boil the gelatine, sugar, citric acid and the water, for 15-20 minutes, stirring well. Divide the mixture into two - colouring one half with the red or pink food colouring and flavouring with a few drops vanilla extract; keeping the other half white and flavouring with a few drops of lemon essence. Pour each into two greased shallow containers. When cold, cut into squares with a knife dipped into boiling water. Roll squares in icing sugar.

Tip:* if using food colouring often - such as for icing cakes etc. food colours are best used in paste form, as they come in a much wider variety of flavours, and you can get more intense colours (such a red) using the paste rather than using the liquid colour which tends to dilute the icing too much. However, with the above recipe, as the colour needs to be pale, use only one drop at a time of the liquid until you get the colour you wish.

Anyone with children will always find it far cheaper to make their celebration cakes rather than purchase them. Starting when they are small, ample time to practice, so by the time they are married, wedding cakes will be a doddle. Have to modestly say (oh, why be modest, having four children and plenty of practice, I got darn good at it), that I have iced many wedding and celebration cakes for others in the past. A few useful tips, always add a few drops of glycerine when beating up royal icing. No noticable difference, it still sets hard, but cuts cleanly with a knife rather than tending to crack. Perhaps worth me mention that my first wedding cake made for a close friend (luckily), did not contain glycerine in the icing, so bent the silver knife when using for the ceremonial cutting (a little bleat from me that 'I shouldn't have used Polyfilla' made them all laugh and saved the day). If making fragile decorations, add a tsp of gum tragacanth (from the chemists) to the icing used for piping the decorations only (not for icing the cake itself) as this makes it super strong, and prevents a lot of breakages.
To get a really flat top and sides, spread the royal icing very thinly (even still able to seeing the marzipan beneath), and let it dry overnight. Using the flat of a knife, drag it across to remove any ridges (some people use fine sandpaper) and brush away the icing dust. Give another coat and repeat once a day until satisfied (it may take up to six or eight coats but well worth it for a perfect appearane).
Mentioning icing - after putting the almond paste on the cake, leave it uncovered for about a week for the marzipan to dry out or it could taint the icing with yellow patches.
And for those who haven't the patience or the time, if your cake does have ridges or holes, just get an icing pipe with a tiny round hole and start doodling an endless jig-saw like rope, icing over the ridges and around any dents and they will then seem to disappear.
Sadly, nowadays most cakes seem to be covered in fondant icing, but maybe one day royal icing will come back into fashion. You can always practice using royal icing on this year's Xmas cakes. It is after all, far cheaper than buying the fondant, all you need is egg white (saved?), icing sugar and a bit of lemon juice, plus a goodly amount of elbow grease.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Cheaper Chicken - part two

Now to part two of the chicken saga.
Yesterday I sat and portioned out the second chicken which cost £5.98 and weighed 3.005 kg. I think we can ignore the .005 bit. Having had a bit of practice, I made a better job of it this time. There was no need to review packaged portion prices as that had already been done. But the weight differences of flesh from the smaller bird to this were amazing.
This time the chicken breasts weighed 460g each and from both I was able to cut away not just the fillet but also an adjoining piece which together were the size of a small chicken breast. This left the main piece - still huge, a round ball of a piece at one end, more fillet shaped at the other, so the ball piece was cut off - this alone could serve two if halved and bashed down, even the thinner piece could be cut in half to make two escalopes - thus making one breast serve five. Or the two breasts serve ten. Incredible.
The two chicken quarters weighed 340g each, both could be jointed to give two thighs and two drumsticks. The winglets were surprisingly meaty, each weighing 150g.

When it came to the carcase, there was still quite a lot of meat attached (on the underside there are good nuggets of flesh) so I managed to remove 100g more of chunky bits of meat. Then weighed the carcase. I was completely wrong when I expected much the same weight of bone as the first bird as this time the carcase weighed 900g. This was then added to the stock left over from the first bird (to give this a much more concentrated flavour) and the cooked meat picked from the bones came to the same as the first- just 9 oz (250g). But of course had I not picked off the flesh prior to cooking, it would have been 4 oz more.
Allowing for the rather hit and miss of weighing, being a bit difficult to hit an exact weight on the scales that I have, I seem to be a few grams short of the original weight, but that means the joints weighed more than I said.
Definitely the larger bird worked out the most economical taking into account the prices that would have been paid if the same weight of portions had been bought separately. If anything there was more fat towards the rear end of the larger bird, which I didn't mind at all because it all went into the stock pot, and once chilled the fat can be taken from the surface and used for cooking.
My Cooks' Encyclopedia says "goose fat is a good cooking fat, with some of the characteristics of chicken fat, being soft and can be heated to around 200C without burning". And under a separate heading the book says "chicken fat is not too saturated for an animal fat...softer and nearer in consistency to oil than other animal fats. When clarified it fries well and can be heated to 200C without burning.'' Whether suitable for roasting potatoes, I cannot say. There certainly would not be enough from the two chickens to do that in this instance.

It does seem that, almost like a pig, every bit of the chicken can be used to advantage. I dare say the cooked bones could be ground up in the food processor and dug into the soil, my dad used to use bone meal for this purpose, not a lot of difference I would say. The chicken skin itself holds most of the fat, but many people like to remove it from the bird and then grill it to make a crunchy snack. As some people do with the skin from fish. Takes all sorts.

Do hope I have managed to persuade many of you that it is worth jointing up a whole bird yourself rather than buying the portions separately. And a reminder that if all you are after is making your own chicken stock, then - if you are a regular customer- your butcher will almost certainly give you a free bagful of chicken carcases left after he has taken off the respective parts to sell separately. You may have to ask him which is the best day to collect. If you are lucky (you could try asking) he will pop in the winglets. With the winglets and the small amount of meat left on the bones, after cooking you should have enough meat to make a couple of proper meals, let alone pints of stock (which can be reduced by fast boiling and then chilled, frozen in ice-cube trays to make very concentrated stock cubes).

Now that we have the chicken, here are a few recipes to help use it up, the first being a version of Waldorf Salad, and a good one to make use of the cooked pieces taken from the carcase.
Chicken and Walnut Salad: serves 4
cookd chicken pieces (up to 12 oz)
2 ribs celery, chopped into 1" pieces
1 large red apple, cored and diced
2 oz (50g) walnut pieces, chopped
4 tblsp mayonnaise
2 tblsp Greek yogurt
salt and pepper
Place the chicken pieces into a bowl with the celery, apple and walnuts. Blend together the mayo and the yogurt, thinning with a little milk to give a pouring consistency. Season to taste. Pour over the chicken and toss everything together until evenly coated.
Line a shallow bowl with watercress and spoon the chicken salad on the top.

Chicken and Walnut Pate: serves 4
6 oz (175g) liver sausage
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
3 tblsp sherry
5 oz (125g) cooked chicken pieces, chopped
2 oz (50g) walnut pieces, chopped
watercress or parsley sprigs
Mash the liver sausage with the garlic and sherry, and when smooth, work in the chicken, walnuts and season with pepper to taste. Spoon into individual ramekin pots and garnish with sprigs of watercress or parsley. Great served with hot buttered granary bread.

Chicken Escalopes with Orange: serves 4
2 oz (50g) butter
2 oz (50g) flaked roasted almonds
2 small chicken breasts
salt and pepper
3 large oranges
2 tsp caster sugar
Slice the chicken breasts through lengthways and lay on a piece of clingfilm, cover with more film and bash each with a rolling pin or a clenched fist to make it evenly thin. Flour both sides of each escalope with flour, patting with hand to remove excess. Melt the butter in a large frying pan and fry the escalopes for a few minutes on each side, until golden (always check the meat is cooked through before removing from the pan - a lot depends upon how thinly they have been bashed). Keep them warm if needing to do it in two batches. But keep the juices in the pan after removing the last ones.
Meanwhile, squeeze the juice from two of the oranges, cutting off the skin/pith from the third and segmenting. Add the orange juice, segments and the sugar to the buttery juices in the pan and boil rapidly for a few minutes to thicken slightly. Place the escalopes onto a heated plate, pour over the orange sauce and sprinkle with the toasted almonds.
Tip: if you have no toasted almonds, toast ordinary flaked almonds by frying in the butter for a few moments until golden, then remove before adding the escalopes to the pan.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Portion Control

This week I've been doing a bit of research in that two large chickens have been bought, yesterday, one was jointed, weighed, and compared to the price.weight of the ready portions. Also the carcase was turned into stock, usable cooked flesh then taken from the bones. Today I will be jointing up the second bird, adding the carcase to the already made stock, which will give it extra depth of flavour.

It is important to use the largest birds you can buy for the smaller birds, however cheap may seems, give far less flesh in proportion to the weight of bone. The first bird I prepared was 2.285kg (I'm not converting to the pounds and ounces, for as every joint is sold in the metrics, this time it is easier to compare) the price being £4.55p. The second bird, yet to tackle, is even heavier, for it costs over £5. More about that one tomorrow, for what I hope to prove to myself is that the carcase remains much the same weight as the first bird, thus giving even more meat.
Obviously when the chicken was jointed I got two chicken quarters - these weighed over 330g each, and each could be divided again into drumsticks and thighs. The winglets were quite large at 100g each, even after the flat wingtips had been trimmed off ( all trimmings - including the skin - for I prefer skinless joints) were saved to be put in the stockpot.
Then there were the two chicken breasts which I have to say were enormous weighing 340g each. From these I was able to take off the chicken fillets and trim down slightly - these pieces large enough to bagged up separately as they were enough to make a dish on their own, be it curry or pie. Each breast large enough to cut in half and - if each half bashed thinly and each of these cut in half would turn into four escalopes, one per person.
The carcase itself - still with some flesh left on it (I am not too good at carving) - weighed just over 740g, put into the pot with a carrot, onion, rib of celery, some bay leaves (which incidentally I took from the freezer - they came out as fresh as they went in), and a sprig or two of thyme, simmered away for at least a couple of hours, I prefer four hours, to make the stock.

Then up to the computor to compare prices against Tesco's fresh chicken portions. This is where things can get tedious, half the time you don't know how many portions are in the pack, but at least they do give the weight, and even more helpful, the price per kg. (usually printed in pale grey under the price of the pack). It was enough at the start for me to read that a pack of skinned chicken breasts were being sold at £5 for 670g which meant my whole bird cost 45p less than that and my chicken breasts weighed even more, so yah boo. Hardly worth me working out the cost of the rest ('cos the way I look at it, the remaining joints and carcase were freebies) - I did do this, just to prove how much more money has been saved by a bit of DIY rather than buying the joints in separate packs.
The fillets taken from the breasts are being sold from around £8.98 a kilo, which of course is quite a weight, but nothing stops us collecting them up to freeze. Likewise winglets sold at £1.25 a kilo also worth freezing. They make good party food when coated in a spicy sauce and grilled. Chicken thighs and drumsticks are £3 a 720g pack for four of each (my two of each together weighed 629g).
Before leaving the chicken, worth mentioning that I was able to pick of 250g (9oz) of usable flesh from the cooked carcase. Almost certainly these will be made into burgers, together with cooked split peas, bread, cheese, curry paste, as I made a few weeks back and were extremely good. Also freezable.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Make Instead of Buy

Sorting out my cupboards for the impending move (which still might be months away), I found I had several jars of spices - some still unopened - in the back of a dark cupboard, then discovered some recipes where I could have made my own blends from what I had, rather than buy complete in yet another jar. So if you fancy making your own Caribbean blend, or Chinese spice (Indian garam masala was given in an earlier posting) , here is how to do it:

Jerk Seasoning:
A great 'rub' to use on meats and makes a fantastic marinade. A good pinch or so gives a real kick to omelettes and scrambled eggs. This recipe makes enough to coat 8 chicken thighs.
4 tsp ground allspice
2 tsp chilli flakes
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp dried thyme.
Mix everything together.

Caribbean Marinade:
2 fl.oz pineapple juice
juice of half a lime
1 tblsp brown sugar
2 tsp jerk seasoning
1 tsp salt
1 chilli, deseeded
2 spring onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic
Put everything into a blender and process for half a minute until smooth. Store in the fridge until ready to use - it needs at least 2 hours resting to infuse the flavour. Make a very good marinade for chicken joints.

Chinese Five-Spice Powder:
Very good with pork and duck. If the spices are whole, grind in a pestle and mortar or use a coffee grinder if you have one (if not pestle and mortar put the spices into a bowl and use the end of a rolling pin). This amount makes enough rub for 8 pork chops.
2 tblsp ground star anise
2 tsp ground fennel seeds
1 tsp ground cinnamon
half a tsp ground black pepper
good pinch of ground cloves
Mix everything together

Five-Spice Marinade:
4 fl.oz (100ml) dark soy sauce
2 tblsp finely grated root ginger
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tblsp sesame oil
2 tsp Five-spice powder
half a tsp chilli flakes.
Put everything into a bowl and whisk together to combine flavours. Rub this marinade into the meat and leave overnight in the fridge for the flavours to infuse. Use this marinade with pork, beef and any poultry.

Moving on to the festive period, here are two ways to make cranberry sauce, the cheap and cheerful (the one I tend to make) or the frankly more luxurious. They will both keep for up to a week in the fridge, so worth making in advance to heat up on the day.

Easy Cranberry Sauce: serves 6 - 8
approx 1 lb (450g) cranberries
5 fl oz orange juice
1 tblsp gran. sugar
Put everything into a pan and heat gently. The sauce will be ready when the cranberries begin to 'pop' (i.e. burst).

Top of the range Cranberry Sauce: serves 6 - 8
14 oz (400g) cranberries
zest and juice of one orange
2 tbslp dark brown sugar
3 tblsp port
4 cloves
half tsp ground ginger
1 oz (25g) butter
Put everything except the butter and orange zest into a pan and simmer gently until the cranberries burst*. Stir in the butter, check the flavour adding more sugar if desired. Put into a bowl and garnish with the orange zest before serving. (If wishing to prepare it ahead, cook up to * and then keep in the fridge. Reheat at serving time, stirring in the butter and garnishing with the orange zest.

The strange thing is we rarely hear of a DIY fanatic grumble about the hours spent fitting in a wardrobe, or putting up a flat-pack. Likewise gardeners will spend hours digging, sowing, cutting, pruning and love every minute of it. Cooking should be the same, not a chore, more a hobby that can be enjoyed every day and surprisingly relaxing, as many people I know who work long hours, come home and find real pleasure in cooking the evening meal.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Spice of Life

Variety, they say, is the spice of life. So today am posting up some recipes that are again, slightly different, and - as usual - give everyone a chance to put their own stamp on it.
Starting with a quiche which can use frozen broad beans (or other vegetable of your choice), any hard cheeses (although you can guess from the name, which one is used in this dish) , some oddments of ham, even a way to use up the scraps of short pastry that might have been collected when making mince pies.
Lancashire Broad Bean and Cheese Tart: serves 6
12 oz (350g) short crust pastry
10 oz (300g) frozen broad beans, thawed
4 oz (100g) cooked ham, diced
6 on (175g) Lancashire or other cheese
4 eggs
1 x 200ml tub creme fraiche
4 fl.oz (125ml) milk
salt and pepper
Roll out the pastry to fit a 9" (23cm) flan tin and bake blind at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 15 minutes, removing the foil or paper and baking beans, and leave to cool slightly. Reduce the oven temperature to 190C, 375F, gas 5. Boil the beans until just tender, drain, rinse with cold water and pat dry (much improved if the outer white skin is then taken off - tedious but worth it). Scatter the beans and ham over the base of the pastry case and crumble the cheese on top (or grate it if preferred). Whisk together the eggs, creme fraiche and the milk and season to taste. Pour this over the beans and ham and bake for about 30 minutes until golden and puffed (this time it can souffle up a bit as it is eaten whilst still hot). Remove from oven , place on a serving plate and serve warm, with salad.

Whether for buffet parties, or feeding small offspring, these mini-frittatas have the advantage of being able to be made several hours ahead, and just reheated in the oven. You could say they are almost a quiche without the pastry.
Mini-frittatas: makes 18
1 tsp olive oil
4 oz (100g) streaky bacon, diced
8 eggs
12 fl.oz (350ml) double cream
2 tsp each finely chopped parsley and chives
4 oz (100g) grated Parmesan
salt and pepper
Put the oil in a frying pan and fry the bacon until crisp. Drain on kitchen paper and set aside. Beat the eggs into the cream and season with a pinch of salt and plenty of black pepper. Stir in the herbs, Parmesan and the bacon.
Grease a 12 hole muffin tin with plenty of butter, and spoon in enough mixture to two-thirds fill each hole (there will be some mixture left for a further batch). Bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 20-25 minutes until firm. Carefully remove to a wire rack, clean and rebutter the tin and spoon in the remaining mixture (into 6 more holes), and bake as above. These can be made up to 4 hours ahead. Can be eaten, hot, warm or cold.
To reheat, place on a baking sheet and tent loosely with foil and place in oven at above temperatures for about 10-15 minutes.

Freezer space is at a premium at this time of year, but if you can find room, these mini Baked Alaskas can make an almost instant pudding.
Winter Snow Balls: makes 6 (F)
1 slab Madeira cake (or sponge slab)
1 tblsp brandy
6 big scoops vanilla ice-cream
4 egg whites
8 oz (225g) caster sugar
icing sugar to dust
Slice the Madeira cake into six and cut out approx a 3" (8cm) circle from each (or if using a home-made sponge slab made in a Swiss roll tin, cut the circles from that. Save/freeze all cake trimmings to use in trifles etc.
Place the circles onto a baking sheet that will fit in the freezer, sprinkle the brandy over the cake and place a scoop of ice-cream in the centre of each. Place them in the freezer while you make the meringue (if you wish you can make the meringue a day or two later). Make the meringue in the normal way, beating the egg whites and sugar together until stiff, then remove the cake/ice-cream from the fridge and, working quickly, spoon the meringue over the ice cream making sure it covers it all and comes right down the sides of the cake. Either cook immediately in a hot oven (230C, 450F, gas 8) for 3 minutes intil turning golden, or they can be frozen again, to be cooked when needed. To serve, sit the snowball on a plate and dust with icing sugar, serve immediately.

Booze free Mulled 'wine':
1 carton cranberry juice
1 carton orange juice
1 orange
8 cloves
1 cinnamon stick
freshly grated nutmeg
Stud the orange with cloves and cut into quarters. Place in a big pan together with the two fruit juices and cinnamon, adding a little nutmeg. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for five minutes. Remove from heat and either decant into a punch bowl or serve directly from the pan.
If serving in a bowl, a few more slices of orange floating on the top makes it look festive.
Experiment with other fruit combinations such as pomegranate and orange. Or for chilled drinks, apple and mango, pineapple and grapefruit.
For a great chilled drink, use two parts of pink grapefruit juice, two parts of lemonade, and 1 part of cranberry juice. Serve with slices of lime and plenty of ice cubes.
Tip: freeze cubes of lemon juice, lime juice and other berry juices to pop into drinks. These won't dilute the drink, just give it more flavour as it thaws.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Looking beyond the Obvious

Quiches, these start with a pastry case, often first baked blind for about 15 minutes (at which point it can be filled immediately, or can be left to get cool, and the filling and baking done later). The one thing to remember is make quite sure your pastry has not developed any cracks once part-baked or the filling will run out. A good precaution is to brush beaten egg or just the yolk, over the base and sides of the pastry case while it is still hot, this cooks on in the heat and helps to seal and also prevent the base getting too soggy. As to the pastry itself, use short-crust, to which extra flavour could be added by including grated cheese or a pinch of dried herbs to the flour, or could be rolled in if using bought.

Chefs always recommend, when lining the quiche tin or ring, to allow plenty of pastry and leave the overlaps intact to be shaved off when the filling has been cooked. Trimmed before baking, the pastry tends to shrink and so you can end up with rather a shallow filling or leakage. Sometimes I fold the overlap back, pinching and pressing it together, which makes it slightly thinner, and gives a higher, upstanding edge which tends to stay in place. This way, there is no waste.. Also, the quiche should be cooked until just set in the centre. It is often better to reduce the temperature and cook it for longer. Cooked too long at too high a heat the custard will rise up and souffle, which at the time looks fine, but once out of the oven will collapse and then the end result does not look good. Aim for a deep custard tart texture - which after all, is basically what it is.

The fillings are a matter of choice, almost anything you fancy (within reason of course and usually cooked), bound together in an egg custard. Grated cheese is often added to the custard, or could be just tiny cubes of feta or mozzarella tucked in with other fillings. Flaked cooked salmon or smoked haddock can also make another good base. Generally the cooked meats uses are ham and bacon.
Recently I have seen chefs cook the custard before pouring it into the pastry case, myself I just beat the eggs with the milk (or you could use cream, creme fraiche or thick yogurt), season well, and then either add the other ingredients, or pour the custard over them, then let it cook in the oven. Use one medium egg to each quarter pint of milk.
An asparagus quiche can be made using a can of drained asparagus, cutting off the spear heads, and blitzing the stalks with the milk to flavour the custard, arranging the spears on the top. There are so many variations with a quiche, I have recently seen a cauliflower one, which is virtually small florets of cooked cauliflower held together in an eggy cheesy sauce, almost cauliflower cheese en croute.

Sometime I make individual quiches in those Yorkshire Pudding tins with four sections. They can also be made smaller for buffet parties. Here is a recipe which might just encourage children to eat their greens, but also gives an idea of how a quiche is made from start to finish. If you wish for a large one, just make the one pastry case, double or treble the ingredients, and bake it for longer (about 25 mins).
Mini Cheese and Ham Quiches: makes 12
12 oz (350g) shortcrust pastry
4 fl oz (120ml) milk
1 egg, beaten
salt and pepper
2 oz (50g) grated Cheddar
3 oz (75g) cooked broccoli, roughly chopped
1 oz (25g) diced cooked ham
Roll out the pastry, fairly thinly, and cut into 3" (7.5cm) circles. Press into a bun tray.
Mix together the beaten egg and milk and season to taste. Share the vegetables amongst the pastry cases, put half the cheese into the egg/milk and pour this over the veggies. Sprinkle remaing cheese on top. Bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 12 -15 minutes or until golden. Carefully remove from the tins and leave to get cold.

This next is a completely different type of tart in that it has quite a number of ingredients in the filling, uses no milk, but still is classed as a quiche, so I hope will give inspire everyone to experiment. A slight feeling of deja vu here, so I either intended posting this or something similar before, or may have already done so, in which case I apologise.
Mediterranean Quiche: serves 6
12 oz (350g) shortcrust pastry
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
3 tblsp olive oil
1 x 400g) can chopped tomatoes
1 tsp chopped fresh oregano/marjoram
same of basil
4 oz (100g) blue cheese
4 eggs, beaten
salt and pepper
black olives, stoned and halved
freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Roll out the pastry to fit a large flan tin (remembering not to trim off the excess pastry). Line with baking parchment or foil, and fill with beans, flour, old coins, or whatever you normally use when baking 'blind'. Bake in a hot oven 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 12 minutes. Then remove the contents and reduce temperature to 180C/350F, gas 4.
Fry the onion and garlic in the oil until softened, add tomatoes and herbs and cook for a further 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Crumble the blue cheese and beat (or blitz) with the eggs until smooth, then add this to the tomato mixture. Season to taste.
Fill the flan case with this mixture and dot the top with the olives, sprinkling the Parmesan over the surface. Bake at the lower temperature for half an hour or until browning on the top. Can be eaten hot or cold.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Using Leftovers

Keep this next recipe to use when you have some tomatoes that are going soft (but still edible) and some pesto in the fridge that needs using up. And - if you have half a pack of puff pastry that also needs to be used, then you have all the makings with no extra expense and the satisfaction of nothing needed to be thrown away. Although the original recipe specifies using a pack of ready rolled pastry, to then be cut into circles, obviously you can roll out the block pastry and cut that into circles (myself I prefer squares which then leave virtually no trimmings to dispose of).
Tomato Pesto Tart: serves 1 - 2
at least 6 (eight if you can) ripe tomatoes
2 tbsp olive oil
half a pack of ready-rolled (or block) puff pastry
1 - 2 tblsp pesto
salt and pepper
Dunk the tomatoes into boiling water for 20 seconds, then remove and peel off their skins. Slice in half through their middle and lay out onto baking trays lined with oiled sheets of foil. Brush the cut surfaces with oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on the bottom shelf of the oven and then set the temperature to 200C, 400F, gas 6 ready for the pastry.
Roll out and cut one or two circles from the pastry, saucer size (6"/15cm), although as mentioned above, cutting squares is less wasteful of pastry - then brushing one side with plenty of oil place onto a foil-lined baking sheet, oiled side down. Then brush the top surface with oil. When the oven has reached full temperature, cook the pastry on the top shelf for 10 - 15 minutes until brown and starting to rise. Then, using a fish slice, flip the pastry over, so the under-cooked bottom is now on the top. Press down to flatten and cook on for a further 5 - 10 minutes or until risen and golden.
Remove from the oven, flatten again if necessary, and spread the pastry tops with the pesto and cover with the hot tomato halves. Can be eaten hot or cold.

Far be it from me to suggest giving sweets to the children, or I will have the nutritionists and health experts chasing me. However, what is wrong with making a few yourself, knowing they contain no adverse food colourings etc.
Golden Drops:
2 oz (50g) butter
2 tblsp honey
2 oz (50g) gran sugar
1 tsp concentrated orange juice
2 oz (55g) wholemeal flour
Melt the fat (could be done in the microwave) and add to the honey and sugar. Mix well and stir in the orange juice. Sprinkle in the flour and mix together.
Drop small spoonfuls of the mixture onto greased baking sheets, allowing room to spread. Flatten tops slightly with a fork. Bake at 170C, 325F, gas 3 for 7 - 10 minutes or until golden. Leave to cool for five minutes on the tin, then remove to a cake airer and leave to firm up.

Coconut Barfi:
1 pint ( 670ml) milk
6 oz (170g) desiccated coconut
3 oz (85g) gran sugar
pinch ground cardamon
1 tblsp rosewater
Bring the milk to the boil, then simmer for 10 - 15 minutes, stir from time to time to prevent it boiling over. Stir in the coconut, simmer for a further minute, then add the sugar, cardamon, and rosewater. Cook gently, stirring frequently, until the mixture becomes thick and dry, then turn into a shallow dish, smoothing the top. Leave to get completely cold and firm before cutting into squares.

Sesame Crunch Munch:
8 oz (225g) sesame seeds
2 oz (55g) gran sugar
10 oz (285g) honey
Put the seeds into a dry frying pan and toast gently for around 5 minutes, stirring to prevent burning. When pale golden, remove from the heat and set to one side.
Into a saucepan put the sugar and honey, bring to the boil and stir in the seeds, then boil slowly for about 15 minutes until the mixture reaches hard crack stage* (154C/310F).
Pour onto a greased baking sheet and tip (or use a knife) to spread it thinly, mark into squares and when cool, cut or snap into individual pieces.

*If you have no cooking thermometer you can judge the various temperatures by dropping a little of the syrup into a cup of cold water and seeing what happens to it. As it gets hotter, to the crack stage, the testing can be done by dipping in a fork and lifting it high up and seeing what happens when cold air hits it. Always remove the pan from the heat while testing as once it gets to syrup stage, the temperature can rise very rapidly.
Here is a guide:
smooth: 105C/220F. Sugar clings to fingers in a sticky film.
soft ball: 114C/237F. Syrup can be rolled into a soft ball with the fingers.
firm ball: 119C/247F. Syrup form a firm but pliable ball.
soft crack: 137C/280F. Separates into threads which break easily.
hard crack: 154C, 310F. Separates into hard brittle threads
caramel: 171C, 310F. Sugar goes much darker.

Carrot Balls:
8 oz (225g) gran. sugar
3 tblsp water
1 lb (450g) finely grated carrots
juice of 1 small lemon
1 oz (25g) chopped almonds or pistachio nuts
sugar or nuts for coating
Dissolve the sugar in 2 tblsp of the water. Add the grated carrot and cook gently, without stirring, until the carrots are soft. Add the remaining water and the lemon juice and continue cooking until the mixture has thickend to a firm paste. Stir in the nuts.
Turn the mixture onto a lightly greased tray and leave to cool slightly, then - using wetted hands - form the mixture into small balls and roll these in finely chopped or crushed nuts or sugar. Leave to get cold before eating.

Apricot and Orange Slices:
5 oz (140g) no-soak apricots
2 oz (50g) desiccated coconut
1 tblsp orange zest
1 tblsp concentrated orange juice
Chop or mince/process the apricots to make a paste then stir in most of the coconut, the orange peel and juice, and mix together thoroughly. Divide into two, and roll each into a sausage shape, then roll these into the remaining coconut. Wrap in clingfilm and chill for serveral hours before cutting into slices and serving.

Concentrated orange juice is mentioned in more than one of the above recipes. At one time you could buy frozen concentrated orange juice, which would normally be thawed and diluted. If not available these days, then use some juice from a carton and measure out double the amount needed and boil it down by half to reduce. This will give a stronger flavour.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Chill Out

So what's the recipe today Jim? Perhaps a few using store cupboard ingredients and veggies from the fridge that might need using up. Beginning with:
Ratatouille Omelette: serves 4 to 6
1 onion, thinly sliced
3 tblsp olive oil
1 aubergine, sliced
1 - 2 courgettes, sliced
1 red pepper, deseeded, cut into strips
2 tomatoes, skinned, deseeded, chopped
6 eggs
2 tblsp cold water
1 oz (25g) butter
3 fl.oz (75mil) double cream
7 oz (75g) hard cheese, pref Gruyere, grated
Saute the onion in the oil in a large frying pan. When softened add the aubergine, courgettes and pepper, cover and cook for about 20 minutes until soft but not mushy (check from time to time). Add the tomatos and cook for a further 5 minutes.
Using a large bowl, beat the eggs with the water, then stir in the cooked vegetables. Heat the butter in a 10" (25cm) width frying pan and when butter is frothy, pour in the egg/vegetable mix and cook over medium heat until the eggs have set. Remove from heat, pour over the cream, covering this with the grated cheese, and place under a pre-heated grill for a few minutes until browned.

Use-what-you've-got Salad: serves 6
1 x 4oog can tuna (or salmon, or mackerel)
1 x 420 can cannellini beans (or red kidney beans)
1 x 420 can mixed beans (or butter beans)
4 oz (100g) Red Leicester cheese (or any other) cubed
9 oz (250g) cherry tomatoes, halved
1 sweet onion (or bunch spring onions) finely chopped
1 bag or equivalent mixed salad leaves
salad dressing of your choice
Drain the fish (if you haven't canned fish, could used chopped cooked canned frankfurters or ordinary cooked sausages). Mix together the drained beans then place in a bowl with the flaked fish (or whatever), the cheese, tomatoes and the onion. Pour over chosen dressing and toss well. Line the serving dish with the salad leaves and spoon over the tossed salad. Serve a.s.a.p.

Bean Burritos: serves 2
1 x 415 can baked beans
1 x 215g can red kidney beans
4 soft flour tortillas
1 Little Gem lettuce, shredded
1 carrots, grated
1 red or green dessert apple, grated
Drain the red beans, and rinse. Drain as much sauce as possible from the baked beans but do not rinse (their sauce can be frozen to add to a spag bol or something). Put both beans in to a pan and heat gently until warmed through. Stir in the carrots and apple. Heat the tortillas as per pack instructions, and stuff with the lettuce and bean mixture. Eat while still warm.
Variations: Include chopped ham or cooked bacon to make a meatier version. Add grated cheese to the basic for added protein. Include a spoonful of pickle to the beans for a spicier version.

Almost a Jammy Dodger: makes 12
8 oz (200g) self-raising flour
4 oz (100g) caster sugar
4 oz (100g) butter
1 egg, lightly beaten
4 tblsp chosen jam
Either using hands or do the lot in the food processor, rub together the flour, butter and sugar until like breadcrumbs. Add only enough egg to hold the mixture together, making a firm dough. Using floured hands, shape the dough into a roll about 2" (5cm) diameter. Cover with cling film and chill for half an hour, then remove film and slice the roll into 2cm (roughly 3/4") thick and place on a baking sheet, leaving room for them to spread. Make a hollow in the top of each biscuit by using the end of a wooden spoon. Drop a tsp of jam into this. Bake for 10-16 minutes at 190C, 365C, gas 5 until slightly risen and turning gold. Cool on a wire rack.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Stores for Starters

Just a couple or recipes today . The first is a bit of a luxury, but far, far cheaper than the real thing. With the addition of a few ingredients not mentioned above, but which we may already have, there should be no need to shop for anything extra, as if you would anyway.

Cheats' Caviare:
3 tblsp brandy
5 prunes, stoned and chopped
1 x 250g pack cooked beetroot, chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
juice half a lemon
2 oz (50g) walnuts, chopped
Pour the brandy over the prunes and leave until they have plumped up (you can speed this up by heating the prunes in the brandy then leaving them to soak for half an hour). Place in a food processor, together with the beetroot and garlic and blitz until smooth. Stir in the lemon juice and the walnuts. Serve on blinis with a dollop of sour cream or creme fraiche on top.

This final recipe is an interesting version of the Welsh Teabread. To make it extra special soak the dried fruit overnight in a little brandy, rum, or red wine.
Bara Brith: serves 12
1 lb (450g) mixed dried fruit
mug hot strong black tea
4 oz (100g) butter
2 tbslp orange marmalade
2 eggs, beanten
1 lb (450g) self-raising flour
6 oz (175g) soft brown sugar
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
4 tblsp milk
2 oz (50g) demerara sugar (to finish)
Put the dried fruit in a bowl and pour over the hot tea. Cover and leave to soak overnight, the next day draining off excess liquid.
Put the butter and marmalade into a pan and heat until the butter has melted. Leave to cool for five minutes, then beat in the eggs..
Mix together the flour, sugar and spices, then stir in the fruit, the butter mixture, and stir until well mixed. The mixture should be of a dropping consistency, add more milk if necessary.
Spoon into a greased and base-lined loaf tin (2lb/900g) and level the top. Sprinkle over the demerara sugar. Bake for 1 - 1 1/2 hours at 180C, gas 4 until dark golden and a skewer inserted comes out clean. If becoming too brown early on in the baking, tent with foil. Cool in the tin. Serve sliced and buttered.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Baking in Bulk

Traybakes. The basic mix is given, and then additional flavours/ingredients can be added to suit your needs - suggestions for these follow. In every case (apart from one) the tin used is a greased and base-lined 12" x 9" (30 x 23cm) roasting type tin (in other words deeper than a Swiss roll tin) and the oven temperature is 180C, 350F, gas 4 . As to how many cakes can be cut from the slab depends upon what size you want. Some guides are given.

Basic Tray-bake Sponge Cake Mix: (F)
8 oz (225g) soft margarine
8 oz (225g) caster sugar
10 oz (275g) self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
4 eggs
4 tblsp milk
Sift the flour with the baking powder, then put into a bowl with the rest of the ingredients and beat well together until completely blended. Pour into the prepared tin and smooth right into the corners and across the top to make a level surface. Bake for about 35 - 40 minutes. It will be done when the cake has shrunk slightly away from the sides of the tin and when pressed in the centre springs back. Leave to cool in the tin. Will keep for up to a week in an airtight container.
The freezing instructions are the same for all variations based on the above. Overwrap and pack into rigid containers, interleaving layers with kitchen paper. Use within 3 months with the exception of the Gingerbread which will freeze for 6 months. Thaw at room temperature for approx. one hour. If intending to ice any cakes, this should be done after thawing.

Marble Cake: Blend one tblsp cocoa powder with 1 tblsp hot water. Spoon in dollops of the plain mix into the baking tin and dot spoonfuls of the cocoa paste between them. Swirl with a knife to give a marbling effect. Then bake as above.
Lemon Cake: Add grated zest of 2 lemons to the above mix before beating. Ice cakes with lemon icing (after thawing if frozen) by mixing 3 tblsp lemon juice with 8 oz (225g) icing sugar.
Tip: if wishing to ice the cakes later, freeze the juice of the lemons in a covered container.

Orange and Sultana: To the basic mix add the zest of two oranges and 8 oz (225g) of sultanas, stirring the sultanas into the mixture once it has been beaten. Pour into the tin, following basic directions. If you wish for a different topping, bake for 25 minutes then sprinkle over demerara sugar and continue baking for the full time.

Coffee and Walnut: Follow the basic recipe but use only 2 tblsp milk and include two tblsp coffee essence (or make up the milk to four tblsp by stirring in a couple or so teaspoons of Camp coffee. If using instant coffee, use 1 tsp coffee granules to 1 tblsp water). Stir in 3 oz chopped walnut pieces (pieces being cheaper than halves), after the initial beating. Then continue as per the basic recipe.

Coconut and Orange: Follow the basic recipe replacing some of the milk with the juice from 2 oranges (firstly removing their zest for the topping). Follow the basic recipe, but after 20 minutes baking spread over the following topping, then return to oven for a further 15 - 20 minutes until golden.
2 oz (50g) butter, melted
4 oz (100g) brown sugar
4 tblsp milk
4 oz (100g) desiccated coconut
grated zest of two oranges
Mix ingredients together and spread over cake following above directions.

Gingerbread Tray Bake: makes 30 squares
3 oz (75g) soft margarine
3 oz (75g) brown sugar
3 tblsp black treacle
9 oz (250g) plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
3 - 4 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
half a pint (300ml) warm milk
3 eggs, beaten
Cream together the margarine, sugar and treacle until well blended. Sift together the flour, baking powder and ginger, and stir this into the creamed mixture. Dissolve the bicarb in the milk then beat this into the mixture along with the eggs. Pour into the prepared tin and bake at same temperature as the rest but for 50 - 6o minutes until firm and risen. Cool in the tin before cutting. Ice top with 3 oz (75g) sieved icing sugar mixed with just enough hot water (2 - 3 tsp) and either using a piping bag, or at worst - a spoon - drizzle over zig-zags of icing over each little cake and decorate each with pieces of chopped crystallised ginger or stem ginger. Will keep for 2 weeks in an airtight container.

This next traybake makes use of the nutty shortbread recipe given either yesterday or the day before, but omit the nuts. Note the different sized tin and a slightly higher oven temperature.
Almond Slices: makes 16 slices
1 batch shortbread mix (without the nuts)
3 tblsp red jam
1 tsp almond essence
12 oz (350g) of the Basic Cake Mix
1 oz (25g) flaked almonds
Make the shortbread and press into the bottom of a greased baking tin 11"x 7" (27 x 17cm). Prick the base and bake for 10 minutes at 190c, 375F, gas 5. Remove from oven and spread the jam over the base. Add almond essence to the basic cake mix and spread this gently over the jam, smoothing the top and sprinkle over the almonds, as evenly as possible. Return to the oven and bake for a further 25 - 30 minutes or until risen and golden and firm to the touch. Turn out whole, upside down with the shortbread base uppermost, onto a wire cake airer. Cut when cold, through the shortbread down through the cake, into slices.

The basic mix being easy to adapt, try adding a few chopped glace cherries and flaked almonds, or chopped glace pineapple and coconut. Just remember if you add extra liquid by the way of citrus juice, you may need to reduce the milk by the same amount. Or if adding more dry ingredients, either reduce the flour or add a little extra liquid. Always have the fats at room temperature, or what I call 'spreadable' ('cos winter and summer room temperatures are not the same) , and - to make the cakes a bit more luxurious, you could use butter instead of margarine. On the whole though, soft margarine does make a good cake and that this the only good thing I can say about it.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Let's Go Nuts

For this first recipe I am sticking closely to the recommended ingredients, but there is no reason why you can't use other green vegetables, or a red or yellow pepper if you wish. Likewise, use different herbs. By using the recipe as a guide, choping and changing the ingredients, each time you make the same dish you can give itan entirely new flavour and even appearance.
Peanut Paella: serves 4 (V)
2 tsp groundnut oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, peeled and chopped
3 oz (75g) peanuts
6 oz (150g) long-grain rice (pref. brown rice)
2 big ribs celery, sliced
8 oz (225g) mix of green veg (beans, courgettes, peas)
1 green pepper, deseeded and sliced into strips
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp marjoram/oregano chopped
2 bay leaves
1 pint (570ml) boiling water
1 tblsp soy sauce
3 tsp lemon juice
salt and pepper
Heat the oil in a large frying pan and stir in the onion, saute for 5 minutes then add the garlic. When the onions are soft, stir in the peanuts and the rice, stir to coat the grains then cook for five minutes. Next, stir in the celery, the mixed green vegetables, the pepper, cumin seeds and the marjoram, and cook on for a further five minutes.
Tuck in the bay leaves and pour over the boiling water (this amount is based on using brown rice - white may take less), cover and simmer for 30 mins (or 20 if using white rice), or until all the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is tender.
Stir in the soy sauce, lemon juice, and season to taste. Remove the bay leaves and serve.

This next recipe uses ready-made standard pancakes, but a similar dish could be made using flour tortillas. Just heat each pancake/tortilla before filling.
Tex-Mex Pancakes: serves 4 (V)
8 ready made pancakes (warmed through)
8 oz (225g) string beans, chopped into inch pieces
2 tblsp groundnut oil
1 onion, chopped
half tsp turmeric powder
pinch chilli powder
1 tsp water
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes, drained
4 oz (100g) peanuts
salt and pepper
Boil the bean until tender, then drain and put to one side. Heat the oil in a frying pan and stir in the onion, saute for about five minutes until softened. Mix together the turmeric and chilli powders with the tsp of water to make a paste, then stir this into the onions. Fry for a further 2 minutes before adding the tomatoes and the peanuts.
Simmer for five minutes, add the green beans and when these are heated through, season to taste. Fill each pancake with the mixture and fold into quarters or, instead roll them up. Serve with salad.

American Roll Up: serves 4 - 6 (V)
8 oz (225g) wholemeal flour
1 tsp easy-blend dried yeast
5 fl oz (140ml) tepid water
2 tsp olive oil
1 lb (450g) onions, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
2 tblsp tomato puree
2 tblsp basil leaves, chopped
4 oz (100g) peanuts, chopped
2 oz (50g) black or green olives, pitted and chopped
3 oz (75g) Cheddar and Mozarella cheese, grated
Mix together the flour, yeast and enough tepid water to make a firm dough. Knead for up to 10 minutes on a floured board until smooth, the place in a greased bowl, cover and leave in a warm place to rise for half an hour.
While the dough is rising, put the oil in a pan and fry the onion and garlic until softened, then stir in the tomatoes, the tomato puree, basil, peanuts and olives. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 - 20 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
When the dough is ready, knock back and give it another good knead. Roll out half into a rectangle 11" x 7" (28 x 18cm) and place on a sheet of baking parchment or greaseproof paper. Spread half the fill over the dough and roll up like a swiss roll. Wrap the paper around it to keep it in shape while you repeat the procedure with the second piece of dough.
Remove the paper, and place the two rolls on a baking sheet and sprinkle over the cheeses. Bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 25 minutes or until the bread has cooked through and the cheeses melted and golden. Slice diagonally, roughly an inch and a half , and arrange slices in an overlapping ring or oval on a warm serving plate.

This next dish will serve four as a main, or 8 as a starter.
Protein Packed Peppers: (V)
4 bell peppers (pref 2 red, 2 green)
knob of butter
half an ounce (15g) wholemeal flour
5 fl.oz (140ml) milk
4 oz (100g) peanuts
1 large red eating apple, cored, diced
3 ribs celery, diced
1 shallot or 4 spring onions, sliced
salt and pepper
Cut the peppers in half and remove the seeds and pithy bits, then plunge the peppers into boiling water to blanch for 5 minutes. Drain well, turning them upside down to remove as much water as possible.
Melt the butter in a pan and add the flour and stir/cook for 2 minutes, then gradually whisk in the milk and simmer until thickened. Remove from heat and add remaining ingredients, seasoning to taste. Divide and stuff the mixure into the pepper shells and place, stuffed side up, in a shallow ovenproof dish, adding a little water to the base. Cover with foil and bake at 190C, 375F, gas 5 for 25 or so minutes. Serve hot.

This next dish is eaten cold and merely a matter of assembling pre-cooked ingredients. The rice can be prepared a day in advance and kept chilled in the fridge. The chicken could be either cooked chicken breasts, or the final pieces of white flesh taken from a roasting chicken before the carcase is used for stock.
Spicy Indian Chicken in a Rice Ring: serves 4
8 oz (225g) long-grain rice
1 pint (570ml) chicken or vegetable stock
1 tsp turmeric
12 oz (350g) cooked chicken, chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
4 spring onions, chopped
1 tsp curry powder or paste
5 fl.oz (140ml) mayonnaise
4 oz (100g) sultanas
4 oz (100g) peanuts
4 oz (100g seedless grapes, halved
Heat the stock, stir in the turmeric and rice and cook until the rice is tender. Drain and pack into a greased ring mould, cover and cool (if making in advance, cool as quickly as possible and keep chilled in the fridge for no longer than 24 hours).
Place the remaining ingredients into a bowl and gently mix together. Unmould the rice ring onto a serving plate and fill the centre with the curried chicken.

Now to a dessert, this time the nuts can be almonds, hazlenuts, or just chopped mixed nuts. Omit the nuts and the basic shortbread can be used as an underlay instead of pastry in Bakewell tart or Almond Slices for instance.
Crunchy Nut Shortbread: (F)
12 oz (350g) plain flour
8 oz (225g) butter
4 oz (100g) caster sugar
1 oz (25g) chopped nuts
Mix the flour, butter and sugar together to make a firm dough. Press into a round, shallow, 11" x 7" (27.5 x 17.5cm) lightly greased tin (but use an oblong tin if you prefer to cut the shortbread into fingers). Prick all over with a fork and scatter the nuts on top. Bake for 30 mins at 190C, 375F, gas 5 until golden. Remove from the oven, and while still in the tin, cut into 16 triangles. Leave to firm up, and then carefully remove to a cake airer until cold.
To freeze. Store in plastic containers, placing layers of kitchen paper under and between layers of shortbread (soaks up any butteriness). Keeps for up to 6 months.
To thaw: place shortbread on a serving plate and leave at room temperature for one hour before eating.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Sweet and Tempting

Using the remains of a can of condensed milk was discussed recently and here are three more suggestions. The first recipe makes a topping for chosen cooked or fresh fruits; the second is a dessert in its own right. The third is a filling intended to go onto a biscuit base to make a cheesecake, but if a little gelatine was added and stiffly whipped whites of eggs folded in at the end, it could turn into a mousse?
Pistachio Cream Topping: makes 6 helpings
4 -5 fl.oz (125 -150ml) condensed milk
11 fl.oz (300ml) whipping cream
3 oz (75g) amaretti or macaroon biscuits, crushed
2 oz (50g) pistachio nuts, shelled and chopped
Lightly whip the condensed milk and the cream together, then fold in the crushed biscuits and the nuts. Chill until ready to spoon a dollop over prepared fruits.

Saint Clement's Pannacotta: serves 3
half a 405g can of Condensed Milk
2 oz (50g) creme fraiche
zest and juice of 1 small lemon
5 fl oz fresh orange juice
2 tsp orange flower water (optional)
half a 15g sachet of gelatine
Whisk together the condensed milk and the creme fraiche, gradually beating in the lemon zest and juice, the orange juice and the orange flower water (if using). Dissolve the gelatine as per instructions, allowing to cool but not set, then whisk it into the mixture.
Pour into 3 individual pudding basins, ramekin dishes or small teacups, and chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours or until set. Dip each container briefly into hot water to loosen, then turn out onto a plate. Serve with orange segments or what you will.
Tip: to make a low fat version, use Condensed Milk Light, and low-fat creme fraiche.

Citrus Cheesecake Filling: serves 6 -8 when completed
6 oz (150g) Condensed Milk
6 oz (150g) soft cream cheese or fromage frais
zest and juice of one lemon
zest and juice of one lime
Mix together the condensed milk, cheese and citrus zests together. Gradually beat in the juices until the mixture has thickened (at this point it would be poured onto a biscuit base and left to set into a cheesecake).
To turn it into a mousse, dissolve half a packet of gelatine in the warmed fruit juices, then cool before beating in. Lighten to a mousse by folding in one or two beaten egg whites.

This next recipe is for a starter, although made half- or even quarter-sized could make a good buffet 'bite' to end the meal.
Caramelised Pears with Feta: serves 4 as a starter
1 small ciabatta loaf (or French Stick)
olive oil
1 oz (25g) butter
1 tblsp caster sugar
4 small pears, peeled, halved and cored
4 tblsp Marsala
rocket leaves
4 oz (100g) feta cheese
Slice the ciabatta diagonally into four slices (each about an inch thick). If making buffet bites, then take 8 or more slices from a French stick. Brush the bread with olive oil and place on a baking sheet and crisp up in an oven 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 10 minutes. Set aside.
Put the butter and sugar into a pan and heat until the sugar has dissolved and the butter begins to foam, then place in the pears, toss to coat and cook, stirring gently, for 5 minutes. Add the wine and cook on for a few minutes longer until the pears are coated in a thick syrup and just tender. Leave to cool slightly.
Slice the feta thinly into bite-sized pieces. Place rocket leaves on top of the bruschetta. lay a few feta slices over the leaves and cover with two warm pear halves (or one pear half - or quarter - if making buffet bites). Drizzle over any remaining syrup and serve immediately.

The final recipe today should suit all you biscuit and chocolate lovers. Easily made but a mite tedious to cook as they are baked in small batches, but infinitely rewarding, and a very good way of making an economy ice-cream look more-than. The bonus is they can be frozen.
Chocolate-tipped Cigarettes Russes: (F)
2 egg whites
4 oz (100g) caster sugar
2 oz (50g) plain flour
2 oz (50g) butter, melted
4 oz (100g) dark chocolate
Put the egg whites in a bowl and beat in the sugar, then stir in the flour. Gently stir in the cooled butter. Drop teaspoons of the mixture, well apart, on a greased baking sheet, spreading them into oblongs with the back of the spoon. Only bake 3 or 4 at a time or they will harden too quickly. Bake at 220C, 425F, gas 7 for about 4 minutes or until golden brown at the edges. Working quickly, remove each biscuit with a fish slice and wrap around a greased wooden spoon handle (if you want them thinner use a thick wooden knitting needle). Hold in place for a few seconds until set, then slide off onto a wire rack and continue with the next (if the handle/needle is long enough you can wrap around more than one at a time).
When all biscuits are baked and cooled, melt the chocolate in a bowl over simmering water, and dip/coat half the biscuit. Stand upright in a glass or mug to allow the chocolate to set.
These can be stored in an airtight container for a few days.
To freeze: when cold pack into a rigid container, packing any spaces with tissue or kitchen paper to prevent them breaking. Seal and use within 3 months. To serve, thaw on a cake airer for about 10 minutes.

Friday, November 09, 2007

More To Store

Scones are generally best eaten whilst still warm and certainly as fresh as possible, but they do freeze well and can be refreshed by giving them a few minutes at defrost in the microwave. And speaking of which - this particular scone recipe is for microwave baking - which means they can be made in minutes. If you prepare up to the liquid stage, and then bag up the dry ingredients (note: adding only half the coconut - read through the recipe before you start) to store in the freezer (yes, freezers are good for dry ingredients as well as the not-so-dry), this means you can make and bake in less than five minutes as all you need do is add the milk, then cook and enjoy.
Coconut Scones: makes 8 (F)
8 oz (225g) plain flour
pinch salt
1 tblsp baking powder
2 oz (50g) butter, softened
1 tsp caster sugar
3 oz (75g) desiccated coconut
5 fl oz (140ml) milk
Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder. Rub in the butter until like fine crumbs (this could be done in a food processor if making in bulk). Stir in the sugar and half the coconut (bag up and freeze at this point if wishing to make a dry mix). Mix to a soft dough with the milk.
Knead gently on a floured board and roll into a half inch (1cm) thick round. Cut into 8 triangles, or smaller 2" (5cm) rounds. Preheat a microwave browning dish for 5 minutes then lightly brush this with oil. Place scones on dish, if triangles, points towards the centre, and cook on full power for one minute. Turn over and cook for a further 1 1/2 - 2 minutes longer until firm to the touch. Sprinkle scones with remaining coconut. Serve hot or cold, split and buttered with stewed fruits or jam.
To freeze scones: cool, and open freeze on a baking tray. When frozen, bag up and use within three months. To serve from freezer: microwave on defrost for 15 minutes. Leave to stand for half an hour before eating.

Cheescakes freeze well, so here is the basic recipe with a choice of variations. Instead of making them in round moulds, you could use a loaf tin which makes it easier to cut off a single serving before returning to the freezer. For the base use either all digestive, or all rich tea biscuits, or a mixture of both (or any broken bits from the bottom of the biscuit barrel). Don't miss the bit about freezing cream rosettes.
Basic N0-Bake Cheesecake: serves 8 -10 (F)
8 oz (225g) biscuits, crushed
3 oz (75g) butter
1 tblsp golden syrup
8 oz (225g) cream cheese, softened
8 oz (225g) curd or cottage cheese
3 oz (75g) icing sugar
half an ounce (15g) gelatine crystals
3 tblsp hot water
1 tblsp lemon juice
5 fl.oz (140ml) plain yogurt
2 eggs, separated
Make the base by melting the butter with the syrup and stirring in the biscuit crumbs. Press into a lined, 8" (20cm) loose-based tin. Then chill while making the cheesecake.
Sprinkle the gelatine over the hot water, leave to stand five minutes then stir, by this time it should have dissolved. Leave to cool.
Beat together the cheeses, icing sugar, lemon juice, egg yolks, yogurt and dissolved gelatine. When smooth, at this point chosen flavourings can be added (see below). Whisk egg whites until stiff then fold into the cheesecake mixture. Pour this onto the biscuit base and chill until set. Remove tin and paper. If not intending to freeze, add chosen topping and serve.
To freeze: open freeze until solid (without toppings) then wrap, seal and eat within one month. To serve: unwrap, place onto serving plate and thaw at room temperature for four hours and add chosen topping. Remember, not to add decorations before freezing.
flavouring suggestions:
Citrus: stir the zest and juice of one orange and one lime into the basic mix before folding in the beaten egg whites. Decorate the top when ready to serve with rosettes of whipped cream* and a sprinkle of grated chocolate
honey and coconut: stir 4 tblsp runny honey, and 4 oz (100g) toasted desiccated coconut into the basic mix before folding in whites. Top with a pattern of toasted coconut, cream rosettes if you wish.
coffee and cream: stir 4 tblsp Camp coffee and 2 tblsp coffee liqueur (Tia Maria for example) into the basic mix, before adding the beaten whites. Dissolve 1/2 oz gelatine and 3 more tblsp Camp coffee in 5 fl.oz (140ml) very hot water. Make up to half to threequarters of a pint with iced water. When beginning to thicken, pour over the top of the cheesecake whilst still in the tin. Chill until set, then remove tin and paper. Decorate with rosettes of cream, sprinkling over grated chocolate over the cream.
mint choc chip: stir 4 oz (100g) grated chocolate and 1 -2 tsp peppermint essence into the basic mix, plus a few drops of green food colouring, then fold in the beaten whites. Decorate the top with cream rosettes into which a splinter of an After Eight mint has been tucked. Note: this cuts better using a hot knife.
*Cream Rosettes: Add icing sugar (to taste) to double cream and whip until very thick. Using a piping bag with a large star nozzle, pipe rosettes onto a baking sheet lined with parchment, and open freeze. Once firm, bag up. Use with two months - great for decorating desserts, and they thaw quite quickly.