Sunday, January 20, 2008

Kitchen Chat.

Today, eggs are the theme. Cheap enough compared to the more expensive (meat and fish) proteins. Large eggs always have large whites, so when frying two eggs, I break one whole egg into a bowl and just the yolk of another, and then carefully tip them into the frying pan. The white saved can be used in other dishes (see below for suggestions). It can even be frozen.
If lucky enough to fry four eggs (two whites, four yolks), the two whites would be enough to make meringues and even several servings of soft-scoop ice-cream.

The first recipe today is a light meal in its own right. Cheaper even if you boil your own gammon joint and slice it thinly for the ham (those of us who have now bought electric slicing machines know that within a very short time it will pay for itself). Within the recipe is a secondary one - the making of Hollandaise sauce, which uses only the yolk of an egg. Don't discard the white. Find a recipe (as in a couple below this) in which it can be used.
Eggs Bendict: serves 2
4 oz (100g) butter, melted and cooled
1 egg yolk
1 tblsp warm water
1 tsp lemon juice
salt and pepper
1 flat round bap
4 slices ham
2 whole eggs
freshly chopped parsley
First make the Hollandaise sauce. Pour the clear melted butter into a bowl, leaving the solids behind. Put the egg yolk into another bowl and whisk in the warm water until thick, then slowly whisk in the butter until the mixture has thickened. Whisk in the lemon juice and season to taste.
Half fill a frying pan with water and add a squeeze of lemon juice. Bring to the simmer. Meanwhile cut the bap in half and toast both sides. Break each of the whole eggs (best done in individual cups) and slide the eggs into the pan of water. Turn out the heat, and leave to stand for 5 -6 minutes or until the white has set but the yolk still soft. Cover the pan only if you wish the steam to cook the top of the eggs - which tends to make them look white, so less attractive on the plate.
Top the toasted baps with the ham, and top each with an egg. Sprinkle over parsley to garnish, the nspoon over the hollandaise sauce.

Coming up is an omelette-with-a-difference in that the whites are separated from the yolks and then whipped. Two eggs, two whites as per the standard recipe, but if using a large egg, I think one large whole egg plus one egg white would work (to use up the spare white from the preceding recipe). The recipe given is for a savoury dish, but the basic souffle omelette is very often served with a fruit or jam filling, as a dessert. So plenty of choice there to choose your own fillings.
Savoury Souffle Omelette: serves one
2 oz (50g) thin salami or pepperoni
2 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 oz (50g) green olived, pitted and halved
1 tblsp olive oil
1 tblsp fresh herbs of your choice (such as marjoram)
2 eggs, separated
2 tblsp warm water
salt and pepper
half ounce (15g) butter
Put the oil in a pan. Chop the meat into thin strips and fry in the oil, together with the tomato for 2 - 3 minutes. Then add the herbs. Remove from heat but keep warm.
Place the egg yolks in a bowl, add a little seasoning and the warm water and whisk together. Using a separate bowl (and very clean whisks) beat the egg whites until thick, then fold into the yolks until evenly mixed, but do this carefully to keep in as much air as possible.
Melt the butter in an omelette pan and when hot, put in the souffle mixture, spreading it as evenly as possible. Cook for a couple or so minutes until the base has set, then pop under a preheated grill for a further 1 - 2 minutes to set the top. Place the warm filling on one half of the omeltte, folding the other half over. Slide onto a plate and serve with a green salad.

One advantage with this next dish is that a variety of different vegetables can be used to make the base in which to break the eggs. Start with the basic recipe (fine as it stands) and then try adding chopped cooked potatoes (canned new potatoes would be ideal), or slices of courgettes, maybe halved baby tomatoes, sliced mushrooms, even peas and/or sweetcorn. Fora meatier version, fry bacon bits with the onions. Or add chunks of cooked ham or chorizo. This is how a recipe can be adapted, so you will see versions of this, each with a different name in books and mags. Most recipes are adaptions of a basic, which is where the fun comes in cooking - make up your own version. Add or adjust seasoning so that the dish can taste as you wish it to be. A dash of paprika, or a few herbs, maybe a few drops of Tabasco, or even a touch of curry paste - each will add a subtle and different flavour to the dish (or not so subtle if you are heavy handed). Dare I suggest you could adapt this basic recipe to make something different for each day of the week, fortnight or even a month?
What shall I call it today? with Fried Eggs: serves 4
3 different coloured bell peppers
1 large onion, sliced
1 tblsp olive oil
seasoning to your choice
4 eggs
herbs of your choice to garnish
Cut the peppers in half and remove stem and seeds. Slice into strips. Put the oil in a frying pan and add the onion, fry for 2 minutes then add the peppers, stir-fry for a further 6 - 8 minutes. until softened.
Stir in seasoning used. Make four holes in the mixture and into each break one egg. Cook, uncovered for 10 minutes until set. Garnish with herbs and serve straight from the pan.

Savoury souffles are often avoided because of the danger of them flopping the minute they are taken from the oven, and also they often appear difficult to make. Basically they start with a thickish white sauce, to which are added egg yolks, and whatever ingredient you want for flavouring, and then beaten egg whites folded in to make it rise in the oven. Nothing difficult in that.
To make things even easier, I offer a recipe for a souffle which is twice-cooked. Either cooked in two parts, or part-baked the day before serving, and then finished off in the oven when ready to dish up. Makes a good starter for a party.
Individual Cheese Souffles: serves 4
1 oz (25g) butter
1 oz (25g) flour
1 tsp mustard
half a pint (300ml) milk
4 oz (100g) mature Cheddar cheese, grated
salt and pepper.
3 eggs, separated
Melt the butter in a small saucepan and stir in the flour. Cook for one minute then add the mustard and the milk. Bring to the boil, whisking all the time, until thickened. Simmer for one minute. Add half the cheese, remove from heat, season to taste, then leave to get cool.
Once the cheese sauce has cooled down, stir in the egg yolks. Whisk the whites until stiff and using a metal spoon, gently stir a little of the white into the sauce mixture to slacken it, then carefully fold in the rest of the beaten whites.
Fill four ramekin dishes three-quarters full with the souffle mixture and stand them in a roasting tin. Pour water into the tin to come halfway up the sides of the containers. Bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and slide a knife around the edge of the souffles and turn each out onto a baking sheet (at this point they can be, cooled, covered and kept in the fridge to finish off the cooking the following day). Raise the oven temperature to 200C, 400F, gas 6, sprinkle the remaining cheese over each souffle and bake for a further 10 minutes until the cheese is melting and golden. Serve warm with salad and tomatoes.

For the sweet recipe of the day I am offering a cookie recipe which uses just the white of one egg, so one way to use up the spare white when following my cost-cutting suggestions early in today's posting.
Crafty Cookies: makes 18
8 oz (225g) plain flour
5 oz (150g) butter, diced
5 oz (150g) caster sugar
1 egg white
few drops vanilla extract/essence
Rub or process the butter into the flour until like breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar. Mix in the egg white and vanilla to form a dough. Knead on a floured board until smooth.
Roll out the dough and cut 3" (7.5cm) circles (knead scraps and reroll to use it all up). Place onto a greased baking sheet (you will need two sheets, or cook in batches) chill for 15 minutes before baking. Bake for 10 or so minutes at 180C, 350F, gas 4 or until pale golden. Remove from oven and leave to stand on the tin for five minutes, then cool on a cake airer.
tip: Never bake biscuits until they are hard. Far better to remove from oven when just firm and leave them to stand on the hot tin to finish off cooking, as they should then crisp up on the cake airer. If still soft when cooled, return them to the oven for a further minute or two and that should sort them out.