Friday, February 22, 2008


Canned sardines could be cut into strips and used for topping pizzas or other dishes such as pissaladiere (recipe given below), where anchovies are normally used. Admittedly chefs would stand back in horror at my suggestion of substituting sardines for anchovies, but it could work.
By the way, always eat the sardine bones (also those in canned salmon and pilchards) as they contain loads of calcium, and studies have shown "..that people with the highest calcium intakes have also the lowest levels of body fat - due to the fact that low calcium consumption results in an increase of vit D in the bloodstream, which signals fat cells to store more fat. Meaning your body reacts to a calcium deficiency by hanging onto fat for dear life". I learn something new every time I open a book.

Pissaladiere (Onion Tart): serves 6
approx 12 oz (350g) bread dough
3 lb (1.5kg) onions, thinly sliced
3 tblsp olive oil
2 tsp mixed fresh herbs, chopped (basil, thyme, rosemary...)
salt and pepper
12 anchovy fillets (or sardine strips)
few black olives, stoned and halved
While the bread dough is rising, make the filling by cooking the onions in the oil, over a very low heat, and covering the pan. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 40 minutes or until the onions are very soft. Add the herbs, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for a few minutes longer.
Cut the anchovies fillets in half lengthways (or cut the sardines into 24 strips). Grease a shallow baking dish, about 14" (35cm) in diameter, or use a greased Swiss roll baking tin for an oblong tart. Knock the risen dough back, punching with the fist and press into the chosen tin with the palms of your hands.
Spread the onion mixture over the dough, then make a wide lattice pattern across the top using the fish strips. Put half an olive, flat side down, in the centre of each diamond. Leave to stand for fifteen minutes for the dough to rise again slightly, then bake for 25 - 30 minutes at 190C, 375F, gas 5 until the bread base is cooked. Serve hot.

This first recipe for tea-bread uses dates, but if no dates, then substitute chopped prunes or large raisins or sultanas. Even chopped apricots. Or why not some of each? Just keep the weight of fruit the same then experiment to your heart's content. You could even add a tsp of mixed spice if you wish.
You will note that in both the following two recipes I suggest adding a tsp of the flour to the creamed butter and sugar when beating in the egg. This helps to prevent the mixture curdling, not that it really matters if it does, but it is better if it doesn't.
Date and Muesli Teabread: one loaf giving 10 - 12 servings.
8 oz (225g) stoned dates, roughly chopped
5 fl oz (150ml) strong hot tea (strained if using tea leaves)
3 oz (75g) butter, softened
3 oz (75g) light soft brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
8 oz (225g) self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
3 oz (75g) muesli (any kind)
Put the fruit into a bowl and pour over the hot tea. Leave to soak for half an hour.
Cream together the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy, then beat in the egg with 1 tsp of the flour.
Sift together the remaining flour and the baking powder, and fold into the creamed mixture. Finally, add the muesli, fruits used, including the soaking liquid. Mix well together.
Pour the mixture into a greased and lined 2 lb (900g) loaf tin and smooth the surface. Bake for about one hour at 180C, 340F, gas 4 until risen and firm to the touch. Check with a skewer if uncertain.
Remove the loaf from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes or so, then turn out onto a wire rack. Serve sliced, warm or cold, with or without butter.

This next bread, despite it seeming too rich and sweet by today's health and safety standards, is made with all good things. Adults as well as children will find this immensely satisfying. The name I made up myself as being rather more interesting than just chocolate and banana bread.
Choccanna Bread: makes 1 loaf - givin 10 - 12 slices
4 oz (100g) butter, softened
4 oz (100g) light soft brown sugar
4 oz (100g thick set honey
2 eggs, beaten
8 oz (225g) self-raising flour
half a tsp baking powder
1 oz (25g) cocoa
2 ripe (weight incl. skins: approx 10 oz/300g)
little lemon juice
1 tblsp milk
icing sugar
Cream together the butter, sugar and honey until light and fluffy, then beat in the egg with 1 tsp of the flour. Sift the remaining flour with the baking powder and the cocoa, and fold into the creamed mixture. Peel the bananas and mash with a little lemon juice and just enough milk to form a soft consistency., and fold this into the mix. Spoon into a greased and lined loaf tin (size and cooking temperatures as in the above recipe) and level the surface. Bake for 1 - 1 1/4 hours or until risen and firm to the touch. After 40 minutes or so, tent the tin loosely with foil to prevent it browning too quickly.
Cool in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out onto a cake airer. Dust with icing sugar and serve sliced, warm or cold.

One of the easiest breads to make is Irish Soda Bread (so why not let the children have a go), as generally (apart from the third recipe) this is made with ordinary, not bread flour. And - for what it is worth - the ingredients would cost less than 50p. So more to add to the list of cheapies.
The first two recipes are slightly different, but both use bicarbonate of soda as a raising agent because this works best with acidic things like buttermilk and/or yogurt (see below for a more detailed explanation of buttermilk). The third recipe uses two raising agents (the bicarb and c.of t. together make baking powder - but in this case work better used independently). You may, after reading the three recipes, like to try mixing and matching ingredients to make up your own version.

"Buttermilk is what is left over after the butter has been churned out. Differing only from skimmed milk in that it is sour. It is a useful emulsifying agent and now recognised as a health-promoting product, sold in cartons in many supermarkets (often homogenised and doctored in the way the trade knows best). However, modern 'buttermilk' and 'cultured buttermilk' are respectively skim milk and soured skim milk"
Perhaps the easiest DIY way to make buttermilk is to stir a little yogurt into skimmed milk, or add a few drops of lemon juice to sour the milk.

Soda Bread: makes 1 loaf, serves 8
1 lb (450g) plain white flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 oz (25g) butter, diced
half a pint (300ml) buttermilk
Sift the flour, salt and bicarb together, then rub in the butter, gradually adding enough milk to make a soft dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently for a couple of minutes. Shape into a large round and place on a floured, ungreased baking sheet. Using a sharp knife, cut a deep cross on the top of the dough and sprinkle with a little flour.
Bake at 200c, 400F, gas 6 for 30 - 35 minutes or until risen and lightly browned. The loaf should sound hollow when tappen on the underside. Cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or cold. Can be cut into wedges or sliced.

Farmhouse Style Soda Bread: makes 1 loaf - serving 8
7 oz (200g) plain white flour
7 oz (200g) plain wholemeal flour
2 oz (50g) rolled or porridge oats
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
half a pint (300ml) buttermilk
Sift together the white flour with the bicarb. then stir in the wholemeal flour, the salt and the oats. Gradually add enough buttermilk to make a soft dough, then continue as in the above recipe.

Home-Style Soda Bread: makes 1 loaf - serves 8
8 oz (225g) strong white flour
8 oz (225g) wholemeal flour
1 tsp each: sugar, salt, and bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp cream of tartar
half an ounce (15g) butter
1 egg, beaten
7 fl oz (200ml) milk
Sift together the flours, sugar, salt and raising agents. Rub in the butter, and mix in the egg. and enough milk to form a soft dough. Knead until smooth. Continue as in the above recipes, baking for 35 - 35 minutes.

Herb oils are another useful standby for instead of adding fresh basil to a pizza for instance, the basil oil can be added to the dough to flavour the pizza base, or be added to the tomatoes when making the sauce, or even drizzling over the pizza topping. You get the flavour without needing a constant supply of the fresh herb, which is not always available during the winter months. Other herbs can flavour oils, and all can make delicious salad dressings and marinades. All you do is select your chosen herb, crush the leaves slightly, using enough to loosely fill a glass jar. Fill the jar with sunflower or olive oil (or a blend of both), adding one tsp of white wine vinegar, then screwing on the lid and giving it good shake. Leave to stand on a sunny windowsill for two weeks, shaking the bottle every day. You can then either drain and bottle the oil without the herbs, or leave the herbs in the bottle and just top up with more oil as it is used.