Friday, February 15, 2008

Take Five

With recipes using few ingredients being ideal for the learner cook, they also make things easy for the more experienced - who may wish to 'add things'. So today's dishes will be based on these.

The first few recipes use canned soups, and I make no apologies for this because it's the only way I can count several vegetables as one ingredient. Feel free to make up your own soup from scratch. I miss out the salt and pepper to avoid increasing to 'take seven' (cheating by sometimes including it in brackets). Season as you go, or at the table.
Fish and Vegetable Chowder: serves 4
10 oz (275g) firm white fish fillet
1 x 435g can Scotch Broth soup
half a pint (300ml) milk
1 x 326g can sweetcorn
grated cheese
Remove any skin* from the fish and cut the flesh into small chunks. Put the soup and milk together in a pan and bring to the boil, add the prepared fish and simmer gently for five minutes, add the drained corn, bring back to the simmer and cook for a further minute, by which time the fish should be cooked. Serve in individual bowls with a bowl of grated cheese to scatter over. Alternatively, top the soup with croutons which have been sprinkled with cheese and blasted under a grill for a couple of minutes. As regards seasoning, this can be done at the table to the individual taste.
*tip to avoid waste: Fish skin brushed with oil can be grilled and is said to make really crispy nibbles. Not that I have tried it. But it has been mentioned by readers.

Celery and Ham Mousse: serves 6
1 x 425g can cream of celery soup
half a pint (300ml) creme fraiche or sour cream*
1 sachet gelatine dissolved in 4 tblsp water
4 spring onions, finely chopped
8 oz (225g) cooked ham, finely chopped or minced
Mix the soup with the sour cream, then stir in the dissolved gelatine and the prepared onions and ham. Spoon into individual souffle dishes, or into one greased (or cling-film lined) loaf tin. Chill until set.
To serve, unmould onto a serving dish, or serve the ramekins as-is.
For presentation, garnish with hardboiled eggs (whites chopped and yolks sieved) and thin slices of cucumber.
*Note: fresh double cream can be soured by stirring in a couple of teaspoons of lemon juice.

If you will allow me the use of instant potato (which incidentally freezes better than the real thing), and the egg, and breadcrumbs to coat the fingers as one ingredient, then five ingredients this next will still be. A dish more for the children than adults, but useful in that there are many ways this could be adapted - include minced cooked chicken to bulk it up and make it more nutritious. Mashed vegetables could be also included and a good way to get picky children to eat veggies when they normally turn up their noses at them. The main thing is to make the mixture firm enough to handle before frying. Of course they don't need to be finger shaped. They could be burger shaped, or Bart Simpson shaped, had I included this recipe yesterday I would have suggested heart-shaped. Children often love to eat foods that spell out their name (did you see Jamie's cress growing in letter shapes, spelling POPPY, his daughter's name) which reminds me...tell you later.
Chicken and Potato Fingers: serves 4
1 x 425g can of cream of chicken soup
3 oz (75g) instant potato
2 egg yolks, beaten
3 oz soft white breadcrumbs
(beaten egg, dried golden breadcrumbs for coating)
Put the soup in the pan and bring to the boil. Remove from heat and add the instant potato (you may need a little extra). Leave to stand for 10 minutes to allow the potato to absorb the soup. It should be thick and firm. Add the egg yolks and soft breadcrumbs (seasoning to taste) and beat until smooth. Leave to get cold, chill if possible. Roll out the mixture onto a well floured board to 1/2" (1cm) thickness, then cut into 8 or ten rectangles. If you wish you can pop them in the fridge or even better, the freezer for half an hour to firm up and make them easier to handle. Dip first into the egg, then into the golden crumbs (repeat if you like a thicker coating), then shallow fry for about 3 minutes on each side until crisp. Drain on kitchen paper. Great served with a good dollop of tomato ketchup.

No canned soup in this one (do I hear sighs of relief?). The flavour comes by using a harissa rub. Harissa is a fiery chilli paste and this oily rub is made by whisking 2 tsp harissa with 3 tblsp olive oil, salt and pepper to taste . Giving the details now of how to make this keeps the ingredients in the recipe proper down to five. Well, sometimes I have to cheat. Yes, Delia, me too.
Moroccan Lamb with Couscous: serves 2
1 batch (see above) harissa rub
2 lamb leg steaks
5 oz (140g) couscous
1 oz (25g) toasted flaked almonds
2 oz (50g) raisins
Take one tablespoon of the harissa mixture and rub over both sides of the lamb steaks. Leave to stand whilst peparing the couscous.
Put the couscous into a bowl together with the almonds and raisins and pour over half a pint of boiling water. Cover the bowl and leave to stand for 4 minutes, then fluff up with a fork and pour in the remaining harissa oil/rub. In the meantime, grill the lamb steaks for 3 - 4 minutes on each side until well browned. Spoon the couscous onto two plates, top each with the lamb and garnish with optional chopped herbs such as parsley or coriander.

This next can be served as a side dish with a Chinese meal, with rice as a dish in its own right, or just use the batter recipe when wishing to coat other fried foods such as fish, or even pieces of fruit (in which case you could use lemonade instead of the soda or mineral water).
Crispy Lemon Chicken: serves 4
2 oz (50g) plain flour
2 oz (50g) cornflour
6 fl oz (175ml) chilled soda or sparkling mineral water
3 chicken breasts, cut into thin strips
1 pkt ready-made Peking lemon sauce
Sift the flours into a bowl (add a pinch of salt) and make a hollow in the centre. Slowly pour in the soda water and mix until smooth. Do not overmix.
Dip each chicken piece into the batter and drop into hot oil. Fry for one minute until crisp (always making sure the chicken is cooked through - if the pieces are thick, allow a little longer). Drain on kitchen paper and serve at once (if doing a larger amount, cook in batches, then return to the pan for half a minute to heat through and crisp up again). Serve with the lemon sauce drizzled over.

Pizzas fit into the 'take five ingredients' very easily as one classic pizza requires only tomatoes and cheese as a topping on the base. The following pizza recipe uses potato as one of the toppings, and also blue cheese (any blue cheese would do, but coming from Leicestershire for us, it has to be Stilton). Still only three main ingredients, but to be fair I have included the oil and rosemary in the main list.
This is not your usual topping, but well worth trying. If making your own pizza dough, instead of baking two bases, this could be made as one, in an oblong shape, baked in a large oblong Swiss roll ring.
Potato and Stilton Pizza: serves 6 - 8
2 ready-made pizza bases
4 medium potatoes
4 tblsp olive oil
2 tblsp rosemary leaves, finely chopped
7 oz (200g) Stilton or other blue cheese, grated or crumbled
Slice the potatoes very thinly and put into a bowl of water. Leave to stand for 10 minutes to remove as much starch as possible, then drain well, rinse, then pat dry with a kitchen towel. Replace into a dry bowl and pour in half the olive oil, add the rosemary (season to taste) and toss well. Place the pizza bases on oiled baking trays and top with overlapping herbed potato slices, sprinkling over the cheese.. Brush any uncovered edges of the pizza with more oil (this prevents the dough becoming too crisp), and drizzle any remaining oil over the top. Bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 25 minutes until crisp and golden and potatoes cooked through.