Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Think before you Throw

rice flour: this can be used as a thickening agent, in the same way as cornflour, blending with a little cold milk, stock or water and stirring into the very hot liquid. Stir well to make sure the rice cooks evenly. Rice flour is best used within its b.b. date. If not using often, store it in the freezer where it can be kept much longer. Use at room temperature when making cakes.
Rice flour can also be used in doughs, cakes and batters. In some recipes it can be used instead of cornmeal (which is not the same as cornflour). It is also similar to a fine semolina (which is made with wheat), and the three can be used in much the same way. If using in cakes and doughs, use about one third rice flour to two-thirds of the flour in the recipe, and if self-raising flour is used, then add some baking powder to give the necessary lift, the amount depends upon how much flour is used. A level tsp should be enough for an average cake.
A couple of recipes are given below using rice flour, so this should give a guide as to its potential.

The first recipe contains no flour, and no raising agent. The necessary lift is given by the beaten egg whites.
Rice Cake:
4 oz (100g) butter, softened
8 oz (225g) caster sugar
grated zest of 1 lemon
3 eggs, separated
8 oz (225g) rice flour
Cream the butter and sugar together until very light and fluffy. Beat the egg yolks with the lemon rind, and then beat them, a little at a time, into the creamed mixture. Whisk the egg whites to firm peaks, but not overbeating, then fold them, alternately into the mixture with the rice flour. Carefully spoon the mixture into a greased and lined 7" (18cm) round cake tin (see note below for correct preparation of tin), and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for approx 1 hour. When cooked, remove from the oven, leave the cake to cool in the tin for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling down.
Note: the best way to line a tin is to cut a strip of paper for the sides about 2" (5cm) deeper than the tin. Cut up one of the long sides about 1/2" up and about 1/2" between strips (a bit like making a fringe). Grease the tin well, sides and bottom, then press the paper around the sides so that the cut bits at the bottom spread out flat over the base. Cut a circle of paper, grease both sides of this and press down to cover the cut pieces of paper. this makes a flat base and the paper fringe underneath stops any cake batter oozing under. Normally it is not necessary to grease both sides of the paper, but for this recipe make sure the paper is greased after lining the tin.
tip: save butter papers (if any butter is left on them) to use for greasing tins, and also for covering pieces of fish or similar in the oven (butter side down of course).

This dessert recipe comes from India, the name meaning 'creamed rice' .
4 oz (100g) rice flour
1 pint (450ml) milk
4 oz (100g) sugar
2 tsp rose water
2 tsp flaked almonds
Blend the rice flour with a little of the milk, and heat the remaining milk in a pan with the sugar. Heat gently until the sugar has dissolved, then bring to the boil and immediately stir in the slaked rice flour. Keep stirring until it has thickened. Remove from the heat and leave to cool (to prevent a skin forming on top, see tip below). Stir in the rose water and spoon into individual bowls then chill. When ready to serve, scatter the flaked almonds over the top.
tip: to prevent skin forming on this or custard for example, either stir regularly as it cools, or cover the surface with a fitted sheet of wetted paper, or sprinkle over sugar to cover - which can be stirred in when ready to use.

The other week I bought a large plastic jar of red lentils from the Indian ingredients shelf in the supermarket, which worked out cheaper than buying them in the smaller packs, plus I gained a useful storage jar. So my final recipe is a very flavoursome lentil pate - one to add to the pate collection.
Lentil, Carrot and Lemon Pate:
4 oz (100g) red lentils, rinsed and drained
4 oz (100g) carrots, grated
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 " (2.5cm) piece of fresh root ginger, grated
1 tbls oil
half tsp turmeric
1 lemon
salt and pepper
30 ml tub creme fraiche or fromage frais
1 tblsp chopped parsley
Put the lentils in a pan, covering with plenty of water. Bring to the boil. Fast boil for 10 minutes, then add the carrots, cover the pan, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until the lentils are soft.
Meanwhile, saute the onion in the oil until softened, then stir in the garlic and turmeric, fry for 2 minutes then add the zest of the lemon. Stir and cook for 2 minutes.
Drain the cooked lentils and carrots, place in a blender or processor with the onion mixture and 2 tblsp of lemon juice. Blitz to a puree. Season to taste. Fold in the creme fraich or F.Fraise, and pour into lightly oil ramekin dishes. Cover and chill for at least 6 hours (overnight is better) until firm.
To serve, sprinkle the parsley over the top of the pate and serve with crudites, breadsticks or melba toast.