Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Counting the Cost

Even with an eye to the expense, it is sometimes possible to serve a small amount of an expensive cut of beef, such as fillet, when it is able to be mixed with other ingredients (as with the recipe below), whereas - served on its own, in one piece with a salad on the side, the amount (per head) would appear ridiculously small. A ready-made French or Italian salad dressing would go with this, or we could make our own using walnut oil and lemon juice.
Crisp Green Salad with Hot Seared Beef: serves 4
olive oil
8 oz (225g) fillet steak
salt and pepper
7 oz (200g) sprouting broccoli
2 Little Gem lettuce
1 bag watercress, rocket and baby spinach
8 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 oz (50g) walnuts, toasted
salad dressing
Brush the steak on both sides with the olive oil and sprinkle over a little salt and pepper. Put the steak into a hot pan and fry for 6 - 7 minutes, turning occasionally. Remove from pan and set aside, tented with foil, to allow juices to be reabsorbed. Meanwhile, prepare the salad.
Cook the broccoli in boiling salted water for 3 minutes, or until just tender. Drain and refresh under cold running water to stop it cooking further. Tear the leaves from the lettuce and arrange with the other salad leaves, the broccoli and the tomatoes. Slice the beef as thinly as possible and scatter this over the top.
Drizzle the dressing over the salad and serve immediately.

With this recipe for pilau, almost a meal all in itself, the suggestion is to serve it with some type of meat balls, burgers or patties. Or perhaps a vegetarian meat substitute. Plum tomatoes I find to have more flavour than the chopped, and are often cheaper, so worth doing the chopping ourselves (or blitz in a blender). If the given herb is not available use flat-leaf parsley or other herb of your choice. When using other grains, check the cooking time on the packs and adjust the recipe to suit.
Bulgar Pilau: serves 4
2 tblsp sunflower oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tsp ground coriander
half tsp ground cumin (opt)
14 oz (400g) bulgar wheat
1 x 400g can plum tomatoes, chopped
11 fl.oz (315ml) water
pinch salt and pepper
handful coriander, chopped
4 tblsp toasted flaked almonds
2 tblsp sultanas or raisins
bag of watercress, rocket and baby spinach
oil and lemon juice
Gently fry the onion in the oil until softened, then stir in the ground spice, garlic, tomato, water, bulgar wheat and season to taste. Simmer for 20 minutes until the liquid is absorbed and the bulgar is tender. Add the herb, dried fruit and nuts to the mixture and stir until combined. Pile onto a warmed serving dish and serve with the side salad which has been dressed with the oil and lemon juice.
If serving with burgers, patties or meatballs, serve a bowl of Greek yogurt for spooning over.

One recipe of yesteryear made use of cake crumbs. Today this could be crumbled trifle sponges, or the last bit of a Victoria sponge. If a layer cake has jam in the centre then use a little less in the following recipe. For adult tastes substitute rum for the essence.
6 oz (175g) cake crumbs
2 - 3 tblsp warmed apricot jam
1 tsp almond essence
8 glace cherries
grated chocolate or chocolate vermicelli
Mix the first three ingredients together and divide into 8 portions. Shape each around a glace cherry and form into a ball. Roll in the chocolate, pressing it in firmly. Chill until set.
variation: instead of the cherries, form cherry-sized balls of chocolate spread (such as Nutella), freeze or chill these, then roll the cake mixture around them.

Mix in a Minute Cakes:
To make each cake, put all their ingredients (as given below) together in one bowl (or processor) and beat well for one minute until well mixed. Add a little more milk if necessary to bring to a dropping consistency (or use some of the juice from the fruit). Spread the mixture into two 8" (20cm) sandwich tins, greased and lined on the base, and bake at 190C, 375F, gas 5 (middle to low shelf) for 20 minutes.

orange layer cake:
8 oz (225g) self-raising flour
pinch salt
1 level tsp baking powder
6 oz (175g) caster sugar
6 oz (175g) soft margarine
3 eggs
grated zest of 1 orange
approx 3 tblsp milk

lemon layer cake:
as for the orange, substituting lemon zest.

chocolate layer cake:
6 oz (175g) self-raising flour
pinch salt
4 level tblsp cocoa
half tsp bicarbonate of soda
6 oz (175g) caster sugar
6 oz (175g) soft margarine
3 eggs
few drops vanilla extract
approx 3 tblsp milk

coconut layer cake:
6 oz (175g) self-raising flour
pinch salt
1 level tsp baking powder
6 oz (175g) caster sugar
6 oz (175g) soft margarine
3 eggs
few drops vanilla essence
2 oz (50g) desiccated coconut
approx 3 tblsp milk