Saturday, March 08, 2008

New Dimensions

Starting with rice - this particularly easy version of a pilau (sometimes called pilaff) dish can be served instead of plain boiled rice with almost any dish where rice would normally be served, but particularly good with curries. Served either as a side dish, or on its own with cold cooked chicken that has been chopped and added to the hot rice a few minutes before serving. If intending to freeze, cook the rice to 'al dente', then cool as quickly as possible. Bag in smaller amounts rather than large (you can always open two bags), heat thoroughly (unless eating cold) and do not re-freeze.
Pilau Rice: serves 4
2 large onions, chopped
6 oz (175g) long-grain (pref easy-cook) rice
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1 oz butter
half a tsp turmeric
1 tsp mixed spice
6 fl oz (175ml) water
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Put the rice in a sieve and rinse under cold running water until the water is clear. Drain well and set aside.
Put the oil and butter into a frying pan and stir in the turmeric and mixed spice, fry gently for one minute then add the onion and seasoning to taste. Cook until the onion has softened, then stir in the rice until all the grains are glistening, then add the water. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes (maybe a bit less, maybe a bit more) until the water has been absorbed and the rice is cooked - but still has that al dente bite. Spoon into serving dish and serve hot.

Not sure where I first discovered this recipe, but one used many times when preparing party platters as with eggs as the main ingredient, it is very inexpensive to make, yet packed with subtle flavours. For 'finger food' allow one per person, or when serving as a starter, with a salad ganish, serve two or three per person. As the eggs can be cooked in advance, and the dish needs chilling before serving, a useful 'make-ahead-of-time' recipe.
Spicy Stuffed Eggs: makes 12
6 hard boiled eggs, shelled
3 oz (75g) cream cheese
2 tsp lemon juice
1 oz (25g) butter
half a tsp turmeric
quarter tsp chilli powder or hot paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
salt and pepper
3" piece of cucumber
5 - 6 tblsp Greek yogurt, or creme fraiche
chopped parsley or chives OR paprika
1 Little Gem lettuce
Cut the eggs in half and remove the yolks. Stand the whites in a dish (the final presentation comes after they have been chilled). Push the yolks through a sieve and work into the cream cheese with the lemon juice. Put the butter into a small pan and heat gently, when melted stir in the spices. Cook for one minutes to allow spices to release their flavour, then remove from heat and cool for a few minutes, then beat this into the egg yolk/cheese mix. Add salt and pepper to taste. Peel the cucumber, cut in half and remove seeds, chop the flesh into small cubes and fold into the creamy egg mixture, then take heaped teaspoonsful and pile into the hollows of the egg whites. Top with the yogurt/creme fraiche and garnish each with a sprinkling of herbs, or paprika. Chill for a short time before serving each egg on its own Little Gem lettuce leaf.
Tip: to make eggs 'sit' securely, remove a very thin slice from the underside of the halved hardboiled egg white.

This next is far beyond your basic cheese on toast. Suggested as a hot 'open sandwich' , it could loosely be called a 'melt' or even a type of 'rarebit'. English muffins are used as the base, we might prefer thick sliced bread or toasted baps. With the recipe using so many 'aromatics', it has to be included today.
Cheese-wiches: makes 8 open-faced 'sandwiches;
4 muffins or baps, split
8 oz (226g) grated mature Cheddar, or other sharp cheese
1 tsp grated onion
pinch nutmeg
pinch Allspice
pinch cayenne
2 tsp made mustard
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
half tsp horseradish sauce
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tblsp mayonnaise
Toast the split side of the muffins/baps until lightly browned. Mix together the remaining ingredients and spread mixture over the toasted side. Pop under the grill (4" below the heat) and grill for approx 5 minutes until the cheese is bubbling and turning brown.

Being very food of beetroot, I always keep a few long-life vacuum packs in the fridge. We usually eat them with cold meats, but also fond of them in sarnies, with meat or cheese. But they can be heated, and this is a very flavoursome recipe making the most of a basic ingredient, especially good for serving with all meats. Equally, it eats well cold as a 'beetroot marmalade'. Using arrowroot makes for a clear sauce, which always looks best, but cornflour could be used instead. The beetroot could be sliced, cut into strips, or diced if you prefer.
Sweet and Sour Beetroot: serves 4
1 - 2 packs cooked beetroot
2 fl oz (50ml) cider vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
1 oz (25g) sugar
4 tsp arrowroot
half a tsp grated orange zest
orange juice
half a tsp whole cloves
1 tblsp butter
Open the packs of beetroot, reserving the juice. Slice the beetroot. Put the vinegar, sugar, orange zest and juice, with the cloves into a pan and heat gently. Slake the arrowroot with a little water, then stir this into the pan and stir and heat until the sauce has thickened. If you need more liquid, make this up with water. Add the sliced beetroot and the butter and simmer for 5 minutes or until the beetroot has heated through.

Even the cheapest stewing beef can make a fantastic dish once 'lifted' with an assortment of flavourings. If the beef comes from your freezer, most of the other ingredients (if not all) should be sitting ready and waiting in the store-cupboard and veggie basket. Although this recipe is baked in the oven, it is also ideally suited for the slow-cooker, for the longer it cooks the richer the flavour will become. If you wish soak some dried porcini mushrooms in water, then add these to the casserole along with the soaking liquid.
Devilishly good Beef Stew: serves 4
1 tblsp sunflower oil
at least 1 lb (450g) stewing beef, cubed
2 tsp plain flour
2 tsp soft brown (or dark muscavado) sugar
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 tsp fresh (or 1 tsp dried) rosemary
2 onions, sliced
half a pint (300ml) water
3 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tblsp tomato ketchup
1 tblsp wine vinegar
salt and pepper
chopped parsley, optional
Put the oil in a frying pan, and brown the onions, place these in an ovenproof casserole, then fry the meat in the same pan, turning until browned, then stir in the flour. Add the rest of the ingredients, salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook at 150C, 300F, gas 2 for 3 - 4 hours or until the meat is very tender. Give a stir once every half hour or so. Serve with potatoes (to mash into the gravy), carrots and green, white or red cabbage.

A couple of party nibbles coming up. When buying the nuts, check prices, sometimes walnut pieces are more expensive way than the halves. If you haven't garlic salt in store, then add a peeled clove of garlic to the butter when melting, then remove after 1 minute. This will add the garlic flavour, if garlic is what you like. Otherwise leave out.
Salted Spiced Walnuts:
1 tsp ground ginger
quarter tsp Allspice
1 pint water
8 oz (225g) walnut halves (or pieces)
2 tblsp butter, melted
quarter tsp garlic salt (see above)
Put the water in a pan with the ginger and allspice, heat gently until simmering. Add the walnuts and boil for 3 minutes (a little less if in pieces). Drain well and pat dry. Spread over a shallow baking sheet and roast at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 15 minutes or until slightly browned. Remove from oven and put into a bowl, pour over the melted butter and garlic salt (or if using clove garlic, add ordinary salt) and toss well. Spread out on the baking sheet to cool and dry, then pile into bowls and serve.

Another, and quite unusual, party dish are these spiced cheese puffs. Again, cheese is the main ingredients, so can hardly be called expensive considering the amount that is made. Well worth having a bash as they can be made in advance, and can be open-frozen (on a baking sheet to keep the shape) then stored in freezer bags. Bake as required.
Cheesey Puffs en Surprise: makes 50 (F)
4 oz (100g) butter, softened
16 fl.oz measure grated mature cheese
good pinch salt
1 tsp paprika
good pinch cayenne or chilli powder
1 mugful (8 fl oz measure) plain flour, sifted
50 small green stuffed olives
Blend together the butter, cheese, salt, paprika and cayenne. Stir in the flour, mixing well together, then take 1 tsp of the mixture and wrap this around an olive, covering it completely, making sure it is a good shape. Arrange on a baking sheet and chill until firm (they can be frozen at this point). Bake for 15 minutes at 200C, 400F, gas 6. Serve hot.

Enough of the savouries. Time for the puds - the first being another surprise as, when baked, the batter rises to the top to form a lovely golden crust.
Peach Cobbler Surprise: serves 6 - 8
2 oz (50g) butter, melted
1 cup (8 fl.oz measure) plain flour, sifted
1 cup measurement sugar
pinch salt
1 tblsp baking powder
6 fl. oz (175ml) milk
1 can sliced peaches
quarter teaspoon each: grated nutmeg and cinnamon
1 tsp grated lemon zest
Pour the butter into a 7" x 11" (18 x 28cm) shallow baking dish. Sift together the drying ingredients, add the milk and stir well. Pour this into the dish on top of the butter. DO NOT STIR. Top with the peaches, including their juice, and sprinkle over the spices and lemon zest. Again - do not stir!!
Bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 40 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm with cream or ice-cream.

This recipe for peppery butter is to spread over chicken, lobster, shrimp or fish before grilling. Also excellent with steak and chops, and very definitely great for seasoning vegetables such as onions, potatoes and cauliflower. Unsalted butter is best to use, but not essential. It just stores longer in the freezer. If using salted butter halve the salt in the recipe
Paprika Butter:
4 oz (100g) unsalted butter
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp lemon juice
quarter tsp. salt
pinch of white or black ground pepper
Using a fork, mash all the ingredients together. Leave to stand for at least half an hour to allow the flavours to develop. Either wrap and store (see above) or use in the suggested way.