Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Variations on a Theme

Adding different ingredients to different recipes has been mentioned constantly in my postings. It is one way to make a dish your own, and another way to turn the rather uninteresting into a family favourite. So today is a hotch-potch of ideas, based on a standard recipe with that little bit extra added. As ever, the little bit extra can be your own choice.

We begin with two burgers, one made with lamb with a touch of spice. The second made with pork and apricots. These burgers can be prepared and chilled a day before using, or frozen if you wish (thaw before cooking). They can be cooked in a frying pan, griddled, or barbequed. So simple to make, so well worth experimenting with different flavours of your own choice.
Spicy Lamburgers: makes 4
1 tsp olive or sunflower oil
1 - 2 tblsp curry paste (Korma, Tikka, or Madras)
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 lb (450g) very lean minced lamb
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
Put the oil into a pan, stir in the curry paste and fry the onion until softened. Set aside to get cold.
Put the lamb mince into a bowl and add the onion mixture and garlic. Mix together with your hands until everything is combined. Cover and leave to chill for at least an hour for the flavours to develop. When ready to cook, shape the mixture into four burgers and cook for 8 - 10 minutes, turning occasionally, in the way you prefer (see above suggestions).
Serving suggestion: Split heated naan bread and line with lettuce leaves, stuff in the burger with a little mango chuney or salsa of your choice, and eat in the hand, or serve separately with a side salad and a dollop of salsa on the top of the burger.

Fruity Porkburgers: serves 4
1 lb (450g) pork mince
1 shallot (or 3 spring onions) finely chopped
4 tblsp chopped fresh mint
6 no-soak dried apricots, finely chopped
salt and pepper
1 egg, beaten
200ml tub Greek yogurt
4 burger buns
Mix together the pork mince, the shallot (or spring onions), the apricots, and 1 tblsp chopped mint. Season well and stir in enough egg to bind together. Divide into four and shape into 4" (10cm) burgers. Grill, fry or barbeque for 8 - 10 minutes on each side.
Meanwhile make the dressing by mixing together the remaining mint into the yogurt, season to taste (adding half a tsp of icing sugar improves the flavour) and keep chilled until ready to serve.
When the burgers are ready, tuck each into a split or halved burger bun with some lettuce and the yogurt dressing spooned over. Serve with a side salad and the rest of the dressing served separately.

So often plain boiled rice is served mainly with Indian curry or maybe a Chinese dish. On the other hand there are the more colourful cold rice salads. Here is a dish that looks as though all the jewels of the Orient have been piled together, and equally good served hot with roasted butternut squash, or with roast/grilled meats.
King Solomon's Rice: serves 4
12 oz (350g) long grain rice
2 tblsp olive or sunflower oil
knob butter
1 tsp coriander seeds
2 tblsp pine nuts
coarsely grated rind of 1 orange
2 tblsp pistachio nuts (shelled)
1 pomegranate
handful mixed herbs, chopped (mint, basil, coriander)
salt and pepper
Rinse the rice, drain and put into a wide pan (deep frying pan), covering with water to sit about half an inch (1 cm) abover the grains. Sprinkle over a pinch of salt, bring to the boil and simmer until the water has been absorbed (approx 10 minutes). Cover with a lid or cloth, then turn off the heat and leave to stand for a further 10 minutes.
Using another frying pan, heat together the oil and the butter, then stir in the coriander seeds and the pine nuts. Fry for one minute then add the orange zest and the pistachio nuts. Remove the seeds from the pomegranate and add these to the pan. Finally, stir in the rice. Mix well, season to taste. Stir in the herbs and pile into a serving dish.

We tend to eat drop scones (Scotch pancakes) spread with butter and jam. A tea-time treat. But something very similar is served in America as a breakfast dish, drizzled with maple syrup. So here is an adaptation that could be served for breakfast, brunch or for a light lunch.
Cheese Pancakes with Bacon and Tomatoes: serves 4
8 oz (225g) plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
2 oz (50) grated Cheddar cheese
12 fl.oz (300ml) milk
2 oz (50g) butter, melted
2 eggs
8 (or more according to appetite) rashers streaky bacon
8 (or more) cherry tomatoes
salt and pepper
maple syrup (opt)
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt, into a bowl. Stir in the cheese and make a well in the centre.
Put the milk into a jug, break in the eggs and beat together, stir in the butter. Season to taste. Pour this into the flour and whisk together to make a smooth batter (this could be done in a food processor/blender if you wish).
Heat a little oil in a frying pan, and (using a jug or ladle), pour in just enough batter to spread to about 4" (10cm). Fry for one minute on each side until golden. Keep warm (put a clean cloth on a cake airer, add the pancakes as cooked, overlapping each other, and always cover with a cloth to prevent them drying out). The mixture should make about 12 pancakes. Add more oil when necessary.
Meanwhile, flatten the bacon by stretching with a knife, cut each rasher in half and fry until crispy. Add the tomatoes to the bacon fat and cook until they burst. Divide the pancakes into four and stack onto individual warm plate, with the bacon and the tomatoes on the top. For an American flavour drizzle with maple syrup.

Instead of calling this a 'tomato soup cake', I have given it a much more enticing name (love apple being the old name for a tomato).
Love Apple Cake:
9 oz (250g) caster sugar
5 oz (125g) butter
2 eggs
1 x 295g can condensed tomato soup
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
5 oz (125g) plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp mixed spice
6 oz (175g) raisins or sultanas
4 oz (100g) walnuts, chopped (optional)
icing sugar
Beat the butter and sugar together until very pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time (adding a little flour if it begins to curdle). Then beat in the soup.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, bicarb. soda, and the spice, then sift again into the mixture. Stir in the fruit and nuts.
Pour the mixture into a well-greased 8" (20cm) square cake tin and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 45 mins. Test with a fork to see if it is cooked through. Or press the centre of the cake gently, and if not sticky, then it is done. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out onto a cake airer. Leave to get completely cold. When ready to serve, dust the top with icing sugar.

With a basic biscuit mix, other ingredients and flavourings can be added, so that each time the biscuit or cookie tastes completely different. Here is a recipe for oatmeal cookies which inculded chocolate and orange, but you could play around and include nuts or fruit. Try this version and then experiment.
Chocolate and Orange Oatmeal Cookies: makes approx 18
8 oz (225g) soft margarine (or softened butter)
zest of 1 large orange
6 oz (175g) soft brown sugar
10 oz (475g) self raising flour
pinch of salt
6 oz (175g) porridge oats
4 tblsp golden syrup (or use runny honey)
4 oz (100g) each, dark and white chocolate
First chop the chocolate into small chunks and put to one side. Beat together the fat and the sugar, then beat in orange zest. Add theflour, salt, oats and syrup and beat together with a wooden spoon, finally fold in the chocolate.
When well combined, scoop out dessertspoonfuls of the mixture and roll into balls. Place onto baking sheets, lined with baking parchment, flattening the balls with a fork. Bake at 18C, 350F, gas 4 for 8-10 minutes or until golden. Leave to cool on the baking tins for 15 minutes before removing to a cake airer. When completely cold store in an airtight container.