Monday, April 14, 2008

Poverty with Panache.

Today we begin with pastry dishes, beginning first with the economics (because there are more ways to skin a cat) followed by hints and tips to make life easier.
If a pastry case is to contain a liquid or soft filling, it is best to first bake the pastry case 'blind' for 10 minutes - this makes for a crisper (rather than soggy) base.
Instead of pastry, flan tins can be lined with crushed crispbreads, biscuits or cereals, all mixed with some melted butter, pressed into the case and then left to set. These are less likely to break if the flan tin has strips of folded foil pressed firmly into the tin, the ends folded down over the edge before the crumb base is assembled. Lifting up the folded down side tabs, these can be used to lift the whole thing out after baking and cooling. Even cooked rice can form the base and sides of a flan.

Adapting, substituting, call it what you will, is the good cooks way to cutting costs. Adding cream to a quiche filling can be expensive, but instead of double cream use half double and half single. Or half double cream and half yogurt. Or single cream and yogurt. Even just (thick) yogurt. Yes, it could work out cheaper still using one or other of the skimmed milks, but if so, add a tablespoon or so of dried milk to make it creamier. The aim being to cut the costs without cutting down too much 'quality' or depth of flavour.

Cheese is also variable Always worth buying it when on BOGOF, but some cheeses are always cheaper than others. Consider using Edam instead of Cheddar as (thinking health here) it is lower in fat (and save the red or green wax rinds, they can be made into candles). Curd cheese, cottage cheese (which includes the home-made 'drip through a bag' yogurt-cheese) can be used instead of the more costly cream cheese, or again, use a blend of each. To make a cheaper form of Parmesan, grate Cheddar that has been left to go hard, using the finest grater. Use half of this with half Parmesan, or use on its own.

Eggs could be reduced in recipe quantities, but not the best idea as they are one of the cheapest proteins, and they do help set the custard. Egg yolks could be added to whole eggs if you wish to keep the whites for another dish, or vice versa.

Fillings for flans (or quiches if you prefer the posh name) can be as varied as the toppings on a pizza. But here are a couple of recipes using courgettes to make a start. One has more ingredients than the other, and - in their own way, are completely different. But reading through them both, we can see that some ingredients from the more costly version could be added to the cheaper. So - a bit like marriage (or perhaps not by today's standards) - two can then become three.

Crispy Courgette Flan: serves 4
One 8" (20cm) pastry flan case, baked blind 10 minutes
1 oz (25g) butter or margarine
3 courgettes. chopped
1 onion, sliced
3 tomatoes, chopped
4 oz (100g) breadcrumbs
3 oz (75g) chopped walnuts
2 oz (50g) grated hard cheese
half tsp dried mixed herbs
pinch cayenne pepper or chilli powder
salt and pepper to taste.
Melt the fat in a frying pan and saute th onion and courgettes until softened. Stir in the breadcrumbs and cook for a further couple of minutes, then stir in the tomatoes. When heated through, remove from the heat and (omitting the cheese) stir in the remaining ingredients. Fill the flan case with this mixture, scatter the cheese over the top and replace the flan back into the oven for a further 15 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the pastry is crisp. Oven temp: 200C, 400F, gas 6

Simple Courgette Quiche: serves 4
8" (20cm) pastry case baked blind 10 mins
1 oz (25g) butter or margarine
1 onion,
2 courgettes, thinly sliced
5 fl oz (50ml) single cream or creamy milk
1 egg plus 2 egg yolks
2 oz (50g) grated Parmesan cheese
grating of nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
Melt the fat in a frying pan and saute the onion for one minute, add the courgettes and fry on for a further five minutes. Stirring from time to time to cook them evenly. Remove with a slotted spoon, transferring them to the flan case. Beat together the cream/milk with the eggs and seasonings and pour over the courgettes/onion. Finish with a scatter of the cheese and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 or until set. Serve hot.

This next quiche is slightly different in that it uses rice (preferably brown rice) to use as a flan case. Pastry could be used instead. Ordinary 'green' broccoli, or cauliflower could be used instead of the purple sprouting.
Purple Broccoli Rice Quiche: serves 4
6 oz (175g) cooked brown rice, well drained
8 oz (225g) cooked purple sprouting broccoli
half a pint (275ml) milk
2 eggs
4 oz (100g) Cheddar or other hard cheese
grating of nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
Lightly grease an 8" (20cm) flan dish and top in the cooked rice, spreading it evenly across the base and up the sides, pressing firmly with he back of a spoon to make a smooth finish. Bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4, for five to ten minutes or until crisp.
Meanwhile steam the broccoli florets until cooked. Cool then place them over the base of the rice case. Beat with eggs with the milk, stir in half the cheese and the seasoning. Pour over the broccoli finishing by scattering over the remaining cheese. Bake at 190C, 375F, gas 5 for half an hour or until the filling has set.

This next 'quiche' uses inexpensive ingredients. Vary the herb if you wish. Chicken goes well with sweetcorn, so any cooked chicken scraps torn from a carcase could also be included. Likewise, a thinly sliced tomato could go on the top. Although this recipe again uses a pastry case, using rice (as in the above recipe) could be an alternative, and this (rice with sweetcorn and chicken) than makes me think of a light curry, so even a little curry paste could be included. Who says cooking can't be fun?
Sweetcorn and Yogurt Flan: serves 4
the usual 8" pastry case baked blind.
approx 14 oz (400g) sweetcorn, fresh, frozen or canned
3 oz (75g) breadcrumbs
2 medium eggs (or 1 large) beaten
2 small cartons plain yogurt
1 tsp basil, chopped or torn
chives for garnishing
salt and pepper to taste
Where necessary, cookd the sweetcorn, drain and leave to cool. Into a bowl put the beaten eggs and mix in the breadcrumbs, sweetcorn, yogurt and basil. Season to taste.
Put mixture into prepared flan case, level the top and bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for half an hour. Serve while still hot, sprinkling over chives to garnish.

Now we move on to a couple of sweet dishes. The first is a very easy one to make, using a completely baked pastry case. But take note, the case could be made using crushed biscuits held together with butter (as when making a cheesecake). Even better, it needs freezing before being eaten. The second has a case made from muesli, but again that could be made by the crushed biscuit/butter method. Cases like this are easier to remove when made in a loose-bottomed tin, or a tin lined with foil so that it can be easily lifted out.
Semi-freddo Lemon Pie: serves 4 (F)
pre-baked 8" (20cm) pastry case, chilled
8 oz (225g) cream cheese
1 small tub (5fl.oz/150ml) plain yogurt
4 - 6 tblsp lemon curd
Have ready the pastry case (should be chilled). Beat the cream cheese until softened, then mix in the yogurt (make sure any liquid from the yogurt has been poured off first). Add lemon curd to taste and fold together until well blended. Spoon mixture into flan case, level the top and freeze for at least 2 hours. Serve straight from the freezer.

This next dish really needs the depth of flavour that the muscovado sugar can bring. If none, then use caster or demerara sugar, and if you have some, add a tsp of black treacle. Go easy with the almond essence as some can be very strong. Always best with essences/extracts to begin with a little, taste then add more if needed. If wished, use vanilla essence instead, and add some finely grated chocolate (or even a spoon of cocoa) to the custard mixtureS. Once assembled, this flan needs baking immediately, so make sure the oven is pre-heated.
Yogurt and Almond Custard: serves 4
4 oz (100g) muesli
2 oz (50g) butter or margarine, melted
2 eggs
half pint (275ml) plain yogurt
1 oz (25g) light muscovado sugar
half tsp almond extract/essence
1 oz (25g) toasted flaked almonds
Mix together the muesli and the butter and press into a lightly greased flan dish.
Beat the eggs with the sugar (and treacle if using), then whisk in the yogurt and almond extract until smooth, then stir in the milk. Pour this mixture into the muesli base and sprinkle over the toasted almonds , Bake at 140C, 250F, gas 1 for half an hour, or until a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean. Can be served hot or cold, on its own or with fresh or cooked fruit.