Monday, May 26, 2008

Bursting with Flavour

Suggestions for Pizza toppings:
'English breakfast':
Fry 4 oz (100g) bacon bits with a few sliced mushrooms, adding a little olive oil, and fry for 3 minutes. Arrange over the basic pizza base with a few sliced tomatoes. Bake according to pizza pack directions, but halfway through the cooking time break 2 or 3 eggs on top. Drizzle these with oil and continue cooking for 6 - 7 minutes if you like the yolks runny, or about 11 minutes if you like them set.
Mix 8 oz (200g) shredded cooked chicken (or could be ham, chorizo or cooked sausage), with 1 tblsp barbecue sauce. Spread on top of the pizza and sprinkle over 2 tblsp canned/drained sweetcorn. Cover with 2 - 4 oz (50 - 100g) grated cheese. Bake as per pack instructions.
Thinly slice half a red onion, scatter this over the top of the pizza adding 4 0z (100g) crumbled feta or goat's cheese, and 4 - 6 sliced cherry tomatoes. Drizzle with olive oil before baking as per instructions.
Take 2 tsp pesto and blend with 1 tsp olive oil. Drizzle this over the basic pizza and on top of this sprinkle a handful of raisins. Over these layer 4 0z (100g) cooked or frozen/thawed spinach (first squeeze out all excess liquid). Scatter over pine-nuts, and bake as per instructions on pack.

A summer tea served outdoors should be more than just cucumber sarnies and a wedge of Victoria Sponge. Here are a couple of tasty sandwich fillings, plus other tea-time suggestions:
cream cheese and prawn: serves 6
3 oz (100g) cream cheese
2 oz (50g) cooked, peeled prawns chopped
2 oz (50g) watercress, main stems removed
6 slices sandwich bread
Mix together half the cream cheese and prawns. Spread half the bread with this mixture and top with watercress. Spread the remaining bread with the other half of the cheese and sandwich together. Remove crusts (but save these to make breadcrumbs), and cut each slice into four triangles.

This next sarnie filling uses mayo and curry paste, but the 4p can of curry sauce would make a very good substitute. Just use 3 - 4 tblsp of that instead. You can always decant the rest of the sauce from the can and freeze it for later use. However I give the 'uncanned' version.
Spicy Egg: serves 8
3 eggs, hard-boiled, shelled and finely chopped
3 tblsp mayonnaise
1 tblsp mild curry paste (Korma)
3 no-soak apricots, finely chopped
8 slices sandwich bread, very lightly buttered
Mix the eggs together with the mayo, curry paste and apricots. Spread this over four of the slices of bread, and top with the remaining slices. Remove crusts and cut into squares or fingers.

Take the savoury approach to scones, and you will find these equally as delightful as the sweeter version with jam and cream. Go for those packs of smoked salmon trimmings as they work out much cheaper. Smoked salmon freezes well, so you don't need to use the whole pack in one go. Skimmed milk or diluted yogurt can be used instead of buttermilk.
Horseradish and Herby Scones: makes 6
8 oz (225g) plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
good pinch salt
1 rounded tsp caster sugar
2 tblsp chopped dill or parsley
2 oz (50g) butter, melted
1 small egg, beaten
4 fl oz (125ml) buttermilk*
1 tblsp horseradish sauce (creamy type)
cream cheese
smoked salmon
freshly ground black pepper
Make the scones by sifting together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Do this twice to give as much lightness as possible to the scones, then add the herbs and make a well in the centre. Mix together the egg, buttermilk, horseradish sauce and butter together, pour this into the flour and stir with a fork to make a soft dough. Turn this out onto a floured board and knead gently until smooth. Roll out to just over 1" (3cm) thick. Dip a scone cutter in flour and - without twisting the cutter - cut through the dough to make at least six scones. Gather the dough off-cuts, and knead together lightly, roll and stamp out more scones. The last bit of dough will probably just have to be moulded by hand (this is the one I always eat myself after cooking - you know, just for testing...!)
Place the scones, bottom side up (this makes for a better shape), on a greased baking sheet and bake at 220C, 425F, gas 7 for 10 - 12 minutes until well risen and golden brown. Cool on a cake airer.
Best served as fresh as possible (day of making), split and sandwiched together with cream cheese with smoked salmon tucked in, giving a sprinkle of black pepper over the salmon, or this could be mixed into the cheese. To make the scones go twice as far, split and serve open-topped, using the top as the base for another helping.

More a method of presentation, this next recipe for a suggested, and very summery topping for cup cakes. Seeing stacks of ever-decreasing sized plates on a stand, each filled with iced cakes as an alternative to the traditional tiered wedding cake, this could be well worth a thought. For this tea-time special you need rose petals, pale pink if at all possible, and those that have not been sprayed with insecticide. After gathering the fresh petal snip off and discard the little tips where they joined onto the stem.
Beat up an egg white until frothy, then brush this over both sides of the rose petals (or they could be dragged through the egg white, but remove surplus), then dip them into or sprinkle over caster sugar. Leave on a wire cake airer to dry. Unsprayed rose petals are edible. Meanwhile make up the icing:
Rose Icing: enough to cover 10 cakes
9 oz (250g) icing sugar
2 tblsp rose water
2 tblsp milk
1 drop red food colouring*
Mix together the icing sugar with the rose water and enough milk to give a pouring consistency. Stir in the food colouring. Spoon the icing over the top of the fairy cakes and decorated the middle of each with one or two of the frosted rose petals.
*tip: when not wishing to use a commercial food colouring, a drop of beetroot juice works just as well, but start with the tiniest drop, a little goes a long way.