Friday, May 09, 2008

Cut down, not cut out.

Whether or not we wish to eat take-away, sometimes we may wish to cook an Indian meal or Oriental meal from scratch. Then comes the problem of not having all the ingredients in store. Most of us (myself included) are unlikely to have more than just a few, and always the ones needed are the one we don't have, so we either choose to make a different dish or leave some traditional (and there maybe essential) part of the flavouring out, Not always a problem, but with this in mind am posting up some 'close to the real thing' alternatives that we can make ourselves from ingredients we already have. Molasses would be found at a health food store, possibly at a supermarket. If not, the sweeter black treacle could be used instead

Making Sushi Rice:
1 lb (450g) Chinese sushi (short grain) rice
16 fl. oz (450ml) cold water
2 fl.oz (50ml) white vinegar
1 rounded tblsp gran sugar
2 tblsp water
1 tsp salt
Put the rice in a pan with the cold water, and using high heat, bring to the boil. Cover and reduce heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low and cook for a further 15 minutes. Turn out the heat and leave, still covered, to stand for five more minutes.
Meanwhile place the vinegar, sugar, salt in a pan with the 2 tblsp water and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved.
When the rice is ready, empty into a bowl, add the vinegar dressing, cutting through horizontally with a wooden spoon to avoid breaking up the grains. Spread this over a baking sheet and either cool with an electric fan or flap with a paper fan. This speedy cooling gives a sheen to the rice.
The rice can be prepared several hours ahead, covered with a damp cloth and kept at room temperature. Do not put in the fridge. When handling, moisten fingers with a blend two parts water to one part vinegar to prevent the rice sticking to them.

Tamarind Substitute:
One tblsp molasses (or black treacle)
3 tblsp fresh lime juice
Put the molasses into a bowl and gradually stir in the lime juice. Keep stirring until it becomes a smooth, thick, glossy sauce.
This will keep for up to 3 days in the fridge. But it freezes well, so worth freezing in ice-cube trays. Remember to label, it will end up looking like gravy.

Alternative ketjap manis (sweet soy sauce):
6 oz (175g) dark brown sugar
18 fl oz water
12 fl oz soy sauce
6 fl oz molasses (treacle)
half tsp each: ground ginger, gr. coriander seed, gr. black pepper
Put the sugar and water into a saucepan and heat until the sugar has dissolved. Boil at a high heat for five minutes or until the temperature has reached 200F (93.3C) on a sugar thermometer.
Reduce heat to low and stir in the remaining ingredients. Simmer for 3 minutes.
Line a sieve with damp kitchen paper and pour mixture through into hot sterilised jars. Tightly seal and store in a cool dark place, or in the fridge. This will keep for about 3 months in the storecupboard and 6 months in the fridge.

Chinese all purpose Hoisin -type sauce:
6 fl.oz measure canned red kidney beans
2 fl oz liquid from canned beans
3 tblsp molasses (treacle)
3 tblsp teriyaki sauce
2 tblsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp garlic puree
2 tsp Five spice powder
2 tsp Marmite
Put all ingredients into a blender and blitz to a puree. Pass the mixture through a sieve using the back of a wooden spoon. Discard any bean skins left in the sieve. Pour into a lidded jar and keep in the fridge for up to a week (an uncooked, longer would not be advisable). It could be frozen.

To make the dough for wonton wrappers, this needs rolling out very thinly indeed. Ideally a pasta machine should be used to do the rolling, and the dough should be run through the thinnest setting. But like pasta, it can be rolled by hand.
The amount of water used is approximate according to the flour, temperature of the day etc. This dough can be cut into squares or circle, stacked between sheets of greaseproof paper and frozen until needed. All the ingredients below should be at room temperature before being used. Some of the kneading could be done using a bread machine or a mixer that has a dough hook.
Wonton dough:
4 large eggs
2 fl. oz water
1 lb (450g) plain flour
8 oz (225g) strong plain flour
half tsp salt
Break the eggs into a bowl and beat in the water until thoroughly mixed. Sift the flours together with the salt and then add this to the liquids, mixing with a spoon until firm enough to use your hands. Keep adding the flour until the mixture has become very stiff. Do not add any more water until the dough has been handles and worked enough to be sure it is needed). Keep kneading in the bowl until the dough is very firm.
Turn the dough out onto a floured board and keep kneading as for bread, holding the dough at one end and pushing and stretching the rest away, then fold back. Keep repeating until the dough is elastic and smooth.
Let the dough rest for 5 minutes, covered with a damp cloth. Cut the dough in half and, leaving one half covered, then roll out the dough as thinly and evenly as possible. To make making wonton wrappers cut into 3" (7.6cm) squares or circles and stack between sheets of greaseproof paper. Bag up and freeze any not needed at the time. Thaw at room temperature.
Note: the above dough can also be used to make egg noodles. Roll out as for wontons, but instead of cutting into shapes, roll up the dough and slice it into narrow strips. These can be cooked immediately or air-dried completely to be stored in air-tight containers Use as commercial egg noodles.

If we prefer to keep to traditional English cooking, we can still use the same economies as they do in the East, where they serve breads, samosas, pakoras, dhal, spring rolls, dim sum... to make the expensive ingredients go that much further. We can do the same serving more of our traditional (and fairly filling) accompaniments with the meals, such as dumplings with the stew, stuffing balls with pork and poultry, Yorkshire pudding (with not just beef, it is now often served with other cooked meats). Serve extra vegetables, roots or greens according to the season, offer plenty of 'tracklements' (love that word) such as mustards, redcurrant jelly, mint sauce and mint jelly, horseradish sauce, apple sauce. We have only to watch The Great British Menu to see how a very small amount of meat or fish is presented with an assortment of garnishes and sauces to at least appear to be enough to eat.
It has to be said, we all do eat more than we need, so perhaps using smaller plates or presenting a meal differently is all the change needed to cut down portions and thus cut down spending.