Saturday, May 17, 2008

Enjoying the Challenge

Not sure if everyone has access to a printer, but always worth printing off the recipes for each month so that they can be referred to. Due to shortage of space some have already been deleted.

this next recipe is a 'more-than', but can easily be adapted to using other vegetables. Although ham is included, a vegetarian meat substitute could be used, or it could be left out altogether. Cut your coat according to your cloth as the saying goes (or in kitchen terms: make the meal with what you have).
Cauliflower Cheese Lasagne: serves 4
8 oz (225g) each cauliflower and broccoli florets
12 sheets 'n0 need to pre-cook' lasagne
500ml tub creme fraiche
2 tblsp milk
3 tblsp chopped mixed fresh herbs (parsley, oregano, basil etc)
8 oz (225g) cooked ham, diced
4 tomatoes, sliced
8 oz (225g) grated Cheddar or other hard cheese
salt and pepper
Soak the lasagne in hot water for 10 minute to soften. Meanwhile cook the cauliflower and broccoli for five minutes or until just tender (the easiest way is to pop them into a polybag and cook them on full heat in the microwave for 5 minutes).
Spoon the creme fraiche into a dish and slacken with the milk, then stir in the herbs and half the cheese. Add a little more milk if necessary to make a pouring sauce.
Grease an oven proof dish and place one third of the drained pasta on the base. Cover with the cauliflower, half the ham if using, and half the tomatoes. Soon over one-third of the cheese and herb sauce. Top this with a third more pasta, then cover this with the broccoli, the ham, the tomatoes, and another third of the sauce. Finish with a layer of pasta, the final amount of sauce and scatter over the remaining cheese. Bake for 20 minutes or so at 180C, 350F, gas 4 until the top is golden and bubbling. If preparing in advance, lower the heat slightly, cover and cook from cold for 35 minutes, then uncover and raise the heat for a final ten minutes or finish off under the grill.

The following Italian salad makes use of ingredients we normally have in store. Traditionally made with ciabatta bread, baguettes or a French stick could be used instead.
Panzanella: serves 4 - 6
4 ripe beef tomatoes
1 red onion
half a cucumber
8 slices stale ciabatta bread
few basil leaves
splash extra virgin olive oil
splash balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
Chop the tomatoes into wedges, then cut these in half. Slice the onion thinly. Peel the cucumber and slice in half, scoop out the seeds using a teaspoon, then cut the halves into thin slices. Put all into a bowl and chill for an hour before serving the salad.
Once the above has been prepared and starting to chill, soak the bread in cold water for 15 minutes, then drain, tip into a clean tea-towel and squeeze the bread as dry as possible. Add to the bowl of prepared vegetables, together with some torn basil leaves. Sprinkle over a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar, adding seasoning to taste, then mix well. Keep chilled until the hour is up (by then there is probably about half an hour left) then tip the mixture into a shallow dish and serve with what you will.

This next recipe is a great one for including different meats, that could be mixed together, or use just one of a kind. The basic recipe is made with sausages (if canned ones are used, these wouldn't need advance cooking), alternative chunks of corned beef could added to the beans, even thick pieces of cooked ham or chicken. Chorizo sausage would also give extra flavour. Other varieties of cooked beans could be used (maybe adding ketchup if they don't come with their own sauce), and why not make the mash up using instant potato made with butter, milk, adding grated cheese and/or bacon? The perfect recipe to play with, and one easily adapted to feed both children and adults.
Tex-Mex Pie: serves 4
approx 1 lb (450g) chipolata sausages
1 lb (450g) mashed potatoes
1 onion, finely chopped
1 oz (25g) butter or oil
1 tblsp plain flour
4 oz (100g) mushrooms, chopped
5 oz (150g) baked beans in tomato sauce
dash chilli sauce (or Worcestershire sauce)
salt and pepper
5 fl.oz (150ml) chicken stock
Bake the sausages at 180c, 350F, gas 4 for 35 minutes, turning from time to time. Meanwhile, put the fat in a sauce pan and saute the onion for five minutes, then add the mushrooms and the flour and cook for a further minute. Stir in the baked beans and chilli sauce (to the heat required) alternatively use W. sauce to give the bite without the heat. Season to taste, then stir in the stock and bring to the simmer, stirring all the time. Add the sausages, and pour the mixture into a 3 pint (1.7 ltr) pie dish and top with the mashed potatoes spreading it evenly over the top, forking it up to give a rough surface. Bake for half an hour or until golden brown on top. If not cooking immediately, allow a good half hour to heat up in the oven.
Tip: It is easier to cover a 'soft-centred' pie with mashed potato if working from the outside rim towards the centre, easiest of all if it can be piped rather than spooned on. With something like shepherd's or cottage pie, it is often easier if the filling can be put in the dish well in advance and left to chill so that it 'sets'. This way mashed potato can be easily be spread over, right to the rim leaving no gaps, and patterns make with a fork or knife as you wish. Just allow time for the filling to heat through, possibly covering with foil for the first half hour, then remove foil to allow the potato to crisp up, taking a good 45 minutes in total.

Several of you have mentioned a liking for coconut, so this dessert is sure to please some if not all. As it is the topping that contains the coconut, not the base, this could easily be adapted, maybe using finely crushed flaked almonds or rolled oats (or both) as a substitute, . Where the recipe specifies cream or milk (evaporated or otherwise), there seems to be no reason why coconut cream or milk could not be used instead to give added flavour. Crystallised ginger would also eat well with it. Always use flavourings and garnishes to suit your own personal tastes.
Coconut Pudding: serves 4
4 oz (100g) self raising flour
2 oz (50g) caster sugar
2 oz (50g) butter or margarine
1 large egg, beaten
1 - 2 tblsp milk
1 oz (25g) butter or marg
3 oz (75g) caster sugar
3 oz (75g) desiccated coconut
2 tblsp evaporated milk or cream
half tsp vanilla extract
glace cherries (optional)
Sift the flour into a bowl and add the sugar. Rub in the fat. Stir in the egg and milk to make a fairly soft consistency.
Grease a 1.5pt (850ml) pie dish and spoon in the cake batter, smoothing the top. Bake this for 25 minutes or until firm to the touch, at 180C, 350F, gas 4.
While the base is cooking, make the topping by melting the fat in a pan, removing from heat then stirring in the sugar, coconut, milk (or cream), and the vanilla extract.
When the base is cooked, remove from the oven and increase the heat to 200C, 400F, gas 6. Spread the topping over the base and garnish with a few halved glace cherries. Return to the oven and bake for a further 6 - 10 minutes until the top has turned golden brown. Serve with cream, evaporated milk, custard, or coconut cream.

The final recipe today is another using coconut, but it could be omitted. Again a recipe that can be adapted so don't dismiss it right away. Most of the recipes I offer are adaptable, purely for the reason that we don't always have all the ingredients to hand, so others could be substituted (with reason of course). Read through, use the basic recipes as a guide, then please yourself as to the vegetables and meat used in savoury recipes, or use different flavourings and fruits when it comes to puddings.
There are two ways this can be cooked, one in a conventional oven, the other by microwave. I give both versions starting with the oven-baked.
Baked Bananas: serves 4
4 large bananas
2 tsp cornflour
4 fl oz (125ml) orange juice
zest of 1 orange
3 tblsp orange liqueur (or rum, brandy or more juice)
2 oz (desiccated coconut)
2 tblsp soft brown sugar
orange slices to garnish (opt)
Peel the bananas and slice in half lengthways then cut into quarters. Place in a greased shallow baking dish.
Mix the cornflour with a little of the orange juice, then mix in the rest of the juice, the orange zest and the chosen spirit. Pour this over the bananas. Sprinkle over the coconut and the sugar. Dot with tiny knobs of butter and bake at 190C, 375F, gas 5 for 20 - 30 minutes or until the bananas are tender. Garnish with the orange slices and serve immediately. Eats well with scoops of vanilla ice-cream.

microwave version:
Prepare bananas and place in a (bow microwavable ) dish as before. Set to one side. Blend the cornflour with the orange juice and liqueur as before, and microwave this for 1 - 2 minutes until thickened, stirring twice as it cooks. Pour this sauce over the bananas, sprinkle with the orange zest, coconut and sugar. Dot with butter and microwave for 3 minutes. Then serve as above.