Thursday, May 15, 2008

Handy Ideas

For the individual all-in-0ne picnic food there is nothing to beat a baguette stuffed with whatever you fancy, and lots of it: maybe meatless burgers/falafel, sliced hardboiled eggs, tuna, lettuce, watercress, even slices of vegetarian 'meat'. Each baguette can be filled earlier in the day and tightly wrapped in clingfilm to be taken to the site (if large, remember to take a sharp knife for one to feed two). Or take chosen fillings separately, with packs of pitta bread and butter or mayo to spread inside and let everyone make up their own pocketful of pleasure (don't forget the pepper and salt).
Myself, absolutely love egg sarnies: bread and butter spread with a thin layer of Marmite, and filled with a thick layer of chopped hard-boiled egg mashed with a little mayo, plenty of seasoning and chopped chives or cress, and I suppose this idea could be transferred to min-pittas. A couple of tubs of home-made dips could be worth taking along with a packet of tortilla chips to do the dipping (alternatively breadsticks and crudites) - depends how fancy you want to be.

Drinks could, on a hot day, be chilled wine or grape juice, or home-made lemon barley water. Alternatively flasks of hot green tea. Dessert sounds as if it will be alpine strawberries, so remember to take sugar and cream (and spoons - not forgetting plates, cups, mugs or beakers, and paper napkins or a damp towel and a dry towel to wipe fingers. Often we get tunnel vision on the food and forget the obvious).

Not all picnic food is vegetarian, but often a 'pork' pie, could be made using vegetarian sausagemeat. Similarly meat substitute could be used to make Cornish Pasties or sausage rolls.
But for those who prefer something a little more traditional to take on a picnic, here is a recipe worth trying. Grated apple could be used instead of the carrot, or a combination of both. Made in the traditional way with hot-water crust pastry, it could instead be cooked in a loaf tin (using 2 - 3 strips of foil to aid removal, see tip below) and short pastry could be used instead of the hot-water crust.
Country Pork and Carrot Pie: serves 8 - 10
12 oz (350g) strong plain bread flour
half tsp salt
5 oz (150g) lard, melted
approx 8 tblsp boiling water
beaten egg to glaze
12 oz (350g) lean pork, minced
8 oz (225) belly pork (rind removed) minced
8 oz (225g) streaky rindless bacon, minced
half tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 dessp finely chopped fresh sage
8 oz (225g) grated carrot
salt and pepper
Put the flour and salt into a bowl and pour in the lard, stir together adding enough very hot water to make a stiff dough. Knead gently and leave to cool. Remove a quarter of the pastry (to use for the lid), with the remainder, roll out onto a floured surface to a size large enough to fit into a greased 7" (18cm) round cake tin, pref. with a loose bottom. Press the pastry firmly against the sides and bottom leaving a little overlapping the sides, if too much trim off surplus.
To make the filling: mix all the ingredients together adding seasoning to taste, and spoon this into the pastry case, pressing down lightly to get rid of air pockets. Fold the overlapping pastry over the filling. Roll out the saved pastry to the size of the top of the tin, dampen the folded-over pastry and place the pastry lid on top of the filling, pressing down and flattening the top. Make two holes in the lid, glaze with beaten egg, and bake for 2 hours - 2 hrs 15mins at 170c, 325F, gas 3. Leave in the tin to get cold before removing. Although not necessary, if you have some jellied chicken stock in the freezer, boil this up, cool and pour through one of the holes in the pie to fill up any air gaps between the meat and the pastry. It will set firmly when cold.
Tips: If a tin has a solid base, press a long folded strip of foil into the tin, across the bottom, up the sides and fold over. Grease before putting in the pastry. This can then be used as a handle to lift out the pie.
An ideal way to find out the correct size of tin for a dish such as this is to line it with clingfilm and then put in the filling, you can then, allowing for the pastry, be able to gauge how deep the pie will be. You may prefer to make a shallow pie (in which case use a larger tin) or a deeper pie.
To make the right sized lid for the pie, roll out the pastry, upturn the empty tin and use to cut through the pastry, any trimmings can be put back with the rest of the pastry to be re-rolled, or trimmings from either can be used to decorate the pie.

This next recipe is for a fish pate. It could be made with canned fish: sardines, mackerel, tuna, even salmon. Normally though, we prefer it made with (uncanned, 'fresh' smoked mackerel). Taken chilled, to a picnic it can be spread on site onto crusty bread or crispbreads (remember to take a knife).
Smoked Mackerel Pate:
2 fillets smoked mackerel - skin removed
2 oz (50g) melted butter
2 tblsp creme fraiche
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp horseradish sauce or Dijon mustard
freshly ground black pepper
Mash all the ingredients together, adding the pepper to taste. Spoon into a serving dish, cover with foil and chill for several hours in the fridge.

With a mention of gooseberries recently (how to use...), this next recipes can make use of a glut.
The first jelly is good served with fish, also delicious with duck and goose. Instead of using elderflowers, use mint or sage, then this eats well with hot or cold lamb. If no elderflowers, then use strips of rind from half a lemon (no need to put these in a bag) but remove these before potting up.
Gooseberry and Elderflower Jelly:
3 lb (1.4 kg) gooseberries, slightly under ripe
15 fl oz (425ml) water
1 lb (450g) sguar to each 1 pt (500ml) juice
6 elderflower heads
Top and tial the gooseberries, and place in a pan with the water. Simmer very gently for about 45 minutes or until very soft. Strain through muslin (jelly-bag) overnight. Measure the juice and put into a clean pan with correct amount of sugar, tie elderflowers in a muslin bag and put in the pan, pressing gently into the juice. Simmer until the sugar has dissolved, then bring to the boil. Boil rapidly until setting point is reached, then removed the bag of elderflowers, and pour the liquid into hot sterilised jars. Seal, leave to set and label. Store in as for jam.

Gooseberry and Rhubarb Jam:
2 lb (900g) gooseberries, topped and tailed
1 lb (450g) rhubarb, chopped
half pint (250ml) water
3 lb (1.35kg) sugarm warmed
Put the gooseberries in a large pan and add the water. Heat to the simmer and cook for five minutes, then add the rhubarb. Simmer for about 20 minutes until both are softened. Stir in the warm sugar and, when completely dissolved, bring to a rolling boil and cook until setting point has been reached. Cool, slightly, stirring occasionally, until the fruit no longer sinks. pour into warm jars, seal and store in a cool place.

For this next recipe the best goosegogs to use are unripe green ones.
Gooseberry Chutney:
3 lb (1.35kg) green gooseberries, topped and tailed
1 lb (450g) onions, finely chopped
8 oz (225g) raisins or sultanas
1 oz (25g) cooking salt
half tsp turmeric
half tsp cayenne pepper
12 oz (350g) soft brown sugar
1 pt (500ml) white wine vinegar
1 tsp ground ginger
pinch ground mustard seed
Put the gooseberries in a large pan with the rest of the ingredients. Heat gently, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Boil and simmer gently for up to 2 hours or until the chutney is thick enough for a wooden spoon to be dragged across the base of the pan leaving a path. Stir occasionally to prevent the chutney from sticking to the pan. Pour into warm sterilised jars that have vinegar proof lids. Seal and store for several months in a cool dark place.