Thursday, May 22, 2008

Signs of the Times

Bakewell Tarts (should be called Bakewell Pudding, but that name is for one large tart, not for individual ones). The recipe I can remember because it worked out as the weight of one egg, the same for butter, sugar and ground almonds, and the total weight of all three in pastry.
Bakewell Tarts: makes 12
8 oz (20og ) shortcrust pastry
2 oz (50g) butter, melted
2 oz (50g) sugar
2 0z (50g) ground almonds
1 egg (2oz/50g), beaten
flaked almonds
Roll the pastry out thinly and cut out twelve circles to fit 12 deepish tart tins. Line the tins with the pastry and place in the freezer whilst making the filling.
Beat together the butter, sugar, ground almonds and egg (the recipe suggests doing this in a food processor). Take the pastry from the freezer and spread a little jam over the base of each and slightly up the sides. Divide the filling between each of the pastry cases, spreading it over the jam right to the edges. Bake for 10 minutes at 190C, 375F, gas 6 then scatter a few flaked almonds on top of each, then bake on for a further 5 minutes. Cool on a cake airer.
Tip: if the filling mixture is very stiff, beat in a teaspoon of milk. S.R.flour could be used instead of ground almonds, or a mixture of both. If using just flour add a few drops of almond essence/extract.

Often we do get 'discards' that could otherwise be used. When straining fruit to give a clear liquid to make a jelly (redcurrant jelly for example), the bits left in the sieve, although mainly skins and seeds, still have a certain amount of flavour and plenty of fibre, so could be frozen to later be added to other mixed fruits to make jam, or could be included with other fruits in a pie. Some may think this is a step too far, but why throw away something if it can be used and has some nutritional value, even if only in fibre-form?

From now on, cooking will almost certainly move on it the right direction. Those who need to save money will almost certainly move to doing more home-cooking. Or is that just wishful thinking? Those who cook now, will aim to cut costs by using less costly ingredients, trying out new recipes. Those who already do this will start growing their own produce where they can.

We can cut costs by alternate days serving vegetarian meals only, or even more often than that. When we serve a meal with meat, we could serve this with salad alone, thus saving on the carbohydrates. Ideally we should serve a balanced meal, but sometimes this may prove to be more costly. As long as over the week we get the right amount of protein, carbohydrates and vegetables we should stay healthy enough. It has to be said we all eat too much anyway, for as our bodies are quite geared up to getting rid of its own waste, we normally don't realise that we could get by with eating less. During wartime, admittedly many people did lose weight as the "Supersize..." programme shown this Tuesday proved. But this weight loss did not keep on happening. Once people got to the weight they should be, or maybe slightly less under the circumstances, the weight loss stopped. What the rationing did was to give exactly the right amount of calories needed to give people enough energy and to heep them healthy. All I can remember is not really ever feeling hungry, but certainly I craved sweets. How I missed the sugary ones. But as today, they would not have done me much good. Just given pleasure, instant energy perhaps, but little else. The foods that mattered, were still provided to be eaten. Whether we enjoyed them or not didn't come into it. If we didn't eat them, THEN we could lose weight. Accept them, and we survived.

Nevertheless we still enjoy nibbling (some call it grazing) between meals, so here is an easy recipe to make cheese biscuits which are good eaten hot or cold, can be eaten with soups and salads as well as with cheese, and a few can be baked at a time when the oven is on for something else, for this dough keeps well refrigerated for several days, and can also be frozen.
Cheese Biscuits: makes 24 or more depending on size
5 oz (150g) softened butter (or soft marg)
half pint measure grated strong flavoured hard cheese
half pint measure sifted plain flour
half tsp cayenne pepper
half tsp paprika pepper
Mash the butter and cheese together with a fork, and add flour and seasoning (this can be done using the pulse button in a food processor). Form into a ball, and gently roll out on a floured board, fairly thinly. Cut into rounds of the size you wish and bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 7 - 8 minutes.

This next recipe uses lettuce leaves. In France it is deemed almost criminal to throw away lettuce leaves, even any that are wilted, so this makes good use of maybe a sad Little Gem lettuce, or the outer leaves of a Cos lettuce, but almost any type of lettuce would do. A quick dish to make once the preparation has been done taking less than 6 minutes to cook.
Lettuce Omelette: serves 2
1 oz (25g) butter
half pint measure roughly chopped lettuce leaves
2 eggs, beaten
salt and pepper
2 oz (50g) grated hard cheese
Melt the butter in an omelette pan and add the lettuce, stir and saute for 2 minutes. Add seasoning to taste to the beaten eggs, then pour this over the lettuce. Cook over medium heat until set on the bottom, this takes about 2 minutes. Sprinkle the grated cheese over the top then put the pan under a hot grill until the cheese has melted and the omelette has begun to puff up. This takes about 1 - 2 minutes. Serve hot directly from the pan.
variation: Fry a little grated onion with the lettuce, add a few cooked (or thawed frozen) peas, maybe a little diced red bell pepper. Add an extra eggm could a couple of minutes longer both on the hob and under the grill, and this could serve three with a salad.