Sunday, May 18, 2008

Time Saving

Even the cheapest canned tomatoes can turn into 'posh nosh' with the addition of a few herbs and spices, and a little wine (which could be home-made of course), also a little less wine could be used in this next recipe, making up the amount with the liquid from the can of tomatoes. With fondues coming back into fashion, then this dish is a good one to try. Use a small milk saucepan if you have no fondue set. The bread cubes could have been frozen months back (always a good way to use up a French stick). Always worth freezing away a glass of wine every time you open a bottle (freeze in ice-cube trays or small containers and remember to label). A smaller can of tomatoes could be used and some tomato passata added to make up the amount if you prefer, in which case some of the herbs could be omitted (check the label to see if the passata has any included). This dish is heavy on the cheese, but it could be a mixture of hard cheeses - and suggest grating up the dried out oddments that normally don't know what to do with, but hate to throw away.
Love-Apple Fondue: serves 4
2 oz (50g) butter
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 x 794g (280z) can plum tomatoes
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp paprika
half pint (300ml) white wine
salt and pepper
1 lb (500g) Cheddar cheese, grated
cubes of bread
Melt the butter in a fondue or small pan, add the onion and fry until softened, stir in the garlic. Drain the tomatoes and mash (or blend) to a pulp, then add these to the pan with the herbs and paprika. Stir in the wine and season to taste. Simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in the cheese a little at a time, and when all has melted bring to the table with a bowl of bread cubes. Use forks (preferably ones with long handles) to dip the bread into the fondue.
Tip: to make a Heath Robinson candle warmer, punch holes in the top and sides of an empty small (clean) can, and stand this over a lit 'tea-light' candle, then stand whatever needs to be kept warm on the top of the can. Believe it or not, six tea-lights give off enough heat to boil water.

This next recipe is for another chilled soup - a version of the leek and potato and this time made with canned new potatoes, (again own-brand are very cheap), The milk could be made using reconstituted dried milk (err on the generous side) and water if you wish. Hopefully the chives will be growing in a pot, and we have only to find the leeks, cream and butter. Diluted evaporated milk could take the place of the cream (any surplus could be frozen), and at a pinch, mild onions could take the place of the leeks. Or even spring onions. Dare I suggest marg could be used instead of butter. No, we must not spoil the shop for a h'aporth of tar.
Mock Vichysoisse: serves 4
1 large leek, cleaned and thinly sliced
2 oz (50g) butter
1 x 539g can new potatoes, drained and chopped
1 pint milk
half pint (284ml) single cream
salt and pepper
chopped chives
Saute the leeks in the butter for about 15 minutes or until they are very soft. Put the leeks, potatoes and milk into a blender and pulse/blitz for a few minutes until smooth. Pour into a bowl and stir in the cream. Season to taste (if you don't wish to see black fleck, use white pepper). Chill for a couple of hours then serve with a sprinkling of chives on top.

This next has to be included for it makes use of the 4p cans of curry sauce that we have talked about so recently. Being a mild sauce, it goes well with fish, and this could be chunks of assorted cooked fish, certainly prawns (if using frozen cooked prawns thaw and add at the end). But again, it could be a purely vegetarian curry using cooked vegetables of your choice. Cooked cauliflower florets could be added to the sauce towards the end of the cooking time.
The Captain's Curry: serves 4
2 tblsp sunflower oil
2 onions, chopped
half red bell pepper, deseeded and chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 oz (50g) mushrooms, sliced
1 - 2 crisp eating apples, peeled, cored and diced
8 oz (225g) chosen fish, filleted and skinned
2 tsp tomato puree
6 tblsp water
4 oz (100g) prawns
1 can mild curry sauce
Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the onion, pepper , mushrooms and celery for five minutes. Add the fish, apple and tomato puree, and stir well together, then stir in the water. Cover and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Pour in the curry sauce, mix well, add the prawns and simmer until the prawns are cooked (if fresh) or heated through (if using cooked, frozen and thawed). Serve with boiled rice.

This is a much simpler dish, again using the curry sauce but this time using as a dressing. Freeze surplus sauce for another dish. The crisp centre leaves of an ice-berg lettuce could be used instead of Little Gem.
Curried Eggs: serves 4
half can curry sauce
3 tblsp cream, yogurt or mayo
salt and pepper
6 hard-boiled eggs, shelled
1 Little Gem lettuce
paprika or chopped chives
Mix together the curry sauce with the cream (or other), and season to taste. Place the eggs in a bowl and pour over the sauce. Line a salad bowl with lettuce leaves and pile the eggs in the centre, spooning over any sauce left in the bowl. Sprinkle a little paprika over the eggs, and/or chopped chives.

Possibly some of us may have instant potato in our cupboard. Yuk! I hear some of you cry - but I always keep some in store as when reconstituted it freezes very well (unlike 'real' mashed spuds), so when making fish cakes and the like intended to be frozen, then I always use the instant. The dry mix can also be added to soups and gravies to help thicken them. Always using milk instead of water, milk powder as well if you wish to make it richer, adding a large knob of butter, plenty of seasonings and Bob's your Uncle, who can tell the mash is not what it pretends to be. Adding grated cheese, crispy bacon, fried onion, herbs, all these can improve the flavour of the instant, so have a play why don't you?
This dish cries out for something to be put between the potato and the topping, so this could be cooked vegetables, maybe the ubiquitous canned tuna, or even cooked minced meat or sausages. As ever, your choice. Even without anything extra it's not that bad either - served as a side dish.
Upside down Potato Pie: serves 4
1.5 lb (750g) mashed potatoes (with butter, cream etc)
salt and pepper
grated nutmeg
1 slice bread, crumbed
4 oz (100g) Cheddar cheese, grated
Making sure the potato is seasoned well with salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste, spoon this into a shallow ovenproof dish, spreading it evenly. Mix together the bread with the cheese and spoon this over the top of the potato . If the potato is freshly mashed and still hot, then brown off under a hot grill for 3 - 5 minutes. If preparing ahead of time, bake for 15 minutes at 180C, 350F, gas 4 then finish off under the grill. If including cooked meat in the dish, allow this to be thoroughly reheated in the oven (covering the dish if necessary) before grilling.

Although this recipe uses two cans of salmon, I suggest using one can of salmon and one of tuna, for having mixed the two together find they complement each other very well. Always mash the salmon bones in with the flesh as they contain a goodly amount of calcium. If you wish to save the whites of the eggs to make soft-scoop ice-cream or meringues, then use four egg yolks.
Salmon Melts: serves 4
2 x 212g cans salmon
9 oz (250g) Cheddar cheese, grated
3 rounded tblsp thick natural yogurt
1 tblsp lemon juice
salt, pepper, paprika
3 large eggs, beaten
4 slices granary or wholemeal bread
Drain the salmon and put into a bowl and mash together with the 6 oz of the cheese. Stir in the yogurt and the lemon juice. Season to taste and stir in the eggs, mixing everything well together. Toast the bread lightly and spread on one side with butter, then place these, butter side up, side-by side in a shallow ovenproof dish. Pile the salmon mixture on the top and sprinkle over the remaining cheese. Place under a pre-heated grill, turning the heat to low, and grill for 10 minutes until the mixture is heated through, then raise the heat to high and continue grilling for a further five minutes until the cheese on top is bubbling and turning brown. Serve immediately.

Sometimes it's worth using the 'Instant Whip' type of dessert mixes. Often we can pick up a squashed pack from the 'reduced' shelf, so if you see one, bear this next suggestion in mind, for it could turn out to be worthwhile. If using a different flavoured 'mix' then adjust the 'booze' accordingly.
Several years ago one of the editors of Good Housekeeping Magazine told me how she would use a chocolate 'Angel Delight', and substitute a tablespoon of whisky for one of the milk, and thus move the dessert several steps up the ladder. As she rubbed shoulders with the nobs, living in the same block of apartments, I bow to her ingenuity of making something that tasted very good from something - well, let's say a bit down-market. If it is good enough for the nobility, then it is good enough for me.