Monday, July 07, 2008

Making a Difference

This recipe contains cooked pulses (and it could be any similar sized bean), and substantial enough to get away with using less fish if you wish.
New York Chowder: serves 4 - 6
2 tblsp sunflower oil
2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 x 400g chopped tomatoes
2 tblsp tomato puree/paste
half tsp sugar
salt and pepper
few fresh thyme leaves, chopped OR half tsp dried thyme
1 x 410 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 lb (450g) thick white fish fillets (cod, haddock, ling etc)
handful of fresh parsley, chopped
Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium to high heat. Tip in the potatoes and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until the spuds are golden. Add the onion and fry for 3 minutes longer, then stir in the garlic. Cook for a further minute or until the onion is browned. Add the tomatoes, the tomato puree, the thyme, sugar and seasoning to taste. Boil for a few minutes until thickened to a sauce, then add the beans. Reduce heat to the simmer, cut the fish into chunks and stud these into the top of the sauce (do not stir or the fish will break). Cover and simmer for 4 - 5 minutes by which time the fish will be cooked. Spoon into individual bowls with a sprinkling of parsley to garnish the top.

We are used to eating freshly baked (American) muffins - sometimes as a breakfast treat, but instead of the more usual fruit flavoured, try these savoury muffins. As basil is the 'tomato herb', this is used in this recipe, but other herbs could be used if you wish to experiment with flavours.
Tomato and Herb Muffins: makes 9
9 oz (250g) self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
half tsp bicarbonate of soda
half tsp salt
2 oz (50g) Gruyere cheese, grated
2 oz (50g) sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
10 large basil leaves, torn into shreds
5 fl oz (150ml) milk
4 tblsp olive or sunflower oil
2 eggs, beaten
Sift together the flour with the raising agents and salt and put into a bowl with the cheese, tomatoes and basil. In a jug, beat together the milk, oil and eggs, then pour this into the dry ingredients and mix together until well blended. Pour into 0 greased muffin moulds (or line with paper cases) and bake for 20 25 minutes at 190C, 375F, gas 5 until risen and golden. Remove from oven and leave to stand in the tin for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.

Not that I wish to suggest we go out and buy the ready-mades, but as we are coming up to the dessert section, and frozen ones at that, it is up to the individual to choose whether to buy the 'ingredients' such as the meringues, cakes and biscuits, the lemon curd and custards, or take the easy route, buy the lot and more or less assemble the dishes. Myself prefer to make meringues in bulk, for they will store for months if kept in an airtight container. While making meringues from egg whites, might as well make the lemon curd using the left-over yolks. Or even the custard from the yolks.The cake could be a bought Madeira slab but to fit the tin, or one of those sponge flan bases, or just a sponge layer that you might have baked and put in the freezer. It doesn't matter how we get there, as long as we do.
Lemon Meringue Gateaux: serves 8 (F)
1 x 8" (20cm) round sponge layer
8 - 10 meringues, broken into pieces
500ml tub creme fraiche
jar lemon curd
small bunches ripe redcurrants to garnish
Line the base of an 8" (20cm) springform cake tin with greaseproof or parchment paper. Put the sponge layer in the tin. Put the broken meringues into a bowl, add the creme fraiche and fold together. Spoon alternate blobs of the meringue mix and lemon curd on top of the cake. If you wish for a marble effect just zig-zag a knife through just once, but better left as-is. Bang the tin down on the table to level the surface, then freeze for at least 4 hours. To serve, remove cake from the tin and garnish with the redcurrants.

This next is an easy ice-cream to make as it uses the ready made custards - this can be canned or in packets. As to the biscuits, the flavour of the ice-cream can vary according to what variety of biscuit is used. It could be ginger, bourbon, or choc-chip. Or custard creams, oaty biscuits - almost anything that has a good flavour.
Cookie Frozen Dessert: serves 6 (F)
10 fl oz (half pint/300ml) double cream
2 tblsp caster or icing sugar
400g carton custard
4 oz (100g) chosen biscuits roughly chopped
chocolate sauce to serve
Beat together the cream and sugar until soft peaks. Whisk in the custard until the mixture is fairly thick. Put into a container and freeze for an hour until frozen round the edges but still mushy in the centre. Stir sides to midde and beat again, then fold in the biscuits. Freeze for one hour, then beat again, return to freezer, cover and leave overnight. This will store for up to 2 months. Allow to thaw for 15 minutes before scooping out and serving with hot chocolate sauce poured over.
hot chocolate sauce: put five fl.oz *150ml) double cream in a pan with 4 oz chopped dark chocolate and heat until the chocolate has dissolved and the sauce is smooth. Of you wish add a knob of butter to make the sauce really glossy.

Finishing today with the traditional way to make lemonade. One of my bridge 'acquaintances' sampled this when we played here, and then asked me to make and take some to her house so she could serve it to her friends when we played bridge there. Both she and her friends were - let's say 'upper crust' so I felt honoured. When you get to playing bridge well enough, it is amazing how invitations flood in. Possibly the only way I would have ever got the chance to walk through the doors of a stately home as a visitor not one of those who pay at the gate. Once or twice was able to make and serve buffets for them. Now and again it was good to pretend I was higher up the social ladder than I really am. By the way, it was 'them in the big 'ouse' that always used the tea-bags twice. They have other secrets I will not divulge.

Shirley's Lemonade:
4 lemons
3 tblsp granulated sugar
2 pints (1.2 ltrs) boiling water
Slice the lemons thinly in a shallow dish, so that it saves all the juice that runs out. Put the fruit and their juice, with the sugar into a large bowl and pour over the boiling water. Cover and leave for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight. Strain and serve chilled in long glasses, add a couple of ice-cubes and garnish with a spring of mint and a slice of lemon.