Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Something for the Weekend?

Cheesecakes can be either baked or unbaked. Myself prefer not to use the oven unless necessary, so here is a great recipe for a chilled cheesecake made with bananas. No need to go out and buy biscuits for this base, just store all the broken bits of any sweet biscuits in an airtight jar, then and crush these up when needed.
Banana Bar Cheesecake: serves 8
3 large ripe bananas (approx 12 oz/350g when peeled)
juice half a lemon
2 oz (50g) light soft brown or caster sugar
1 sachet gelatine*
3 tblsp cold water
8 oz (225g) cream cheese
142 ml carton double cream
6 oz (175g) digestive (or other) biscuits, crushed
3 oz (75g) butter, melted
1 tblsp demerara sugar
Chop the bananas into large chunks and put into a food processor with the sugar and lemon juice and blitz until smooth (or mash in a bowl using a potato masher/fork). Put the water in a small bowl and sprinkle over the gelatine. Leave for five minutes then stand the bowl in a pan of hot water and stir until the gelatine has dissolved, then stir this into the banana puree.
Put the cream cheese into a bowl and beat in 3 -4 tblsp of the banana mixture, then fold in the rest. Whip the cream until the consistency of the banana mix** and fold together.
Line a 2 lb (900g) loaf tin with clingfilm and spoon the mixture into this. Level the surface and chill for a couple of hours or until set.
Mix together the biscuits, demerara sugar and butter. Spread this over the top of the cheesecake flattening the surface and replace in the fridge to chill for a further half hour.
To serve, invert cheesecake onto a piece of clingfilm on a board, remove cling film from round the sides and bottom and upturn onto a serving dish so the biscuit is at the base. Serve sliced with cream.
* Instead of the gelatine, use a lemon jelly, just dissolving the pack in no more than 5 fl.oz (150ml) water (or less). Jelly/water is quickly dissolved in a microwave, then stand the jug in cold water and stir occasionally to cool it down (but not set) before using.
**When folding cream, egg whites, mousse etc together, aim for them to be of the same consistency they they will fold together more easily and rapidly. The more folding has to be done, the more air can be lost.
Tip: To remove creases from the surface of the above (caused by the clingfilm), stand a palette knife or similar in a jug of hot water for half a minute, wipe dry then smooth the knife over the surface to iron out the wrinkles.

Not sure when the summer school holidays begin (or have they already?). But even when still at school there are always other times when children can help to make their own meals. Here is an easy recipe they could try making themselves, with enough enough delights (such as messy hands and worktops) to keep them happy for hours. Instead of the fish (or even with the fish) use 4 chopped (Mum do this) hard-boiled eggs, or 4 oz (100g) grated cheddar cheese. The fish used is tuna, but canned salmon tastes even better. The potatoes can be cooked in their skins in the microwave, then cooled for 5 minutes before mashing. After making, best let Mum do the frying.
Fun to Make Fishcakes: makes 8 to serve 4
1 1/2lb potatoes (750g) cooked and mashed
200g can tuna, drained
198g can sweetcorn, drained
2 tblsp tomato ketchup
1 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
1 egg, beaten
salt and pepper
4 tblsp milk
3 oz (75g) fresh breadcrumbs
Using a fork, break the tuna up into flakes, then stir these into the mashed potato, then stir in the sweetcorn, ketchup, parsley and egg. Season to taste. When thoroughly mixed, cover the bowl and leave to chill while clearing up the work surface and washing pots.
Using clean wet hands, divide the mixture into 8 and shape each into flat round patties about 4" (10cm) wide and 3/4" (2cm thick). Brush milk over both sides of the fishcakes and dip each into breadcrumbs so that they are evenly coated. Mum can then fry four at a time over medium heat turning once (3 mins each side) or until golden all over. Drain on kitchen paper, keep warm and serve with chosen veggies or salads.

Although not a recipe for a complete dish, if you like battered fried fish (with chips - that goes without saying), here is an extra good way of making a light crunchy batter. The amount below covers approx 8 pieces (large fish fingers) cut from 1 1/2lb (750g) cod or haddock (or similar fish) fillet. Serves 4.
Chip-shop style batter:
9 oz (225g) plain flour
1 sachet fast-action dried yeast
1 level tsp salt
half pint (300ml) lager
Sift flour and salt into a large bowl then add the yeast. Stir in the lager and mix well. Cover and leave for an hour for the batter to bubble. To use, dry fish using a kitchen towel, then dip in flour and pat off the excess. Dip the fish in the batter and fry a few at a time in hot oil for 4 - 5 minutes until the batter has crisped up. Drain on kitchen paper.
Tip: If having a party (or even if not), cook oven chips, and keep cooked fish warm - these can be re-crisped up if necessary by a quick plunge back into the hot fat. Serve the traditional British way by wrapping each serving in newspaper lined with a sheet of baking parchment (prevents printer's ink touching the food).

This next is a type of Ploughman's lunch, meant to be eaten (as in the old days) out of doors, preferably leaning against a haystack. Otherwise make do with a rug laid on the grass.
Ploughman's Stack lunch: serves 8
500g packed white or wholemeal bread mix
2 tblsp oil
3 tblsp chutney (ploughman's pickle)
1 lb (500g) mixed cheeses, grated, sliced or cubed
4 ribs celery, finely sliced
1 onion, thinly sliced
salt and pepper
sesame seeds (opt)
Make up the dough as per packet instructions, but adding the oil to the water. Knead the dough then cut in half and roll out each to a 10" (25cm) round. Place one round in a flan tin. Spread half the pickle over the surface, scatter over a little onion, then a little celery. Top with all the cheese, and finally more celery and onion to finish. Spread the remaining pickle over the second half of bread and upturn this to sit on the top of the filling (so the pickle is facing inside). Press the edges of the dough together to seal the 'packet', brush the surface with milk and sprinkle over a few sesame seeds (if using). Cover with a tent of foil or a damp cloth (but not touching the dough), and leave in a warm place to rise for half an hour(ish). The more the bread rises the lighter the texture. But don't overprove.
Bake the loaf at 190C, 375C, gas 5 for 30 - 40 minutes or until golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the underside. Remove from the oven and place on a cake airer to cook completely. Serve on site, cut into wedges.
variation: make a Mediterranean version by omitting the pickle and spreading over a little pesto. Include sun-dried tomatoes as part of the filling, and maybe even knead a few sliced black olives into the dough.