Monday, August 18, 2008


This next recipe is for roasted beetroot dip, and myself would use just the vacuum packed beetroot that - unopened - have an exceedingly long shelf life compared to the freshly cooked. This means we have the beetroot ready for when the fair weather comes (and with our fair weather we need to be on the starting blocks to gain full use of it). So my version of the dip is as follows:
Rosy Beetroot Dip: serves 6 - 8
1 vacuum pack (4 - 5 beets) cooked beetroot
juice one small lemon (or half a large)
5 fl.oz (150ml) Greek yogurt
tsp horseradish sauce
salt and pepper
thin slices toasted garlic bread
batons of raw veg (carrots, celery, red/yellow peppers etc)
Chop the beetroot and blitz together with the yogurt, lemon juice, horseradish sauce and seasoning to taste. Place in a container, cover and keep chilled. Serve with the crusty bread and/or vegetable sticks.

improvising :
Save empty plastic pill bottles and camera film containers, and use these to take small amounts of sauces, mayo and salad dressing to picnics or with packed lunches.

Use polystyrene trays from packaged supermarket meat to use as disposable pet food dishes. Use deeper containers that hold tomatoes, mushrooms etc., fill with compost and use them to grow seedlings.

Add small quantities of left-over wine to wine vinegar, and it will keep going indefinitely. If a recipe calls for wine to be added to a stew, add 1 tblsp red wine vinegar and a couple of lumps of sugar instead.

To make brown gravy without using gravy browning or a stock cube, place a tablespoon of flour in a cup in the oven while the roast is cooking. This will brown the flour and the flour will colour the gravy.

When brown sugar has dried to a hard lump, grate it back down using a hand grater. Alternatively place a damp cloth over the top of the jar, place on the lid and the following day the sugar should be soft again.

Stand a tin of syrup or treacle in a bowl of hot water, or place in a warm oven for a few minutes (NOT a microwave) - but with lid removed, and the syrup will be runny and easier to measure out. To measure by weight, place the tin on the scales, weigh this, then remove syrup to the required amount.

Sufferers of indigestion may find that drinking water that has first been boiled and poured over a few fresh sage leaves and left for a few minutes will give as much relief as an over-the-counter preparation.

If plain chocolate is needed to be used when baking, one teaspoon of melted butter and four tblsp cocoa powder mixed together could be used instead.

If a spag.bol, or chilli or other meat stew catches on the bottom of a saucepan, DO NOT STIR . Instead, tip the contents into a clean pan, leaving the burnt bits behind and add more liquid if needed. With any lucky there will be no burnt flavour left, but if there is, just spice up the mixture by adding Worcestershire sauce, or more chilli powder and that should disguise it. Put cold water in the burned pan with a few drops of detergent and the next day it should come clean.

To save buying fancy vinaigrette type salad dressings, make up a basic mix by putting 8 tblsp olive oil in a screwtop jar along with 2 tblsp white wine vinegar, a pinch of salt, half a tsp of mustard powder and be generous with the freshly ground black pepper. Shake vigorously to blend, then store in the fridge. Each time of using give another good shake to combine the ingredients. This will keep for some weeks as long as you don't add any garlic or fresh herbs, as these can be added separately to a small amount of the dressing when ready to dress as salad.

If wishing to make a clear fruit jelly preserve, add a few broken eggshells to the simmering fruit (and before the sugar is added). The sediment will cling to the shells, which can then be removed.
The same thing works when wishing to make clear stock, add eggshells to cloudy stock, simmer for 10 minutes then remove eggshells.

Save the waxed paper from breakfast cereals and cut into circles of different sizes. Use waxed side down and place over the top of jams and jellies to seal before placing on the lids. Use larger circles to interleave home-made beefburgers. Cut squares to wrap home-made sweets such as individual toffees or to wrap around toffee apples.

This time of the year it is often possible to buy small pickling onions. The quick way to pickle these is to peel, then half-fill chosen jars (I use the larger mayo jars), sprinkle with a couple of tsp of pickling spice, then top up the jar with onions. Cover with malt vinegar and seal with a vinegar proof lid. Store for at least 2 months before eating, but use within 4 months of making.

Use the vinegar from empty jars of pickled onions, strain and use instead of malt vinegar sprinkled over fish and chips.

To get rid of the smell from jars that have contained pickles, fill with cold water, add a tsp of bicarbonate of soda and leave to stand for 24 hours.

The late Michael Smith, who I worked with several times swore by the use of biological washing powder for cleaning hobs. He also used to soak all his wooden spoons, spatulas etc overnight in a dilute mixture of powder and water.
Soaking pans in a bucket of Ariel he said cleans pans better than any other product, and also tea-towels soaked overnight in a bowl of Ariel before washing brings them up spanking clean.

Not sure whether this recipe could be called an 'improvisation', but it can certainly take the place of breadsticks that we often buy to eat with soups and dips. Those who make bread will probably make their own breadsticks, but those that don't should try making this variation. Similar in many ways to cheese straws they are slightly firmer. The recipe makes a goodly amount (depending on the size you choose to cut them) but will store well in an airtight tin.
Cheese Sticks:
1 lb (450g) wholewheat flour
2 tsp salt
half tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp baking powder
4 oz (100g) hard margarine
12 oz (340g) grated Cheddar cheese
2 eggs, beaten
cold water
Either process the flour, salt, pepper, b.powder and marg. together, or rub with the fingers to make fine crumbs. Mix in the cheese then fold in the eggs with just enough water to make a firm dough. Knead gently until smooth.
Roll out to a two-thirds inch thick (1 cm) rectangle, and cut into sticks of the length you wish (suggest around 4" (9cm). Place onto parchment paper covered baking sheets and brush with beaten egg. Bake at a good 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 7 - 8 minutes or until golden. Cool on tray then on a cake airer.