Sunday, August 03, 2008

Seasonal Suggestions

Thanks for your comments.
Interesting to read that you have managed to buy tapioca Ceridwen, as have not seen that for sale for many years, and see no reason why it couldn't be cooked overnight in a slow cooker. My book tells me it can be ground down into flour and perhaps used for coating food that need frying or as a thickening agent. Ordinary (not ground) tapioca can also be used in place of pasta or pearl barley in soups etc. A classic Brazilian tapioca pudding is made as we would an English one, but they use red wine or grape juice where we could milk, and they serve it cold with vanilla flavoured cream. So a good chance to experiment with the product in many different ways.

Really appreciate you sending that list of running costs of electrical appliances Moira, and was shocked to see how much fuel was used when roasting a chicken, for it has got to the point now where we have to add a good 50p more to the price of the bird before it is served up at the table. As ever, fill that oven as full as you can every time it is turned on, and use the residual heat to cook meringues and biscuits when it is turned off.
Remember that, rather similar to microwaves, the more there is in the oven at any one time, the longer things can take to cook, having a fan oven helps as this means the temperature can be reduced a notch, so uses less heat and the heat itself circulates evenly around the food being cooked. It crosses my mind that it could be useful to publish a cook book or three where every recipe cooks at the same oven temperature, then it should be easier to get that oven filled to capacity without having to search through endless books.

Oh, Cheesepare, what an interesting time I had yesterday taking note of your mention of Fortnum and Mason's website. Yet, looking through the various picnic hampers found them very strange. Take one of those with us on a picnic and we would find ourselves very short of the necessary. Fancy teas need fresh boiling water and a china tea pot, cups and saucers to do them justice, and despite the inclusion of some preserves and pickles nothing was there to spread them onto - no bread, scones etc. Plenty of wines but not a lot of food. Perhaps this is the refined way of eating - like just a nibble as long as there is plenty of plonk. Possibly the only useful hamper was the Ploughman's, but again have never heard of the cheeses included, and still no bread!Not even sure if there was any beer.

Decided instead to look at the various goodies for sale. Everything of course was sold with no weights mentioned, at least not on the pages I looked at. Suppose when you have money, you don't need to ask how much you get when you buy (similar to Bond Street where the clothes in the windows have no price tags). Goes without saying everything seemed to be treble or quadruple the price than if we bought something similar locally. Everyone expects to pay a lot more for quality, so we have to allow for that, but are some things THAT important, for when whole black peppercorns are £7.95 as again £2.75p for the best quality sold in the supermarket (can be bought for less), and Curry Paste at over twice the price of Patak's (which is very good indeed) you wonder if anyone would notice the difference. The price of Curry Power shocked me, for it does not keep its flavour THAT long, and was 5p short of £8 (as against a penny under £2 if I cared to 'something similar' here). Packs of dried porcini mushrooms were twice the price of a pack looking remarkably similar in Tesco's, and a small jar of mint sauce was priced at £3.50p.
Most preserves seemed to be in standard sized jars (possibly 12oz) but when blackberry and apple jam (sorry, preserve) is £5.95p a jar, Rose Petal Jelly £8.95p, and Rhubarb and Ginger £6.65, think all we home-cooks can sit back with a smirk on our face. Even smallish pots of Lemon Curd were £3.75p - and did expect them to charge more considering it is more fiddly to make than jam (unless made in the microwave).

Recently mentioned making antipasti, and F & M were selling jars of this (chargrilled artichokes, sweet peppers and roasted onions, bottled in olive oil) for £12.50p. Also baby onions bottled in balsamic vinegar for £7.50p. The price of canned sardines started at £2.25p a can (dare I mention I still prefer Tesco's 35p a can, and even their sardines at 17p a can taste very little different to those more expensive). Have noticed there are branded cans of sardines 9in Tesco) that are sold boneless (and cost more because of it), yet it is the bones we need to eat as they contain plenty of calcium.

Margot, in The Good Life would certainly have taken a hamper to her picnic filled by F & M or Harrods (if they do them). In our case the Goode Life hamper would be filled with much cheaper ingredients, but like to feel they could stand up and be counted. What would I include? If based on the website hampers, seemingly not a lot (they didn't offer that much in the way of food, plenty of leaf tea and wine though) but our hamper would most probably start off with: a picnic pie (recipe below), assorted chilled salads, scones, butter and jam . Fruitcake, cheese (bought), biscuits and grapes. Sparkling wine or fruit juices. Why get poncy about the whole thing? Keep it simple and tasty - and as much as possible home-made.

As a reminder, many months ago mentioned that I used to make marmalades for a well-known stately home in the area. These were sold in their shop for about 6 times the price that I charged. Perhaps I could have charged more, after all had to travel some half-hour or more to deliver them, all they had to do was stick on labels. Even so I made a profit (although was not out to make a lot of money, just enjoyed mixing with the nobs). Point being made is that we should all be able to make truly wonderful foods in our own kitchens that would cost a bomb if sold in a shop, and still at low cost to us. Make sure your families know and appreciate what you provide for them. A good cook should never be taken for granted (although often they are).

Have a comment sent in by Angela re minced beef and curry. Thanks for telling me about the keema curry made with mince and delved my head into various books to find the recipe. So far have only managed to find one that mentions keema and that is for patties made with minced lamb but is served as a curry dish. One Indian cook-book tends to favour chunks of cooked lamb/chicken/beef in their recipes for biriyani, but another does use mince, and strangely our excellent local curryhouse seems always to use mince when making theirs, so horses for courses I suppose. It is always good to hear of new dishes, so thanks Angela.

My goodness, the rain came down yesterday, never seen such a torrent. Was just like someone pouring a huge bowl of water from up above. Fortunately didn't last too long, but long enough to flood the drive for a few minutes, luckily it slopes down and there is a gutter nearby. The other night we had thunderstorms, and today the weather could turn nasty again. More rain is forecast in the early part of the week. Perhaps we have now had our summer. Oh for those days when summer was pleasantly warm without all the excessive heat we seem to get these days. We did have hot days of course, remember my Dad showing me how it was hot enough to fry an egg on the paving stone in the garden, but the sun never seemed to scorch our bodies as it does now. Or it is my memory playing tricks again?

Moving back to picnic foods. Here is a recipe for a picnic pie - taken from Have a Goode Year, and because it was fairly economical gave it an old-fashioned name.
Humble Pie: makes 18 x 2" (5cm) squares
8 oz (225g) chicken livers, trimmed
1 oz (25g) butter
2 oz (50g) mushrooms, sliced
2 eggs
1 lb (450g) sausagemeat
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
freshly ground black pepper
12 oz (350g) shortcrust pastry
Finely chop the chicken livers. Melt the butter in a frying pan and add the liver and mushrooms. Stir/cook for 2 - 3 minutes to brown the livers. Remove from heat and cool, then mix together with the sausagemeat, herbs, eggs and season to taste.
On a floured board divide the pastry in half and roll one piece into an oblong to line a baking tin 12"x 6" (30 x 15cm). Spread the meat mixture over the pastry, then roll out the remaining pastry and lay on the top. Brush with beaten egg and prick the surface with a fork (or make small slashes with a knife). Bake for 30 minutes at 200C, 400F, gas 6, then reduce heat to 180C, 350, gas 4 and bake for a further hour. Cover lightly with foil (shiny side up) if browning too quickly. Cool in the tin then cut into squares to serve.

Here is the paupers version of Beef Wellington and, because several of the ingredients are mixed into the meat, a little less of the expensive protein (if you can call mince expensive) could be used and more of the cheaper.
As this will freeze, one to prepare and make ready for the sunny day when it appears (hopefully one weekend), then this can either be served for a family, a picnic or make two or more for a buffet.
Poor Man's Wellies: served 4 - 6 (F)
1 lb (450g) minced beef
1 thick slice bread, crumbed
1 onion, finely chopped
4 oz (100g) mushrooms, roughly chopped or sliced
half tsp dried mixed herbs
2 tblsp sweet pickle
salt and pepper
2 eggs, beaten
1 x 227g (8oz) pack puff pastry
Keeping back 1 tlsp of the egg, mix all the ingredients together (except the pastry). Grease, line and grease again a 1lb (450g) loaf tin and spoon in the mixture, pressing the top flat. Bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 1 hour until firm and the mixture is shrinking from the sides. Cool in the tin, then turn out and peel away the paper.
Roll the pastry out and trim to an oblong 13" x 11" (33 x 28cm) and place the cooled beef loaf in the centre. Brush edges of the pastry with water and wrap over the meat pressing out as much air as possible and sealing the edges well together. Place on a wetted baking sheet with the fold edge of the pastry under. If you wish cut pastry scraps into leaves to decorate the top (wet the underside so they stick on), then brush the lot with the reserved egg. At this point it can be frozen: open freeze, then wrap in foil, seal label and use within three months. To cook from freezer: unwrap, place on baking sheet, thaw 4 - 6 hours in the fridge then bake as from fresh (see below).
Bake at 225C, 425F, gas 7 for 12 minutes, then reduce heat to 180C, 350F, gas 4 and continue baking for 30 minutes until heated through and the pastry is a good golden brown. Can be eaten hot with vegetables and a good gravy or passata type sauce, or eaten cold and sliced.

As not everyone eats meat, here is a vegetarian version of a nut roast which also eats well hot or cold. A slice wrapped in lettuce leaves and tucked into pitta bread would make a good picnic munch, brunch or lunch.
Peanut Loaf: serves 4 - 6
3 tbsp groundnut or sunflower oil
1 onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
8 oz (225g) mushrooms, sliced
8 oz (225g) peanuts, chopped
4 oz (100g) fresh breadcrumbs, pref brown
8 oz (226g) mashed potatoes
1 egg, beaten
1 tblsp soy sauce
1 tblsp tomato puree or ketchup
1 tblsp chopped fresh coriander or chosen herb
salt and pepper
Heat 2 tblsp of the oil in a pan and fry the onion and celery for a few minutes until softened, then stir in the garlic and fry for a further minute. Mix the peanuts, breadcrumbs and potato together, then mix in the fried onion mixture , the egg, soy sauce and tomato puree. Season to taste and stir in the herbs.
Heat remaining oil in the pan and fry the mushrooms for 3 minutes. Take half the nut mixture and press this into a greased and lined 2lb (900g) loaf tin, cover the mixture with the mushrooms and press remaining nut mixture on top. Level and cover with foil. Bake for 1 hour at 180C, 350F, gas 4 then cool in the tin for five minutes before turning out onto a serving dish. Can be served hot or cold. Good with green vegetables/salads.

Another recipe which would eat as well at a picnic as at home is for a sweet type of loaf - more a tea-bread than bread as we know it, and also leans towards being a carrot cake. Whatever, it is very good sliced and spread with butter. This can also be frozen, so one to make when the oven will be on for something else.
Sweet Harvest-time Loaf: serves 6 - 8 (F)
3 eggs
6 fl.oz (170ml) sunflower oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 oz (150g) carrots, coarsely grated
5 oz (125g) desiccated coconut
6 oz (150g) cooking apples, peeled, cored, grated
4 oz (100g) walnut pieces, chopped
4 fl oz (100ml) runny honey
6 oz (150g) raisins or sultanas
7 oz (175g) self-raising wholewheat flour, sifted
half tsp ground cinnamon
half tsp freshly grated nutmeg
pinch salt
Beat together the eggs, oil, vanilla, the beat in the carrots, coconut and apples, the walnuts, dried fruit and the honey. Sift the flour with the spices and salt and gently mix this into the wet mixture. Turn into a greased 2 lb (900g) loaf tin and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for a good hour or until a skewer comes out cleanly. Cool in the tin for 15 minutes then turn out onto a cake airer to cool. Serve: sliced and buttered.
To freeze: overwrap the loaf when it has cooled down, seal and label. Freeze and use within 6 months. To serve: thaw at room temperature for 4 - 5 hours, then slice and butter.