Saturday, August 09, 2008

Simply Delicious

Now we come to the topic of the day, food that is delicious and quite simple to make - and as little or as much as you wish. In all cases, it is more a matter of giving ideas/recipes for the main part of the dish, and this can then be served with salads, or rice/pasta/couscous/ or your choice.

Mushroom with Poached Egg: one portion
1 medium egg
1 large flat field mushroom, stalk removed
2 blsp creme fraiche
2 walnut halves, finely chopped
1 tblsp finely chopped fresh parsley
freshly grated nutmeg
salt and pepper
mixed salad leaves
Poach the egg until cooked but still soft. Remove from water or poacher and keep warm. Plunge the mushroom into a pan of boiling water, bring back to the boil, cover and remove pan from heat. Leave for one minute then drain the mushroom flat side down on kitchen paper. Mix together the creme fraiche, walnuts, parsley, a grating of nutmeg and seasoning to taste. Place the mushroom on a bed of salad leaves, put the poached egg on top and coat with the creamy herb and nut sauce. This dish can be eaten while still warm, or the mushroom and egg left to get cold, covered with the sauce then chilled in the fridge.

This next recipe makes small meat balls that can be cooked, then frozen away to be later reheated in a flavoursome sauce. Alternatively, these are delicious eaten cold with cooked and dressed beans (the pulse type or broad beans). The recipe uses minced pork, but minced turkey, lamb or chicken could also be used.
The recipes makes enough to serve three as it is hardly worth making just a few for one. Make the lot or double the quantity and then freeze the remainder to eat another day/week/month.
Pork Balls with Mint: (F)
8 oz (225g) minced pork
1 tsp ground cumin
half tsp chilli powder
1 tblsp tomato puree or ketchup
1 tblsp chopped fresh mint leaves
1 egg yolk
salt and pepper
cashew nuts (optional)
1 tblsp sunflower oil
As the meat needs to be really fine in texture, give the mince a whizz in a food processor, or - if you have a mincer, give it a second mince. Otherwise chop it finely, then put into a bowl with the cumin, chilli, tomato puree, mint and the egg yolk. Add seasoning to taste. Mix together thoroughly with a wooden spoon, then -
using wet hands - form the mixture into small balls, the size of cherry tomatoes. If you wish tuck one cashew nut into the centre of each pork ball to make a surprise filling.
Heat the oil in a small frying pan and fry the meatballs over medium heat for 10 or so minutes, shaking the pan from time to time so the balls turn and brown all over. When cooked, drain on kitchen paper and leave to cool (when cold they can be bagged up and frozen - thaw in the fridge overnight) and serve at room temperature with a chosen salad dressing (oil and lemon juice etc). Serve with dressed cold beans, salad, or hot with pasta and tomato based or cheese sauce.

Some many months ago was writing about cooking for one, and mentioned the usefulness of having one of those four-portion Yorkshire pudding tins. These are perfect for cooking individual pies, even cakes. Even one egg can be used for two different dishes. In the past have cooked a meat pie (filling had already been cooked), an apple pie, a Bakewell Tart, and a quiche - all in the same tin and baked at the same time. As not everything has to be eaten on the same day, an ideal way to get an assortment baked at the same time. Using two tins, even more of an assortment could be cooked at the same time and some frozen away.
Suggestions are: chicken pie, beef and ale pie, fish pie, apple pie, cherry pie, treacle tart, Bakewell tart, curd tart, assorted quiches.

Instead of a pastry 'case', use a small foil case or line one or more parts of the the tin with foil, and then a mashed potato topped pie (Cottage Pie, Shepherd's pie) could be cooked along with anything else. Also something like a fruit crumble.
As well as the above, a small Soda Bread, or a round scone (that could later be cut into three) could be baked in one of the containers. Always useful to keep a box of home-made scone mix, crumble mix and pastry mix in the fridge/freezer so that just small amounts can be baked when the oven is on for something else. Scones are best eaten fresh and on the day of baking, so a couple baked now and again, is much better than having to bake a whole batch at a time.
These tins can also be used to make single-portion uncooked desserts - such as a cheesecake, or a sponge base topped with fresh fruit and Quick-Jel.

Because biscuits can be made in bulk and can be stored in an airtight container (or even frozen) it is useful to make one or two varieties that are both healthy and can be eaten as a nibble with a cup of coffee, or eaten with cheese and grapes perhaps for a light lunch. The flavour of a biscuit can be changed by just varying the fat used. For richness use butter, for economy use margarine or lard. To make a biscuit taste even more delicious use a moist brown sugar, for general purposes use granulated sugar, or even reduce the sugar and add a little salt if eating with cheese. Walnuts go well with cheese, but other nuts could be used. The suggestion for the following recipe is to eat the biscuits with a soft cheese such as Dolcelatte and a handful of strawberries. But they would eat equally as well with Stilton and chilled green seedless grapes.
Oat and Walnut Biscuits: makes 15
4 oz (100g) butter, softened
3 oz (75g) soft light brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
2 oz (50g) porridge oats
2 oz (50g) walnuts, finely chopped
3 oz (75g) plain flour
half tsp baking powder
Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then beat in the egg. Sift together the flour and baking powder then stir this into the creamed mixture along with the rest of the ingredients. Place spoonfuls of this mixture, leaving space to spread, on greased baking sheets and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4, for 15 minutes until pale golden. Remove from oven, leave on the tin for 5 minutes then cool on a cake airer.
These keep up to a week in an airtight container.