Saturday, October 18, 2008

Welcome Warmth

Originally, this Hot Pot would have been made using a whole small chicken, but why bother when chicken thighs and drumsticks are so much cheaper and have a good flavour? So have taken this in to account when writing up the ingredients. Plum tomatoes also have more flavour than chopped tomatoes, and the tins can be a few pence cheaper (possibly because you have got to chop them yourself), and although either could be used, suggest you buy according to the price.
Gardener's Casserole: serves 4
3 oz (75g) butter or margarine
2 oz (50g) rindless streaky bacon, chopped
2 onions, sliced
2 ribs celery, sliced
4 oz (100g) mushrooms, sliced
8 chicken joints (thighs and/or drumsticks)
1 lb (450g) small potatoes
half pound (225g) turnips, sliced
1 x 400g can tomatoes
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
salt and pepper
1 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
Melt 1 oz (25g) of the butter in a pan, and add the bacon. Cook gently until the fat is released from the bacon and then stir in the onions, celery and mushrooms. Saute these until soft but not browned, then - using a slotted spoon - transfer the vegetables to an ovenproof casserole dish.
Add the remaining butter to any remaining juices in the pan and when melted, place in the chicken joints and fry until brown on all sides. Place these on top of the vegetables in the casserole, pouring over any juices from the pan, and top with the potatoes (cut to even sizes if necessary), turnips, tomatoes and sprinkle over the dried herbs. Add seasoning to taste.
Cover tightly and cook at 160C, 325F, gas 3 for two hours or until the vegetables are tender and the chicken cooked through. Serve sprinkled with parsley.

With chicken drumsticks being remarkably low cost compared to some other meats, the cheapest have little flavour, so worth giving them a bit of a lift. Below are three different 'coatings' that can be given to the drumsticks, all cooked in a roasting tin at the same temperature: 190C, 350F, gas 5, and all for 30 minutes. When cooking for numbers - you may wish to make and cook all three at the same time (in different tins) and let everyone take their pick.

Each of the following is enough to coat 8 drumsticks:
coconut and apricot coating:
4 oz (100g) apricot jam
4 tblsp orange juice
4 oz (100g) desiccated coconut
Warm the jam and mix with the orange juice. Smear this generously over each drumstick and coat them with the coconut. Cook as directions given above.

nutty crunch coating:
3 oz (75g) breadcrumbs
4 oz (100g) peanuts or cashew nuts, finely chopped
good pinch pepper
1 tsp ground coriander
1 egg beaten
Mix together the dry ingredients. Coat the drumsticks with the egg, then cover with the dry mix. Bake as above.

sesame and spice coating:
4 oz (100g) sesame seeds
half teaspoon chilli powder
salt and pepper
1 egg, beaten
Mix the sesame seeds and chilli powder together with a pinch of salt and pepper. Brush the drumsticks with the beaten egg then roll the chicken in the seed mixture. Cook as above.

Not every economy dish has to be pauper's fare. Sometimes it is quite easy to serve Posh Nosh for Pennies. And how much easier can you get than this next dish - which could be likened to the shallow end of 'how to cook a souffle'. We have to begin somewhere, so play with this one and them move on to something more classical (but not necessarily more difficult). After all, a true souffle is not much more than an enriched white sauce, into which is folded the flavouring (cheese or vegetable) of your choice, and an egg white folded in.
Sweetcorn (sort of) Souffle: serves 4
half ounce (15g) plain flour
half pint (300ml) milk
1 x 350g can sweetcorn, drained
1 egg white, beaten
salt and pepper
Mix the flour with a little milk, then mix this into the rest of the milk and the rest of the ingredients - folding in the beaten egg white last. Turn into a buttered souffle dish, tent with foil and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 30 minutes until the centre is set. Serve at once.

Although we are all familiar with eating mint sauce with lamb, this more elaborate version adds a little something extra and especially good when served with cold cooked lamb.
orange mint sauce:
1 good handful mint leaves
1 tblsp boiling water
2 tsp caster sugar
2 tblsp white wine vinegar
3 - 4 tlsp orange juice
Chop the mint finely (chopping with the sugar sometimes makes it easier), then add the rest of the ingredients, mixing together well (this can be done in a food processor, starting with the mint and then adding the rest). Serve with lamb or other meats.

Apart from this next being a good sauce to pour over pasta, by adding a few cooked beans or soya mince, could also form the base of a vegetarian (or even meat) spag.bol sauce. Layered between sheets of pasta, with a further layer of ricotta or similar cheese, and maybe even a layer of spinach, this could also be used when assembling a lasagne, all you need is a cream sauce on top (this can be something as simple as a tub of creme fraiche) and plenty of grated cheese sprinkled over to bubble and brown whilst heating through.
lentil sauce:
4 oz (100g) red lentils
1 tblsp sunflower or olive oil
1 onion, finely sliced
half green bell pepper, diced
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
2 - 3 fresh basil leaves
salt and pepper
Tabasco (optional)
Put the lentils in a pan and cover with water. Simmer for about half an hour or until tender, then drain and set aside. Put the oil in a saucepan and fry the onion and pepper until softened but not browning, then add the tomatoes and cook for a further 10 minutes. Add the lentils, herbs and seasoning to taste (if you wish it to be more spicy, add a few drops of Tabasco). Cool slightly, then blitz in a food processor or blender to make a puree. Serve with pasta.

Stepping away from bought curry sauces, and avoiding the more complicated and exacting curry sauces that we ought to be able to make from scratch (but few of us do), here is a simplified version that anyone should be able to make.
curry sauce:
2 oz (50g) butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tblsp curry powder (or to taste)
half ounce (15g) plain flour
half pint (300ml) milk
5 fl oz (150ml) chicken or vegetable stock
2 tblsp sweet chutney or mango chutney
salt and pepper
Melt the butter and fry the onion until softened. Stir in the curry powder and the flour and continue frying for a further 2 minutes then stir in the milk and the stock. Keep stirring as the sauce thickens, then boil for a couple or so minutes to get rid of the taste of raw flour. If necessary, chop the chutney before adding to the sauce, and season to taste. Good served with chicken or just plain vegetables.

The following recipe is more a suggestion for using up odd soft drinks that might have reached their life-span and as it does not contain spices (although you may add them if you wish) can be experimented with.
Apple Cider Traybake: makes 16
8 oz (225g) sultanas
5 fl oz (150ml) dry cider (or other fruit juice)
4 oz (100g) butter or margarine
4 oz (100g) soft brown sugar
2 egg, beaten
8 oz (225g) plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Put the dried fruit into a bowl with the cider (or other) and leave to soak overnight. Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, then beat in the eggs with half the flour and all the bicarb.
Mix in the sultanas and cider, then fold in the remaining flour and pour into a greased 7" (18cm) square cake tin and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for one hour until risen and firm. Leave in the tin to cool down - approx 30 minutes - then turn out onto a cake airer. When cold, cut into squares.

Not quite sure what to call this little sweetheart as it is a sort of upside-down as well as right-side up crumble, but firm enough to be able to be cut into bars. Was thinking of calling this Blackapple Bars, but instead used my other choice which sounds much 'prettier'.
Appleberry Bars: makes 20
6 oz (175g) plain floour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
6 oz butter or marg.
8 oz (225g) soft brown sugar
4 oz (100g) porridge oats
6 oz (175gg) blackberries
1 lb (450g) cooking apples, peeled, cored, chopped
2 tblsp cornflour
3 tsp cinnamon
Sieve together the flour, baking powder and salt, then rub in the butter. Stir in the sugar and oats and spoon half the mixture into a greased 13" x 9" (33 x 23 cm) baking tin (large Swiss roll size), pressing it down firmly. Mix the apples, cornflour and cinnamon together and spread half over the base, top with the blackberries then the remaining apple mixture. Cover with the second half of the flour/oat mix pressing lightly to level the surface, then bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 35 minutes. Cool in the tin before cutting into bars.