Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Fast Food and Quick Cooking

This first quickie is a 'quiche' that is cooked on the hob and not in the oven, and - if you have the pastry ready-made, and the ingredients assembled (several could be prepared earlier in the day and kept in the fridge) - this should be able to be made, completed and on the table well under 20 minutes.
Quick-pan Quiche: serves 2 - 4
6 oz (175g) shortcrust pastry
3 eggs
half pint (300ml) single cream
6 oz (175g) grated cheese
salt and pepper
2 large tomatoes, sliced
Roll out the pastry fairly thinly to a width that is the diameter of a non-stick omelette pan plus a couple of inches wider. Line the dry pan with the pastry, pressing it down and also up the sides of the pan.
Prick the base and sides all over with a fork then put over a low-medium heat and cook for 3 - 4 minutes.
While it is cooking, beat the eggs with the cream, 2/3 rds of the cheese (approx 4 oz) and season to taste. Pour this into the pastry case after the initial cooking time, cover and cook for a further 4 minutes.
Remove cover, top the quiche with the sliced tomatoes and sprinkle over the remaining cheese. Then put under a hot grill until the filling is puffed and the top is golden. Slide the quiche onto a plate and serve cut into as many wedges as needed.

As with any cooking, the more preparation that can be done the speedier and easier it will be. With this next dish cut down time and labour by using quick-cook pasta penne, having the onion ready sliced (and covered) in the fridge, and hard-boil 4 eggs (these can be cooked the day before, and kept in their shells in cold water -see tip below- kept also in the fridge). It goes without saying the cheese will have already been grated and taken from your supply in the fridge or freezer. If following tips above, the white sauce will already be made and sitting in the fridge, the onions could also have been previously fried.
With any speed-feed always put the oven on to pre-heat before assembling a dish.
Pasta Eggs Lyonnaise: serves 4
8 oz (225g) quick-cook penne
olive or sunflower oil
salt and pepper
1 oz (25g) butter
1 tblsp plain flour
half pint (300ml) milk
4 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
1 large onion, sliced
4 oz (100g) grated cheese
Cook the pasta in salted water for one minute less than the recommended time (it will cook further in the oven). Drain and drizzle/toss with a little oil to prevent it sticking to itself.
Meanwhile make the white sauce (if not already made) by melting the butter in a pan, stirring in the flour, cooking it for one minute then gradually whisking in the milk until it thickens. Stir in the chopped eggs and add seasoning to taste. Add the drained macaroni to the sauce and then tip the lot into a greased, shallow, ovenproof dish.
Fry the onion in a little oil until it begins to brown, spread this over the top of the pasta mixture and sprinkle over the cheese. Bake at 200C, 40oF, gas 6 for 15 minutes. Serve immediately. Eats well with a salad.
Tip: very fresh eggs that are hardboiled are difficult to shell. Preferably use eggs that are about two weeks old. After boiling for 8 minutes, drain and cool in cold water (this may need changing after a minute as it heats up) the gently crack the shells all over, let them sit in a change of cold water until ready to shell. If wishing to use them a day later, leave the shells on, for if any white breaks to reveal the yolk, it is not a good idea to put these in water. Perfect, unbroken, shelled eggs can be covered in water and left in the fridge for up to two days.

This next dish is fast-food at its speediest as, even allowing for preparation time, it should be on the table within 20 minutes. Instead of soft-boiling the eggs, why not lightly poach them the day before, slip the poached eggs into a bowl of cold water and keep in the fridge*. Remove with a slotted spoon and slip them into the mix below to heat through.
Sweetcorn, Pea and Egg Fricassee: serves 4
4 large eggs
2 oz butter
3 tblsp plain flour
half pint (300ml) chicken stock
half pint (300ml) milk
1 x 275g can sweetcorn kernels
6 tblsp frozen peas, thawed
salt and pepper
2 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
Put the eggs into a pan of cold water, bring to the simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Drain and plunge the eggs into a bowl of cold water. Carefully crack and remove the shells then place the shelled eggs in a bowl of warm water.
Melt the butter in a frying pan, stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute, then gradually stir in the stock and milk. Bring to the simmer then add the sweetcorn, peas, soft-boiled (or poached) eggs, adding seasoning to taste. Simmer for 2 - 3 minutes. Serve sprinkled with the parsley, accompanied by a bowl of hot, boiled rice and/or triangles of hot toast.
Note:* regarding poached eggs. Practically all hotels poach eggs the day before (or certainly hours before) being needed. They are then put into bowls/pan of cold water and kept chilled. When the breakfast order comes in, the egg is taken, slipped into a pan of very hot water to heat through, and then served. It is not just breakfast when poached eggs are served, these are often included in many lunch and supper dishes.

This next dish, although taking the normal time to cook, is one that can be prepared in advance and left in the fridge - perhaps when planning to go out straight from work and let the family take care of their own supper. To save even more time, the pizza dough base(s) could be made, bagged up separately and frozen - as they will thaw in the fridge anyway. 'Ordinary' cooked sausages could be cooked and sliced to top the pizza instead of the spicy chorizo, and a blend of again 'ordinary' cheese could be grated with Mozzarella and kept in the fridge or freezer to use for topping any pasta dishes or pizzas.
Waiting for the Moment Pizza:
1 x 10oz packet white bread mix
4 large tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2 tblsp tomato puree
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
4 tblsp olive oil
3 oz (75g) thinly sliced chorizo or other spiced sausage
6 oz (175g) Mozzarella cheese, sliced
1 tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper
Make up the bread mix as per instructions on the packet, then knead on a lightly floured surface for 5 minutes before rolling out into a large circle (approx 10"/25cm dia). Place on a greased backing sheet.
Mix the chopped tomatoes with the tomato puree and spread this over the pizza base, cover with overlapping slices of chorizo and cheese, brush the top generously with oil, then sprinkle over the dried herbs and seasoning to taste.
Put the pizza, still on the baking sheet, into a large polythene bag - allowing space above for the dough to rise - then place in the fridge and leave overnight. During this time the dough will rise, albeit very slowly.
Next day, when ready to bake, remove the tray and pizza from the bag, and sprinkle over more oil, brushing any bare edges of dough also with the oil, then bake at 220c, 425F, gas 7 for 25-30 minutes.

This next is another 'prepare ahead' dish that this time can be left in the fridge to be eaten cold the following day. Although using cooked chicken, this is better taken from a boiled or roasted chicken while the meat is still hot, for it will absorb the flavour better. If you prefer, make it with the flesh taken from simmered and cooked chicken joints. If necessary, plan the meals ahead, roast a large chicken to eat in the normal way, then remove as much flesh as needed for the amount of mouths you wish to feed the following day. Adjust amount as necessary. If the roasted meat has cooled down, then don't warm it up, use as-is, and don't forget to keep the carcase to make chicken stock. Don't sigh and say this is all too much to do on any one day. The carcase can be frozen away for you to make the stock when you have more time.
Chicken in a Tuna Sauce: serves 4
1 lb (450g) freshly cooked chicken meat
1 x 200g (7oz) tuna, drained
5 fl oz (150ml) mayonnaise
5 fl oz (150ml) creme fraiche or Greek yogurt
juice 1 small lemon
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
half tsp Tabsaco
2 tblsp capers
2 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
1 can anchovy fillets (opt)
freshly ground black pepper
Put the tuna, mayo, creme fraiche or yogurt, lemon juice, garlic and Tabasco into a blender or liquidiser. Add half the capers, half the parsley, and half (if using) the anchovies. Season with plenty of pepper and blitz down to make a smooth sauce.
Arrange pieces of cooked (preferably hot) chicken in a serving dish and immediately spoon the above sauce over the top. Cover loosely with foil and chill in the fridge overnight. When ready to serve, garnish with the reserved capers, parsley and anchovy fillets. To be served cold.

Now we come to desserts, and while this next one takes about half an hour to prepare, it could be made earlier in the day and in any case is far easier and quicker to make than using the yeast dough needed for the proper rum babas. This is also quite a 'special' one, so good to serve at dinner parties.
Ideally make this in individual sponge flan cases, but could be made in one of the larger ones to cut into wedges when serving.
Sponge Babas: makes four (or one larger one)
4 individual sponge bases
5 fl oz (150ml) water
4 oz (100g) sugar
3 tblsp rum
3 oz (75g) raisins or sultanas
4 tblsp apricot jam, warmed
5 fl oz (150ml) double cream
2 tblsp toasted flaked almonds
glace cherries (opt)
Put the flan cases in a shallow dish and, using a fork or cocktail stick, prick all over and right through the base.
Put the water and sugar into a pan, and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil, and - without stirring - simmer for 5 minutes. Then remove from heat and stir in the rum.
Spoon this syrup over each of the flan cases until all are well moistened. Leave them for a while so they get the chance to soak up any syrup that has soaked through or drizzled down the sides, then remove to a wire rack and brush all over with the apricot jam.
Scatter the dried fruit in the recess of each sponge cake, then put on a plate and leave in the fridge to cool. Then whip the cream and pipe or spoon this into the centre of each baba and top with the toasted almonds. If you wish to add a bit of colour, tuck in snippets cut from a glace cherry or two.

The following dessert is more a method than a recipe and mainly for those who have a pile of ready-made pancakes in the freezer and a bowl of rum butter that needs using up (so could be made on Boxing Day).
Christmas Crepes: serves 4
8 readymade pancakes
rum butter
extra butter
orange juice
extra rum
Spread the pancakes with rum butter, fold in half and then half again to make wedge shapes. Put a knob of butter to heat in a large frying pan and add shallow layer of orange juice and heat through. Slide in the pancakes, overlapping if you wish, or do them in batches, then heat through, spooning over the hot juice from time to time. If you wish - when ready to serve - pour in an eggcupful of rum and tilt the pan so it ignites - but take care, don't lean over the pan as I did once, or your hair may catch fire. Take the pan to the table, and serve immediately.

So many times I have urged readers to make meringues using left-over egg whites, and as recently mentioned, these meringues keep almost indefinitely when stored in an airtight tin. You would be surprised how many meringues can be made from 2 eggs whites and 4 oz caster sugar.
With this in mind, and expecting you all to have meringues at the ready (don't even think about buying them), all you need to make this worthy-of-the-top-table dessert is some whipped double cream and coffee liqueur (or just use bog-standard Camp coffee blended with a little whisky or brandy). Grated chocolate is an optional garnish, and worth remembering that grated chocolate can also be prepared weeks ahead of use and stored in an airtight or dry container in a cool place.
Meringues Chantilly: serves 6
12 meringues
1 pint (600ml) double cream, whipped
2 tblsp coffee liqueur
grated chocolate
Stir the liqueur into the whipped cream and sandwich between two meringue halves, opening the halves up slightly like an open oyster shell so that more cream can be dolloped between them. Place in a paper cake case to keep their shape and sprinkle some grated chocolate over the cream.
Note: if you prefer, make meringue 'nests' and fill the centres of these with the cream. Depending upon size serve one or two nests per person.
Before I leave this dish must mention how - in the past - I used to dry out squiggles of meringue, in the shape of a swan's head and neck, and then when assembling meringues, tuck the swan's neck into the cream at the front of the meringues. The meringues themselves looked like swan's wings held slightly away from the body. Perhaps more a retro way to serve than any other, but children would enjoy them. They also look quite pretty 'swimming' on a glass plate.

Final dessert is another worthy of 'fine dining', and with a bit of luck you may already have the makings in your storecupboard. If not, worth ordering them in for one way or another you will find a use for them. There are two ways to make this, either with the muffin/cake base or without - just serving the cherries, the syrup and cream.
Black Forest Jubilee: serves 6
3 chocolate muffins or oddments of chocolate cake
1 x 425 cans black cherries
4 tblsp redcurrant jelly
zest and juice of one large orange
3 tblsp kirsch or brandy
double cream, whipped for serving
Drain the cherries and put them into a bowl. Put the juice into a pan with the redcurrant jelly, and the orange zest and juice. Heat gently until the jelly has dissolved. Add the chosen spirit and the cherries and bring to the boil. Remove from heat, and cool slightly.
Into 6 individual serving glasses crumble the muffins or cake and spoon over a little of the juice. Leave for a few minutes to soak in, then top with the warm cherries and cover these with the remaining juice. Serve immediately with whipped cream.