Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Good enough for Guests

The first recipe is a soup - with dumplings. It is the dumplings that control most of the flavour, the soup is basically stock. But to get this right it should be a good stock, preferably home-made and a quality home-made chicken stock cannot be beaten - this should always be in our freezer. Because this is such an inexpensive dish, this is still worthy of a dinner party. Instead of the bacon ( or included with) lightly fried chicken livers could form the meat part of the dumplings. To make the dish slightly more interesting, some dumplings could be made with white breadcrumbs, some with brown, serving both with each bowl of soup.
Bacon Dumpling Soup: serves 4 (F)
12 oz(350g) stale white bread, crusts removed
half pint (300ml) milk
2 oz (50g) back bacon rashers. chopped
1 oz (25g) butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tbslp chopped fresh parsley
good pinch dried marjoram
salt and pepper
3 eggs. lightly beaten
4 oz (100g) self-raising flour
2 pints (1.1ltrs) clear chicken or beef stock
chopped parsley for garnish
Tear the bread into chunks and put in a bowl with the milk. Leave to soak for a couple of hours. Meanwhile, fry the bacon with the butter until crisp, stirring in the garlic near the end. Remove using a slotted spoon, drain on kitchen paper and set aside.
Add the onions, garlic-flavoured bacon, parsley and dried marjoram to the soaked bread. Season well, using plenty of pepper, and stir in the eggs. When well mixed together, sift over the flour and stir this in until completely absorbed.
Put the stock into a large saucepan and bring to the simmer. Form the dumpling mixture into 1" (2.5cm) balls, rolling them in a little flour (the flour prevents them falling apart when cooking). Carefully put the dumplings into the stock and simmer for 15 minutes. Serve hot with a sprinkling of fresh parsley.
If wishing to make in advance, the dumplings can be frozen separately to the stock. Thaw dumplings before adding to the hot stock.

This next dish is certainly worthy of serving - possibly as a starter - at a dinner party. Why? Because the pasta and filling has been 'home-made'. Although this pasta dish is cooked in salted water (and do use salt when cooking pasta in water), a little more flavour could be given by cooking the pasta in chicken stock. As to whether you wish to serve a dish of grated Parmesan with this is a matter of cook's choice. It doesn't need it, so why bother?
Ravioli Duxelle: serves 4 (F)
12 oz (350g) strong plain flour
1 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper
3 eggs
1 lb (450g) mushrooms
3 shallots, or 1 onion
pinch freshly grated nutmeg
2 oz (50g) butter
Sift the flour and salt into a bowl, make a well in the centre and add the eggs. Stir the eggs and flour together, bringing the flour from the sides into the centre, and using clean hands, knead together to make a smooth, glossy dough. When ready, pop in a polybag and put in the fridge to rest while preparing the duxelle mixture.
Chop the mushrooms and shallots (separately) as small as possible. Melt half the butter in a frying pan, and first fry the shallots for a few minutes until transparent, then stir in the mushrooms and season to taste. Stir-fry over medium heat for about 10 minutes or until the liquid that leaches out of the mushrooms has evaporated. Reduce heat to low and cook for a further 5 minutes. Stir in the nutmeg, then remove from heat and leave to cool.
Roll out the dough on a floured surface and cut into 3" (7.5cm) squares. Divide the mushroom mixture (duxelle) between the squares, wet the edges of the dough slightly, fold over and press edges together to seal (if you wish you can make the dough into strips so that when folded they look like square packets - alternatively cut round the shape with the rim of a glass to make half-moon shapes. Just make sure the edges are sealed together).
Take a large saucepan and fill with plenty of water (lightly salted) and bring to the boil. Drop in the ravioli and cook for 10 - 15 minutes. Drain well and place back in the pan. Melt the remaining butter and pour this over the ravioli, tossing to spread the butter over the pasta, then immediately turn into individual heated bowls.
Tip: to add more flavour, omit the nutmeg and sprinkle a little sherry or brandy over the chopped mushrooms, allowing them to absorb this before frying on.

Final recipe today is for a pudding. This I have chosen as it is made with semolina, and because of this it is open to adaptation. Instead of the grain suggested, use cornmeal or ground rice/rice flour. The milk itself could be reconstituted dried milk, diluted evaporated milk, coconut milk, soya milk...the sugar itself could be replaced by honey or golden syrup. As to the sultanas - just think about all the other dried fruits that could be used instead, and these could be soaked in wine, brandy, rum, sherry, or orange juice instead of water This recipe could be rewritten a hundred times over and each would be different. Use this one as a guide and do your own thing.
Austrian Sweet Semolina: serves 4 - 6
2 oz (50g) sultanas
warm water
1 pint (560ml) milk
1 oz (25g) butter
3 oz (75g) semolina
Put the sultanas in a bowl and cover with warm water, and leave to soak for at least an hour, longer if possible. Put the milk into a saucepan with the butter and heat until just warm and the butter melted,, then pour in the semolina, stirring constantly while bringing it to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes then stir in 3 tblsp of the sugar.
Drain the soaked fruit and mix into the semolina (if soaking in wine etc, this can be added to the semolina if you wish). Pour the mixture into a greased ovenproof dish and level the surface. Bake at 180F, 350C, gas 4 for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and raise the temperature to 200C, 400F, gas 6. Stir the semolina with a fork to loosen the texture and sprinkle over remaining sugar. Return to the oven for 5 more minutes or until the roughened top is dry and crisp. Serve hot straight from the dish. Good eaten with cream.