Tuesday, December 30, 2008

What Shall We Eat First?

The following dish has chicken, sweetcorn and cheese as the three main ingredients. There are also a variety of vegetables included, and this is where we can adapt. Even though the recipe is given in its original form, it is an exercise in 'moving the goalposts'. The best thing about this recipe is that most of the ingredients have already been cooked before being assembled, so to save time this could be a 'planned' dish made from 'planned left-overs'.

Myself would never use all the flesh from a whole chicken as the recipe suggests, for 4 oz (100g) per person should be adequate. Working within these boundaries, there should be cooked chicken left over which can be used to make another meal. Also cooked turkey could be used instead of chicken, so a timely recipe for this season.
The total weight of the (given) ingredients in any savoury recipe is what we should aim for, or the dish may end up serving less than it should. Make up the shortfall by adding more veggies, and whether we add more of some and less of another depends upon what we have and what we can spare. The use of olives is interesting, if you have them - use them. If not, leave them out. Those of us who love Peppadew may prefer to chop up a couple and use these instead.
Casserole of Chicken and Sweetcorn: serves 4
2 eggs, beaten
1 x 450g can sweetcorn
4 oz (100g) grated hard cheese
1 cooked chicken, flesh only (use bones for stock)
3 oz (75g) carrots, diced and cooked
8 oz (225g) string beans, cooked and chopped
8 oz (226g) peas, cooked
salt and pepper
5 fl oz (150ml) chicken stock
2 oz (50g) green olives, stoned and sliced
1 oz (25g) raisins
1 oz (25g) butter
oddments of bell peppers for garnish (opt)
Put the sweetcorn, cheese and eggs into a bowl and mix together. Dice the chicken flesh and put this into another bowl together with the vegetables, stock, olives and raisins, adding seasoning to taste.
Using a 3 pint (1.75 ltr) greased casserole dish, place a layer of the sweetcorn mixture over the base, top with a layer of the chicken, then repeat layers ending with the corn. Dot the top with the butter and garnish with srips of different coloured bell peppers (opt). Bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 30 - 40 minutes. Serve hot.

Although not a dish in its own right, this 'sauce' adds great flavour to many dishes. It can be poured over a grilled beef or pork steak, or could cover hot cooked chicken. Avoiding the meats altogether, it makes an excellent sauce to add to a bowl of cooked and drained pasta.
Creamy Mushroom Sauce: serves 4
2 tsp sunflower or olive oil
5 oz (125g) chestnut mushrooms, sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
half pint (300ml) vegetables stock
4 oz (100g) full or low-fat soft cheese (Philly type)
1 tblsp chopped fresh tarragon, basil or parsley
Put the oil in a frying pan over medium heat, then add the mushrooms and cook until their juices have evaporated (takes about 8 minutes). Stir in the garlic, fry for a further minute then stir in the stock. Raise the heat and boil for a few minutes until the liquid has reduced by about one third (takes about 3 mins), then whisk in the soft cheese then stir in the herbs. Remove from heat and spoon over cooked meats or add to drained cooked pasta.
note: this sauce can be made and set aside to be reheated while the meats are cooking.

Around this time of the year we almost certainly have oranges in our fruit bowl, and possibly vacuum packs of beetroot (these can keep for months) in our fridge. Once a pack of beetroot has been opened, it will then need using up within a few days, so bear this recipe in mind - just make a smaller version. If you have enough freshly cooked beetroot, then make the recipe as it stands.
Beetroot and Orange Salad: serves 4 - 6
2 large oranges
3 - 4 tblsp French dressing
1 clove garlic, crushed (opt)
1 lb (450g) cooked beetroot, sliced
Grate the rind from one of the oranges into a bowl and stir in the dressing and garlic (if used). Remove the peel and pith from both oranges, then slice the oranges thinly.
Arrange a ring of orange slices around a plate, then on top of these (allowing a rim of orange to show) place on a layer of beetroot, continue with alternate layers, working inwards towards the middle of the plate so it ends up like a flat pyramid, then pour over the dressing. Cover and chill before serving. This eats very well with a watercress and cold meats.

The dessert dish today uses rum, cream, ginger syrup and ginger biscuits. Just because we do have these in our house does not mean everyone will have them. But one day the lot may come together and 'need using up', so this dish can then be made without too much extra expense. If it helps, a way of making a 'cheap' ginger syrup will be shown below. We can make our own ginger biscuits, and I dare say orange juice (maybe with a splash of Cointreau added) could be used instead of rum. Even a blend of whipped cream and Greek yogurt could be used to keep down the costs.
Ginger Roll: serves 4
24 ginger snap biscuits
4 tblsp rum
15 fl oz (450ml) double cream
1 rounded tsp ground ginger
1 rounded tsp caster sugar
1 tblsp ginger syrup
stem ginger to garnish
Place the biscuits in a shallow dish and sprinkle with the rum. Cover and leave until the rum has been completely absorbed.
Put the cream in a bowl with the ground ginger and sugar, and whip until stiff. Fold in the ginger syrup.
Sandwich the biscuits together with two-thirds of the cream, stacking side by side to make a long roll. Place this on a serving dish and cover with remaining cream. Chop a little stem ginger and sprinkle this over as decoration.

ginger syrup:
Buy one jar of stem ginger in syrup. Drain into a bowl and spoon the syrup between three or four similar sized (and sterilised) jars. Slice the ginger and divide this also between the jars. Top up each jar with stock sugar syrup, place on cap (this should also be sterilised) give a shake and then store in a cupboard. As you use up the syrup, top up with more sugar syrup. The ginger keeps flavouring the syrup, and the syrup preserves the unused ginger.

stock sugar syrup:
The easiest way to make this is measure (by volume) equal quantities of water and granulated sugar. Put both into a pan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. DO NOT STIR (or sugar crystals may reform after cooling). To aid dissolving, from time to time, hold the pan by the handle and swirl the water round.
Once the sugar has dissolved, boil for 3 minutes then cool and bottle up in sterilised lidded jars. It should keep indefinitely in a cool place.