Thursday, February 28, 2008

A Taste of Now and Then

Today I will be jointing up a very large chicken. Probably battery farmed and I apologise to everyone who is urging buy free-range. But as Delia says...poor people can only afford to buy the battery hens. And, living on a basic state pension, we certainly qualify as being poor. With the fuel prices rising and the council tax rising and the pension not keeping pace, things get worse and worse. All I can say is that the years of cost-cutting in the kitchen now certainly has paid dividends for at least we eat very well indeed. And comfort-eating is what we need in these times of ever-increasing prices.

We should always be prepared to experiment, as our mothers and grandmothers did in wartime. Here I give you a few recipes from that time, the first may make you recoil in horror, but apparently it worked. wartime rations, and who nowadays would even wish to sample them. Perhaps it would do us all good to have one day a month making and eating some foods from those times. We would then be able to respect a great deal more what we are able to eat today.
Eggless Mayonnaise:
1 small baked potato
1 tsp mustard
a little vinegar
5 fl oz (150ml) light olive or sunflower oil
Remove the flesh from the cooked potato and mash together with the mustard, salt to taste and gradually add the vinegar, beating together until smooth. Last of all, slowly beat in the oil.

Eggless Salad Dressing:
3 tblsp evaporated milk
2 tblsp olive oil
good pinch salt
pepper (pref white)
a little mustard
1 tlsp lemon juice
2 tsp vinegar
Whip the milk until frothy, then beat in the oil very slowly, continuing to beat until the mixture has thickened. Add the remaining remaining ingredients and blend thoroughly together.

Mock Clotted Cream:
2 oz (50g) margarine (block type)
1 tsp sugar
1 tblsp dried milk
few drops vanilla essence/extract
Beat margarine and sugar together, then slowly, a bit at a time, beat in the dried milk. Flavour with vanilla and beat until very smooth.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Start the Week

When we read a recipe, we usually try and stick to the list of ingredients and the given method. This can often make the dish more expensive or time-consuming than it needs to be and also containing more calories than desired. Normally I do not give details of fat content, sugar content, calories etc., but most recipes now give these, so it is always worth reading through the listed ingredients and see what can be done to reduce the cost/calories/fat/sugar if that is what you wish to do.

The recipe below, given as an in-your-face version (by this I mean not stinting on the ingredients and ingredients as given), is said to have approx 800 calories per serving. But by changing the rice to 7 oz (200g) plain long-grain, and omitting the wild rice, we begin the savings. The chicken could be a total of two large breasts instead of one per person, even better, use what is leftover on the carcase after cooking the Sunday roast. Remember that 100g is not really 4 0z but more like 3 1/2 oz, so adjust to that when using imperial measurements, even half an ounce saved here and there will leave more for another day. It says 6 sticks of celery, I would use 4 or 5, slicing them thinner - they will give as much flavour. Less tablespoons of mayonnaise (and maybe reduce that by half and make up the shortfall with yogurt for a healthier dressing). A little less chutney and 1 tsp only of the curry paste (which -because using less, could be slightly hotter. Use half a large bell pepper instead of a whole. Three spring onions instead of four. Weigh the almonds and then take a few out to put back in the jar. Cutting costs (and calories) can be as simple as that.

Coronation Chicken with Rice: serves 4
1/2 pint (300ml) chicken stock
4 chicken breasts
8 oz (225g) long-grain rice and wild rice mixture
8 tblsp mayonnaise
2 tblsp mango chutney
1 tblsp mild curry paste
6 sticks celery, sliced
4 oz (100g) no-soak apricots, thinly sliced
1 red pepper, de-seeded and finely diced
4 spring onions, finely chopped
salt and pepper
2 0z (50g) flaked almonds, toasted
Put the stock into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the (raw) chicken breasts, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Using a slotted spoon, remove chicken and set aside to cool (if using already cooked chicken omit this first part and continue from here...).
Add the rice to the chicken stock, adding more water if necessary, and cook the rice according to packet instructions (wild rice usually take slonger). Then - when tender - drain and set aside to cool.
Place the mayonnaise, chutney and curry paste into a bowl and mix together well. Slice or chop the chicken and add to the mixture together with the celery and apricots.
Using another bowl, mix together the rice, diced pepper and the spring onions. Season to taste. Spoon onto one large or four individual serving plates and top with the chicken mixture. Scatter over the almonds.

For our supper yesterday we had egg, sausages, baked beans and chunky oven-chips. With HP sauce for Beloved, tomato ketchup for me. It really was nice - we always enjoy it, but afterwards I began to consider the nutritional side. For one thing there was too much protein (provided by the sausage, eggs and even the beans). No veggies (although, at a pinch, baked beans can be included in the five-a-day). Certainly carbohydrate (chips). And certainly too much fat (sausage and fried egg). A new improved version would be sausage, less chips, and served with a side salad, giving a much better balanced and healthier meal. Is this a case of don't do as I do, do as I say?

As regards the fish, I would use less and cheaper fish, even using assorted fish offcuts that can be now bought in packs or from the fresh fish counter, or - if you prefer, a mixture of canned tuna and canned salmon. Use less potatoes - making the fish cakes slightly thinner so they heat through faster and need less oil for cooking (a non-stick pan also helps reduce the amount of oil needed). Serve with salad instead of the suggestion.
Posh Fish Cakes: serves 4
1 1/2 lb (700g) mashed cooked potatoes
8 oz (225g) cod or haddock fillet
8 oz (225g) salmon fillet
salt and pepper
1 tblsp finely chopped chives
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
4 oz (100g) polenta
3 tblsp fresh chopped dill
2 eggs, beaten
4 tblsp sunflower oil
5 tblsp mayonnaise
Place the fish in a pan, just covering with water. Add a little seasoning to taste, cover and simmer very gently (more like poaching) for about 10 minutes until cooked. Drain and remove any skin and bones. Flake the flesh and add to the mashed potatoes with the chives and lemon zest. Season to taste and mix together.
Mix the polenta with half the dill and put the beaten eggs into a shallow dish. Flour the hands and shape the fish mixture into 8 cakes (or make 12 thinner ones), dipping each into the egg and then into the polenta. Fry in the oil for 5 minutes on each side until crisp and golden. Drain on kitchen paper and serve hot. Make a mayonnaise sauce by mixing remaining dill and the lemon juice with the mayo. Serve the fishcakes with the mayo dressing spooned over and new potatoes, sweetcorn and peas.

As calorie counting and healthy eating seems to have taken precedence today, I finish with a lovely and nearly fat-free dessert which will please everyone. At 215 cals per serving why not have two helpings? Although it might add a few more calories, a little Greek yogurt could be spread either under or over the apricot filling before rolling up.
Apricot Swiss Roll: serves 8
3 eggs
4 oz (100g) plain flour
4 oz (100g) caster sugar
1 tbslp hot water
1 tsp vanilla extract or almond essence
1 oz (25g) flaked almonds (opt)
icing sugar
8 oz (225g) no-soak apricots, chopped
8 tblsp water
1 tblsp demerara sugar
Put the eggs and the caster sugar into a bowl and place this over simmering water. Whisk until thick enough to leave a ribbon when the whisk is lifted. Remove from heat and keep whisking until the mixture has cooled down. Sift half the flour over the mix and carefully fold in, then repeat with the remaining flour. Stir in the hot water and the essence.
Pour the cake batter into a greased and lined 9" x 13" (23 x 33cm) Swiss roll tin, dusting the paper with flour. Tilt the tin so that the mixture spreads evenly and into all four corners. Scatter the almonds on the top, then bake for 12 - 15 mins at 180C, 350F, gas 4 until golden and firm. Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then upturn onto a sheet of baking parchment which has been dusted with icing sugar. Trim the edges, then roll up loosely, including the paper, and leave to cool (it sometimes helps if a damp cloth is put on the table and the paper placed on that before rolling up (but don't roll the towel in with the cake).
While the cake is cooking, make the filling by putting the water in a pan with the apricots and sugar, bring to the boil, cover, and reduce the heat. Simmer for 10 minutes then leave to cool.
Carefully unroll the cake, laying it flat, then carefully spread the apricot filling over the cake, right to the edges, then roll back up. Place on a serving plate, end of the roll underneath, and dust with icing sugar.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

And for my next Trick...

Free food - the very words delight me, and there is plenty around. Wild garlic, dandelion leaves, elderflowers and berries, blackberries, sloes. Mushrooms (but you need to know what you are picking), and wild herbs (the same caution applies). Even gardens can produce 'freebies'. The leaves and flowers of nasturtiums can be added to salads, their soft seed cases pickled to make mock capers. Blackcurrant leaves make a good 'tea', rose petals make good jam. Anyone got other suggestions for foods for free?

With fish being given a mention, today this is the ingredient I will be using in my 'uses for leftovers'. Although the first makes use of a can of tuna, which can hardly be called a leftover. Based on an American dish, where they call our potato crisps 'chips' (so what do they call their chips - is it French Fries?).
Mary's Fish and Chips: serves 2 - 3
7 oz can tuna, drained and flaked
1 pack cream cheese
1 tbls mayonnaise
2 tblsp sherry
2 tblsp capers
2 tblsp chopped parsley
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp grated onion
pinch salt
potato crisps (US chips)
Put all the ingredients except the crisps and paprika into a basin, blend together and chill in the fridge. Sprinkle over a little paprika and serve as a dip with crisps or tortilla chips etc.

This next recipe uses both left-over cooked rice and also cooked fish. Can be served either as a starter to serve 4 or as a main dish to serve 2.
Curried Fish Flake Salad: serves 2 or 4
15 fl oz measure (425ml) of cooked flaked fish, bones removed
1 lb (500g) cooked rice
2 tblsp olive or sunflower oil
1 tbls vinegar
handful of chopped parsley
4 tblsp mayonnaise
1 tblsp lemon juice
1 - 2 tsp curry powder or curry paste
1 rib celery, finely chopped
few cooked peas (0pt)
2 tsp mango chutney
Mix together the oil and vinegar to make a dressing and stir in the cooked rice together with half the parsley. Chill. Mix together the mayonnaise, lemon juice, curry powder or paste, and the rest of the parsley.
Add the fish, celery and peas. Chill this also. To serve, place rice on a serving platter and top with the fish mixture, garnish with the chutney.

This next uses a can of soup and is an interesting way to use up leftover cooked fish.
Worcestershire Chowder: serves 3 - 4
about 1 lb (500g) cooked, boned and flaked fish
2 tblsp butter, melted
1 can cream of celery soup
3 tblsp milk
1/2 a de-seeded green pepper, finely chopped
1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
toasted rye or granary bread
Put the butter into a saucepan and add the soup, milk, green pepper and the fish. Heat through slowly but thoroughly. Remove from heat and stir in the Worcestershire sauce. Serve at once with or on the toasted bread. Alternatively serve with jacket potatoes and coleslaw.

Often we have plenty of oddments, hardly to be called ingredients, but together these, with the addition of leftover cooked fish, or even using canned fish, can turn into a downright good dish. See what you think.
Fish Puffs: serves 3 - 4
12 fl oz measure (350ml) flaked and mashed cooked fish
pepper and salt to taste
1 tblsp finely grated onion, or onion juice
2 drops Tabasco (optional)
1 tsp very finely chopped parsley
6 slices bread, buttered and cut into cubes
12 fl.oz measure grated cheese (pref processed)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
8 fl oz (225ml) milk
3 tblsp sherry
dash Worcestershire sauce
Mash the fish with the pepper and salt, the onion, the tabasco and the parsley. Arrange the cubes of bread, the cheese and the fish mixture in alternate layers in a shallow greased baking dish. Finishing with a layer of the bread. Mix together the eggs, milk, sherry and W. sauce, season to taste and pour over the mixture in the dish. Bake for 1 hour at 170C, 325F, gas 3. Suggested servings: potato salad and green salad.

Friday, February 22, 2008


Canned sardines could be cut into strips and used for topping pizzas or other dishes such as pissaladiere (recipe given below), where anchovies are normally used. Admittedly chefs would stand back in horror at my suggestion of substituting sardines for anchovies, but it could work.
By the way, always eat the sardine bones (also those in canned salmon and pilchards) as they contain loads of calcium, and studies have shown "..that people with the highest calcium intakes have also the lowest levels of body fat - due to the fact that low calcium consumption results in an increase of vit D in the bloodstream, which signals fat cells to store more fat. Meaning your body reacts to a calcium deficiency by hanging onto fat for dear life". I learn something new every time I open a book.

Pissaladiere (Onion Tart): serves 6
approx 12 oz (350g) bread dough
3 lb (1.5kg) onions, thinly sliced
3 tblsp olive oil
2 tsp mixed fresh herbs, chopped (basil, thyme, rosemary...)
salt and pepper
12 anchovy fillets (or sardine strips)
few black olives, stoned and halved
While the bread dough is rising, make the filling by cooking the onions in the oil, over a very low heat, and covering the pan. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 40 minutes or until the onions are very soft. Add the herbs, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for a few minutes longer.
Cut the anchovies fillets in half lengthways (or cut the sardines into 24 strips). Grease a shallow baking dish, about 14" (35cm) in diameter, or use a greased Swiss roll baking tin for an oblong tart. Knock the risen dough back, punching with the fist and press into the chosen tin with the palms of your hands.
Spread the onion mixture over the dough, then make a wide lattice pattern across the top using the fish strips. Put half an olive, flat side down, in the centre of each diamond. Leave to stand for fifteen minutes for the dough to rise again slightly, then bake for 25 - 30 minutes at 190C, 375F, gas 5 until the bread base is cooked. Serve hot.

This first recipe for tea-bread uses dates, but if no dates, then substitute chopped prunes or large raisins or sultanas. Even chopped apricots. Or why not some of each? Just keep the weight of fruit the same then experiment to your heart's content. You could even add a tsp of mixed spice if you wish.
You will note that in both the following two recipes I suggest adding a tsp of the flour to the creamed butter and sugar when beating in the egg. This helps to prevent the mixture curdling, not that it really matters if it does, but it is better if it doesn't.
Date and Muesli Teabread: one loaf giving 10 - 12 servings.
8 oz (225g) stoned dates, roughly chopped
5 fl oz (150ml) strong hot tea (strained if using tea leaves)
3 oz (75g) butter, softened
3 oz (75g) light soft brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
8 oz (225g) self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
3 oz (75g) muesli (any kind)
Put the fruit into a bowl and pour over the hot tea. Leave to soak for half an hour.
Cream together the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy, then beat in the egg with 1 tsp of the flour.
Sift together the remaining flour and the baking powder, and fold into the creamed mixture. Finally, add the muesli, fruits used, including the soaking liquid. Mix well together.
Pour the mixture into a greased and lined 2 lb (900g) loaf tin and smooth the surface. Bake for about one hour at 180C, 340F, gas 4 until risen and firm to the touch. Check with a skewer if uncertain.
Remove the loaf from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes or so, then turn out onto a wire rack. Serve sliced, warm or cold, with or without butter.

This next bread, despite it seeming too rich and sweet by today's health and safety standards, is made with all good things. Adults as well as children will find this immensely satisfying. The name I made up myself as being rather more interesting than just chocolate and banana bread.
Choccanna Bread: makes 1 loaf - givin 10 - 12 slices
4 oz (100g) butter, softened
4 oz (100g) light soft brown sugar
4 oz (100g thick set honey
2 eggs, beaten
8 oz (225g) self-raising flour
half a tsp baking powder
1 oz (25g) cocoa
2 ripe (weight incl. skins: approx 10 oz/300g)
little lemon juice
1 tblsp milk
icing sugar
Cream together the butter, sugar and honey until light and fluffy, then beat in the egg with 1 tsp of the flour. Sift the remaining flour with the baking powder and the cocoa, and fold into the creamed mixture. Peel the bananas and mash with a little lemon juice and just enough milk to form a soft consistency., and fold this into the mix. Spoon into a greased and lined loaf tin (size and cooking temperatures as in the above recipe) and level the surface. Bake for 1 - 1 1/4 hours or until risen and firm to the touch. After 40 minutes or so, tent the tin loosely with foil to prevent it browning too quickly.
Cool in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out onto a cake airer. Dust with icing sugar and serve sliced, warm or cold.

One of the easiest breads to make is Irish Soda Bread (so why not let the children have a go), as generally (apart from the third recipe) this is made with ordinary, not bread flour. And - for what it is worth - the ingredients would cost less than 50p. So more to add to the list of cheapies.
The first two recipes are slightly different, but both use bicarbonate of soda as a raising agent because this works best with acidic things like buttermilk and/or yogurt (see below for a more detailed explanation of buttermilk). The third recipe uses two raising agents (the bicarb and c.of t. together make baking powder - but in this case work better used independently). You may, after reading the three recipes, like to try mixing and matching ingredients to make up your own version.

"Buttermilk is what is left over after the butter has been churned out. Differing only from skimmed milk in that it is sour. It is a useful emulsifying agent and now recognised as a health-promoting product, sold in cartons in many supermarkets (often homogenised and doctored in the way the trade knows best). However, modern 'buttermilk' and 'cultured buttermilk' are respectively skim milk and soured skim milk"
Perhaps the easiest DIY way to make buttermilk is to stir a little yogurt into skimmed milk, or add a few drops of lemon juice to sour the milk.

Soda Bread: makes 1 loaf, serves 8
1 lb (450g) plain white flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 oz (25g) butter, diced
half a pint (300ml) buttermilk
Sift the flour, salt and bicarb together, then rub in the butter, gradually adding enough milk to make a soft dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently for a couple of minutes. Shape into a large round and place on a floured, ungreased baking sheet. Using a sharp knife, cut a deep cross on the top of the dough and sprinkle with a little flour.
Bake at 200c, 400F, gas 6 for 30 - 35 minutes or until risen and lightly browned. The loaf should sound hollow when tappen on the underside. Cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or cold. Can be cut into wedges or sliced.

Farmhouse Style Soda Bread: makes 1 loaf - serving 8
7 oz (200g) plain white flour
7 oz (200g) plain wholemeal flour
2 oz (50g) rolled or porridge oats
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
half a pint (300ml) buttermilk
Sift together the white flour with the bicarb. then stir in the wholemeal flour, the salt and the oats. Gradually add enough buttermilk to make a soft dough, then continue as in the above recipe.

Home-Style Soda Bread: makes 1 loaf - serves 8
8 oz (225g) strong white flour
8 oz (225g) wholemeal flour
1 tsp each: sugar, salt, and bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp cream of tartar
half an ounce (15g) butter
1 egg, beaten
7 fl oz (200ml) milk
Sift together the flours, sugar, salt and raising agents. Rub in the butter, and mix in the egg. and enough milk to form a soft dough. Knead until smooth. Continue as in the above recipes, baking for 35 - 35 minutes.

Herb oils are another useful standby for instead of adding fresh basil to a pizza for instance, the basil oil can be added to the dough to flavour the pizza base, or be added to the tomatoes when making the sauce, or even drizzling over the pizza topping. You get the flavour without needing a constant supply of the fresh herb, which is not always available during the winter months. Other herbs can flavour oils, and all can make delicious salad dressings and marinades. All you do is select your chosen herb, crush the leaves slightly, using enough to loosely fill a glass jar. Fill the jar with sunflower or olive oil (or a blend of both), adding one tsp of white wine vinegar, then screwing on the lid and giving it good shake. Leave to stand on a sunny windowsill for two weeks, shaking the bottle every day. You can then either drain and bottle the oil without the herbs, or leave the herbs in the bottle and just top up with more oil as it is used.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Worth Buying - Or Not?

Calzone is a folded pizza, what could be called an Italian version of a Cornish Pasty and can make a filling meal in its own right. If making enough to feed several (and it always costs less per head the more you feed) it could well fit in to a 50p per head 'challenge'. Fillings can vary, a good guide is anything that would normally top a pizza, even just grated cheese mixed with beaten egg so the final cost depends upon personal choice, but if using foods that some people (but not us) normally throw away (chicken scraps from a carcase etc), then this will help to keep the cost down. The recipe given is cheap enough. Using this as a guide, then do what you will with it. I begin with the recipe for pizza dough which makes plenty, any surplus balls can be frozen after the knock down stage, then left to rise again once thawed. Also the dough could be made in a bread machine, which saves having to knead it by hand.
Pizza dough: makes 4 x 9"(23 cm) pizzas, or 6 calzoni (F)
2 lb (5oog) plain flour
half tsp. salt
1 1/2 oz (15g) dried instant yeast
approx 8 fl.oz (250ml) warm water
pinch sugar
4 tblsp olive oil
Sift the flour and salt together. Stir in the yeast and the sugar. Add 3 tblsp oil and enough water to make a firm dough. Knead well for at least 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. Pour a drop or two of oil into the bowl and roll the dough into it to prevent a crust forming (or if making the dough in the machine, put the oil in a clean bowl, and add the dough to that and roll in the same way). Cover with a damp cloth and leave to rise in a warm place for about an hour or until doubled in bulk. Knock it back and knead for a few more minutes by hand (can be formed into balls and frozen at this point), then roll in the remaining oil and leave to rise again for 10 minutes. Divide into four balls, and roll them out thinly to a thickness of 1/4" for pizzas.

Calzone: makes 6
one batch pizza dough (recipe above)
a little juice from a can of chopped tomatoes (from a can)
1 1/2lb (750g) ricotta or home-made curd cheese
12 oz (350g) mozzarella cheese, grated
salt and pepper
4 oz (100g) thin sliced ham, cut into strips
Divide the twice- risen dough into 6 balls and roll each out into a circle as thin as possible. They should each be at least 9" 23cm) in diameter. Place on several oiled baking sheets. Mix the filling ingredients together and share between each calzone, spreading the filling over half the dough, leaving the edge clear. Moisten the edges with water and fold the uncovered half of the dough over to make a half-moon shape, pressing the edges firmly together. They can be twisted or pinched if you wish, as you might when making a pasty.
When all are finished, moisten the top of each calzone with a little of the tomato juice, and bake on a high shelf in a really hot oven 240C, 475F, gas 9 (drop to 220C etc if a fan oven) for about 20 minutes or until the calzone is crisp and brown. Eat hot.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Healthy Eating the Cost-cutting Way

In a catering book it gave a guide as to how much to charge if I was running 'an eating house' - this was normally five times the cost of the ingredients (the rest covers the overheads, and interestingly those packs of ready-meals sold in the supermarkets usually cost five time more than the ingredients.
At home we don't have overheads (well we do, but as part of the household running costs we can ignore most of them), so when I see the cheapest starter on the menu is Home-made (?) Soup of the Day priced at £3.50 per head, (including a bread roll and butter), then I think any of us could provide that for less than 60p a head. More like 60p for four.
So personally, if eating out, I would buy the dish that gives me the most value for money.
The desserts made me laugh. The cheapest pudding in the world to make is Jam Roly-Poly (you will remember I gave the recipe for this about a week or so ago), but on the menu I was reading was priced at £3.50. Likewise profiteroles, another cheapie, and possibly only three, but again £3.50. I can make about 3 dozen of these (sans cream) for about 50p.

I know it is fine to eat out and I'm not suggesting we should all stop. The point I am trying to make is that we should not believe that the price we pay for a dish that we have enjoyed when eating out, bears any relation to the cost when made at home. So many times I have heard someone say they eating out because home-cooking is never as good, or they couldn't afford to cook it anyway. Nonsense. Home-cooking is often much better, and far, far cheaper. With the fashion now turning so obviously to the traditional home-cooking (cottage pies, fish pies, steamed puddings, fruit pies), we have a head start - and all made from scratch, none of your bulk-buying of pre-prepared foods as used in the pub chains where everything tastes exactly same whichever branch you decide to patronise.

The following recipes are adapted from those in a catering cookbook, all expected to serve 8 people, so allow for this when costing out. To feed four, reduce quantities (and cost) by half, although I would allow a little extra for seconds, not all restaurants give generous proportions, often dressing up the remainder of the plate with drizzles of jus, and a few strategically placed veggies as happened one year when, for a birthday treat, Beloved took me to Windermere to a well known restaurant, now under different management. We were able to stay at the house, and this was very luxurious. For the meal I chose a platter which contained a small piece of veal on a very large plate, surrounded by seven different vegetables, with a good gap between each. Very small amounts of each vegetable, just a taste really. It was too long ago to remember what I was given, but I do recall there were three tiny new potatoes, three mangetout peas, a little carrot, perhaps two asparagus - honestly can't remember what else. All seasonal produce, but you get the picture.
At that time I was giving some lectures at one of the University departments - think it was one that dealt with Domestic Science or something. Anyway they wanted me to talk about cost-cutting. So I took them the menu, and we costed out all the ingredients for that particular dish. It came to £2.50. Admittedly some years ago, but it was a great deal more than five times the cost that we were charged. More like ten. OK it did come from the kitchen of a known TV chef now retired, but it just proves that we at home are perfectly capable of cooking something similar, just as good, and well within even the tightest budget (suggest chicken instead of veal).

Time now to take the professional approach.
Starting with soups, this could be anything you wish - menus usually give a choice, or maybe you have only one choice: the soup du jour, which is the chef's choice of the soup of the day, which can often be (and often is) made from yesterday's leftovers. I hasten to say this is sensible use of ingredients which were bought but not able to be used up at the time..Sensible chefs do not waste good food. And as we are now chef in our own kitchen, the soup du jour is our personal choice. Certainly the two recipes given would be priced highly enough if eaten out, as even cheaper ones to make could be offered. Carrot soup for example (a pub favourite).
Spiced Cauliflower Soup: suggested 8 servings
1 tblsp butter or olive oil
pinch whole cumin seeds
1 onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 lb (700g) cauliflower florets*
1 tblsp ground cumin
1 3/24pints (1 ltr) veg. stock
salt and pepper
Put the butter or oil in a saucepan and fry the whole cumin seeds until they pop open and begin to flavour the oil. Stir in the onion and saute until softened but not browning. Stir in the ground cumin, then add the cauliflower and stock. Simmer until the cauliflower is tender. Blitz in a food processor to a puree (or rub through a sieve or mouli), and season to taste. Serve hot.
*Tip: remember that the outside 'frame' of leaves and core that hold the cauliflower florets together, should be kept to cook and make a soup, that - together with a flavouring of Stilton cheese - can be absolutely wonderful. Details were given a few weeks previously. If you prefer to make the above soup without the cumin, just crumble and stir in Stilton crumbs at the end instead.

Another spicy soup, this time using butterbeans and lemons. As mentioned more than once, dried butterbeans can be soaked overnight and cooked in bulk, to be frozen in small quantities to use later. Likewise lemon zest and juice can be frozen, so this soup could be, to the cook-who-plans-ahead, an easy one to make.
Although the recipe suggests cooking the (unsoaked) dry beans in the stock, I would personally soak them overnight in the stock and then proceed, so I give my version. Once the soup has been cooked, it can be left in the fridge overnight for the flavours to develop, and be reheated the following day. Or could be frozen for later use (wonder if any of the pub soups were freshly made on the day).
Spiced Butterbean Soup: serves 8
1 lb (450g) dry butterbeans
1 onion, finely chopped
3 pints (2.2 ltr) vegetable stock
zest and juice from 1 large lemon
1 tsp cayenne pepper
salt and pepper
Put the butterbeans, the onion, and lemon zest into a large bowl and pour over 2/3rds of the stock. Leave to stand in the fridge overnight. Next day, tip the contents of the bowl into a large saucepan, heat to a boil, then cook until the beans are soft. Add the remaining stock, the cayenne and lemon juice. Season to taste. Leave to stand overnight in the fridge. The next day it can be served as a chunky soup as-is, or pureed to a less chunky or totally smooth thick soup according to your choice. Serve hot.

Two main-course dishes coming up, one a vegetarian hot-pot, complete all by itself, the other a dish with which you would offer vegetables. I think it should serve 6 not 8, but then we are greedy eaters in the Goode Household
Somerset Hot-Pot: serves 8
2 onions, sliced
3 potatoes, sliced
8 oz (225g) pearl barley
1 cooking apple, sliced
3 parsnips, peeled and sliced
4 courgettes, sliced
1 tblsp chopped fresh sage
pinch of salt
good grind of black pepper
4 fl.oz (100ml) thick Jersey cream
1 pint (550ml) cider (or half cider, half water)
3/4 pint (425ml) vegetable stock
8 oz (225g) Cheddar cheese, grated
Into a large deep casserole dish layer the vegetables, in the order given (up to the sage),starting with the onion. The barley is layered between the potatoes and the apple. Either do one thick layer of each, or make several thin layers of each. When the layers are complete, scatter over the sage, and add the seasoning.
Pour over the cream, the cider and the stock. Cover and cook at 300C, 150F, gas 2 for a couple of hours. Check the flavour, adding more seasoning if required. Raise the heat to 170C, 325F, gas 3, scatter cheese over the top of the hot-pot, and bake - uncovered - for a further 15 minutes until the cheese has melted and turning golden brown. Take the pot to the table and serve from there together with a basket of fresh crusty bread to dip into the juices.

This second main course (although served in ramekin dishes could be a starter) is something you would probably find only in a restaurant as it is a souffle. However, the recipe is well worth giving as it can be made with any pureed vegetables, such as leeks, spinach, peas, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, turnips, squash, onions, and often a blend of several. This one is made with potato and (in this instance) broccoli.
Souffled Broccoli: serves 6 - 8
3 lb (1.33kg) potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 lb (450g) broccoli, broken into florets
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 oz (25g) butter
4 eggs, separated
salt and pepper
Boil the potatoes in salted water for seven minutes (or until nearly done), then add the broccoli and garlic and cook until the broccoli is tender, but still has 'bite', and remains a bright green colour. Drain well, returning to the pan to gently dry off any excess moisture. Then turn into a warm bowl and mash together with the butter to a puree. Season to taste (I do not normally suggest blitzing potatoes in a food processor as it makes them rather less than appetising, but in this recipe it might work, however you could blitz the broccoli first to give it a bit of a start before adding the potato with the butter).
Beat the egg yolks until thick and frothy, then beat this into the pureed vegetables. Whisk the whites until thick then fold a little into the vegetable mixture to slacken, then carefully fold in the remaining beaten whites. Turn the mixture into a well greased baking/souffle/serving dish, roughing up the top with a fork. If you run your thumb around the edge of the mixture/rim of the dish, this helps it to rise up with straight sides. Bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 (not time given, but suggest 25 minutes) until risen and golden brown. Do not open the oven door as it cooks or it will collapse. Let us hope you have an oven door with a window so that you can watch it rising and change coloour. Otherwise, fingers crossed.

For the first of the desserts, although it might seem expensive, it is very similar to the soft-scoop ice-cream recipe I gave months ago. So a batch could be made and then scoops served as ice-cream - or served in individual dishes as the recipe suggests, calling it 'an iced souffle'. Almost any fruit puree could be used, I suggest canned peaches (drained of syrup or juice (freeze this to make up jellies), cans of which are sold quite cheaply (loss-leaders?) at the supermarkets. Although the original recipe uses all cream, I have used a blend of half cream half yogurt as being less costly and less rich.
Iced Fruit Souffle: 6 - 8 according to ramekin size
1 can peach slices, drained
6 egg whites
12 oz granulated sugar
half pint (275ml) double creme, lightly whipped
half a pint (275ml) thick yogurt
Keep back a couple of slices of peach to use as garnish, and puree the remainder. Put the sugar into a small pan and add just enough water to cover. Bring to the boil and when a little of the syrup when dropped into cold water, forms a soft ball, then it is ready. Remove from heat for the moment.
Whisk up the egg whites until very thick and have stiff peaks. Replace the sugar onto the heat and bring back to the boil, then very slowly (and very carefully) pour this into the whites while they are still being beaten. When all the syrup has been beaten in, stand the bowl in cold water to cool it down as rapidly as possible.
Meanwhile whip the cream to the thickness of the yogurt and fold them together, then fold this into the fruit puree, finally fold that into the meringue.
To serve as ice-cream, just spoon the lot into a lidded container and leave to freeze. Scoop out as required.
To serve as an iced mousse: wrap parchment paper around ramekin dishes, about an inch or so higher than the dish itself, then pour the mixture into the moulds and freeze. To serve, peel off the papers and decorate with a small sliver of peach or a sprinkle of grated chocolate.

The final recipe is one I remember from my youth. Not mentioned much these days but well worth making, a more upmarket version of an individual apple pie. When our crop of apples are ready, I peel core and freeze some whole ready to fill the centres and wrap with pastry (or I could fill and wrap, then freeze). They can be cooked from frozen, just allowing a little more time for the apple to cook - if so, tent with foil half-way through cooking to prevent overbrowning the pastry.
Apple Dumplings : makes 8
1 batch shortcrust pastry
milk or water
8 Bramley or large cooking apples, peeled and cored
1 jar (or part jar) mincemeat*
4 oz (100g) demerara sugar
Roll out the pastry fairly thinly, and cut out 8 circles, each large enough to wrap around an apple (get a kitchen paper and practise first to get the size right). Brush each circle of pastry with milk, then stand an apple in the centre. Stuff the hole in the middle with mincemeat, folding the pastry right round the fruit. Stand the apples on a baking sheet with the fold under. Use some of the pastry scraps to use for garnish, cutting out leaves and brushing with milk to stick a few onto each of the the apples. Brush the whole thing again with the milk and sprinkle over the sugar. Make a hole in the top to allow steam to escape and then bake for half an hour at 180C, 350F, gas 4. Serve hot with custard.
* Tip: if you haven't any mincemeat, soak some dried mixed peel with a little brandy or rum overnight and use this instead, or if only a little mincemeat in store, add this to more dried fruits adding a little brandy for an overnight soak. No brandy? Then use orange juice.
Leftover scraps of pastry should never be thrown away, stack puff pastry trimmings on top of each other (to keep the layers even), or just gather up short pastry scraps in a ball to be re-rolled later. They can be frozen.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Advance Preparation

A request for a recipe for haslet. This I have found, and it is very simple to make. I suggest halving quantities as it is better to make smaller amounts when trying something new for the first time. This means you may need to reduce the cooking time. It may freeze, it may not. Try freezing a slice for a couple of days and if it thaws out well, then interleave some slices and freeze, but eat within a month.
Hampshire Haslet:
2 lb (1kg) lean pork, coarsley minced
9oz (250g) stale white bread
milk or water
1 onion, chopped
1 tsp chopped sage
salt and pepper to taste
Break up the bread and soak it in milk or water, then squeeze out the liquid. Put the bread in a bowl with the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Run the lot through a mincer (or give a few quick pulses in a food processer). Form the mixture into oblongs and pack them side by side across a large greased loaf tin and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for an hour and a half. Serve cold.

This next recipe is for a vegetarian biryani, which - in the original version - requires ten different spices. This is where I ignore that part and improvise by using a curry paste, sauce or even powder. If we ate Indian every day then it makes sense to make it the correct way. But as only occasional curry eaters, collecting a variety of spices mean many would have lost their flavour in a few months and then hardly worth using at all. I don't do throw-away, so the ready-made for once makes more sense. However, for the puritanical, at the end of the recipe I give the list of spices which would normally be added to the dish after the onions have been cooked and before the tomatoes were added.
Tip: scatter old curry powder around places where cats appear and scrape up your garden- this drives them away.

Vegetarian Biryani: serves 4 (V)
1 lb (450g) basmati rice
4 fl.oz (125ml) sunflower oil
2 large onions, sliced thinly
2 tsp grated ginger
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
8 oz (225g) chopped tomatoes
pinch salt
1 - 2 tblsp curry paste (medium strength)
8 oz (225g) Greek yogurt
8 oz (226g) potatoes, peeled and diced
6 oz (175g) frozen peas (thawed)
6 oz (175g) carrots, diced
4 fl.oz (125ml) water
4 tblsp chopped fresh coriander
Wash the rice thoroughly under running water, then place in a bowl, cover with water, and leave to soak for a couple of hours. Drain, then cook in salted, boiling water until al dente (not quite cooked). Drain and put to one side.
Heat the oil in a saucepan and fry the onions until golden, stir in the garlic and ginger and fry for a further minute, then stir in the curry paste and mix well. Add the tomatoes, salt and yogurt. Simmer for about 10 minutes, by which time the oil will have separated out. When this happens, add the potatoes and carrots
together with the water and cook until they are just tender, then stir in the peas and cook for a further minute. Remove from the heat.
Taking a large saucepan, spread one third of the cooked rice on the bottom. Put half the cooked vegetables on top adding a sprinkling of chopped coriander, place another third of rice on these, finishing with the final layer of vegetables, more coriander and rice on the top.
Wring out a clean kitchen tea towel and lay this over the top of the pan, then fit the lid tightly over the cloth and put the pan on a very low heat*. Cook on for 30 minutes.
Using a large spoon, carefully fold the rice into the vegetables and turn out onto a warmed dish. Ganish with the remaining coriander.
*Tip: if finding it difficult to keep the heat low (sometimes gas on a low flame can blow out), then stand the pan in a large frying pan which will act as a heat diffuser.
Note: the biryani can be layered in an ovenproof casserole, covered tightly with foil, then a lid, and cooked on for 45 minutes in a low oven 150C, 300F, gas 2.
Variation: cooked minced beef (as aforementioned) could be added to the vegetables, to reheat as they cook, then continue with the recipe.

Suggested spices which can be used instead of the curry paste in the above recipe. Add as-is to the pan after the onions are fried:
1 tsp each chilli powder, turmeric, ground coriander, cumin seeds, cloves, black peppercorns, cardamon seeds. 4 star anise, 2 bay leaves, and 2 cinnamon sticks.

Indian sweet ,simply made, simply delicious, and one way to use up bananas that might otherwise become over-ripe. Translated, the name is Banana Fudge, and a snack said to give instant energy. Not for anyone on a diet, but one piece now and again won't hurt. Will it?
Kele Ka Halwa: serves 4
5 fl.oz ( 150ml) ghee or clarified butter
20 oz (600g) bananas, peeled and chopped
8 oz (225g) sugar
half a tsp freshly grated nutmeg
half a tsp cardamon powder
Heat 2 tblsp of the butter in a pan and add the bananas and the sugar. Cook over a gentle heat, stirring all the time to avoid sticking to the pan. Drizzle in the remaining butter, a little at a time, until all the moisture has evaporated. The mixture should become stick and brown. Stir in the spices and keep stirring until the mixture leaves the sides of the pan. Overcooking will make it too hard.
Turn the halwa into a small, shallow, greased baking tin, press down and level the surface. Leave to cool, then cut into cubes or slices.

Firni (creamed rice): serves 4
3 oz (75g) rice flour
1 pint (450ml) milk
4 oz (100g) sugar
2 tsp rose water
2 tsp flaked almonds
Mix the rice flour with a quarter of the milk. Heat the rest of the milk, stirring in the sugar. When it reaches boiling point, pour into the slaked rice flour (as you do when making custard), then return it all to the pan and keep stirring until it has turned very thick. Remove and cool at room temperature (place a fitted circle of dampened greaseproof over the rice to prevent a skin forming). Stir in the rose water, then spoon into individual glasses, chill until ready to eat, then scatter over the almonds.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Take Five

With recipes using few ingredients being ideal for the learner cook, they also make things easy for the more experienced - who may wish to 'add things'. So today's dishes will be based on these.

The first few recipes use canned soups, and I make no apologies for this because it's the only way I can count several vegetables as one ingredient. Feel free to make up your own soup from scratch. I miss out the salt and pepper to avoid increasing to 'take seven' (cheating by sometimes including it in brackets). Season as you go, or at the table.
Fish and Vegetable Chowder: serves 4
10 oz (275g) firm white fish fillet
1 x 435g can Scotch Broth soup
half a pint (300ml) milk
1 x 326g can sweetcorn
grated cheese
Remove any skin* from the fish and cut the flesh into small chunks. Put the soup and milk together in a pan and bring to the boil, add the prepared fish and simmer gently for five minutes, add the drained corn, bring back to the simmer and cook for a further minute, by which time the fish should be cooked. Serve in individual bowls with a bowl of grated cheese to scatter over. Alternatively, top the soup with croutons which have been sprinkled with cheese and blasted under a grill for a couple of minutes. As regards seasoning, this can be done at the table to the individual taste.
*tip to avoid waste: Fish skin brushed with oil can be grilled and is said to make really crispy nibbles. Not that I have tried it. But it has been mentioned by readers.

Celery and Ham Mousse: serves 6
1 x 425g can cream of celery soup
half a pint (300ml) creme fraiche or sour cream*
1 sachet gelatine dissolved in 4 tblsp water
4 spring onions, finely chopped
8 oz (225g) cooked ham, finely chopped or minced
Mix the soup with the sour cream, then stir in the dissolved gelatine and the prepared onions and ham. Spoon into individual souffle dishes, or into one greased (or cling-film lined) loaf tin. Chill until set.
To serve, unmould onto a serving dish, or serve the ramekins as-is.
For presentation, garnish with hardboiled eggs (whites chopped and yolks sieved) and thin slices of cucumber.
*Note: fresh double cream can be soured by stirring in a couple of teaspoons of lemon juice.

If you will allow me the use of instant potato (which incidentally freezes better than the real thing), and the egg, and breadcrumbs to coat the fingers as one ingredient, then five ingredients this next will still be. A dish more for the children than adults, but useful in that there are many ways this could be adapted - include minced cooked chicken to bulk it up and make it more nutritious. Mashed vegetables could be also included and a good way to get picky children to eat veggies when they normally turn up their noses at them. The main thing is to make the mixture firm enough to handle before frying. Of course they don't need to be finger shaped. They could be burger shaped, or Bart Simpson shaped, had I included this recipe yesterday I would have suggested heart-shaped. Children often love to eat foods that spell out their name (did you see Jamie's cress growing in letter shapes, spelling POPPY, his daughter's name) which reminds me...tell you later.
Chicken and Potato Fingers: serves 4
1 x 425g can of cream of chicken soup
3 oz (75g) instant potato
2 egg yolks, beaten
3 oz soft white breadcrumbs
(beaten egg, dried golden breadcrumbs for coating)
Put the soup in the pan and bring to the boil. Remove from heat and add the instant potato (you may need a little extra). Leave to stand for 10 minutes to allow the potato to absorb the soup. It should be thick and firm. Add the egg yolks and soft breadcrumbs (seasoning to taste) and beat until smooth. Leave to get cold, chill if possible. Roll out the mixture onto a well floured board to 1/2" (1cm) thickness, then cut into 8 or ten rectangles. If you wish you can pop them in the fridge or even better, the freezer for half an hour to firm up and make them easier to handle. Dip first into the egg, then into the golden crumbs (repeat if you like a thicker coating), then shallow fry for about 3 minutes on each side until crisp. Drain on kitchen paper. Great served with a good dollop of tomato ketchup.

No canned soup in this one (do I hear sighs of relief?). The flavour comes by using a harissa rub. Harissa is a fiery chilli paste and this oily rub is made by whisking 2 tsp harissa with 3 tblsp olive oil, salt and pepper to taste . Giving the details now of how to make this keeps the ingredients in the recipe proper down to five. Well, sometimes I have to cheat. Yes, Delia, me too.
Moroccan Lamb with Couscous: serves 2
1 batch (see above) harissa rub
2 lamb leg steaks
5 oz (140g) couscous
1 oz (25g) toasted flaked almonds
2 oz (50g) raisins
Take one tablespoon of the harissa mixture and rub over both sides of the lamb steaks. Leave to stand whilst peparing the couscous.
Put the couscous into a bowl together with the almonds and raisins and pour over half a pint of boiling water. Cover the bowl and leave to stand for 4 minutes, then fluff up with a fork and pour in the remaining harissa oil/rub. In the meantime, grill the lamb steaks for 3 - 4 minutes on each side until well browned. Spoon the couscous onto two plates, top each with the lamb and garnish with optional chopped herbs such as parsley or coriander.

This next can be served as a side dish with a Chinese meal, with rice as a dish in its own right, or just use the batter recipe when wishing to coat other fried foods such as fish, or even pieces of fruit (in which case you could use lemonade instead of the soda or mineral water).
Crispy Lemon Chicken: serves 4
2 oz (50g) plain flour
2 oz (50g) cornflour
6 fl oz (175ml) chilled soda or sparkling mineral water
3 chicken breasts, cut into thin strips
1 pkt ready-made Peking lemon sauce
Sift the flours into a bowl (add a pinch of salt) and make a hollow in the centre. Slowly pour in the soda water and mix until smooth. Do not overmix.
Dip each chicken piece into the batter and drop into hot oil. Fry for one minute until crisp (always making sure the chicken is cooked through - if the pieces are thick, allow a little longer). Drain on kitchen paper and serve at once (if doing a larger amount, cook in batches, then return to the pan for half a minute to heat through and crisp up again). Serve with the lemon sauce drizzled over.

Pizzas fit into the 'take five ingredients' very easily as one classic pizza requires only tomatoes and cheese as a topping on the base. The following pizza recipe uses potato as one of the toppings, and also blue cheese (any blue cheese would do, but coming from Leicestershire for us, it has to be Stilton). Still only three main ingredients, but to be fair I have included the oil and rosemary in the main list.
This is not your usual topping, but well worth trying. If making your own pizza dough, instead of baking two bases, this could be made as one, in an oblong shape, baked in a large oblong Swiss roll ring.
Potato and Stilton Pizza: serves 6 - 8
2 ready-made pizza bases
4 medium potatoes
4 tblsp olive oil
2 tblsp rosemary leaves, finely chopped
7 oz (200g) Stilton or other blue cheese, grated or crumbled
Slice the potatoes very thinly and put into a bowl of water. Leave to stand for 10 minutes to remove as much starch as possible, then drain well, rinse, then pat dry with a kitchen towel. Replace into a dry bowl and pour in half the olive oil, add the rosemary (season to taste) and toss well. Place the pizza bases on oiled baking trays and top with overlapping herbed potato slices, sprinkling over the cheese.. Brush any uncovered edges of the pizza with more oil (this prevents the dough becoming too crisp), and drizzle any remaining oil over the top. Bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 25 minutes until crisp and golden and potatoes cooked through.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Is it worth it?

Today, still on a mission to prove that leftovers can make worthwhile dishes, we tackle the vegetables. Well, just a few as there is a mighty range of them. Many fall into the same category, brassicas for instance, so what suits one will suit another of that type.

This first recipe used cooked beetroot, either cooked from raw, or for speed use beetroot from those vacuum packs. With beetroot now seemingly added to the list of superfoods, we should eat more and drink their juice (mentioned in earlier postings sometime this last fortnight). Serving suggestions come from the American cookbook, so copy, or make your own choice from our more usual UK side dishes.
Main Line Beetroot Salad: serves 4
3 cooked beetroots, diced (about half a pint)
1 can new potatoes, drained and diced
OR 1 pint measure cooked potatoes, diced
1 onion, finely chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
2 apples, peeled, cored and diced
1 Little Gem lettuce
sour cream dressing:
2 tblsp mayonnaise
2 tblsp creme fraiche or thick yogurt
pinch salt
half tsp sugar (pref icing sugar)
half tsp made mustard (pref Dijon)
1 tsp vinegar
Put the prepared beetroot, potatoes, onions, celery and apples into a bowl. Prepare the salad dressing by mixing the dressing ingredients together. Pour this over the beetroot, and then fold into the other vegetables (mixing the beets with the dressing first helps to prevent the beets staining the rest of the veg). Chill well then serve in lettuce leaf cups.
Suggested serving: battered fish bites and buttered pumpernickel slices.

This next recipe is for another type of salad, this time one set in jelly. Sounds very strange, but these can be very good to eat. Children might also eat vegetables they would normally refuse, when served this way, and the choice of vegetables can be easily altered to suit. It would also work with a lime or orange jelly, according to what veggies are used. But for this recipe, stick to using a lemon. In light of what was written about beetroot juice earlier, you will see it is included in the recipe.
Beetroot Salad Ring Mould: serves 4 - 6
3 cooked beetroots, diced
1 packet lemon jelly
8 fl.oz (1 cup) beetroot juice and/or hot water
2 tblsp wine vinegar
juice of one orange
salt and pepper
2 ribs celery, diced
2 apples, peeled and cored, diced
2 tblsp chopped nuts (opt)
2 tblsp chopped chives
Little Gem lettuce, or other crispy lettuce
Dissolve the jelly in the hot beetroot juice/water. Add the vinegar, orange juice, and a shake of salt and pepper. Mix together thoroughly and chill, until just beginning to set, then fold in the beetroot, celery, apples, nuts and chives. Turn into a wetted ring mould and chill until set. Turn out and serve with the centre filled with crispy lettuce which has been dressed with a mayo dressing (or use the one from recipe above).

Now to the broccoli. In one of yesterday's dishes, left-over broccoli was one of the ingredients, but we need more ideas, so here are some more:
Hubbly Bubbly Broccoli: serve 3 - 4
about 15 little florets of cooked broccoli
Boiling water
3 tblsp butter
3 tblsp flour
12 fl.oz (1 1/2 cups/350ml) milk
3 tblsp sherry
salt and pepper
3 oz grated cheese (pref Gruyere)
Pour boiling water over the broccoli to heat it up and leave to stand while making the sauce. Melt the butter in a saucepan and stir in the flour. Cook for one minute, then gradually add the milk and sherry whisking until smooth and thickened. Season to taste.
Drain, then arrange a layer of broccoli in a small greased ovenproof dish, cover with the sauce and sprinkle with a bit of the cheese. Repeat the layers until the dish is full, and finally sprinkle over remaining cheese (adding more if necessary). Finish off under the grill, and serve hot when the cheese is brown and bubbling.

Broccoli with Horseradish Cream: serves 2 - 4
enough leftover broccoli to serve two or three
1 tblsp butter
4 fl.oz (1/2 cup/125ml) creme fraiche
1 - 2 tsp horseradish sauce (according to taste)
half a tsp mustard (pref Dijon)
salt and pepper
1 tblsp breadcrumbs
Melt the butter in a pan and saute the broccoli until heated through. In a small pan put the creme fraiche, the horseradish sauce and the mustard and a little salt and pepper and heat through. Place the broccoli onto a serving dish, cover with the sauce and sprinkle over the breadcrumbs. If there is any butter in the pan left from sauteing the greens, drizzle this over the crumbs. Grill for one minute, then serve.

Leftovers don't have to be a sorry state of affairs, you have only to try this next recipe to see what can be done with them. And it doesn't have to be broccoli, almost any vegetable could be used.
Gourmet Souffled Broccoli: serves 3 - 4
half pint measure (at least one cup) cooked broccoli
3 tblsp butter
3 tblsp flour
4 fl oz (125ml/half a cup) single cream
4 fl oz (125ml/ half a cup) good chicken stock
4 egg yolks, well beaten
1 tsp grated onion
1 tsp finely chopped parsley
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
pinch each salt, pepper and nutmeg
4 tblsp grated hard cheese
4 egg whites
Melt the butter in a pan and stir in the flour, cook for one minute then gradually stir in the cream and the stock and heat (BUT DO NOT BOIL) until thick and smooth. Remove from the heat.
To the beaten egg yolks, stir in the onion, parsley, W. sauce, and the three seasonings. Then fold this into the thickened sauce in the pan. Chop the broccoli fairly finely and stir this into the mixture along with the cheese. Whip the egg whites until stiff, then carefully fold a little into the broccoli mixture to slacken, then lightly, very lightly, fold in the rest of the whites, taking care not to lose the air beaten in.
Pour into a buttered souffle dish and bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 25 minutes. Serve immediately.

This recipe makes use of left-over sweetcorn , although I usually serve only what I need using canned or frozen corn. However, sweetcorn is a good store-cupboard standby (canned sweetcorn) so worth including this recipe. Again, other vegetables could be substituted for the corn.
Blue Mountain Eggs: serves 4
1 can sweetcorn, drained
6 rashers bacon, cut in half
1 tblsp butter
1 small onion, finely chopped or grated
1 tlsp chopped parsley
half a red and half a green bell pepper, finely chopped
dash tabasco or chilli sauce (opt)
4 eggs
salt and pepper
Fry the bacon until crisp, then remove and keep warm. Add the sweetcorn and the butter to the bacon fat, then stir in the onion, parsley, and peppers and keep stirring until cooked and beginning to brown. Drop in the eggs, one at a time, scrambling them around with a fork, mixing them into the veggies, until just set. Season to taste. Serve with bacon strips on top.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

More Pot Luck

Carrying on with ideas to use leftovers, today deals with leftover chicken (or turkey). Being American based, I have had to use fluid ounce measurements to equal the cup measurements. So just fill a pint glass jar to the fluid ounces amounts needed.
(Interestingly, the book stated that 'a cup' equals half a pint - which in this country is not the same. In the US a pint is 16fl.oz, in the UK it is 20 fl.oz), so anyone converting recipes should bear this in mind and remember that one cup = 8 fl.oz.)
Chicken Brunswick: serves 3 - 4
16 fl.oz measure (2 cups) cooked chicken
1 can condensed mushroom or celery soup
2 fl.oz (1/4 cup) white wine
4 fl.oz measure (1/2 cup) crushed cornflakes plus 2 tblsp
2 hardboiled eggs, chopped
salt and pepper
Blend the soup and wine together, add the chicken and half the cornflakes (you could use crushed crisps instead), add the eggs and season to taste. Place in a greased shallow casserole and sprinkle remaining cornflakes (crisps) on top. Bake for 20 minutes at 190C, 375F, gas 5.

Mexican Chicken: serves 3 - 4
16 fl.oz measure (2 cups) cooked chicken, cut into large chunks
1 tls butter or oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
half a green and half a red bell pepper, finely diced
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
4 oz (100g) mushrooms, chopped
2 tblsp flour
8 fl. oz (1 cup) water or chicken stock
8 oz (225g) chopped tomatoes
2 tblsp chopped parsley
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp chilli powder (or more to taste)
salt and black pepper to taste
Put the oil in a pan and saute the onions and pepper until softened, adding mushrooms and garlic towards the end. Then blend in the flour. Add the stock, and rest of the ingredients, stirring gently until slightly thickened and the sauce is smooth. Place the chicken in a shallow casserole and pour over the contents of the pan. Bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for half an hour. Serve with salad and crusty bread.

Superior Chicken Salad: serves 4
about 1 pint measure (2 cups plus) chunks of cooked chicken
4 fl.oz measure (1/2 cup) celery, sliced
same amount of carrot matchsticks
same amount of green bell pepper, minced
same amount of mayonnaise
3 spring onions (scallions) finely chopped
2 tlsp double cream
1 tblsp vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
1 Little Gem lettuce, cut into chunks
Put everything except the lettuce into a bowl and toss together. Chill for at least half an hour, then immediately before serving, add the lettuce chunks and toss again.

The final poultry recipe today is for left-over turkey, but would work just as well with chicken. Practically all the ingredients are 'store-cupboard' foods, so an easy one to put together.
An Easy Turkey Dish: serves 4
cooked turkey (or chicken) - at least 12 fl.oz/1 1/2 cups, diced
8 oz (225g) broccoli (fresh or frozen) cooked
1 tbls butter, melted
3 tblsp grated cheese
3 tblsp sherry
1 can condensed cream of chicken soup
salt and pepper to taste
Place the drained broccoli in the bottom of a greased casserole. Drizzle over the butter, sprinkle over one tblsp of the cheese and add 1 tblsp of the sherry. Top with the turkey or chicken. Stir the remaining sherry into the condensed soup and pour this over the cooked meat, then sprinkle over the remaining cheese. Bake at 189C, 350F, gas 4, for about 20 minutes or until piping hot and the cheese has melted and turned golden.
Suggested servings: with boiled rice OR on slices of hot toast with a side dish of tossed green salad.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Making the Most of It.

Leftovers needn't always end used the same way. As a book says - "start creating and it can be table-top magic". The advice following was to actually plan to have leftovers gaining both economy and time. Something I believe I have advised in the past - cook once, use twice.

Leftovers, together with a few staples: onions, sugar, flour, rice, pasta etc. can make umpteen different meals. But not only that. Today we have the great advantage of using a much wider variety of vegetables. Pot-luck recipes always flexible, so we can add or subtract according to what we have.

Beef in Barbeque Sauce: serves 4
16 - 20 fl oz measure (a good 2 cups) 1" cubes roast beef
4 fl oz (1/2 cup) Worcestershire sauce
same amount of tomato ketchup
1 spoon made mustard
4 soft rolls
thinly sliced raw or fried onion
Arrange the beef in a shallow baking dish. Mix together the W.sauce, ketchup and mustard, and pour over the meat. Bake at 190C, 375F, gas 5 for about 40 minutes, turning the meat two or three times during the cooking. Serve on split roll with the onion.

The next recipe I have drastically adapted to avoid making the slightly complicated white sauce that uses canned consomme . Also omitting Worcestershire sauce which I would never add to a strogonoff. Instead I would make it using a condensed (undiluted) mushroom soup with some added creme fraiche or (traditionally) sour cream. At a pinch you could omit the mushroom soup altogether. The choice is yours.
Beef Strogonoff: serves 4
1 thickish slice of roast beef per person cut into thin strips
plain flour
2 tblsp butter
3 onions, sliced
1 can mushrooms, drained (or 1/2 pint fresh mushrooms, sliced)
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 can condensed mushroom soup
3 tblsp sherry
5 fl oz (1/2 - 3/4 cup) creme fraiche or sour cream
salt and pepper
Saute the mushrooms and onions in the butter for five minutes, then stir in the garlic and cook until the onions are turning golden. Dust the meat with a little flour then add this to the pan and cook for a further minute. Stir in the condensed mushroom soup and the sherry. Heat thoroughly, season to taste and add the creme fraiche/sour cream just before serveing. Heat through and serve with plain boiled rice.

Stuffed Beef Slices: serves 4
4 slices roast beef 1/2" thick
four slices each thinly sliced ham and/or Swiss cheese
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 slice bread, crumbed
3 tblsp oil
1 tblsp butter
1 tblsp flour
8 fl oz (1 cup) beef stock (can be made using a cube)
salt and pepper
grated cheese (optional)
Cut a pocket down the side of each slice of meat. Stuff a slice each of ham and cheese (or just cheese) into each pocket and close tightly, threading with a cocktail stick to keep it pinned together. Dip into the egg and then the crumbs and fry until brown. Remove from pan and keep warm. To the pan add the butter and stir in the flour, cook for one minute then whisk in the stock until thickened. Season to taste, simmer for 2 minutes to remove taste of the flour, then return the meat to the pan. Heat through and serve, sprinkled with the cheese (if used). The suggested serving is kidney beans and a salad. But am sure you will have a better suggestion.

Beef stuffed Peppers: serves 4
1/2 pint (275ml/1 1/4 cups) diced roast beef
4 green bell peppers
2 eggs, beaten
8 fl oz (225ml/1 cup) milk
pepper and salt
1 small onion, grated
1 tsp finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp mustard
dash cayenne powder
2 tsp chilli powder (optional)
2 slices buttered bread, crumbed
boiling water (approx 1 cup/8fl oz/225ml)
Cut the tops from the stem ends of the peppers. Remove seeds and fibres. Parboil for 4 minutes, then drain.
Prepare the filling by mixing the eggs with the milk, onion, parsley, mustard, cayenne, chilli powder and season to taste. Stir in the meat. Fill peppers to within 1/2" of the and top up with the buttered breadcrumbs. Place in a baking dish and pour round the boiling water. Bake at 350C, 180F, gas 4, for about 40 minutes, until the peppers are tender and the filling is firm.

Often people who refuse curries, will often enjoy this soup, despite it having curry powder as one of the ingredients. Alternatively use a little chilli powder or ground cumin , in either case start with a small amount, taste and then add more only if you feel you or your family would accept it. It is the heat from the spice that makes this soup taste so good, so a little spice is better than none at all.
Mulligatawny Soup: serves 4
3/4 pint (2 cups minimum) diced or minced roast beef
3 tblsp beef dripping or oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely diced
1 turnip, finely diced
2 green apples, finely diced
2 tblsp flour
2 tsp curry powder
salt and pepper
2 pints (5 cups) boiling water
1 tblsp chopped parsley
few thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
Saute the onion, carrot, turnip and apples in the dripping (0r oil) for about 10 minutes or until tender. Add the meat and stir together. Sprinkle over the flour and curry powder. Stir for one minute then add the water and herbs. Stir until thickened and simmer gently for five - ten minutes, season to taste. Remove bay leaf before serving. Serve hot, in individual bowls with a side dish crusty bread.

The following recipe uses more than one lot of leftovers. If you grate your own cheese and keep it in the fridge or freezer, have some tomato puree in the cupboard or freezer, then this can be assembled in minutes. As it bakes in 7 minutes, the only time 'wasted' is waiting for the oven to heat up. You could possibly heat the main casserole up in the microwave, then add the cheese topping and brown it off under the grill instead of baking.
Neapolitan Meat Pasta: serves 4
Left over pasta to feed four (spaghetti or penne is best)
12 oz (350g/1 1/2 cups) finely diced or minced roast beef
2 tblsp tomato puree
5 fl oz (150ml/ 1/2 cup) boiling water
1 beef stock cube
grated cheese
Blend the stock cube with the water and the tomato puree and mix that into the meat mixture. Sprinkle the bottom of a greased shallow casserole with some grated cheese, add a layer of meat, then a layer of pasta, and repeat with cheese, meat and pasta until all used up. Top with grated cheese and bake for 7 minutes at 200C, 400F, gas 6 until bubbling and browned.
tip: if keeping some cooked pasta, drain well then drizzle with oil and give it a good shake before chilling or freezing. Run hot water through it to separate before using.

This is a version of Dolmas: the stuffed vine leaves, and this is a particularly good way to use the outer darker leaves from cabbage which are often discarded (but containe the most vitamns). Caraway seeds go very well with cabbage, so if you have them, worth using.
Stuffed Cabbage Leaves: serves 4
about 8 oz (225g/ 1 cup) minced cooked beef
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tblsp parsley, finely chopped
2 tblsp breadcrumbs
half a tsp dried mixed herbs
good pinch caraway seeds (opt)
salt and pepper
1 egg, beaten
8 large cabbage leaves
boiling salted water
4 fl oz (125ml/ 1/2 cup) white wine, or chicken or veg. stock
Mix the meat with the onion, parsley, breadcrumbs, dried herbs, caraway seeds, and some salt and pepper to taste. Blend in the egg.
Use only perfect cabbage leaves (to prevent the filling oozing out of any holes) and par-boil in the water (just enough to cover the leaves ) for five minutes. Drain and pat dry. Place a heaped tablespoon of the mixture on each leaf. Fold sides to middle, then one flap over t'other. Put fold side down in a shallow pan, packing them in tightly, and add the wine or stock. Cover and simmer gently for 25 minutes.
Suggested serving, boiled rice with a jug of hot tomato sauce for pouring over.