Thursday, May 29, 2008

How Green Can You Get?

Referring to my herbal book, came across a selection of recipes using home-made mayo, but the mayo was not made with eggs. This could prove to be useful. On the other hand one of the ingredients was cream, but if made in small quantities, could work out fairly economical. It would be interesting to work out the cost of this versus the mayo bought in jars. But for those who love to make as much as possible, here is the recipe.
Eggless Mayonnaise:
1 tblsp double cream
2 tblsp oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard (or less to taste)
2 tsp lemon juice or vinegar
1 tsp sugar (pref icing as it will dissolve immediately)
Mix the cream with the mustard and sugar, then begin beating, adding the oil drop by drop. When quite thick add 2 tsp lemon juice or vinegar and beat again.

Cream Mayonnaise:
as above, but using half cream and half oil, OR two parts cream to one of oil. Continue as above but do not whip the cream too stiffly before adding the oil (drop by drop). Add the lemon juice/vinegar in the proportion of a tablespoon to a gill (quarter pint) of the cream mixture.

Tartare Sauce:
To the made mayonnaise, beat in the yolks of hardboiled eggs and use tarragon vinegar.

Green Mayonnaise:
Make a thick puree of cooked green peas (good use for surplus mushy peas), blend in a little double cream and stir into the mayonnaise. Suggest one measure of pea puree to two of mayo.

Tomato Mayonnaise:
Make a puree of uncooked tomatoes (or could use a tsp or so of tomato puree ), mix with a little cream and blend this into the mayo. Using ketchup and a dash of Worcestershire sauce, this is a virtual 'Marie Rose' sauce as served with prawn cocktail.

Almost back to the greens again, these next suggestions are for salads. Apparently cucumbers are now being sold 'without peel', or rather a variety that has such thin peel it is almost invisible. Personally I prefer to see the green peel (Beloved hates it), although many feel it is indigestible over the past years new varieties of 'burp-free' cucumbers are now being produced. The melon can be the usual kind, although I really love watermelon for its colour. When cut into cubes and chilled this is particularly refreshing.
Cucumber, Melon and Mint Salad:
1 cucumber, peeled and cubed
equal quantity of melon, cubed
1 - 2 tblsp French dressing
finely chopped mint, dill and tarragon
pinch icing sugar
Put the cucumber and melon into a bowl. Mix the herbs and sugar into the salad dressing and pour this over the fruits. Chill and serve.

This next is a great one for children, for if they grow the mustard, cress and nasturtiums themselves they are much more likely to eat it. The amounts required are best judged by the cook.
Mustard, Cress and Apple Salad:
lemon juice
mustard and cress
salt and pepper
nasturtium flowers (opt)
Peel the required amount of apples, and cut the flesh into matchstick strips. Arrange in a dish, sprinkling over lemon juice to prevent them discolouring. Season lightly to taste. Cover with the mustard and cress, also dressed with lemon juice and seasoned. Cover with a further layer of apples cut and dressed as formerly, and finish with a final layer of the mustard and cress. Decorate with nasturtium flowers.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Cost of Living

With the mention of feeding one person on a budget of 66p a day, my little grey cells are working madly again. You know, it could be done. Start off with a bowl of porridge made the Scottish way with water and salt and that should take care of 5p. Doubt that a tea-bag costs much, and could always be used twice or thrice if you like weak tea. Drink tea without milk or sugar (same with coffee) again you save loads. Come lunchtime, a bowl of home-made vegetable soup, and still around 50p left for the main meal of the day. An omelette served with fresh greens (free or garden produce) could take care of that. Might even have money left over. Expect a weight loss, but that can be all to the good. As ever, cutting costs can be somewhat easier to prove on paper than actually rolling up our sleeves and doing it for real.

Even so, the recipes today do use cheaper sources of protein, so at least I am still tightening the purse strings not to mention our apron strings as midriffs get smaller due to eating less. Some people pay to get this effect, we can get it for free. Well, they do say every cloud has a silver lining!

Onion and Potato Quiche: serves 4 - 6 - 8
1 short-pastry flan case, baked blind (approx 8")
1 large onion, finely sliced
olive oil
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tblsp chopped fresh herbs
1 small can new potatoes, drained and sliced
2 oz (50g) grated hard cheese
2 medium eggs
5 fl oz (150ml) cream, yogurt or milk (see above)
Fry the onion in as little oil as you can get away with (or use saved 'free' chicken fat, or bacon fat etc), stirring in the garlic as the onions soften. Spread over the base of the pastry case and sprinkle with half the herbs, place layers of potato over the onion, together with the cheese and herbs. Beat the eggs with the cream or chosen 'liquid', and pour this over the layers, give a little shake to get rid of trapped air bubbles, then bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for half an hour or until set. Serve with a green salad.

This next recipe uses canned salmon, but it could also be made with any other canned fish. A good recipe when you have mashed potatoes left over. Or you could make it using the cheap instant mash. If you use canned fish in oil, the oil can be used for the frying. If serving only a few people, the fried eggs could be omitted, but to make a good family dish, include these as they make the rest of the ingredients go further.
Looking at the ingredients, with the addition of milk, they would also make a good filling for a quiche, so what - in this instance feeds 2, could then (with the milk and pastry case) be extended to feed four or more.
Salmon Hash: serves 2
12 oz (350g) mashed potatoes
1 small can salmon. drained and flaked
3 cherry tomatoes, chopped
1 shallot or 2 spring onions, chopped
2 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
1 tblsp oil
2 fried eggs (optional)
Put the potatoes, salmon, tomatoes, onions and parsley in a bowl and mix together gently, avoiding breaking the fish up too much. Put the oil in a frying pan over medium heat, then when hot, add the potato mixture, flattening it down with a fish slice so that it covers the base of the pan. Fry for 3 - 5 minutes until golden brown beneath. Break up with the fish slice, stir around to mix together, then flatten again to a slightly smaller 'pancake' and cook for a further 3 minutes. By that time it may be possible to turn the pancake over to crisp up the topside, but if it breaks, just flatten again and give it a minute or two more.
Reduce heat to low to keep the hash warm, and fry two eggs in another pan. To serve, divide the hash between two plates and top each with a fried egg. Serve immediately.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Bursting with Flavour

Suggestions for Pizza toppings:
'English breakfast':
Fry 4 oz (100g) bacon bits with a few sliced mushrooms, adding a little olive oil, and fry for 3 minutes. Arrange over the basic pizza base with a few sliced tomatoes. Bake according to pizza pack directions, but halfway through the cooking time break 2 or 3 eggs on top. Drizzle these with oil and continue cooking for 6 - 7 minutes if you like the yolks runny, or about 11 minutes if you like them set.
Mix 8 oz (200g) shredded cooked chicken (or could be ham, chorizo or cooked sausage), with 1 tblsp barbecue sauce. Spread on top of the pizza and sprinkle over 2 tblsp canned/drained sweetcorn. Cover with 2 - 4 oz (50 - 100g) grated cheese. Bake as per pack instructions.
Thinly slice half a red onion, scatter this over the top of the pizza adding 4 0z (100g) crumbled feta or goat's cheese, and 4 - 6 sliced cherry tomatoes. Drizzle with olive oil before baking as per instructions.
Take 2 tsp pesto and blend with 1 tsp olive oil. Drizzle this over the basic pizza and on top of this sprinkle a handful of raisins. Over these layer 4 0z (100g) cooked or frozen/thawed spinach (first squeeze out all excess liquid). Scatter over pine-nuts, and bake as per instructions on pack.

A summer tea served outdoors should be more than just cucumber sarnies and a wedge of Victoria Sponge. Here are a couple of tasty sandwich fillings, plus other tea-time suggestions:
cream cheese and prawn: serves 6
3 oz (100g) cream cheese
2 oz (50g) cooked, peeled prawns chopped
2 oz (50g) watercress, main stems removed
6 slices sandwich bread
Mix together half the cream cheese and prawns. Spread half the bread with this mixture and top with watercress. Spread the remaining bread with the other half of the cheese and sandwich together. Remove crusts (but save these to make breadcrumbs), and cut each slice into four triangles.

This next sarnie filling uses mayo and curry paste, but the 4p can of curry sauce would make a very good substitute. Just use 3 - 4 tblsp of that instead. You can always decant the rest of the sauce from the can and freeze it for later use. However I give the 'uncanned' version.
Spicy Egg: serves 8
3 eggs, hard-boiled, shelled and finely chopped
3 tblsp mayonnaise
1 tblsp mild curry paste (Korma)
3 no-soak apricots, finely chopped
8 slices sandwich bread, very lightly buttered
Mix the eggs together with the mayo, curry paste and apricots. Spread this over four of the slices of bread, and top with the remaining slices. Remove crusts and cut into squares or fingers.

Take the savoury approach to scones, and you will find these equally as delightful as the sweeter version with jam and cream. Go for those packs of smoked salmon trimmings as they work out much cheaper. Smoked salmon freezes well, so you don't need to use the whole pack in one go. Skimmed milk or diluted yogurt can be used instead of buttermilk.
Horseradish and Herby Scones: makes 6
8 oz (225g) plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
good pinch salt
1 rounded tsp caster sugar
2 tblsp chopped dill or parsley
2 oz (50g) butter, melted
1 small egg, beaten
4 fl oz (125ml) buttermilk*
1 tblsp horseradish sauce (creamy type)
cream cheese
smoked salmon
freshly ground black pepper
Make the scones by sifting together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Do this twice to give as much lightness as possible to the scones, then add the herbs and make a well in the centre. Mix together the egg, buttermilk, horseradish sauce and butter together, pour this into the flour and stir with a fork to make a soft dough. Turn this out onto a floured board and knead gently until smooth. Roll out to just over 1" (3cm) thick. Dip a scone cutter in flour and - without twisting the cutter - cut through the dough to make at least six scones. Gather the dough off-cuts, and knead together lightly, roll and stamp out more scones. The last bit of dough will probably just have to be moulded by hand (this is the one I always eat myself after cooking - you know, just for testing...!)
Place the scones, bottom side up (this makes for a better shape), on a greased baking sheet and bake at 220C, 425F, gas 7 for 10 - 12 minutes until well risen and golden brown. Cool on a cake airer.
Best served as fresh as possible (day of making), split and sandwiched together with cream cheese with smoked salmon tucked in, giving a sprinkle of black pepper over the salmon, or this could be mixed into the cheese. To make the scones go twice as far, split and serve open-topped, using the top as the base for another helping.

More a method of presentation, this next recipe for a suggested, and very summery topping for cup cakes. Seeing stacks of ever-decreasing sized plates on a stand, each filled with iced cakes as an alternative to the traditional tiered wedding cake, this could be well worth a thought. For this tea-time special you need rose petals, pale pink if at all possible, and those that have not been sprayed with insecticide. After gathering the fresh petal snip off and discard the little tips where they joined onto the stem.
Beat up an egg white until frothy, then brush this over both sides of the rose petals (or they could be dragged through the egg white, but remove surplus), then dip them into or sprinkle over caster sugar. Leave on a wire cake airer to dry. Unsprayed rose petals are edible. Meanwhile make up the icing:
Rose Icing: enough to cover 10 cakes
9 oz (250g) icing sugar
2 tblsp rose water
2 tblsp milk
1 drop red food colouring*
Mix together the icing sugar with the rose water and enough milk to give a pouring consistency. Stir in the food colouring. Spoon the icing over the top of the fairy cakes and decorated the middle of each with one or two of the frosted rose petals.
*tip: when not wishing to use a commercial food colouring, a drop of beetroot juice works just as well, but start with the tiniest drop, a little goes a long way.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

This and That

One of the dishes in the above competition was a 'Welsh Milk Jelly' which the judges preferred to call 'panna cotta'. So lets give an easy posh nosh version of something similar. It doesn't really matter whether you follow the recipe as to the type of milk used; evaporated milk would make something similar, 'real' cream would make it superb, 'ordinary' milk a bit more downmarket, but because of the other ingredients, this still makes an extremely good dessert. Always keep within the limitations of your budget, and let the presentation make it look as though you have spent a fortune.
Grapefruit and Orange Pannacotta: serves 6
1 x 405 can low-fat condensed milk (Carnation do one)
4 0z (100g) creme fraiche
2 lemons
half a pint (300ml) freshly squeezed orange juice
15g sachet of gelatine
grapefruit and orange segments
1 tblsp orange flower water (opt)
1 ripe passion fruit (opt)
Finely grate the zest from one lemon, and squeeze the juice from the two lemons. Whisk the condensed milk and the creme fraiche together, gradually beating in the lemon zest and juice, and the orange juice (also orange flower water if using). Prepare the gelatine as packet instructions and when cooled slightly, whisk this into the mixture.
Pour into 6 individual 5 fl.oz (150ml) containers (pref. metal), place in the fridge and leave to set (approx 2 hours). To serve, give each container a quick dip in hot water, and invert over a plate. With a shake it should slide out. If not give another dip.
Decorate each plate with the fruit segments. Slice open the passion fruit, spoon out the pulp and drizzle this over (opt).

Now for something completely different. Browsing through a magazine noticed a letter from someone who wished to 'cook Moroccan' but could not find a supplier of preserved lemons. But who needs to buy when they are easily made at home?
Preserved Lemons:
Several ripe and unblemished lemons, washed
salt (4o/125g) to each 2lb (1kg) fruit
fresh lemon juice
Make two cuts through each lemon crosswise down from the top but not cutting right through to the very bottom. Open out slightly and sprinkle the cut flesh with plenty of salt (use all the salt according to the amount needed for each fruit). Close up the fruits and put them into clean sterilised jars, ramming them in as tightly as possible. Pour enough fresh lemon juice over them to cover. The salt draws out more lemon juice and the skins will have begun to soften within a week, but not ready to use for 3 to 4 weeks.
When a lemon is needed, remove what you need from the jar, rinse off all the salt and cut away and discard the flesh. It is the lemon peel that is used for flavouring North African dishes.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Signs of the Times

Bakewell Tarts (should be called Bakewell Pudding, but that name is for one large tart, not for individual ones). The recipe I can remember because it worked out as the weight of one egg, the same for butter, sugar and ground almonds, and the total weight of all three in pastry.
Bakewell Tarts: makes 12
8 oz (20og ) shortcrust pastry
2 oz (50g) butter, melted
2 oz (50g) sugar
2 0z (50g) ground almonds
1 egg (2oz/50g), beaten
flaked almonds
Roll the pastry out thinly and cut out twelve circles to fit 12 deepish tart tins. Line the tins with the pastry and place in the freezer whilst making the filling.
Beat together the butter, sugar, ground almonds and egg (the recipe suggests doing this in a food processor). Take the pastry from the freezer and spread a little jam over the base of each and slightly up the sides. Divide the filling between each of the pastry cases, spreading it over the jam right to the edges. Bake for 10 minutes at 190C, 375F, gas 6 then scatter a few flaked almonds on top of each, then bake on for a further 5 minutes. Cool on a cake airer.
Tip: if the filling mixture is very stiff, beat in a teaspoon of milk. S.R.flour could be used instead of ground almonds, or a mixture of both. If using just flour add a few drops of almond essence/extract.

Often we do get 'discards' that could otherwise be used. When straining fruit to give a clear liquid to make a jelly (redcurrant jelly for example), the bits left in the sieve, although mainly skins and seeds, still have a certain amount of flavour and plenty of fibre, so could be frozen to later be added to other mixed fruits to make jam, or could be included with other fruits in a pie. Some may think this is a step too far, but why throw away something if it can be used and has some nutritional value, even if only in fibre-form?

From now on, cooking will almost certainly move on it the right direction. Those who need to save money will almost certainly move to doing more home-cooking. Or is that just wishful thinking? Those who cook now, will aim to cut costs by using less costly ingredients, trying out new recipes. Those who already do this will start growing their own produce where they can.

We can cut costs by alternate days serving vegetarian meals only, or even more often than that. When we serve a meal with meat, we could serve this with salad alone, thus saving on the carbohydrates. Ideally we should serve a balanced meal, but sometimes this may prove to be more costly. As long as over the week we get the right amount of protein, carbohydrates and vegetables we should stay healthy enough. It has to be said we all eat too much anyway, for as our bodies are quite geared up to getting rid of its own waste, we normally don't realise that we could get by with eating less. During wartime, admittedly many people did lose weight as the "Supersize..." programme shown this Tuesday proved. But this weight loss did not keep on happening. Once people got to the weight they should be, or maybe slightly less under the circumstances, the weight loss stopped. What the rationing did was to give exactly the right amount of calories needed to give people enough energy and to heep them healthy. All I can remember is not really ever feeling hungry, but certainly I craved sweets. How I missed the sugary ones. But as today, they would not have done me much good. Just given pleasure, instant energy perhaps, but little else. The foods that mattered, were still provided to be eaten. Whether we enjoyed them or not didn't come into it. If we didn't eat them, THEN we could lose weight. Accept them, and we survived.

Nevertheless we still enjoy nibbling (some call it grazing) between meals, so here is an easy recipe to make cheese biscuits which are good eaten hot or cold, can be eaten with soups and salads as well as with cheese, and a few can be baked at a time when the oven is on for something else, for this dough keeps well refrigerated for several days, and can also be frozen.
Cheese Biscuits: makes 24 or more depending on size
5 oz (150g) softened butter (or soft marg)
half pint measure grated strong flavoured hard cheese
half pint measure sifted plain flour
half tsp cayenne pepper
half tsp paprika pepper
Mash the butter and cheese together with a fork, and add flour and seasoning (this can be done using the pulse button in a food processor). Form into a ball, and gently roll out on a floured board, fairly thinly. Cut into rounds of the size you wish and bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 7 - 8 minutes.

This next recipe uses lettuce leaves. In France it is deemed almost criminal to throw away lettuce leaves, even any that are wilted, so this makes good use of maybe a sad Little Gem lettuce, or the outer leaves of a Cos lettuce, but almost any type of lettuce would do. A quick dish to make once the preparation has been done taking less than 6 minutes to cook.
Lettuce Omelette: serves 2
1 oz (25g) butter
half pint measure roughly chopped lettuce leaves
2 eggs, beaten
salt and pepper
2 oz (50g) grated hard cheese
Melt the butter in an omelette pan and add the lettuce, stir and saute for 2 minutes. Add seasoning to taste to the beaten eggs, then pour this over the lettuce. Cook over medium heat until set on the bottom, this takes about 2 minutes. Sprinkle the grated cheese over the top then put the pan under a hot grill until the cheese has melted and the omelette has begun to puff up. This takes about 1 - 2 minutes. Serve hot directly from the pan.
variation: Fry a little grated onion with the lettuce, add a few cooked (or thawed frozen) peas, maybe a little diced red bell pepper. Add an extra eggm could a couple of minutes longer both on the hob and under the grill, and this could serve three with a salad.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Fit for Use

Whilst reading some cookery literature last night saw an idea for an simple dessert, basically fruit set in jelly. Easy enough and very cheap to make if you use the packet jelly (8p) and a can of dented (reduced price) fruit which can be 15p or even lower. And that to feed four.

Moving on to more frugal dishes, the first one uses what I like to call 'planned leftovers'. Although cold coked 'fresh' fish could be used, ideally the storecupboard way (as per this recipe) is to use canned salmon or tuna.
Quick Kedgeree: serves 4
8 oz (225g) rice (approx 1lb when cooked)
3 hardboiled eggs, chopped
1 x 213 can salmon, drained and flaked
1 oz (25g) butter
tsp curry powder or mild curry paste
salt and pepper
Boil the rice and drain well. Melt the butter in a pan and add the curry powder/paste. Stir in the rice and flaked fish and season to taste. Stir in the chopped eggs and serve immediately.
Tip: to make it look slightly more impressive, chop the yolks and whites of the eggs separately, put the kedgeree onto a warm serving dish and spoon strips of alternate white and yellow eggs diagonally across the top.

We tend to think of serving rice with curry, but here is a dish using pasta. The idea behind it is to use a curry sauce (and why not the 4 pennyworth sauce?) instead of the more usual cheese sauce (as with macaroni cheese). This could lead to using curry sauce in other dishes where we might use a cheese sauce. Over caulflower for example. Could be good, should be good, almost certainly would be good.
Curried Pasta: serves 3 - 4
8 oz (225g) pasta (your choice of shape)
1 onion, chopped
1 oz (25g) butter
sultanas (opt)
1 can curry sauce
Cook the pasta as directed on the packet, just to the al dente stage. Melt the butter and fry the onion until softened. Drain the pasta and put half in a shallow ovenproof dish, cover with the onion and juices from the pan, adding a few sultanas if using, top this with remaining pasta and pour over the curry sauce. Heat through in the oven for 15 minutes. Alternatively, fry the onions in a large pan, add the sultanas (if using) and stir in the drained pasta. Mix together, pour over the curry sauce and bring to the simmer, then serve directly from the saucepan.

This next dish almost comes under the 'fusion food' title, the base (Waldorf) salad being American, the salad dressing being French, the pasta (Italian) and the tuna - well, mine comes from Tesco. Where it was caught could be in Chinese waters for all I know.
Salad of All Nations:
4 oz (100g) dried pasta shells
2 fl oz (60ml) French dressing
1 can tuna, drained and flaked
1 red apple, cored, peel left on
2 ribs celery, finely sliced,
1 tblsp sultanas
few walnut pieces
Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until just tender (al dente). Drain, rinse under cold water to cool, drain well, put into a bowl and pour over the French dressing, toss until the pasta is covered. When cooled completely, chop the apples and stir these into the pasta so they too are coated with the dressing, then add the flaked tuna, celery, the sultanas and the walnuts. Toss together and spoon out into a serving bowl. Serve at room temperature.
Note: if you wish, instead of using French dressing, use 2 tblsp of plain yogurt blended with the same quantity of mayo.

Akthough souffles have been mentioned in the past, it is worth a reminder that they are really far easier to make than at first thought. The base is a thick white sauce to which egg yolks are beaten in. Then the chosen flavouring added in (whatever it is it should be as dry as possible), finally the egg whites beaten, and carefully folded into the mixture. Baked in a souffle (or deep round dish), the oven door should never be opened so contain yourself from peeking for the full half hour. Check then to see if it is fairly firm on top, if not give it a few minutes longer. Once cooked it should be taken to the table immediately and served as rapidly as possible. If it does start to collapse, never mind - it will taste just as good. Here is the basic recipe with suggestions for flavouring.
Basic Souffle Mixture;
1 oz (25g) butter
1 oz (25g) flour
5 fl oz (150ml) milk
3 eggs, separated
salt and pepper
Melt the butter and stir in the flour, when this has combined slowly whisk in the milk and cook over low heat until thick. Season to taste. Remove from the heat and beat in the egg yolks.
This is your base mix. To this then add chosen ingredients. Beat the whites until stiff, fold a tblsp into the souffle mix to help slacken it, then fold in the remaining whites as carefully as possible, keeping in as much air as possible. Pour into a prepared souffle dish and bake at 190C, 375F, gas 5 for half an hour.

souffle suggestions: to the basic mix and before folding in the egg whites add:
1 x 7oz (200g) canned salmond, drained and mashed
or add 3 oz (75g) grated cheese. A spoon of made mustard can be blended into the white sauce.
or add 3 oz (75g) finely chopped ham
or add 3 oz (75g) finely chopped chicken or fish
or add 3 oz (75g) finely chopped or mashed cauliflower or very-well drained wilted spinach, or mashed parsnips etc.
0r make up the sauce using tomato juice (passata) instead of milk, or even make up with some of that curry sauce.
With a souffle you can always be inventive.
Tip: To help a souffle rise evenly above the top of the container. First grease the souffle dish and dust with flour or dried breadcrumbs, then once the filling has been poured in, get hold of the rim of the dish with the thumb just tucked inside and turn the dish so there is a small indentation around the edge. The souffle should then rise up with a straight edge.

Pancakes: by now we should all know how to make these, and well worth making a large batch, interleaving, bagging up, and storing in the freezer. They should also keep well for a week in the fridge. Use for savoury dishes, rolling around a chosen filling as you would when making cannelloni with pasta. Pour over a cheese sauce and heat through in the oven.
Next time you make pancakes to freeze, make extra batter and save this to use in the following dish, a very old English traditional way of using the batter, similar to the Spanish Tortilla, or Italian Frittata. The ingredients can be fried bacon or sausage, with or without slices of apple added. Or it could be flaked cooked fish with apple. It really is a matter of what you wish to use up, as the method of making is the same whatever foods you add to the dish. Cooked left-overs are best, or cook them first before adding.
Fraize: serves 1
Pancake batter
small amounts fried bacon, sausage etc
small amounts of fried apples or chosen vegetables
Melt a knob of butter in the pan, tip in the chosen ingredients and pour over the pancake batter, just enough to cover the base of the pan. When the bottom is browned, turn the 'pancake' over to cook in the normal way, then either serve flat, or can be rolled up. If making several, tent the pancakes with foil and keep warm in the oven (or in a dish standing over a pan of simmering water).

One of my earliest recipes on this site was a Pancake Layer, and this is worth repeating if only to remind everyone how easy it is to make, and an excellent way of using leftovers. The original recipe used left-over spag bol sauce if I remember, alternated with green vegetables and a thick tomato (pizza type) sauce. This version is slightly different but you get the idea, the presentation, and the advantage of serving a dish that can use up almost any left-0vers (as long as flavours mix and match).
Savoury Pancake Layer: serves 4 - 6
7 or 10 pancakes (depending upon the amount of filling)
2 large onions, sliced (or could use leekd)
1 pint white sauce (as made for souffle recipe above)
1 oz (25g) butter
4 oz (100g) mushrooms, sliced
1 tin corned beef
1 tblsp tomato ketchup or brown sauce
salt and pepper
3 oz (75g) grated cheese
Fry the onions in the butter until softenened, then remove from the pan and stir them into half the white sauce. Season to taste. Add the sliced mushrooms to the pan and stir/cook until softened. Mash the corned beef with the ketchup or brown sauce. Divide each into two (for 7 pancakes) or three (for 10 pancakes)
Place one pancake on a shallow ovenproof dish and cover with one portion of any of the above fillings, cover with a pancake, on this spread a second (different )filling), cover with a pancake, spread this with the third filling, and repeat until all pancakes are used, finishing with a pancake. To the remaining sauce, add 2 oz of the cheese, and pour this over the top of the pancake stack, sprinkling over the remaining cheese, then bake in the oven at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 20 - 25 minutes until heated right through and the cheese sauce is bubbling and golden. To serve, cut into 4 wedges (6 if using the larger amounts) as you would do when cutting a cake. Serve with a crisp green salad.

Sometimes we see a recipe that uses more cheese than we have available, or possibly we don't have enough eggs. Here is an example of a dish that can be made in two ways, one with more cheese then the other, the other with more eggs and less cheese. Either way there is little loss of protein content. Again, use a recipe such as this as a guide, then adjust similar recipes in the same way.
Cheese Pudding (1): serves 3 - 4
4 slices bread, toasted on one side only
little made mustard
8 oz (225g) grated hard cheese
salt and pepper
1 pint (600ml) milk
1 egg, beaten
Butter the untoasted slices of the bread and place two slices, toast side down, in a greased shallow ovenproof dish. Spread over a little made mustard and then cover with half the cheese, adding seasoning to taste. Cover with remaining bread, toast side down - butter side up. Bring the milk to the boil , remove from heat and whisk in the egg. Pour this over the contents of the dish. Leave to stand for half an hour - or longer - to allow the bread to absorb the milk. Bake at 180 C, 350F, gas 4 for half an hour or until golden and puffed up. Serve hot.
Cheese Pudding (2): serves 3 - 4
4 oz (100g) stale (but soft) breadcrumbs
4 oz (1oog) grated hard cheese
1 oz (100g) butter,
2 eggs, separated
1 pint (600ml) milk
salt and pepper
Put the breadcrumbs in a bowl. Put the milk in a pan with the butter. heat until the butter has melted, and the milk brought just to the boil, stir and pour this over the bread. Leave until absorbed. Stir in the beaten egg yolks and the cheese, adding seasoning to taste. Beat the egg whites until thick, then fold these into the mixture. Pour into a well greased dish and bake at a slightly higher temperature than above (190C, 375F, gas 5) for half an hour or until well risen and set.

Left-over cooked meat can be used in endless dishes, Cottage Pie comes to mind. A perhaps more unusual way can be to add the minced cooked meat to other ingredients, then shape them into 'chops' or even sausages. Here are a couple of recipes and they can be made with any type of cooked minced meat you wish to use up. Instead of the suggested sauce, if using cooked and minced lamb, a little mint sauce could be added or horseradishmustard with beef, grated apple with pork. Add a little dried herbs to the breadcrumbs to give a 'stuffing' flavour when using chicken. Or just follow the recipe as given.
Cumberland 'Cutlets': makes 1 large or 2 small
4 oz (100g) cooked meat, minced
1 oz (25g) butter
1 oz (25g) flour
4 fl.oz (125ml) stock
4 tblsp fresh breadcrumbs
salt and pepper
dash brown sauce or tomato ketchup (depending upon meat)
1 egg, beaten
dried breadcrumbs
Put the butter in a pan with the flour and stir together. When combined, stir in the stock and cook until thick. Remove from heat and leave to cool. Mix the minced meat with the breadcrumbs, seasoning to taste, adding whichever flavour goes best with the meat (see above for suggestions). Mix the meat mixture with the cold sauce and form into a cutlet shape. Chill (or put in the freezer for half an hour to make it easier to handle), then dip into the egg and crumbs. Fry in shallow oil, turning once, until heated through and browned all over.

This next is similar to the above, but contains no breadcrumbs. However, if the mixture is too soft, either add some breadcrumbs (or use only enough of the sauce to hold the meat together). Bacon rashers seem to go twice as far if laid out flat and stretched with a knife. Ideally this is the dish to make when you have pancake batter left over (pancake batter will keep for a couple of days covered and chilled).
4 oz (100g) cooked meat, minced
4 fl.oz (125ml) thick white sauce (see above recipe)
bacon rashers
pancake batter
Mix the minced cooked meat into the sauce, leave to cool then form into sausages. Wrap a bacon rasher around each, dip into the pancake batter and fry until golden and crisp.

The final recipe today is a cheat's version of Floating Island. Normally this dessert is made by first cooking beatn egg whites in milk, then removing these, adding sugar and beaten egg to the milk to make a 'proper' custard. My version is much much simpler. Make the custard using custard powder in the normal way but add a tblsp of cocoa to the powder before adding the milk to make a chocolate custard. Children would love it. A tblsp of Tia Maria added to the milk would make adults love it even more.
Oeufs a la Neige:
3 egg whites
3 oz sugar
1 pint milk
custard powder
1 tblsp cocoa (opt)
Half fill a large saucepan or deep frying pan with water and bring to a simmer. Beat the egg whites until stiff and taking a heaped tbslp of beaten white drop this into the water. Poach several at a time, turning them over halfway through when the begin to swell and become firm. Remove carefully and place on a clean dry tea-towel.
Heat the milk with the sugar and use to make custard in the normal way, adding cocoa (if used) to the dry custard mix, and following directions on the tin. When it has thickened, allow to cool slightly, then pour into a serving bowl. When quite cold, arrange the 'meringues' over the top.
Tip: to prevent a skin forming on the top of custard, either cover the surface with a light sprinkling of caster sugar, or place a wetted and fitting sheet of greaseproof (or baking parchment) directly onto the surface and leave until ready to use.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Nothing in the Cupboard But...

Although I gave a few recipes for chilled soups recently, here is another using yogurt and passata/ or canned tomatoes. It could make good use of an orange left in the fruit bowl, or use the end of an opened pack of orange juice. Once opened, cartons of orange juice have a short shelf-life (even when kept in the fridge), and we should pay attention to the advice on the box for how long to keep. Often there is some left, sometimes fairly concentrated as the bits of orange fall to the bottom, so at the end of the (opened) storage time, freeze the juice in small containers, then it can be used to add to fruit salads, cakes, biscuits, soups, casseroles etc. Do the same with other fruit juices.
Tomato, Orange and Yogurt Soup:
half pint (300ml) plain yogurt
half pint (300ml) tomato juice, passata, canned tomatoes etc
juice of 1 orange
salt and pepper
couple of mint leaves
chopped parsley
Put everything but the parsley into a blender, adding seasoning to taste, and give a quick blitz. Chill well for and serve with a sprinkling of parsley.

If, like me, you have cucumber in the fridge that needs using up, then it could be used to make this soup. Reduce quantities if wishing to make one serving.
Cucumber and Mint Soup: serves 3 - 4
half pint (300ml) plain yogurt
quarter pint (150ml) water
half large cucumber, thinly peeled
pinch of salt
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tblsp finely chopped mint leaves
Blend the yogurt and water together. Slice and chop the cucumber into small dice, mix this into the yogurt with the remaining ingredients. Chill well before serving.

The other day I mentioned how a can of unchilled corned beef was difficult to slice, but would spread perfectly on bread and butter to make a type of 'beef paste'. As the larger tins of corned beef work out cheaper (by weight) than the smaller ones, we tend to have too much in one can, so this is either left in the fridge to slice for sarnies the next day, or sliced and frozen. Half a can could be brought back to room temperature to make this more up-market version of the 'beef spread'. (note a whole can is used for the recipe).
Boeuf Pate:
1 x 340g can corned beef
1 oz (25g) butter
1 tblsp sherry
Worcestershire sauce/horseradish/mustard
Put the softened corned beef into a bowl and mash with the butter and sherry. Add piquancy to this pate by adding the chosen flavouring , a little at a time, to bring it to the depth of flavour you prefer.

Eorth a mention that 'vegetable cakes' can also be made in a similar way to fish cakes. This particularly easy version uses just the one vegetable, but others of a similar density and texture could be used, even several in one cake. Alternatively, mix with firm mashed potato (instant potato works sell).
Cauliflower Rissoles:
cooked and drained cauliflower
salt and pepper
1 tsp fresh chopped herbs (parsley or other)
plain flour
2 oz butter.
Mash the cauliflower using a fork, season to taste with salt, pepper and grated nutmeg, adding chosen herbs (these can be optional). Form into sausages or flat cakes and dust with flour. Melt the butter in a pan and quickly fry the cakes until brown, turning once.

With pearl barley being another staple ingredient in my store cupboard, feel it is worthy of more than just being added to soups and casseroles, or for making lemon barley water. Here is another recipe for rissoles, this time making use of barley. If you can get pot barley (sold in health food shops), this has even more nutrition.
Barley Patties:
4 oz (100g) pearl barley, soaked overnight
half pint (300ml) stock or water
salt and pepper
1 onion, grated or finely diced
1 oz (25g) bacon or ham, finely chopped (optional)
1 oz (25g) plain flour
1 oz (25g) butter
chopped parsley or other chosen herb
egg, breadcrumbs
Drain the soaked barley and put it into a saucepan with the stock and seasoning to taste. Cover and simmer until the barley is soft (add more water if necessary). Drain and set aside, but reserve the liquid. Fry the onion in the butter until soft, then stir in the bacon or ham (if using). Stir in the flour, cook for one minute then add the liquid from the barley plus enough milk to make a thick sauce. When the sauce has thickened, stir in the barley and herbs and season to taste. Remove from heat and leave to cool (easier to handle when chilled). Form into patties or rissoles then egg and crumb in the usual way and fry in hot oil until browned all over, crispy on the outside and soft inside. Serve hot with tomato, brown or cheese sauce, not forgetting the crispy green salad.

Seems daft to put in a recipe for baked beans when they are so cheap to buy, but some of us may keep dried beans in stock and wish to use them before they get too old. Traditionally this easy version of the original Boston Baked Beans uses haricot beans, but cannellini beans or even pinto beans would work as well, and as the longer the cooking the better, one to make using a slow-cooker or an Aga. Bacon rinds crop up as an ingredient in many of the older recipes. Nowadays we seem to prefer to buy our bacon rindless. Next time buy with rinds on, cut these off to use later. When cooked very slowly in a pan the lovely bacon fat can be collected and works out cheaper than oil or butter and also has wonderful flavour. Otherwise hang the rinds out for the birds. Bluetits love them. A slice of belly pork could be used instead of the bacon, or if vegetarian leave the meat out altogether.
Almost Boston Baked Beans:
1 x 5oog pack dried haricot beans
pinch of bicarbonate of soda
1 onion, finely chopped
bacon or bacon rinds
2 tblsp black treacle
half tsp salt
1 tsp mustard
1 tblsp tomato puree
Put the beans into a bowl and cover them with water, at least 2" (5cm) above the beans, even more is better. Next day drain well, put them into a saucepan, cover with water, add the bicarb. and bring to the boil. Cook for 7 minutes at full boil, then remove from the heat, drain and cool under running water.
Put the beans in a large casserole (or slow-cooker), adding the onion, a pieces of bacon or the rinds, the treacle, and the salt. Blend the mustard and the tomato puree together with a little water and also add this to the casserole with enough cold water to cover the beans. Cover and cook for several hours in a very slow oven (easiest way is to cook them overnight). Do not worry about cooking them too long, for overcooking does not hurt them much, undercooked they will be too tough.

Another recipe for dried beans, this time using butter beans and one of my favourites. The recipe has been adapted to use that cheapo curry sauce we have all been enthusing about so recently.
Indian style Butter Beans: serves 3 - 4
8 oz (225g) dried butter beans, soaked overnight
1 tblsp oil
1 onion, finely chopped or grated
1.5 pints (900ml) stock (your choice)
1 can curry sauce
1 apple, peeled and thinly sliced
1 oz (25g) sultanas (opt)
salt and pepper
Drain the soaked beans. Heat 1 tblsp oil in a pan and saute the onion until softened. Stir in the beans and add the stock. Bring slowly to the simmer, cover and cook until the beans are soft (from 40 mins to an hour and a half depending upon the age of the beans). After 30 minutes cooking add a pinch of salt. When cooked, drain and keep warm. Pour the curry sauce into a pan and add the apples and sultanas, season to taste and simmer until the apples are softened, then stir in the beans and when heated through thoroughly, serve immediately. With rice being too similar in texture to the bean curry , best serve this dish with something crispy such as poppadums, a crispy salad, onion bhajis, and chutney of course.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Time Saving

Even the cheapest canned tomatoes can turn into 'posh nosh' with the addition of a few herbs and spices, and a little wine (which could be home-made of course), also a little less wine could be used in this next recipe, making up the amount with the liquid from the can of tomatoes. With fondues coming back into fashion, then this dish is a good one to try. Use a small milk saucepan if you have no fondue set. The bread cubes could have been frozen months back (always a good way to use up a French stick). Always worth freezing away a glass of wine every time you open a bottle (freeze in ice-cube trays or small containers and remember to label). A smaller can of tomatoes could be used and some tomato passata added to make up the amount if you prefer, in which case some of the herbs could be omitted (check the label to see if the passata has any included). This dish is heavy on the cheese, but it could be a mixture of hard cheeses - and suggest grating up the dried out oddments that normally don't know what to do with, but hate to throw away.
Love-Apple Fondue: serves 4
2 oz (50g) butter
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 x 794g (280z) can plum tomatoes
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp paprika
half pint (300ml) white wine
salt and pepper
1 lb (500g) Cheddar cheese, grated
cubes of bread
Melt the butter in a fondue or small pan, add the onion and fry until softened, stir in the garlic. Drain the tomatoes and mash (or blend) to a pulp, then add these to the pan with the herbs and paprika. Stir in the wine and season to taste. Simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in the cheese a little at a time, and when all has melted bring to the table with a bowl of bread cubes. Use forks (preferably ones with long handles) to dip the bread into the fondue.
Tip: to make a Heath Robinson candle warmer, punch holes in the top and sides of an empty small (clean) can, and stand this over a lit 'tea-light' candle, then stand whatever needs to be kept warm on the top of the can. Believe it or not, six tea-lights give off enough heat to boil water.

This next recipe is for another chilled soup - a version of the leek and potato and this time made with canned new potatoes, (again own-brand are very cheap), The milk could be made using reconstituted dried milk (err on the generous side) and water if you wish. Hopefully the chives will be growing in a pot, and we have only to find the leeks, cream and butter. Diluted evaporated milk could take the place of the cream (any surplus could be frozen), and at a pinch, mild onions could take the place of the leeks. Or even spring onions. Dare I suggest marg could be used instead of butter. No, we must not spoil the shop for a h'aporth of tar.
Mock Vichysoisse: serves 4
1 large leek, cleaned and thinly sliced
2 oz (50g) butter
1 x 539g can new potatoes, drained and chopped
1 pint milk
half pint (284ml) single cream
salt and pepper
chopped chives
Saute the leeks in the butter for about 15 minutes or until they are very soft. Put the leeks, potatoes and milk into a blender and pulse/blitz for a few minutes until smooth. Pour into a bowl and stir in the cream. Season to taste (if you don't wish to see black fleck, use white pepper). Chill for a couple of hours then serve with a sprinkling of chives on top.

This next has to be included for it makes use of the 4p cans of curry sauce that we have talked about so recently. Being a mild sauce, it goes well with fish, and this could be chunks of assorted cooked fish, certainly prawns (if using frozen cooked prawns thaw and add at the end). But again, it could be a purely vegetarian curry using cooked vegetables of your choice. Cooked cauliflower florets could be added to the sauce towards the end of the cooking time.
The Captain's Curry: serves 4
2 tblsp sunflower oil
2 onions, chopped
half red bell pepper, deseeded and chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 oz (50g) mushrooms, sliced
1 - 2 crisp eating apples, peeled, cored and diced
8 oz (225g) chosen fish, filleted and skinned
2 tsp tomato puree
6 tblsp water
4 oz (100g) prawns
1 can mild curry sauce
Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the onion, pepper , mushrooms and celery for five minutes. Add the fish, apple and tomato puree, and stir well together, then stir in the water. Cover and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Pour in the curry sauce, mix well, add the prawns and simmer until the prawns are cooked (if fresh) or heated through (if using cooked, frozen and thawed). Serve with boiled rice.

This is a much simpler dish, again using the curry sauce but this time using as a dressing. Freeze surplus sauce for another dish. The crisp centre leaves of an ice-berg lettuce could be used instead of Little Gem.
Curried Eggs: serves 4
half can curry sauce
3 tblsp cream, yogurt or mayo
salt and pepper
6 hard-boiled eggs, shelled
1 Little Gem lettuce
paprika or chopped chives
Mix together the curry sauce with the cream (or other), and season to taste. Place the eggs in a bowl and pour over the sauce. Line a salad bowl with lettuce leaves and pile the eggs in the centre, spooning over any sauce left in the bowl. Sprinkle a little paprika over the eggs, and/or chopped chives.

Possibly some of us may have instant potato in our cupboard. Yuk! I hear some of you cry - but I always keep some in store as when reconstituted it freezes very well (unlike 'real' mashed spuds), so when making fish cakes and the like intended to be frozen, then I always use the instant. The dry mix can also be added to soups and gravies to help thicken them. Always using milk instead of water, milk powder as well if you wish to make it richer, adding a large knob of butter, plenty of seasonings and Bob's your Uncle, who can tell the mash is not what it pretends to be. Adding grated cheese, crispy bacon, fried onion, herbs, all these can improve the flavour of the instant, so have a play why don't you?
This dish cries out for something to be put between the potato and the topping, so this could be cooked vegetables, maybe the ubiquitous canned tuna, or even cooked minced meat or sausages. As ever, your choice. Even without anything extra it's not that bad either - served as a side dish.
Upside down Potato Pie: serves 4
1.5 lb (750g) mashed potatoes (with butter, cream etc)
salt and pepper
grated nutmeg
1 slice bread, crumbed
4 oz (100g) Cheddar cheese, grated
Making sure the potato is seasoned well with salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste, spoon this into a shallow ovenproof dish, spreading it evenly. Mix together the bread with the cheese and spoon this over the top of the potato . If the potato is freshly mashed and still hot, then brown off under a hot grill for 3 - 5 minutes. If preparing ahead of time, bake for 15 minutes at 180C, 350F, gas 4 then finish off under the grill. If including cooked meat in the dish, allow this to be thoroughly reheated in the oven (covering the dish if necessary) before grilling.

Although this recipe uses two cans of salmon, I suggest using one can of salmon and one of tuna, for having mixed the two together find they complement each other very well. Always mash the salmon bones in with the flesh as they contain a goodly amount of calcium. If you wish to save the whites of the eggs to make soft-scoop ice-cream or meringues, then use four egg yolks.
Salmon Melts: serves 4
2 x 212g cans salmon
9 oz (250g) Cheddar cheese, grated
3 rounded tblsp thick natural yogurt
1 tblsp lemon juice
salt, pepper, paprika
3 large eggs, beaten
4 slices granary or wholemeal bread
Drain the salmon and put into a bowl and mash together with the 6 oz of the cheese. Stir in the yogurt and the lemon juice. Season to taste and stir in the eggs, mixing everything well together. Toast the bread lightly and spread on one side with butter, then place these, butter side up, side-by side in a shallow ovenproof dish. Pile the salmon mixture on the top and sprinkle over the remaining cheese. Place under a pre-heated grill, turning the heat to low, and grill for 10 minutes until the mixture is heated through, then raise the heat to high and continue grilling for a further five minutes until the cheese on top is bubbling and turning brown. Serve immediately.

Sometimes it's worth using the 'Instant Whip' type of dessert mixes. Often we can pick up a squashed pack from the 'reduced' shelf, so if you see one, bear this next suggestion in mind, for it could turn out to be worthwhile. If using a different flavoured 'mix' then adjust the 'booze' accordingly.
Several years ago one of the editors of Good Housekeeping Magazine told me how she would use a chocolate 'Angel Delight', and substitute a tablespoon of whisky for one of the milk, and thus move the dessert several steps up the ladder. As she rubbed shoulders with the nobs, living in the same block of apartments, I bow to her ingenuity of making something that tasted very good from something - well, let's say a bit down-market. If it is good enough for the nobility, then it is good enough for me.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Enjoying the Challenge

Not sure if everyone has access to a printer, but always worth printing off the recipes for each month so that they can be referred to. Due to shortage of space some have already been deleted.

this next recipe is a 'more-than', but can easily be adapted to using other vegetables. Although ham is included, a vegetarian meat substitute could be used, or it could be left out altogether. Cut your coat according to your cloth as the saying goes (or in kitchen terms: make the meal with what you have).
Cauliflower Cheese Lasagne: serves 4
8 oz (225g) each cauliflower and broccoli florets
12 sheets 'n0 need to pre-cook' lasagne
500ml tub creme fraiche
2 tblsp milk
3 tblsp chopped mixed fresh herbs (parsley, oregano, basil etc)
8 oz (225g) cooked ham, diced
4 tomatoes, sliced
8 oz (225g) grated Cheddar or other hard cheese
salt and pepper
Soak the lasagne in hot water for 10 minute to soften. Meanwhile cook the cauliflower and broccoli for five minutes or until just tender (the easiest way is to pop them into a polybag and cook them on full heat in the microwave for 5 minutes).
Spoon the creme fraiche into a dish and slacken with the milk, then stir in the herbs and half the cheese. Add a little more milk if necessary to make a pouring sauce.
Grease an oven proof dish and place one third of the drained pasta on the base. Cover with the cauliflower, half the ham if using, and half the tomatoes. Soon over one-third of the cheese and herb sauce. Top this with a third more pasta, then cover this with the broccoli, the ham, the tomatoes, and another third of the sauce. Finish with a layer of pasta, the final amount of sauce and scatter over the remaining cheese. Bake for 20 minutes or so at 180C, 350F, gas 4 until the top is golden and bubbling. If preparing in advance, lower the heat slightly, cover and cook from cold for 35 minutes, then uncover and raise the heat for a final ten minutes or finish off under the grill.

The following Italian salad makes use of ingredients we normally have in store. Traditionally made with ciabatta bread, baguettes or a French stick could be used instead.
Panzanella: serves 4 - 6
4 ripe beef tomatoes
1 red onion
half a cucumber
8 slices stale ciabatta bread
few basil leaves
splash extra virgin olive oil
splash balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
Chop the tomatoes into wedges, then cut these in half. Slice the onion thinly. Peel the cucumber and slice in half, scoop out the seeds using a teaspoon, then cut the halves into thin slices. Put all into a bowl and chill for an hour before serving the salad.
Once the above has been prepared and starting to chill, soak the bread in cold water for 15 minutes, then drain, tip into a clean tea-towel and squeeze the bread as dry as possible. Add to the bowl of prepared vegetables, together with some torn basil leaves. Sprinkle over a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar, adding seasoning to taste, then mix well. Keep chilled until the hour is up (by then there is probably about half an hour left) then tip the mixture into a shallow dish and serve with what you will.

This next recipe is a great one for including different meats, that could be mixed together, or use just one of a kind. The basic recipe is made with sausages (if canned ones are used, these wouldn't need advance cooking), alternative chunks of corned beef could added to the beans, even thick pieces of cooked ham or chicken. Chorizo sausage would also give extra flavour. Other varieties of cooked beans could be used (maybe adding ketchup if they don't come with their own sauce), and why not make the mash up using instant potato made with butter, milk, adding grated cheese and/or bacon? The perfect recipe to play with, and one easily adapted to feed both children and adults.
Tex-Mex Pie: serves 4
approx 1 lb (450g) chipolata sausages
1 lb (450g) mashed potatoes
1 onion, finely chopped
1 oz (25g) butter or oil
1 tblsp plain flour
4 oz (100g) mushrooms, chopped
5 oz (150g) baked beans in tomato sauce
dash chilli sauce (or Worcestershire sauce)
salt and pepper
5 fl.oz (150ml) chicken stock
Bake the sausages at 180c, 350F, gas 4 for 35 minutes, turning from time to time. Meanwhile, put the fat in a sauce pan and saute the onion for five minutes, then add the mushrooms and the flour and cook for a further minute. Stir in the baked beans and chilli sauce (to the heat required) alternatively use W. sauce to give the bite without the heat. Season to taste, then stir in the stock and bring to the simmer, stirring all the time. Add the sausages, and pour the mixture into a 3 pint (1.7 ltr) pie dish and top with the mashed potatoes spreading it evenly over the top, forking it up to give a rough surface. Bake for half an hour or until golden brown on top. If not cooking immediately, allow a good half hour to heat up in the oven.
Tip: It is easier to cover a 'soft-centred' pie with mashed potato if working from the outside rim towards the centre, easiest of all if it can be piped rather than spooned on. With something like shepherd's or cottage pie, it is often easier if the filling can be put in the dish well in advance and left to chill so that it 'sets'. This way mashed potato can be easily be spread over, right to the rim leaving no gaps, and patterns make with a fork or knife as you wish. Just allow time for the filling to heat through, possibly covering with foil for the first half hour, then remove foil to allow the potato to crisp up, taking a good 45 minutes in total.

Several of you have mentioned a liking for coconut, so this dessert is sure to please some if not all. As it is the topping that contains the coconut, not the base, this could easily be adapted, maybe using finely crushed flaked almonds or rolled oats (or both) as a substitute, . Where the recipe specifies cream or milk (evaporated or otherwise), there seems to be no reason why coconut cream or milk could not be used instead to give added flavour. Crystallised ginger would also eat well with it. Always use flavourings and garnishes to suit your own personal tastes.
Coconut Pudding: serves 4
4 oz (100g) self raising flour
2 oz (50g) caster sugar
2 oz (50g) butter or margarine
1 large egg, beaten
1 - 2 tblsp milk
1 oz (25g) butter or marg
3 oz (75g) caster sugar
3 oz (75g) desiccated coconut
2 tblsp evaporated milk or cream
half tsp vanilla extract
glace cherries (optional)
Sift the flour into a bowl and add the sugar. Rub in the fat. Stir in the egg and milk to make a fairly soft consistency.
Grease a 1.5pt (850ml) pie dish and spoon in the cake batter, smoothing the top. Bake this for 25 minutes or until firm to the touch, at 180C, 350F, gas 4.
While the base is cooking, make the topping by melting the fat in a pan, removing from heat then stirring in the sugar, coconut, milk (or cream), and the vanilla extract.
When the base is cooked, remove from the oven and increase the heat to 200C, 400F, gas 6. Spread the topping over the base and garnish with a few halved glace cherries. Return to the oven and bake for a further 6 - 10 minutes until the top has turned golden brown. Serve with cream, evaporated milk, custard, or coconut cream.

The final recipe today is another using coconut, but it could be omitted. Again a recipe that can be adapted so don't dismiss it right away. Most of the recipes I offer are adaptable, purely for the reason that we don't always have all the ingredients to hand, so others could be substituted (with reason of course). Read through, use the basic recipes as a guide, then please yourself as to the vegetables and meat used in savoury recipes, or use different flavourings and fruits when it comes to puddings.
There are two ways this can be cooked, one in a conventional oven, the other by microwave. I give both versions starting with the oven-baked.
Baked Bananas: serves 4
4 large bananas
2 tsp cornflour
4 fl oz (125ml) orange juice
zest of 1 orange
3 tblsp orange liqueur (or rum, brandy or more juice)
2 oz (desiccated coconut)
2 tblsp soft brown sugar
orange slices to garnish (opt)
Peel the bananas and slice in half lengthways then cut into quarters. Place in a greased shallow baking dish.
Mix the cornflour with a little of the orange juice, then mix in the rest of the juice, the orange zest and the chosen spirit. Pour this over the bananas. Sprinkle over the coconut and the sugar. Dot with tiny knobs of butter and bake at 190C, 375F, gas 5 for 20 - 30 minutes or until the bananas are tender. Garnish with the orange slices and serve immediately. Eats well with scoops of vanilla ice-cream.

microwave version:
Prepare bananas and place in a (bow microwavable ) dish as before. Set to one side. Blend the cornflour with the orange juice and liqueur as before, and microwave this for 1 - 2 minutes until thickened, stirring twice as it cooks. Pour this sauce over the bananas, sprinkle with the orange zest, coconut and sugar. Dot with butter and microwave for 3 minutes. Then serve as above.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Just thought you might like to see a picture of my Beloved enjoying his favourite occupation - eating!

Different Perspectives

It was said in the article that nowadays cooking has sunk so low that all we can be bothered to do is pour a can of cook-in-sauce over a chicken and shove it in the oven. And here I say (up to a point), what is wrong with that? Does she think we should copy many of the French women who buy their chickens still alive, take them home to kill, pluck and gut them ready for the pot that evening, not to mention making the perfect wine sauce to go with it?

Yesterday for example, Beloved ate a lamb shank with 'new' potatoes and peas for his supper, with the addition of mint sauce and redcurrant jelly. Plus a bottle of vino. To one person that would count as 'home-cooking', after all the meat was in the oven for one hour, the potatoes cooked on the hob, and the peas cooked in the microwave. But someone else might see it in a different light, for the meat came from a frozen (pre-cooked in gravy) pack, the potatoes were not home-grown thus bought (sold not as 'new' but packed as 'small') and the peas were frozen. True the r.c.jelly and mint sauce were home-made, and the gravy-that-came-with-the-meat had water added before cooking, and then finally rapidly boiled down to make a rich jus, so perhaps it could be called a half-way-house special. For your benefit I even took a photo Beloved eating it (shown tomorrow). Now, although we should all do as much home-cooking as possible, this doesn't mean we need to do it all ourselves. This being a cost-cutting site, it obviously makes sense to suggest we make and cook as much as possible ourselves, because it is always the cheapest way to get food on the table. On the other hand have recently proved there is still much on sale that is very cheap and could be put to good use, so why not move with the times?

With so many different ways of looking at cooking, we often feel everything we do could be wrong. There is the health issue, marg is better than butter, now butter is better than marg. We should be eating five a day (fruit and veg) but often we include potatoes and they don't count. Have to say with me I have given up counting and for the moment am taking a multi-vitamin a day instead. Meat is good for us, meat is bad for us, we should eat more fish, but fish is now dearer than meat. No more than three eggs a week, or then someone comes up with one a day is fine, sometimes two. Semi-skimmed milk is better for us than full-cream (less fat) but then we should eat plenty of cheese (fatty) as it is good for our bones. And so it goes on. Sometimes I wonder what would happen if food had to be rationed as in war-time. It may well come to that. Half of me wishes it would, for then we would all need to start thinking a lot more about making a little go a long way and home-cooking would be back on the agenda.

Today am finishing with a recipe that is really simple (at least I have adapted it to be simpler than it originally was). One worth serving on hot summer days.
Spicy Stuffed Eggs: serves 4
4 hard-boiled eggs, shelled
1 rounded tablespoon cream or curd cheese
2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon melted butter
good pinch turmeric
good pinch chilli powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
pinch salt
thumb length piece of cucumber
4 tablespoons natural yogurt
chopped parsley or chives
lettuce leaves
Cut the eggs in half lengthways. Mash the yolks with the cheese and lemon juice. Mix together the butter and spices and mash into the cheese mixture with a pinch of salt.
Dice the peeled and de-seeded cucumber, mix this into the cheese mixture and pile into the egg whites that have been placed, round side down, on a bed of lettuce leave. Spoon over the yogurt and garnish with herbs. Chill then serve.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Handy Ideas

For the individual all-in-0ne picnic food there is nothing to beat a baguette stuffed with whatever you fancy, and lots of it: maybe meatless burgers/falafel, sliced hardboiled eggs, tuna, lettuce, watercress, even slices of vegetarian 'meat'. Each baguette can be filled earlier in the day and tightly wrapped in clingfilm to be taken to the site (if large, remember to take a sharp knife for one to feed two). Or take chosen fillings separately, with packs of pitta bread and butter or mayo to spread inside and let everyone make up their own pocketful of pleasure (don't forget the pepper and salt).
Myself, absolutely love egg sarnies: bread and butter spread with a thin layer of Marmite, and filled with a thick layer of chopped hard-boiled egg mashed with a little mayo, plenty of seasoning and chopped chives or cress, and I suppose this idea could be transferred to min-pittas. A couple of tubs of home-made dips could be worth taking along with a packet of tortilla chips to do the dipping (alternatively breadsticks and crudites) - depends how fancy you want to be.

Drinks could, on a hot day, be chilled wine or grape juice, or home-made lemon barley water. Alternatively flasks of hot green tea. Dessert sounds as if it will be alpine strawberries, so remember to take sugar and cream (and spoons - not forgetting plates, cups, mugs or beakers, and paper napkins or a damp towel and a dry towel to wipe fingers. Often we get tunnel vision on the food and forget the obvious).

Not all picnic food is vegetarian, but often a 'pork' pie, could be made using vegetarian sausagemeat. Similarly meat substitute could be used to make Cornish Pasties or sausage rolls.
But for those who prefer something a little more traditional to take on a picnic, here is a recipe worth trying. Grated apple could be used instead of the carrot, or a combination of both. Made in the traditional way with hot-water crust pastry, it could instead be cooked in a loaf tin (using 2 - 3 strips of foil to aid removal, see tip below) and short pastry could be used instead of the hot-water crust.
Country Pork and Carrot Pie: serves 8 - 10
12 oz (350g) strong plain bread flour
half tsp salt
5 oz (150g) lard, melted
approx 8 tblsp boiling water
beaten egg to glaze
12 oz (350g) lean pork, minced
8 oz (225) belly pork (rind removed) minced
8 oz (225g) streaky rindless bacon, minced
half tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 dessp finely chopped fresh sage
8 oz (225g) grated carrot
salt and pepper
Put the flour and salt into a bowl and pour in the lard, stir together adding enough very hot water to make a stiff dough. Knead gently and leave to cool. Remove a quarter of the pastry (to use for the lid), with the remainder, roll out onto a floured surface to a size large enough to fit into a greased 7" (18cm) round cake tin, pref. with a loose bottom. Press the pastry firmly against the sides and bottom leaving a little overlapping the sides, if too much trim off surplus.
To make the filling: mix all the ingredients together adding seasoning to taste, and spoon this into the pastry case, pressing down lightly to get rid of air pockets. Fold the overlapping pastry over the filling. Roll out the saved pastry to the size of the top of the tin, dampen the folded-over pastry and place the pastry lid on top of the filling, pressing down and flattening the top. Make two holes in the lid, glaze with beaten egg, and bake for 2 hours - 2 hrs 15mins at 170c, 325F, gas 3. Leave in the tin to get cold before removing. Although not necessary, if you have some jellied chicken stock in the freezer, boil this up, cool and pour through one of the holes in the pie to fill up any air gaps between the meat and the pastry. It will set firmly when cold.
Tips: If a tin has a solid base, press a long folded strip of foil into the tin, across the bottom, up the sides and fold over. Grease before putting in the pastry. This can then be used as a handle to lift out the pie.
An ideal way to find out the correct size of tin for a dish such as this is to line it with clingfilm and then put in the filling, you can then, allowing for the pastry, be able to gauge how deep the pie will be. You may prefer to make a shallow pie (in which case use a larger tin) or a deeper pie.
To make the right sized lid for the pie, roll out the pastry, upturn the empty tin and use to cut through the pastry, any trimmings can be put back with the rest of the pastry to be re-rolled, or trimmings from either can be used to decorate the pie.

This next recipe is for a fish pate. It could be made with canned fish: sardines, mackerel, tuna, even salmon. Normally though, we prefer it made with (uncanned, 'fresh' smoked mackerel). Taken chilled, to a picnic it can be spread on site onto crusty bread or crispbreads (remember to take a knife).
Smoked Mackerel Pate:
2 fillets smoked mackerel - skin removed
2 oz (50g) melted butter
2 tblsp creme fraiche
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp horseradish sauce or Dijon mustard
freshly ground black pepper
Mash all the ingredients together, adding the pepper to taste. Spoon into a serving dish, cover with foil and chill for several hours in the fridge.

With a mention of gooseberries recently (how to use...), this next recipes can make use of a glut.
The first jelly is good served with fish, also delicious with duck and goose. Instead of using elderflowers, use mint or sage, then this eats well with hot or cold lamb. If no elderflowers, then use strips of rind from half a lemon (no need to put these in a bag) but remove these before potting up.
Gooseberry and Elderflower Jelly:
3 lb (1.4 kg) gooseberries, slightly under ripe
15 fl oz (425ml) water
1 lb (450g) sguar to each 1 pt (500ml) juice
6 elderflower heads
Top and tial the gooseberries, and place in a pan with the water. Simmer very gently for about 45 minutes or until very soft. Strain through muslin (jelly-bag) overnight. Measure the juice and put into a clean pan with correct amount of sugar, tie elderflowers in a muslin bag and put in the pan, pressing gently into the juice. Simmer until the sugar has dissolved, then bring to the boil. Boil rapidly until setting point is reached, then removed the bag of elderflowers, and pour the liquid into hot sterilised jars. Seal, leave to set and label. Store in as for jam.

Gooseberry and Rhubarb Jam:
2 lb (900g) gooseberries, topped and tailed
1 lb (450g) rhubarb, chopped
half pint (250ml) water
3 lb (1.35kg) sugarm warmed
Put the gooseberries in a large pan and add the water. Heat to the simmer and cook for five minutes, then add the rhubarb. Simmer for about 20 minutes until both are softened. Stir in the warm sugar and, when completely dissolved, bring to a rolling boil and cook until setting point has been reached. Cool, slightly, stirring occasionally, until the fruit no longer sinks. pour into warm jars, seal and store in a cool place.

For this next recipe the best goosegogs to use are unripe green ones.
Gooseberry Chutney:
3 lb (1.35kg) green gooseberries, topped and tailed
1 lb (450g) onions, finely chopped
8 oz (225g) raisins or sultanas
1 oz (25g) cooking salt
half tsp turmeric
half tsp cayenne pepper
12 oz (350g) soft brown sugar
1 pt (500ml) white wine vinegar
1 tsp ground ginger
pinch ground mustard seed
Put the gooseberries in a large pan with the rest of the ingredients. Heat gently, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Boil and simmer gently for up to 2 hours or until the chutney is thick enough for a wooden spoon to be dragged across the base of the pan leaving a path. Stir occasionally to prevent the chutney from sticking to the pan. Pour into warm sterilised jars that have vinegar proof lids. Seal and store for several months in a cool dark place.