Monday, June 30, 2008

What's Hot and What's Not?

Salsas, according to how finely the ingredients are chopped, can be served chunky-form as we would a chutney, or very finely chopped, even roughly pureed, as a dip. Leftovers 'dips' can be thinned down with a little yogurt and used as a salad dressing.

The first salsa/dip leans slightly to the hot side of moderate, but the spices can be adjusted to suit your taste.
Spicy Carrot Dip: serves 4
1 onion, finely chopped
3 carrots, grated
zest and juice of 2 oranges
1 tblsp Madras curry paste
5 fl.oz (150ml) natural yogurt
handful fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
1 - 2 tlsp lemon juice, or to taste
dash Tabasco sauce
salt and pepper
Put the onion, carrots, curry paste and orange zest and juice in a small pan and heat until simmering. Cover and cook for 10 minutes or until the vegetables are very tender. Leave to cool then blitz in a processor or blender until smooth. Leave to get quite cold then stir in the yogurt, basil, lemon juice, Tabasco, salt and pepper to taste. This is best freshly made and served at room temperature.

Moving to the other extreme, this is a cooling chunky salsa, perfect for serving with something spicy such as a fiery chilli con carne. This also makes a good dip to eat with tortilla chips.
Tomato and Pepper Cooler: serves 3 - 4
1 large yellow bell pepper
2 large tomatoes
3 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
half pint (300ml) creme fraiche
grated zest of a lemon (opt)
salt and pepper
Remove the core and seeds from the pepper and finely dice the flesh. Halve the tomatoes, scoop out the seeds and also finely dice the flesh. Put the pepper, tomato and parsley into a bowl, stir in the creme fraiche and mix together well. Season to taste. Chill well before serving, garnish with the lemon zest.

With the earlier mention of vacuum packed beetroot, I offer two recipes making use of the beetroot that might be left. The first recipe is for a variation on cole-slaw, the second (apologies for this as it has to be cooked) is a cake recipe. Because the beetroot is naturally sweet, the only sugar used is for sifting on the top.

Beetroot Coleslaw: serves 4
half a small red or white cabbage (or use both)
1 carrot, grated
1 red or sweet white onion, thinly sliced
1 pack (or part pack) beetroot, shredded
2 - 3 tblsp Greek yogurt
1 tblsp mayonnaise
salt and pepper
Remove the hard core from the cabbage and shred the leaves finely. Mix with the remaining ingredients adding seasoning to taste. Goes very well with grilled Halloumi cheese, or cold chicken.

Beetroot Cake: serves 6
250g vacuum packed beetroot
3 large eggs
7 fl oz (200ml) sunflower oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
6 oz (175g) plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
3 oz (75g) cocoa powder
icing sugar
Roughly chop the beetroot, place in a food processor and blitz until smooth, add the eggs, oil and vanilla and blitz again. Put this mixture into a bowl. Sift together the flour, baking powder and cocoa then fold this into the beetroot mixture. Pour into an 8" (20cm) round cake tin that has been greased, lined and greased again, and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 50 - 60 minutes until cooked and springy when the centre is pressed. Cool in the tin, then turn out and dust the top with icing sugar.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Getting it Together

Quick Mint Jelly:
half a pint (300ml) white vinegar
1 lb (500g) sugar
2 oz (50g) fresh mint
8 fl oz (227ml) bottle of commercial pectin
2 - 3 drops green colouring
Put the vinegar and sugar into a pan with half the mint sprigs, and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Strain through a sieve (discarding the mint), and return the liquid to the pan and bring to the boil. Boil for one minute, then stir in the pectin. Bring back to the boil, and boil for a further 2 minutes.
Chop the remaining mint leaves and stir into the boiling syrup along with the food colouring. Remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes. Stir to distribute the mint then pot in small sterilised jars and cover in the usual way.

Mint Pickle:
half a pint (300ml) white vinegar
8 oz (250g) sugar
2 level tsp mustard powder
2 level tsp salt
1 cinnamon stick
1 level tsp peppercorns
1.5 lbs (750g) cooking apples, peeled and sliced
8 oz (250g) onions, peeled and sliced
1 oz (25g) mint leaves, chopped
Put the vinegar into a pan and add the sugar, mustard, salt and spices. Simmer very gently for half and hour then strain. Return the liquid to the pan and add the apples and onions. Continue simmering for a further 10 minutes then remove the pan from the heat and leave to cool. Stir in the mint leaves.
When quite cold, using a slotted spoon (or again the mixture can be sieved) pack the apples and onions into sterilised jars the cover with the spiced vinegar and seal immediately with airtight vinegar-proof lids.
Store in a cool dark place for one month before using.

Carrot Jam: makes about 2 lb (1kg)
2 lb (1kg) large carrots, trimmed and peeled
grated zest and juice of 3 lemons (save the pips)
2 pints (1.2 ltrs) water
2 lb (1kg) sugar
1 oz (25g) blanched almonds*
1 tblsp brandy
Slice the carrots thinly. Put the lemon pith into a muslin bag with the pips**. Into the preserving pan put the carrots, lemon zest and juice, and the bag of lemon pith/pips. Add the water and slowly bring to the boil. then simmer for 1 hour or until the carrots are very tender.
Remove the muslin bag, drain the carrots and sieve or liquidise/process to a puree. Return this pulp to the pan and add the sugar. Heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved, then raise the heat and boil rapidly for about 10 minutes or when setting point has been reached. Remove from heat and spoon off any scum that has risen to the top. Split the almonds and stir into the jam with the brandy. Pot into sterilised jars and cover with airtight lids.
*flaked almonds could be used instead. Alternatively finely chopped preserved ginger could replace the almonds.
** When using lemons at any time, it is worth collecting the pips and storing them in a little pot in the freezer. The pips help the preserve to set. Instead of a muslin bag, I use one of those little free (but unused) bags that come with laundry tablets, just check the pips won't fall through the holes. These little bags are also good for holding bunches of mixed fresh herbs when wishing to flavour a casserole - pull the drawstring tight at the top of the bag, tie on a little more string long enough to be tied round the pan handle (if it hangs loose it might catch fire), then the bag can be easily removed.

Still gathering together store cupboard ingredients, this next recipe uses canned cannellini beans, also canned tomatoes. With the other ingredients it makes a splended 'curried beans', great on toast or eaten with any type of flatbread. Make a Mexican version by adding more chilli powder to the beans instead of the curry spices and serve it with flatbread, and while you are at it, used red beans instead of the cannellini. By the same token, cut a corner or three by using haricot, pinto or even bog-standard baked beans canned in tomato sauce, and ise curry paste instead of the spices. The beans themselves could be home-baked and taken from the freezer. Plenty of scope within this dish to experiment, and if all else fails, they are great just eaten on toast.
Baked Bombay Beans: serves 4
1 tblsp olive oil
1 oz (25g) butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp freshly grated ginger
1 tsp turmeric
half tsp chilli powder
400g can chopped tomatoes
4 fl.oz (125ml) water
2 x 210g cans cannellini beans
warm naan, chapati, or other flatbread
Put the butter and oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. When the butter has melted, add the onions and cook for about 6 minutes until softened. Stir in the garlic and spices and fry for a further minute, then add the tomatoes and water. Bring to the simmer then cook for 5 - 10 minutes until beginning to thicken.
Stir in the beans, cover and continue simmering for 20 minutes, remove cover and if necessary, raise heat slightly to reduce the liquid. The mixture needs to be thick. Serve with the warm bread (or - if you prefer - on toast).

Adding flavour to a dish can lift it far beyond the level of boring, and it doesn't need to cost much. Here are some easy and cheap suggestions:
Add flavour to lettuce by tossing it first in a little salad dressing, then sprinkle over a handful of grated cheese, and toss again, the cheese will cling to each lettuce leaf and will make it taste far better. A sprinkle of sugar also enhances the flavour of both lettuce and tomatoes.
Sprinkle a little Worcestershire sauce over toasted cheese, this also lifts the flavour.
Also add a good dash of W.sauce to a bolognaise meat sauce.
Dark soy sauce added to a beef casserole will give a lot more depth of flavour.
Add one or two squares of chocolate to a beef casserole or a chilli con carne.
Lemon zest and/or lemon juice added to couscous makes it more appealing, also good added to rice.
When making any chocolate cake or dessert, a grating of orange zest will much improve it.

Wines and spirits, when costed by the spoonful, work out quite inexpensive (and free if you ask for a bottle as a birthday or Christmas gift).
Spoon a little sherry over the cake at the bottom of a trifle.
Add a little sherry to the pan juices or mushrooms when making a strogonoff.
Beat a little liqueur into cream and it will thicken faster, also add a little (3 tsp.max) when making home-made ice cream and it will prevent it going rock hard.
Adding a little wine or liqueur to the water when making a jelly will turn it into an Adult Special.
Make up a strawberry jelly with Babycham and the bubbles will set in the jelly. Good dish to make during Wimbledon fortnight.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Battle of the Giants

Apricot 'Chutney':
250g pack no-soak apricots
1 pint (600ml )boiling water
1 red onion. roughly chopped*
half tsp chilli powder**
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
2 fl oz (50ml) white vinegar
1 heaped tbslp soft light muscovado sugar***
Put the apricots in a bowl and pour over the boiling water. Leave to soak for 30 minutes to 1 hour until cool.
Put the apricots, their liquid, and the remaining ingredients into a food processor and pulse/blitz until smooth (or as smooth as you wish it to be - we prefer it a bit chunky). Put into a pan, cover and simmer for 2o or so minutes until thick and pulpy. Store in sterilised jars that have air-tight vinegar proof lids and keep in the fridge. No keeping time has been given, so err on the safe side. Could also be frozen?
*if you haven't a red onion, use a white one
** omit the chilli powder and add a dash of tabasco
*** use caster sugar and add a bare tsp of black treacle

Friday, June 27, 2008

Full Steam Ahead

My reference books tell me that although steam is at the same temperature as boiling water, it contains extra heat that it absorbs when it vapourises (then losing it again when it condenses back to water), and that I can never quite understand, but it is true and that is why we should keep away from steam or we could be scalded badly. However, steaming is a very good way to cook vegetables as they can cook in this 'extra' heat before it reaches the top of the pan, hits the lid and then condenses back again. To save fuel, the best way is to use tiered pans, so that several foods can be cooked over just one burner.

My books tell me here are two basic methods of steaming – wet and dry. We are more familiar with the wet method where the steam surrounds the food and also touches it (as happens when dumplings are popped on the top of a stew to cook in the steam that rises - lid on of course). Some of you may already be using one of those a collapsible ‘petal shaped’ steamers, that can be placed over boiling water in a saucepan. These are very handy little pieces of kitchen equipment, and opened out can double as a cake stand as it stands on its own little feet. Any port in a storm. When I cook potatoes and cabbage, the potatoes are boiled in water in the normal way, the little steamer pushed into the pan to sit on top of the spuds, and the finely shredded cabbage put in the steamer. Pan lid on and the cabbage steams perfectly.

Then there is the pressure cooker where temperatures up to 205C (400F) can be reached and the cooking is done quite rapidly. At one time I used a pressure cooker regularly, but have to say that I prefer to cook meat by a slower method (casseroled in a slow oven) as this way it seems to have much more flavour. Makes the kitchen smell good too. My pressure pan is now old, but I can still use the heavy base for making jam or stock, a plate over the top will act as a lid when needed. Never really enjoyed using a pressure cooker, maybe it was because it was too heavy, needing both hands to lift it up and over to the sink to get the cold water running over the lid to reduce the pressure, on the way the pressure weight would lean over to one side and the steam hiss out over me if I was not careful. Then having to release the pressure, remove the lid, get covered in steam, and oh, well - you can guess it was not my favourite pan. Maybe modern ones are kinder.

Slight pressure can be given to water boiling in a normal saucepan, just putting on a lid proves this will raise the heat enough for water to boil more rapidly, so once the water boils, we could place a few plates on top of the pan (an easy way to heat them up), put the lid on top of the plates (to keep them warm) and this also adds more pressure. I have put my pan lid on upside down, and put a weight on this and the water stays at a rolling boil even when the heat has been turned down to its lowest. Even stood there with the pan lid on the right way round and pressed down on it, using my own pressure. This may save a few minutes cooking time, but 'elf and safety would frown on this practice and perhaps I am lucky not to have had a nasty accident. Am just telling the experiments I made, not suggesting you try.

Without a tiered system we can still ‘wet steam’ food by placing a rack (trivet) over the boiling water and the food placed in a bowl or dish standing above the water so the steam can come into contact with it. Always keep the lid on to prevent the steam escaping. The old method of steaming was best, this uses one or more stacking pans each of which have holes in the base and fitted over a saucepan containing boiling water. Once the tight lid had been placed on the top pan, everything inside will cook in the steam as it rose up. The advantage of using these tiered steamers is that different foods can be cooked on each layer. If planning a meal so that everything is cooked at the same time, follow the timings given below – chopping potatoes and other vegetables smaller if you wish them to take less time..

Foods being cooked by the ‘wet’ method, are sometimes wrapped in dough, leaves or in foil. The steam hits the wrapping but doesn’t come into contact with the contents (so it could be termed indirect steaming). Wrapped foods should be placed on the bottom tier where the steam is at it hottest, and different foods can be cooked on the one layer providing room is left between them for the steam to circulate. Unwrapped meat, chicken, fish and vegetables should placed in open shallow dishes to prevent their juices dripping into the water below, although this can sometimes be an advantage when you wish to use the water to make the base for a soup. There are times - even when using steamers - when advance planning can be a great help.
‘Sticky’ foods, such as fish cakes, patties, puddings and cakes may be placed on muslin or waxed paper in the steamer, but if using paper, make sure there are holes on the steamer base that are not covered up, it helps to stick a fork through the paper so more steam can reach the food.

We sometimes see oriental steamers made from bamboo, and these are good in that they absorb some of the steam so that foods such as dim sum (stuffed dough packages) remain fluffy and do not go soggy. Although these steamers look attractive, with regular use they tend to fall apart, get mildewed, and can retain odours, so am recommending the metal-tiered steamers as they last just about for ever and conduct more heat (am still using the ones my mother used).

It is not necessary to go to the expense of buying a new set of steaming tiers, for sometimes these can be found in charity shops or jumbles sales. In any case, a simple steamer can easily be made from bits and bobs around the kitchen. Use something like a shallow can (both ends removed ) to place on the bottom of a large saucepan to use as a trivet, and on this stand the chosen container, add boiling water to about an inch below the container. Covering the top of the pan with a thin tea towel before placing on the lid, will prevent condensation dripping onto the food below, a particularly good idea when steaming rice, couscous, or anything you wish to end up 'fluffy'.

The dry (or indirect) method of steaming is where the food is placed in a container (such as a double boiler – or bowl placed over simmering water) the contents sealed off from the steam in the pan so that all they receive is the gentle heat from below. This is how custards and lemon curd are made, we also use this method to melt chocolate, the bain marie is the same thing but used in an oven, when making crème caramels etc. As eggs (like any other protein) prefer to be cooked at slightly less than boiling point, this is also a good way to make creamy scrambled eggs.

Tips on steaming:
Foods placed on lower trays will receive greater steam pressure and cook faster. If food is placed in a higher tier allow a further 5 minutes cooking time per tier depending upon how many are stacked (suggest cooking some vegetables in the water in the saucepan itself, and having two tiers above to cook the rest of the meal)..

When checking to see if food is cooked, every time the lid is raised, the heat will drop, so allow a further minute for each ‘lid-lifting’.

Water should be at a full rolling boil when the steamers are put in place and the food put inside. Time the cooking from when the lid is in place and only then reduce the heat to slightly above simmering. The water needs to be bubbling. If needing to add more water, always use boiling.

Steam is mega-hot, so be careful when handling the steamer, wear oven gloves. When lifting the lid, keep you face away from the steam, and always remove the pan from the heat before removing the tiers and food. This prevents scalding. If you keep the lid in place the food will remain hot for several minutes.

Steaming times using a trivet or tiered containers.
Chicken: whole bird (up to 3lb) or duckling 50 mins to 1 hour.
Chicken portions: 30 minutes
Corn on the Cob: 30 minutes
Potatoes, sweet potatoes etc: 40 minutes
White fish (pieces): 20 minutes
Mushrooms: 20 minutes
Prawns (large): 10 minutes
Broccoli: 10 minutes
Carrots: 10 minutes
Cauliflower florets: 5 minutes
Courgettes: 5 minutes
Small prawns or shrimps: 5 minutes
Left-over rice and general re-heating: 5 minutes

Basic Plain Steamed Pudding:
6 oz (175g) plain flour
pinch salt
good half tsp baking powder
4 oz (100g) butter or margarine
4 oz (100g) sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 – 2 tblsp milk
additional ingredients (see below)
Cream fat and sugar together until light and fluffy, beat in the flour alternately with the eggs, then add additional ingredients with the milk. Put the mixture into a 1½ pt greased pudding basin. Cover with greaseproof paper (put a pleat in the top to allow for rising), tie paper down well with string, and steam for 1½ hours.
additional ingredients:
chocolate sponge pudding
: add 3 tblsp cocoa
fruit sponge pudding: add 3 oz (75g) sultanas
ginger sponge pudding: add1 – 2 tsp ground ginger
syrup sponge pudding: put 2 tblsp golden syrup at bottom of basin
jam sponge pudding: put 2-3 tblsp jam at bottom of basin
treacle sponge pudding: as for ginger sponge adding 2 tbslp treacle to the mixture, and use bicarbonate of soda (mix this into the milk) instead of using baking powder.

For those who wish to try something a little bit different, the last recipe for today is for a Chinese loaf', similar to the way we make bread, using baking powder (and quite a lot of it) instead of yeast. Rolling the dough and brushing it with fat, and repeating this has a touch of the croissants about it, but after that things change - the Chinese bread is steamed. Have never made this or eaten it, but it sounds very interesting, and could be worth making, but served with what? Someone may be able to enlighten us.
Chinese Silver Loaves: makes 3 loaves
7 fl.oz hot water
1 rounded tablsp gran. sugar
1 tblsp lard or oil
1lb 2 oz (500g) plain flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
pinch salt
one and a half ounces margarine
Put the sugar and lard (or oil) into the hot water and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Allow to cool down until just tepid. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt, then gradually stir in the liquid. Mix well, then using your hands, gradually draw the mixture together to make a soft dough. It should not be sticky, add more flour if necessary.
Place the dough on a floured board and knead it as you would bread, pressing it down and away from you using the heels of your hands, and then folding it back and repeating the process. Knead for at least 5 minutes, preferably 8 minutes, until the mixture is smooth and elastic. Put it into a bowl, cover with a cloth and leave to rise for 1 hour.
When risen, place the dough on a lightly floured board and knead again for a few minutes, then divide into 3 portions. Cover two with a damp cloth and begin working with the third.
Roll out the portion then divide in half. Roll each into a 6" square, trimming edges to neaten. Roll one square into 8" long (the side swill shrink in to 4"). Brush the surface with melted margarine, then fold in half. Brush the top surface with more margarine, then fold in half again. The dough is now in four layers measuring about 2" x 4". Cut this into very thin (julienne) strips 2" long.
Pick up the bundle of strips, pulling them slightly to add another inch onto their length, then take a square of waxed paper, put it in front of you, place on the first (unrolled) square of dough and arrange the strips at one end so the ends of the strips stick out each side of the square. Using the paper, lift this and roll up the dough around the strips. Place this package seam side down, then repeat the whole thing twice more with the remaining saved portions
When all completed, have a steamer ready with boiling water, cut 6 rolls of waxed paper the size of each 'loaf' and sit these in the steamer with a loaf on top of each, leaving a 2" gap between to allow room for expansion. Steam for 15 minutes, then remove and leave to get cool. Serve sliced.
advance preparation:
these loaves can be prepared ahead of time and left covered with a damp cloth, at room temperature, until ready for steaming. Or they may be steamed, cooled, then reheated in the steamer for 2 minutes.

Chinese Golden Loaves: made and cooked as above, but then deep fried for 2 minutes or until golden. Drain on kitchen paper and slice to serve.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Icing on the Cake

When originally published the old-type dried apricots were used in this next recipe as the no-soak ones were not as yet on sale. If using the no-soak, double the weight but still soak them in a little boiled water for an hour, then measure the water to make up to the required amount. This pie filling is very good spread over pancakes, reheated in a little orange juice in a frying pan, then if you wish, add a wee bit of hot rum or brandy to flambé.
Apricot Pie Filling:
3 oz (75g) dried apricots
half pint (300ml) hot water
1 dessp golden syrup OR…
…2 tsp runny honey
1 rounded tsp arrowroot
Stir the syrup (or honey) into the water and add the apricots. Leave to soak overnight (if using the really dried ones). Next day remove the apricots and make up the juice to 5 fl.oz (150ml) with water. Blend the arrowroot with a little of the juice and heat slowly, stirring all the time, until thickened. Remove from heat, stir in the apricots and leave to cool. Cover, keep chilled and it will keep for a week.
Tip: chop the apricots or blitz in a food processor before adding to the arrowroot sauce to make a ‘spreading fruit paste’.

This next recipe uses the larger dried fruits that can be bought in packets as dried fruit salad, but are also sold separately. Often I buy packs of the soft dried fruits such as no-soak apricots, pears, prunes, dates, figs, apple slices etc and chop a few up at a time to add when making a batch of muesli. Alternatively, make up the recipe to eat as a dessert (particularly good when served with cold rice pudding), and save some to put on top of a dish of made porridge or a small dish of muesli. A good dollop of yogurt on top and what more could you ask for?
Stewed Dried Fruits: serves 4
500g pack mixed dried fruit salad
15 fl.oz (450ml) apple or orange juice
2 tblsp runny honey
2 tblsp brandy (opt)
zest and juice of one orange and one lemon
Put all the ingredients into a saucepan, bring to the boil and simmer for one minute. Remove from heat and cool completely. Tip mixture into a bowl, cover with cling-film and keep in the fridge for 24 hours to allow flavours to develop. Serve in individual dishes topped with a spoon of creme fraiche or Greek yogurt.
variation: make this Moroccan-style by adding 6 whole cloves, half a tsp each freshly grated nutmeg and root ginger, and a stick of cinnamon to the ingredients in the pan. Remove the whole spices after the 24 hour chilling time.

The following cake is more a tea-time favourite than a pudding, AND USES NO EGGS (that's a bonus for a start). Nearly all cakes - (when popped into the microwave for a few seconds to heat up) taste like puddings when warmed, pours his cream over the top and enjoy. This cake comes with an optional icing.
Citrus Marmalade Cake: serves 8 - 12 (F)
4 oz (100g) butter
8 oz (225g) self-raising flour
4 oz (100g) caster sugar
zest 1 orange
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp mixed spice
2 oz (50g) sultanas or raisins
2 oz (50g) mixed peel
good pinch of salt
2 tblsp orange marmalade
5 fl.oz (150ml) milk
1 tblsp demerara sugar
Put the flour into a bowl and rub in the butter until like breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar, salt and the citrus zests, the spice, dried fruit and peel, and mix together.
In a separate bowl mix the marmalade with the juice of the lemon, then add this into the cake mixture along with the milk, stirring everything together until well mixed. It should be soft enough to fall slowly from the spoon, if necessary add a little more milk.
Grease a 2lb (900g) loaf tin, line with greaseproof paper and grease this also. Spoon the cake mixture into the tin, levelling the top. Sprinkle with the demerara sugar and bake for 40 mins at 180C, 350F, gas 4 then reduce heat to 160C, 325F, gas 3 and cook for a further 20 mins, covering top with foil if it is getting too brown. When the centre is firm, remove from oven and leave for 15 minutes in the tin, then turn out onto a wire rack. This will keep well in an airtight tin for a good week. Un-iced it can also be frozen.
icing for the cake:
5 oz (150g) icing sugar
1 tblsp orange or lemon juice
Mix the ingredients together to make a smooth paste. Spoon this over the surface of the cake and leave to set. The icing may drizzle down the sides but that is how it should look.

Dark chocolate they say is good for us (even though a bit naughty) and as milk and eggs are two ingredients in the desserts, (but not in the same recipe), we can appease our consciences by allowing that the puds are nutritional in their own way, and saves us money as we can then serve a vegetarian first course.
Chocolate Filled French Toast: serves 4
3 eggs
7 fl oz (155ml) milk
1 tblsp caster sugar
pinch salt
approx 1 oz (25g) butter
8 slices white bread
4 oz (100g) dark chocolate, finely chopped or grated
icing sugar
Whisk together the eggs, milk, sugar and salt until well blended. Pour into a shallow dish. Make chocolate sandwiches by sprinkling the chocolate over four slices of bread, then covering with the remaining bread. Press together firmly. Either leave whole or cut into triangles or fingers. Melt half the butter in a frying pan, dip both sides of the sarnies into the egg and fry these in the butter - 3 minutes each side, turning once. Add more butter as necessary. When all the sarnies are golden and 'toasted', serve with a sprinkling of icing sugar on top.
tip: spread the bread with 'Nutella' instead of using grated chocolate. Can also be made with jam sandwiches, banana sandwiches. For a savoury version omit the sugar and have a cheese filling.

Just have to include this, the final chocolate recipe for today, as it not only contains chocolate, but also black treacle. Very much an adult version so keep it away from the kiddiwinkies. Although very rich, and ignoring the sugar content, the other ingredients are not unhealthy. Certainly worth making for a special occasion.
Chocolate Ginger Traybake: makes 16 fingers
6 oz (175g) butter
5 oz (125g) dark muscovado sugar
2 tblsp caster sugar
7 oz (200g) each: black treacle and golden syrup
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
rounded tsp bicarb. of soda
2 tblsp warm water
2 eggs, beaten
9 fl.oz (250ml) milk
10 oz (275g) plain flour
2 oz (50g) cocoa powder
6 oz (175g) dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 tblsp finely chopped preserved ginger (opt)
1 oz (25g) butter
1 tblsp cocoa powder
2 - 3 fl oz (60ml) ginger beer or ginger ale
9 oz (250g) icing sugar
Using the ingredients for the traybake, put the butter, sugars, treacle, syrup and spices into a roomy pan and heat until melted, then remove from heat. Dissolve the bicarb in the warm water and stir this into the sugar solution along with the eggs and milk. Using a wooden spoon beat together, then mix in the flour and cocoa and continue beating until well mixed together, then fold in the chocolate (and preserved ginger if using). Pour into a greased and lined roasting tin 8" x 12" x 2" deep (20cm x 30cm x 5 cm) and bake at 160C, 325F, gas 3 for about 45 minutes or until risen and firm to the touch. It will seem a little moist lower down but that is fine. Still leaving it in the tin, place onto a wire rack and leave to cool.
Meanwhile, make the icing, heat together the butter, ginger beer/ale and cocoa. Once the butter has melted, stir it all together then sift in the icing sugar until well blended, smooth and thick. Add more icing sugar if necessary. Pour this over the traybake and leave to set. Remove cake from the tin, peeling off the paper, and cut the cake into 16 pieces, or more or less as you wish. Eat and enjoy.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Label Fraud.

A recipe that has a certain amount of nourishment in that high-protein peanuts are used, and also good quality chocolate. OK, the other ingredients might cause a nutritionist to blench but you can't have everything. Eat three a day and you wouldn't really need to eat anything else. One way of saving money I suppose. Seriously though, once the base has been cooked, the calories could be much reduced by topping only with the melted chocolate, but feel free to be as decadent as you wish.
Peanut Fudge Fingers: makes 12
4 oz (100g) golden syrup
4 oz (100g) butter
2 eggs, beaten
5 oz (150g) self-raising flour
4 oz (100g) salted peanuts
few drops vanilla or butterscotch extract/essence
5 oz (150g) soft brown sugar
3 tblsp golden syrup
6 tblsp condensed milk
3 tblsp peanut butter (pref crunchy)
6 oz (176g) dark chocolate, melted
To make the base, put the butter and syrup in a small pan and heat gently until melted. Remove from heat and cool slightly, then beat in the eggs. Stir in the flour, peanuts and chosen flavouring. Mix well together then pour into a 7" x 11" (18 x 28cm) greased baking tin, level the surface and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for about 15 - 20 minutes until risen and firm to the touch. Leave in the tin to cool.
To make the fudge topping: put the butter, sugar, syrup and condensed milk into a pan, and heat gently until all melted. Bring to the simmeer and cook for 2 minutes, continually stirring or it may burn. Remove from heat and stir in the peanut butter. Pour this mixture over the base, leave to cool until set. Finally, melt the chocolate and pour this over the topping, levelling it with a knife. Place in a cool place until set, then using a heated knife, cut into fingers.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Heating and Eating

Fruit vinegars, made from blackcurrants, blackberries and particularly raspberries, are now becoming popular again, this time used in cookery to replace wine vinegar in salad dressings. Also a good substitute for balsamic vinegar. They can be diluted with water to drink as a cordial. The measurements given are as a guide to proportions and easy to remember (pint to a pint - fruit and vinegar, and pound to a pint - sugar and liquid). Adjust amounts accordingly.
Fruit Vinegar:
1 lb (500g) chosen fruit
1 pint (600ml) malt vinegar
Put the fruit in a bowl and mash lightly with the back of a wooden spoon. Pour over the vinegar, cover with a cloth and leave to stand 3 - 4 days, stirring occasionally. Strain through muslin and add 1 lb (500g( sugar to each 1 pint (600ml) liquid. Boil for 10 minutes, strain again, then bottle up in clean, sterilised jars that have vinegar-proof and airtight lids.

One vegetable that keeps very well in the fridge is the carrot. Sometimes it is cheaper to buy them loose, other times they work out cheaper when bought by the bag, so always check prices. Most children will eat carrots, but sometimes they won't. This recipe is a good way to offer to pernickity children, but also perfectly adequate to serve as a normal family dish. No one need be told it is make with carrots. A few no-soak apricots could be included, then if anyone asks, just say it is made with apricots.
Chocolate (and carrot) Tart:
12 oz (350g) shortcrust pastry
10 fl.oz (half pint/300ml) cooked carrot, sieved
1 tblsp sugar
2 tblsp cocoa
half tsp vanilla extract
Roll out the pastry and line an 8" sandwich tin, saving the trimmings. Mix together the carrot puree, sugar, cocoa and vanilla and spread this over the pastry. Roll out the reserved pastry and cut into thin strips, and place these across the filling, criss-cross fashion. Bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for about half an hour or until the pastry is cooked.
variation: if including no-soak apricots, put a few in a teacup and pour over a little boiling water to cover and leave them to soak for a while, drain and add to sliced cooked and drained carrots and puree together with the remaining ingredients, and use this to fill the pastry case.

Final recipe today uses gooseberries - a traditional dish that could go on to be frozen to make ice-cream. If wishing to do this, freeze in an ice-tray, cover with foil and freeze for about 3 hours - stirring it at least twice during that time. No need to top and tail for the fruit will be sieved.
Gooseberry Fool:
1 lb (500g) hard, green gooseberries
5 oz (125g) sugar
5 fl.oz (150ml) thick cream, lightly whipped
Put the gooseberries into a pan and heat very gently until the juices start to flow, stir in the sugar and cook gently until the fruit is very soft. A little water could be added to help this along, but should be cooked long enough to evaporate this out. Sieve the gooseberry/sugar pulp, then let this pureed get completely cold before folding in the cream. Spoon into individual glasses and chill before serving.
variation: cold thick custard could be used instead of cream, alternatively a mixture of custard and cream. When making the ice-cream version, use all cream if possible, but not all custard.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Playing Shops

This next recipe makes use of chicken livers (always inexpensive and can be bought frozen from the supermarkets), and although this recipe uses rice, the cheaper pearl barley works just as well although may take a little longer to soften. Speeding up the cooking time of pearl barley can be done by soaking the barley in hot water for an hour or two prior to cooking. Or the left-over barley used when making lemon-barley water could be used (in which case use less stock).
Chicken Liver Risotto: serves 4
2 tblsp olive oil
quarter pint measure rice or pearl barley
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
good pinch ground ginger
pinch salt
half pint (300ml) chicken stock
1 lb (450g) chicken livers
6 oz (175g) mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 oz (50g) butter
grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
Put the oil in a large frying pan and stir in the rice or barley. When the grains are coated with the oil, add the onions, garlic, ginger, salt and stock. Simmer for about 20 minutes until the liquid has been absorbed and the grains have cooked. If necessary add a little more water.
In another pan, quickly saute the chicken livers and mushrooms in the butter, then add these to the cooked rice/barley and stir together. Season to taste and serve hot sprinkled with Parmesan cheese.

This next dish is a summery salad, and with any luck all the ingredients should be in the storecupboard, fridge and possibly freezer (if using home-cooked chickpeas). Halloumi cheese has a very long fridge shelf-life, with a good 12 months 'keeping' dates on the packs (and how old was it before it reached the store?). We had some the other day a good 3 months past its date. Still perfect. One the pack has been opened, then it will need using up within a few days.
Couscous Salad with Halloumi Cheese: serves 4
9 oz (250g) couscous
9 fl.oz (250ml) boiling water
salad dressing (recipe below)
4oog can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 tblsp sunflower or olive oil
10 oz (300g) courgettes, sliced diagonally
8 oz (225g) cherry tomatoes, halved
1 pkt (250g) halloumi cheese, thickly sliced
salad dressing (recipe below)
Put the couscous into a bowl and pour over the water. Cover and leave to stand for about 5 minutes, meanwhile making the salad dressing. Check the couscous has absorbed the water (if not drain), then fluff up the couscous with a fork and mix in half the salad dressing and all the chickepeas. Pile this onto a shallow serving dish.
Heat the oil in a frying pan until hot then fry the courgettes for a couple or so minutes until darkly golden. Drain in kitchen paper. Put the tomatoes, cut side down into the frying pan and fry these for a couple or so minutes until also beginning to brown. Scatter the courgettes and the tomatoes over the couscous.
Slice the halloumi cheese in half lengthways (often the cheese splits there naturally), and - if necessary add a little more oil to the pan - fry the halloumi slices for 2 - 3 minutes, turning once until they too are browning and sizzling. Place the strips of cheese over the courgettes/tomatoes/couscous, and drizzle over the remaining salad dressing. Serve warm.
salad dressing:
3 fl.oz (100ml)olive oil
2 - 3 tblsp lime or lemon juice
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
2 tblsp chopped fresh mint
half tsp caster or icing sugar
Put everything into a bowl and mix well together (or put into a jar with a screwtop lid and give it a good shake). Use as required.
Tip: if you have a griddle pan (on that has a ridged surface) pre-heat this dry and brush the halloumi with oil and lay these diagonally over the bars on the pan, this will give that interesting 'charred' effect on the strips of cheese.
The easy way to clean these griddle pans, is to fill the pan with water while the pan is still hot and with luck most of the oily juices will float to the top. Brush between the bars using an old toothbrush if any fat is burned on or congealed. Always oil the food rather than put oil in the pan.

A few days ago there was a request for recipes using cherries. Have managed to find another that sounds very delectable. Dare say it could be made using other fruits and other flavourings
Frangipane Cherry Tart: serves 6
one 9" (23cm) pastry case, baked blind
5 oz (150g) caster sugar
5 oz (15og) ground almonds
5 oz (15og) butter, melted
1 egg, plus 1 egg yolk
1 tblsp Kirsch
a good 1lb (500g) cherries, stones removed
2 tblsp cherry conserve/jam
1 tblsp water
Put the sugar, ground almonds, butter, whole egg plus the yolk and beat together until creamy, stir in the Kirsch. Chill for half an hour, the spread the mixture over the base of the pastry case and bake for 20-25 mins at 190C, 375F, gas 5 until golden and crisp (cover edges of pastry with foil f getting too brown).
Remove from the oven and place the cherries on top of the frangipane in a single layer. Heat the conserve with the water until smooth, then brush this over the cherries. Leave to get cold. Cut into wedges to serve.
Tip: If possible, bake the pastry case while the filling is chilling, and leave the pastry in the tin to continue the cooking process. Remove from the tin prior to serving.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Cheap and Cheerful

Yesterday, asked our butcher to give me his prices for the more unusual 'cuts' and was very intrigued to discover that pigs ears were only 10p each, pigs trotters 25p each. As both were used in dishes in the series 'The Great British Menu' we could follow the chefs example and cook them ourselves.
Here are the prices as given (note they will probably be dearer the more the time goes on).
Sweetbreads: £2.95 per pound
Heart: £1.15 per pound
Pigs Cheek: £3.45 lb
Pigs Trotters: 25p each
Pigs Ears: 10p each
Although not requested it could be interesting to find out how much the butcher would charge for a whole pig's head (used to be very cheap, like 50p). With this you would get 2 ears and two cheeks and it might work out much cheaper than buying those separately, especially as other bits of meat from the head could be used to make brawn, and there would be a small amount of fat (lard) that could be collected too. This would be perhaps going to extremes to have to handle this, but the butcher would chop the head in half for you. Half a head may be enough but you would only get one ear.

All Bran Cake:
half pint water or milk
4 oz All Bran
10 oz mixed dried fruit
5 oz demerara sugar
4 oz self-raising flour, sifted
Put everything but the flour into a bowl and leave to soak for one hour. Mix in the flour and pour into a greased and floured 1lb loaf tin. Bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for one hour.

As above, using a measure instead of scales- the recipe suggests using a teacup.
Easy-Measure All Bran Cake:
1 measure each: All Bran, sugar, dried fruit, milk (or other liquid), self-raising flour, plus pinch of salt. Method as above.

Speaking of bread, noticed that in the on-line supermarket listings there are some for 'tear 'n' share' breads. They sound very tempting and more than once had added them to my virtual basket, and then later, because they were expensive, removed them. So have never got around to trying them.
In my bread-making book there is a recipe for 'tear 'n share' made with a packet of bread mix so may have a go at this myself.
Cheese and herb 'tear 'n share:
500g packet of white bread mix
approx 11 fl.oz (325ml) warm water or as packet directs
4 oz (100g) butter, melted
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 oz (25g) grated Parmesan cheese
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
half tsp salt
2 tsp dried mixed herbs (de Provence)
freshly ground black pepper
Put the bread mix in a bowl with the water and mix to a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. Divide into 12 equal portions then roll each into a ball.
Into another bowl put the melted butter, garlic, cheese, salt, herbs and a good grind of black pepper and mix together. Dip each ball of dough into this mixture, covering the entire surface, then place in a single layer in a greased 8" (20cm) cake tin. Drizzle over any remaining butter. Cover and leave to rise in a warm place for about 45minutes or until doubled in size.
Bake for about 40 minutes or until golden brown at 190C, 375F, gas 5 then turn out and cool on a wire rack. To serve (warm or cold) pull the rolls apart and share.
using a bread machine: follow above adding water and bread mix in order as specified in instruction book. Use the dough cycle, then remove dough from pan and finish off by hand and bake in the oven as directions above. Instead of bread mix, use a machine-bread recipe using the dough setting.

When baking bread dough in the oven, make a change from the normal shaped loaf and plait the dough instead. The traditional plait for Challah (a Jewish bread) is to use four strands of encriched dough instead of the normal three we would use when plaiting. To make a Challah plait, working with a dough made with 500g flour, divide the dough into four equal portion and roll each into a rope about 16" (40cm) long . Place them side by side but not touching, and pinch the top ends together. Starting from the right, lift the first rope over the second, and the third rope over the fourth, then place the fourth rope between the seond and first ropes. Repeat and continue to form a plait, pinching the final ends together and tucking both ends under. Easier to understand when you see it done, so practise with pieces of string. Place on a greased baking sheet, cover and leave to rise in the normal way. Brush with butter before baking.

Milk bread is said to keep fresher for longer, and so I give a recipe for this - again it could be made in a machine using the dough setting following the machine instructions as to what order the ingredients need to be placed in the pan, then continue by hand and baking it off in the oven. To cut costs, work out the amount of dried milk needed to make 3/4 pint milk, and mix this into the flour, adding warm water in place of the milk in the recipe.
Milk Loaf: makes 2 x 2lb loaves
1 lb 9oz( 700g) strong plain white flour
2 tsp salt
2 oz (50g) butter, diced
1 tsp caster sugar
1 sachet (7g) easy-blend dried yeast
15 fl.oz (425ml) warm milk
Sift the flour and salt into a bowl and rub in the butter. Stir in the sugar and the yeast then add the milk to make a soft dough (if too soft add a little more flour). Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. Shape into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover and leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk.
Knock back and turn out onto a floured surface, divide in half and shape each into an oblong. Place in two greased 2lb loaf tins, cover and leave to rise again for about half an hour or until doubled in size. Bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 30 - 40 minutes or until well risen and golden brown - sounding hollow when tapped underneath. Turn out and cool on a wire rack. Serve cold, sliced.
Note: if not loaf tins, the bread can be placed directly onto 2 greased baking sheets, covered, left to rise and then baked directly in the oven.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Challenge Continues

After deciding to make a curry for last night's supper, raided the vegetable drawer in the fridge and ended up with one large carrot (10p) cubed; less than one-third of green pepper (10p) cut into chunks; a few cauliflower florets (12p); and a small piece of butternut squash (8p) cut into chunks. To this I added one large potato (12p) cut into chunks; one and a half onions (15p) sliced. After weighing the prepared vegetables they came to approx 1lb 5oz, so added 3 oz home-cooked chickpeas (est. 10p) from the freezer to make the weight up to 1.5lbs. This brought the total to 77p. A very little oil was put in the pan to fry the onion (est. 5p). The potatoes and carrots were boiled for a few minutes, the cauliflower added and finally the squash, just to get them to the al dente stage, and then drained and added to the onion. A can of curry sauce (4p) was then poured over, the pan covered and left to simmer for a few more minutes (total for curry: 86p)

Because chickpeas were added to the numerous vegetables, this could easily have been turned into a vegetable tagine by using harissa (hot tomato paste) instead of the curry sauce, and served with cous-cous. The dishes were photographed before being served (shown below) but must point out each dish is not shallow as appears, the bowl being 5" tall, but with sloping sides, the metal dish 4" deep, also with slightly sloping sides

Beloved and I had two very good helpings, Beloved taking a third, and still enough left over for a fourth, so can say that there was enough for four, and with extra couscous, possibly five. Any leftovers, blitzed with a little water would make a very good vegetarian version of Mulligatawny Soup.
Incidentally, the addition of the chickpeas was a bit of serendipity as only decided to use these to make up the weight. They gave more 'body' to the curry, almost making me feel there was meat in the dish, and certainly made it very much more substantial/satisfying even though not too many were used.

This next recipe is for chicken liver pate, very similar to the one I make myself (also using the processor) only I do not line the tin with bacon (that saves money for a start), and so far have never added ginger (but will certainly try this), cream or flour. Instead of allspice, I include a few juniper berries. After mine has been made and slightly cooled, it is pushed through a mouli (food-mill) and softened butter worked in with some freshly ground black pepper to make it more a spreading pate.
Chicken Liver Pate:
5 oz (125g) streaky bacon rashers, thin cut
half onion, chopped
1 small clove garlic, peeled and sliced (opt)
half inch cubed root ginger, roughly chopped
3 fl.oz measure fatty bacon, diced
half tsp salt
half tsp ground pepper
half tsp ground allspice (opt)
1 lb (450g) chicken livers
1 egg plus 1 yolk (OR 2 egg yolks)
6 fl oz (300ml) cream or evaporated milk
1 - 2 tblsp brandy
quarter cup flour
Line a 3" x 9" loaf tin with the bacon rashers. Fit the steel blade into the processor bowl and add the onion, garlic, ginger, fatty bacon pieces, salt, pepper and allspice. Blitz together until finely chopped. Add the chicken livers and 'pulse' once or twice then add remaining ingredients. Process until well blended. Spoon out into the prepared tin and cover with a sheet of baking parchment (or greased greaseproof paper) and then tightly cover with a double sheet of foil. Make sure the foil is tucked tightly under the rim of the tin to prevent water getting in.
Stand tin in a larger dish, and pour boiling water around to come halfway up the tin, and bake for one and three-quarter hours at 190C, 375F, gas 5. Cool, chill and turn out when ready to serve. Keeps well for a week.
Tip: soak the chicken livers overnight in milk to 'sweeten' them, also remove any green (part of the gall bladder). Normally I make this in much smaller amounts and one hour is long enough cooking time, at a slightly lower temperature. If blending through a mill and adding a litter butter to make the spreading pate, pot up into small ramekin dishes, smooth the top and pour over melted butter to seal. For extra presentation, put three juniper berries on the top of each pot, or one small bay leaf before covering with the butter. Kept in the fridge it will keep for at least two weeks if the seal is unbroken (probably longer), it will also freeze well.

This next recipe is for gingerbread made in the processor. It might also be able to be cooked in a bread-maker so for those who like to experiment, have a go and let us know.
Gingerbread: makes 2 loaves each giving 10 slices
one and a quarter cups of flour
threequarters of a tsp baking soda (bicarb)
half tsp salt
quarter cup of sugar
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 egg
third of a cup of salad oil (suggest sunflower oil)
third of a cup molasses (suggest black treacle)
half cup boiling water
Using the plastic blade in the food processor bowl, add the flour, bicarb, salt, sugar, ginger and cinnamon. Hold hand over feed tube and process for a few seconds to blend. Remove cover from bowl and add egg, oil, and molasses/treacle. Blend for a few seconds then stop and pour in the boiling water, Blend again using the pulse button. Pour into tso greased and lined 3" x 6" baking tins and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 20 - 35 minutes, or until the gingerbread has begun to shrink from the ends of the tins and feels dry on top.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Variety is the Spice of Life

Had made up a dip last night, with the intention of serving a vegetable curry to follow, but then decided one vegetable dish following another was not such a good idea, and in the end opted for a chilli con carne instead. I can give you the prices, even took a picture of the dip and crudites - shown below - this for a 'starter/appetiser' was good value and would have served four. The starter, pictured above and working clockwise round from the top, consisted of: half a large carrot (5p) cut into strips; a third of a green pepper cut into strips (11p); cauliflower florets cut smaller (10p); third of a yellow pepper cut into strips (12p); two mushrooms (10p) cut into 6ths; third of a red pepper (12p); 1 end crust of cheap bread (2p) cut into strips and toasted; one rib celery (4p) cut into strips. Together they cam to to 80 pieces, allowing 10 per head to eat with the dip. Crudites cost 66p.

The dip was a version of hummous (houmous), made with 5 oz (125g) home-cooked chickpeas (10p); juice of half a lemon (5p); 1 dessp 'value' peanut butter (8p); 1 slice cheap bread (2p); paprika pepper and a little olive oil (9p). Total for the dip: 34p. Total for the complete dish: £1.00.
(By the way, the plate itself was quite large - being the base plate from the microwave, often used as a serving platter).
A little onion would have improved the hummous, and - as I used some for the chilli - could have pinched a 'free' bit to add to the chickpeas. Peppers are ideal to eat with dips, they are firm and crisp and, when sliced, have a little hook at one end - perfect for scooping up dips. The bread for the dip was torn up, soaked in water, then drained but not squeezed, and added to the other ingredients to be blitzed in the food processor. The water in the bread helped to make a softer dip. This could have turned out much cheaper if the dip had been served with just tortilla chips, or home-made 'breadsticks', but as the vegetables were nutritious (and helped towards that 'five a day', felt it was worth serving them.

The chilli con carne was made from half a 400g pack of lean minced steak. This was bought when at half -price and frozen (pack divided into two as I would normally use half). The reduced price was £1.50 for the full pack, The chilli was made by frying a 'value' onion (3p), then adding the meat (75p), a can of value plum tomatoes (20p), a can of red kidney beans (14p); and chilli spices (5p). Home-made pitta bread (10p).
Total: £1.27p.

The two dishes together cost £2.27, and although almost too much for Beloved and me, doubling the amount the two courses would feed four for £4.54 and by adding a few more crudites, pitta bread and beans ) could easily feed five. Have to say that four scoops of home-made ice-cream served with a 'value' jelly (8p) would just about take up the rest of the £5 budget - but at least managing to make a three course meal out of it.

In recent postings there were recipes for granita (flavoured ice crystals). Normally eaten as a dessert, the savoury ones make a good starter, or as a 'refresher' between courses. With the sweet bell peppers on offer this week (35p each - and pick out the largest), worth making this sorbet to freeze away. It can then be eaten when the peppers are back at full price, giving you the chance to feel smug. Apart from green (not used for this dish) these peppers come in red, yellow and orange, so a different coloured sorbet could be made from each, and for a really good-looking starter, serve a small scoop of each into a glass.
Red Pepper Sorbet: serves 6 (F)
half pint (300ml) water
11 oz (300g) sugar
1.5 lbs (675g) red peppers, deseeded and diced
2 tblsp white wine vinegar
dash Tabasco (optional)
Put the water and sugar in a saucepan and heat until the sugar has dissolved. Boil for a few minutes until syrupy in consistency. Leave to cool. Pour into a blender, adding the remaining ingredients. Blitz until a fine puree. If you have an ice-cream maker, churn until smooth and thick. Freeze for at least 2 hours then remove from the freezer five minutes before serving as this makes it easier to scoop and serve.
If you haven't a machine, pour the puree into a plastic/glass container, freeze for a couple of hours, then break up the frozen edges with a fork, breaking up the ice-crystals. Freeze again for a couple of hours and repeat and freeze. This should be enough, but the more repeats, the more it turns into a sorbet and less of a granita.

lemonade: serves 4
zest and juice of 3 lemons mixed with 750 litres cold water. Stir in 4 oz 100g) sugar until dissolved. Serve poured over ice. For adults only, add a splash of gin or vodka.

fruit punch: serves 4
measure 350ml each of pineapple, mango and orange juice (can be fresh or from cartons) with the juice of 2 limes. Pour over crushed ice to serve.

lime cordial: fills 1 large glass
9 fl oz (250ml) warm water
2 tblsp sugar, or to taste
juice from 2 limes
Mix water and sugar together until dissolved. Stir in the lime juice and chill. Serve as-is or dilute with sparkling water as required.

lemon and lime cordial: as for lime cordial but add the juice of 2 lemons.

mint lime julep: serves 2 - 4
dilute the lime cordial (above) with soda water, adding several leaves of mint and a slice or two of lime. Pour over crushed ice to serve.

iced coffee: serves 4
To 1 litre of coffee (made from grounds, instant or even Camp coffee), stir in 8 tblsp condensed milk. Pour over ice cubes to serve. For adults add a dash of Tia Maria.

iced tea: serves 4
Put 1 litre of freshly brewed and strained Ceylon or green tea, into a big jug with 2 tblsp caster sugar and 1 sliced lemon. Leave to cool, then chill well. Drink ice-cold with extra slices of lemon if wished.

love-apple tingler: serves 4
Mix together a carton of tomato juice with 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce (or to taste). Add the juice of 1 lemon. Serve over ice with a few leaves of basil for garnish. Adults can add a glug of vodka.

elderflower and ginger fizz: serves 4
Mix 200ml elderflower cordial with 2 tblsp grated fresh ginger. Add the juice of half a lime, and stir in 750ml of sparkling water. Garnish with slices of lime (using the uncut half of the lime) and a few mint leaves.
Pour over ice cubes to serve.

Friday, June 13, 2008


One of my old cookbooks is called "Cooking for the Middle Classes", and in it is a chapter on vegetarian dishes which they call Food Reform Recipes. One recipe is really strange, although children might like it with ketchup. I include the metrics as they didn't use them in those days.
Mock White Fish:
3 oz (75g) ground rice
half pint (300ml) milk
little grated onion
salt and pepper
sufficient cold cooked potatoes to bind
Boil almost all of the milk, and mix in the ground rice with remaining milk, then pour the boiling milk over. Return to the pan, and stir until boiling. Add onion, pepper, salt and mashed potatoes. Make into steaks, brush with egg, toss in breadcrumbs and fry a golden brown in hot fat. Serve with parsley sauce.

This next one sounds a little tastier:
Egg Cutlets:
2 hard-boiled eggs
2 tblsp grated cheese
pinch curry powder
2 tblsp breadcrumbs
little nutmeg, pepper and salt
sufficient egg to bind
Chop the eggs finely and put into a bowl with the cheese, curry powder, breadcrumbs, nutmeg, salt and pepper, and bind with beaten egg. Shape into cutlets, brush with beaten egg, toss in breadcrumbs and fry until hot.

Those who grow tomatoes and like to make their own preserves may wish to try this. Read right through before starting as the methods given in those days never seems as clear as more recent recipes.
Green Tomato Jam:
Green tomatoes make a most delicate preserve. Allow 1 lb lump sugar and 1 pint water to every pound of sliced tomatoes. Allow the grated rind and juice of 2 lemons to 3 lbs jam, or - if liked - 2 oz bruised ginger to the same quantity of jam, tie the ginger in a cloth and boil in the jam. The sugar and water should be boiled together until thick; slice tomatoes thinly and add. Boil until tomatoes are quite clear, boiling either lemons or ginger with it. Pour into jars when cooked and make airtight.

Some time back, writing for a magazine, the mention in one of me storing the saved money in a jar led to readers from all over the country starting to save in this way, and was told they called them 'Shirley Jars'. One lady wrote to the mag to say she had managed to save £500 over the 12 months and was using that to have a really good holiday, something she had never managed to afford before. £500 then would be worth treble that now I suppose, but maybe the savings could now be even greater. Worth having a 'Shirley Jar'. Just don't leave your jars in a visible place for anyone knocking at the back door to see, for the world today is not what it was. Ideally, when the jar is full, the money can be banked to gain interest. Well, I've suggested ways to get free food, now I'm explaining how to gain 'free' money.

Will finish with a favourite recipe.
Banana Bread:
8 oz (225g) self-raising flour
1 level tsp baking powder
3 oz (75g) softened butter or soft margarine
3 oz (75g) sugar
1 egg
1 heaped dessertspoon apricot jam
2 or 3 ripe bananas, mashed
few chopped nuts, optional
Sift the flour with the baking powder. Cream the fat and sugar together until light and fluffy, adding a teaspoon of the flour, then beat in the egg. Fold in the rest of the flour and the remaining ingredients. Pour into a greased and floured 1lb (45g) loaf tin and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for about 45 minutes until golden brown and firm to the touch. Cover with foil after 30 minutes if browning too quickly. Turn out and cool on a wire rack.
Tip: to prevent browning, put foil shiny side up - as this reflects the heat away. To aid browning, put shiny side down.
Bananas that are turning brown are often sold cheaply, the riper the banana the better as these make wonderful Banana bread.

When we first saw the bungalow we wanted, the kitchen - leading through to a long conservatory, no wall between the two, just a breakfast bar - made me want to give cookery demonstrations. Full of it I was, but daughter and husband (a retired policeman) shook in horror. 'Elf and Safety was thrown at me, I would need ramps for the disabled (that's me folks, so might get them anyway), and very high insurance. So that was my bubble burst. Wonder if I gave demos for charity, whether the restrictions would still apply.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

It's theThought that Counts

This is a 'healthy eating' recipe that uses bulgar wheat as one of the ingredients.
Wholefood Honey Cookies:
1 lb (450g) plain wholemeal flour
half tsp baking powder
2 oz (50g) bulgar wheat
1 tsp ground ginger
4 oz (100g) thick honey
5 oz (125g) golden syrup
5 oz (125g) margarine
Sift the flour with the baking powder and ginger and mix in the bulgar wheat. Put the honey, syrup and margarine into a small pan and heat gently until dissolved. Leave to cool to luke-warm, then stir this into the flour mixture. Knead together and wrap in cling-film or foil and leave in the fridge for a hour.
Roll out the dough on a floured board to quarter inch thickness (5mm), and cut into circles, squares, heart shapes etc. Place on a greased baking sheet and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 12 - 15 minutes. Remove with a fish slice or palette knife and place on a wire rack to cool.
Note: the cookies will be quite hard once cooked but will soften when kept for one or two days in an airtight container.

This next cake is one my mother was fond of making, and very much a favourite of hers (and mine).
Sand Cake:
6 oz (180g) caster sugar
3 eggs
few drops vanilla extract
grated rind half a lemon
pinch salt
4 oz (100g) self-raising flour
4 oz (100g) cornflour
6 oz (180g) butter, melted
icing sugar
4 oz (100g) cornflourPut the sugar, eggs, vanilla, lemon zest and salt in a pan standing over hot water, and beat together until just lukewarm. Remove from the heat. Sift the flour and cornflour together and fold into the egg mixture. Lastly fold in the melted butter. Pour into a greased and lined 2 lb (1kg) loaf tin and bake for 40 - 45 minutes at 190C, 375F, gas 5. Turn out and cool on a wire rack. Sift icing sugar over the top and serve sliced.

Malt extract can be bought from a chemist. The malt probably gives the sticky brown effect as in bought loaves, failing that use half syrup and half black treacle.
Malted Fruit Loaf: makes 2 loaves
2 oz (50) malt extract
2 tblsp golden syrup
3 oz (75g) butter
1 lb (450g) white bread flour
1 tsp mixed spice
three quarter ounce (20g) fresh yeast
5 fl oz (150ml) milk, lukewarm
2 oz (50g) currants
2 oz (50g) sultanas
2 oz (5og) no-soak dried apricots
2 tblsp mixed peel
(glaze: 2 tblsp milk, 2 tblsp caster sugar)
Put the malt, syrup and butter in a pan and heat gently until dissolved. Leave to cool.
Sift the flour and spices into a bowl, making a hollow in the centre. Cream the yeast with a little of the warm milk, then blend in the rest of the milk. Pour this into the flour along with the malt mixture, stirring to make a dough.
Knead on a floured surface for about 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Place in an oiled bowl, cover with oiled clingfilm and leave in a warm place to double in bulk This can take up to 2 hours.
Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knock back. Gently knead in the dried fruits, then divide the dough in half, and placing in two greased 1 lb (450g) loaf tins. Cover again with oiled cling film and leave to rise until the dough has reached the top of the tins - this will take up to an hour and a half. Check after the hour.
Bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 35 - 40 minutes until golden, then remove from the tins and cool on a wire rack. Heat the ingredients for the glaze in a small pan and brush this over the warm loaves.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Money Saving with Style

Here is a useful guide to the balance of ingredients used with 8 oz (225g) plain flour when baking in a conventional oven. Teaspoons should be level. Bp = baking powder. For the rich and very rich cakes up to 2 oz more fruit (than stated) could be added.
scones: 4 tsp Bp; 2 oz fat; approx 5fl oz milk
plain cake: 3 tsp Bp; 1 egg; 3 0z each fat, sugar, fruit; 5 fl oz milk
rich cake: 1 tsp Bp; 3 eggs;6 oz each fat, sugar, fruit, 5 fl.oz milk
very rich: no Bp: 4 eggs; 8 oz fat, sugar and fruit, little milk
Victoria sponge: 1 tsp Bp; 8 oz fat and sugar; 4 eggs, little milk

Baking powder is the normal raising agent for cakes although bicarbonate of soda is better when a mixture contains an acid such as buttermilk (or yogurt).

For a final suggestion: imagine you have one piece of fruit per person.. One could have an orange, another a banana, a third could have an apple, the fourth a few grapes. One their own, eaten individually, not a lot to offer for dessert. On the other hand, the orange segmented, the banana sliced, the apple left unpeeled but cored and cut into thick chunks or slices, each grape cut in half. Put together they then seem quite an amount. Pile these into empty orange shells, pour over a little syrup (add a little kirsch or orange liqueur to the syrup if you wish), and serve - maybe with a dollop of cream on top. It doesn't take much more than presentation to move your average fruit several rungs up the culinary laddeer.

Booze is mentioned more than once in my recipes. You may think that does not fall into the frugal food territory, but then if you do as I do - for Christmas and Birthday pressies ask for a bottle of kirsch, a bottle of sherry, a bottle of brandy (you can make your own orange liqueur from that), and bottle of rum - and this request can given be over several years to different people. Believe me - just used for cooking, these last for AGES and never have I had to buy any myself. Tell a lie - did treat myself to some limoncello and also a bottle of Advocaat last year (still barely used), but even these can be included on my wish list when they run out.
Remember that WE don't have to buy anything expensive when we have a perfectly acceptable reason for someone else to do the purchasing.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Gilding the Lily

Now for the cakes that can be made with a bread machine. With these yeast-less cakes the kneading paddle needs removing from the pan and the base and sides lined with non-stick baking parchment or greased greaseproof paper. Cakes cooked by this method tend to brown up on the outsides more than if baked in an oven, so always check at the low end of the cooking time.

As gingerbread is so popular and keeps so well, this recipe has the ingredients given for three sizes: small, medium and large, the amounts for the small size come first. Have colour-coded the others in the hope this makes the recipe easier to adapt.
Gingerbread (machine):
6 oz (175g) plain flour (8 oz/226g) (10oz/280g)
1 tsp ground ginger (same or a little more)
half tsp mixed spice (a little more)
quarter tsp bicarb. soda (half tsp) (3/4 tsp)
1 tsp baking powder (1.5 tsp) (2 tsp)
3 oz (75g) light muscovado sugar (4 oz/115g) (4.5oz/125g)
2 oz (50g) butter, diced (3 oz/75g) (4oz/110g)
3 oz (75g) golden syrup (3.5oz/100g) (4.5oz/125g)
1 oz (25g) black treacle (2oz/50g) (2oz/50g)
7 tblsp milk (5floz/150ml) (7fl oz/200ml)
1 egg, lightly beaten (same for all)
1 oz (25g) stem ginger finely chopped (2 oz/50g) (2 oz/50g)
Sift together the flour, spices and raising agents. Into a pan put the sugar, butter, syrup and treacle and heat gently until dissolved. Pour this over the dry mixture in the bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and mix together thoroughly. Pour into the prepared bread pan and set the machine to 'Bake Only' . Set the time for 45 - 50 minutes for small size, medium 50 - 55 minutes, large 65 - 70 minutes, or bake until well risen. Remove the pan from the machine, leave to stand for 3 minutes, then remove the gingerbread to a cake airer to cool. When cold, wrap and keep for a couple of days to allow the texture and flavours to develop.

Madeira Cake: makes 1 medium cake.
5 oz (150g) butter, softened
5 oz (140g) caster sugar
few drops vanilla extract
5.5 oz (165g) self-raising flour
1.5 oz (40g) plain flour
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 - 2 tblsp milk
Cream together the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy, beat in the vanilla extract. Sift the flours together. Beat the eggs into the creamed mixture a little at a time, adding a little of the flour if it appears to curdle. Using a metal spoon, fold in the remaining flour adding enough milk to give a dropping consistency. Spoon the mixture into the prepared bread pan and set to Bake Only. If the setting gives too long a time, set the timer to 45 - 50 minutes and check at the lowest time. The cake should be well risen and firm, test with a skewer or cake-tester to make sure the centre is baked, if necessary bake a few minutes longer. Remove the pan from the machine, leave to stand 3 minutes then turn the cake onto a cake airer to cool.

Some time back I mentioned adding grated apple to bread, and today noticed a recipe that is called a 'cake', but is made with yeast, the dough made in the machine - this time with the paddle, the baking done in the oven. This has the potential of being served with a cup of coffee as a 'cake', or served warm with cream or yogurt as a dessert. The apple should be a tart 'eater' similar to a Granny Smith. Other seasonal fruits such as plums, damsons, peaches and apricots can be used instead of the cherries.,
Bavarian Coffee Cake: makes 1 cake (machine method)
5 fl oz (150ml) water
1 egg
3 oz (75g) grated green eating apple
1 lb (450g) white bread flour
2 tblsp skimmed milk powder
2 0z (50g) caster sugar
3 tblsp melted butter
1/5 tsp (7.5ml) easy-blend dried yeast
8 oz (225g) cherries, stoned
8 oz (225g) marzipan, grated
1 tsp ground cinnamon
beaten egg white
1 tblsp demerara sugar
2 tblsp flaked almonds, cut into strips
Note: depending upon the make of machine, the wet and dry ingredients may need to be added to the pan in reverse order.
Pour the water and egg into the pan and sprinkle over the grated apple. Add the flour, making sure it covers the liquids completely. Add the milk powder, sugar, cinnamon and butter (some recipes say these should be placed in separate corners of the pan - but when making bread I tend to mix them into the flour - melted butter would go in with the liquids). Make a small hollow in the centre of the flour and pour in the dried yeast.
Set the machine to basic dough setting and press 'Start'. When the cycle has run its course, remove the dough from the machine, and placing it on a lightly floured surface, knock it back and roll it out to a 16" square. Arrange cherries on top, scattering over the marzipan. Roll up the dough as for a Swiss roll, then gently roll and stretch to form a sausage 22 " (55cm) long. Loosely coil the roll round itself and place in a non-stick 9"(23cm) springform cake tin. Cover the tin with oiled cling-film, and leave to stand in a warm place for about 45 minutes or until the dough has risen/doubled in size. Brush the top of the cake with egg-white, scatter over the sugar and nuts, and bake at 190C, 375F, gas 5 for 30 - 35 minutes until well-risen and golden. Remove from oven, leave to stand for a few minutes in the tin, then remove and place on a cake airer to cool. Can be served warm or cold, cut into slices or wedges.