Thursday, July 31, 2008

Positive Thinking

For once, seem to have quite a few things to chat about today. Firstly the missing archives: members of my family have said the archives appear in the normal way when they log on, perhaps it is just this computer that is playing up. Would appreciate it if you would let me know if the archives are missing when you log on, or you have to access the archives via the 'search blog' box (as suggested over the past few days). If the problem is this end then no need for me to keep giving reminders.

Janet's comment referring to even more rise in the price of gas gave 'food for thought'. When this blog was started, the aim was to prove that if we needed to find that little bit more money, it could be easily done by cutting costs in the kitchen. Now that bubble has burst. We can still save money - when we know how - but it has now become a matter of struggling to keeping level with our food budget, than just using different and cheaper ingredients, making it all the harder to save the necessary pennies to put towards the winter fuel bills. Even the cost of fuel used in cooking now has to be considered.

Last night watched the repeat of the sandwich programme. Did try to bring it up on via as you suggested SweeterRita, but it wouldn't come up due to not having the correct setting on this comp.. so instead watched it on More 4 late in the day. As with many 'ready-to-eat-foods', it seems things are not always what they seem to be. Was shocked to see how one large 'sub' contained as much salt as ten packets (or was it more?) of salted potato crisps. Have to say that made me feel a lot better about eating crisps if that is the case.
Have never felt the need to buy pre-packed sandwiches apart from once when I wanted to find out how much cheaper it was to make the same thing myself. The results of this, and recipes are on 14th Oct. '06. Prices have risen since then, but on checking, we will now save even more making them ourselves, and at least we are in control of what goes into them.

Yesterday wanted to watch three cookery programmes on TV, so decided to make a chilli con carne for supper, make it earlier in the day so that it could be reheated. Left it a bit late and then was a concerned I might nod off in front of the TV (often do),so not able to stir the meat from time to time, and it could burn. So decided instead to cook the chilli in a different way. Normally onion is fried, the minced steak added, that fried off, then tomatoes added, spices etc. This time I put the meat in a pan, covered it with water and separated the mince with my fingers so it did not cook into clumps, then added a can of plum tomatoes, chopped those up into the mince, added one beef stock cube and cooked the lot (lid on) over a slow simmer. Have to say - even without the onions - this worked like a charm, no need to keep running back to check every few minutes, and of course no oil was needed for cooking (healthier and cheaper). After a couple of hours, the liquid was reduced somewhat, so turned off the heat and went back to watching other people cooking.
Nearer suppertime I added the spices, plus a little bit of dark chocolate, heated up the chilli then turned it into a large frying pan to cook off the surplus liquid (the wider the pan the quicker the liquid is reduced). Surprisingly, there seemed to be no difference in flavour between the fried version (with onions) and the stewed version, but there was a marked difference in texture for the meat was much more tender. From now on this is the way I will be cooking chilli.

If anyone was watching 'Eating for the Enemy' (wouldn't a better title be 'Cooking for the Critics'?) they would see James Martin showing how to cook meringue. Not a normal meringue, but Italian meringue made by whisking boiling sugar syrup into the egg whites - and this is exactly how the meringue for my soft-scoop ice-cream recipe (mentioned earlier this week) is made.
The critics kept saying how difficult it is to make profiteroles, but then I find them so easy, far easier than making a good shortcrust pastry. Cannot see what is difficult about it. Perhaps I am lucky.

Then of course they really looked down their noses because one of the ingredients used was curry paste from a jar, and the spices were not put together in the studio kitchen. Just as well the amateur cook hadn't used one of those cheap cans of curry sauce. Why not cut corners when you can? It is great to urge everyone to get back to cooking, but please - let's make it as easy as possible, not give the impression that everything has to start from scratch.

On BBC2 at 7.00pm there was a new programme on growing our own produce, and this made wonderful viewing. Was amazed at how heavy the crop was from Jerusalem artichokes, and did not realise how tall they grew and hoped the flowers would last when cut, for there is nothing like vases (or even jam pots) of fresh flowers around the house. For anyone who missed it, it may be repeated during the week or can be picked up on IPlayer. The start of a series, so all you budding gardeners out there, please watch it - one of the most inspiring programmes seen recently.

When out yesterday (hairdressers - and to save money have now cut this down to once every two weeks instead of weekly), read through my favourite mag: The Week. They gave me a copy I had read previously, but there is always enough in there to give hours of reading. Zoomed in on the food page and was reading what the critics said about three different eating houses and the food served there. One thing caught my eye - a mention of an amuse bouche which I believe is a something like an edible appetiser. This was a chilled soup served in a small glass (think it is called a shot). It wasn't the soup that caught my eye, it was the chive straw served with it - to use to drink the soup instead of a spoon. If my chives are anything to go by, they would be no good, HOWEVER, do have some sprouting onions, and cutting the shoots from these and removing the tips, they would make perfect straws. So there is a different approach for us. Cannot wait to try this out myself.

Now to the positive thinking. However bad things get, if we can keep being optimistic about things, nothing is really as bad as it could be. Optimists will survive more happily than the pessimists - who, it has to be said, are rarely happy about anything, even when life is good.
When we first moved up to Yorkshire, it did seem that the Yorkshire people seemed rather dour (compared to us Midlanders who are happiness personified) . I would pop into the garden, cheerily say hallo to our neighbour and say what a nice day it was, and he would always and very grumpily come back with "Oh, it's bound to rain later", or "What's nice about it? Still have the bills to pay", etc, etc. Mine you he did come from a bit further north, so perhaps that made a difference.
A close friend of mine, soon after I had first met her many years ago, called to see me on one of those early days, around the time I was trying to survive on nearly nothing, and found me thrilled to bits because I had made a four course meal from about tuppenceworth of ingredients and the crumbs found down the back of the couch. She sat there and said, very sourly, "you won't find it fun when you have to keep doing it every day". She spoke from experience I know, but I wondered then why she couldn't have found it an agreeable challenge. Now, some thirty years later with barely a break, am still 'keeping doing it' - it has always remained fun and hope always will be.

Yesterday the estate agent phoned again to ask us to reduce our house even more, this time by £20,000. If we do that we still have to pay moving costs, agents and solicitors fees etc. They won't reduce their charges. We just cannot afford to keep lowering the price, if we did, people will still wait to see if we will lower it even more, and we are now just stuck between a rock and a hard place. Looks like we will be hear for another year or two before things improve.

That doesn't sound very positive at all, but every cloud... the way I see it is that it is yet another challenge to meet head on, and challenges I really love, so in some ways I couldn't be happier. It would be so easy to get depressed about what life is serving up on a plate at the moment, but whatever it is eat and enjoy what you've got I say. Things could be worse.
Who knows what will come next, but when it comes to food, at least we can still afford to mix and match our food purchases and - while the supermarkets are still chasing customers - there are enough bargains there to buy plenty within our means. We cooks are the lucky, LUCKY ones, for we always have a choice of ingredients and control over what we cook and what we serve. Non-cooks who rely on ready-meals and take-aways are just about forced by the manufacturers to eat what they give us. And watching a lot of recent programmes, who knows what that really is. Am pretty sure pet foods give better value for money.

Over the months (nearly 2 years now) this blog has offered over a couple of thousand recipes, and nearly all as economical as you can get. Plus plenty of hints and tips. When I scroll down to look up a recipe, there is tendency to want to find out what comes below, so continue scrolling further down and surprise myself sometimes. Modesty not being my strong point, there appears to be plenty of good reading further back. Possibly more interesting than recent postings (because am fast running out of suggestions). Even so, let's continue seekingto recipes that can be adjusted to suit both the pocket and the palate.

This first is a recipe for a savoury cheesecake. One of the ingredients is a liver pate, and this could be home-made chicken liver pate, or even one of those 'sausages' of liver and bacon spreading pate that cost around 40p! and considering the texture it is bound to be preformed something, but we quite like it spread on toast, so I don't read the label too closely. A chicken spread/pate could easily be made at home by processing some cooked chicken (picked from the carcase) with some butter, nutmeg etc. Or why not use smoked mackerel pate? Just because some may shudder at liver pate doesn't mean that another pate couldn't be used instead.
Because this is a savoury dish, any sort of broken cheese biscuits could be used for the base, even cream crackers or Ryvita. Instead of Cheddar, any hard cheese would do or a mixture. As always use the recipe as a guide.
Country Cheesecake: serves 6
5 oz (150g) bran biscuits or other, crushed
3 oz (75g) butter, melted
4 oz (100g) liver pate
4 tblsp mayonnaise
2 tsp tomato ketchup
1 shallot, grated
5 oz (15og) Cheddar cheese, grated
2 oz (50g) celery, chopped
2 oz (50g) red bell pepper, chopped
salt and pepper
Mix the butter and biscuit crumbs together and press into the base of a 7" loose-bottomed, clingfilm lined, flan tin. Chill. Mix together the mayonnaise, ketchup and shallot and put 4 tblsp of this mixture into a bowl and blend in the pate. Stir in the remaining ingredients, adding seasoning to taste. If the mixture is very still add a little more of the mayonnaise mix. Spread this mixture over the crumb base. Chill for 2 hours before serving. Garnish with sliced tomatoes, radishes, watercress, spring onions.

This next recipe is for an unusual pate in that it contains no meat or fish. Ideally, aspic (savoury jelly) is used, but a jelly made from gelatine crystals could be used (or agar agar if vegetarian). The cost of eggs may now put this in a higher price bracket, but eggs can still be bought for 10p each. The eggs from my milkman (free range large @ 15p each) delivered last week were all double-yolked. For cooking purposes these still have to be counted as one yolk, as they are always small. On the other hand, are perfect for serving to children, one yolk each.
Classic Egg Pate: serves 4
5 fl oz (150ml) made aspic jelly, cooled
6 eggs, hard-boiled
6 level tblsp mayonnaise
1 - 2 tsp mild curry paste
half tsp lemon juice
salt and pepper
stuffed olives
Finely chop the eggs, then mash them with a fork, together with 3 fl.oz aspic, the mayo and curry paste. Stir in the lemon juice, season to taste and divide the mixture between 4 ramekin dishes. Chill for half an hour. Slice a couple or so olives finely and arrange these on the top, then pour over remaing aspic to seal (the aspic may need reheating slightly if set). Chill and serve with melba toast.

A couple of recipes coming up that have honey as an ingredient. The roulade uses no fat, but the refrigerator cake more than makes up for that. Honey is not cheap, but it keeps forever and often is one of those foods that people bring as a gift. Anyone who grows parsley can make their own 'parsley honey' and this could be a good substitute for the real thing. I cannot reach my recipe index at the moment, but if I find the recipe will edit the date in shortly after this posting has been published. Otherwise will re-print it later this week.
Honey and Walnut Roulade: 8 - 10 slices
3 large eggs, separated
2 tsp water
3 oz (75g) caster sugar
3 tblsp runny honey
4 oz (100g) self-raising flour, sifted
3 oz (75g) walnuts, finely ground
10 fl.oz (300ml) double cream
1 oz (25g) walnut pieces, lightly crushed
walnut halves for garnish
Lightly beat the egg yolks with 2 tlsp of the honey. Whisk the egg whites with the water until very firm and white, then gradually whisk in the sugar a spoonful at a time. When very stiff, fold in the yolks and honey.
Mix the ground walnuts with the flour and fold this into the egg mixture, pour this over a lined, greased and floured Swill roll tin 9" x 11" (or thereabouts) and level off the top. Bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 12 minutes or until firm to the touch. Turn out onto a sugared piece of greaseproof paper, trim the edges of the roll and roll up together with the paper. Leave to cool.
Meanwhile, beat the cream until thick and fold in the walnut pieces and the final tablespoon of honey. When the cake is quite cold, unroll and remove the paper. Spread the cake with the cream mixture and re-roll.
Decorate with a sprinkle of caster or icing sugar and walnut halves.

Not necessarily cheap, but a good way to use up odds and ends of fruit, biscuits, booze. Instead of all butter, use half and substitute melted chocolate. Any crushed sweet biscuits will do, and almost any dried fruits instead of or with the candied peel/glace cherries.
Refrigerator Honey Cake: 8 - 10 slices
8 oz (225g) digestive or other sweet biscuits, crushed
6 oz (175g) butter
2 tbls runny honey
2 level tblsp cocoa powder
2 tblsp sherry OR...
...1 tlblsp chosen liqueur
4 oz (100g) chopped glace cherries
4 oz (100g) chopped candied peel
Cream the butter and gradually beat in the honey. Stir in the remaining ingredients and press into a greased and lined 1 lb (450g) loaf tin - or an 8" cake tin. Press down firmly and chill for several hours. Serve cut into slices.

Back to the savoury. This next is a party dish, so serves a goodly number of people. It is quite simple to reduce quantites to serve a family, and also the amount of the expensive ingredients (chicken, ham) can be cut down to keep costs low. Just add more of the cheaper ingredients. Fresh nectarines are part of this dish, but probably it would be cheaper to buy a can of apricots (drain off the juice, use this to make a jelly), and often canned sliced peaches can be picked up really cheaply as a 'loss leader'. Going back to the chicken/ham. Those of us who cook our own will already know that a goodly amount of cooked meat can be picked from a carcase, and so just take 'breasts' as a guide, not mandatory. When slicing our own ham (preferably using a slicing machine as you get a lot more that way) the end scraps can be used for a dish such as this.
Chicken Salad with Ham and Nectarines: serves 8 - 10
equivalent of 5 cooked chicken breasts
8 oz (225g) ham cut into strips
3 - 4 nectarines
1 bag mixed salad leaves
6 tblsp olive oil
2 tblsp fresh tarragon, chopped
3 tblsp white wine vinegar
2 tsp runny honey
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
salt and pepper
142 carton creme fraiche or sour cream
If using cooked chicken breasts, cut them into thin strips (the thinner the strips the more it looks), or shred up pieces of chicken taken from the carcase. Likewise, cut the ham into 'batons'. Remove stones from the fruit and cut these into strips.
To make the dressing: whisk together the oil, vinegar, honey, mustard and garlic and season to taste, stir in the tarragon. Then whisk in the creme fraiche, taste, adding more seasoning if necessary.
Mix together the chicken, ham and fruits and toss these in half the dressing. Spread the salad leaves over a large platter and pile the meats on top, drizzling over the remaining dressing when ready to serve.

Having given suggestions on how to cut down on the expense, above recipe is given more for contemplation than suggesting we all go out and spend, spend, spend. Many months ago costings were done to find out the difference in price between home-cooked sliced meats and bought (usually vacuum packed). My goodness, the savings were so large there would be enough to buy an electric slicing machine with money left over. So I bought the slicer and very glad I did (it also slices bread, and excellent for slicing frozen bread as thin as you wish). For anyone with room in the freezer, and who loves quality cooked meat, (that has no 'extra added water', or salt, or any other preservatives - in fact as pure as you can get) do the family a favour by roasting a joint now and again and carving it when cold, as thinly as possible (this is where the electric slicer does all the work, giving far more slices than we could manage to carve by hand). Ham joints can be roasted, but find them more succulent if covered with water and simmered for the recommended cooking time - then left to cool in the water to prevent drying out. Again cannot remember the dates of the above trials, probably late '06 or early '07.

Once we slice oir own roasts, there will always be the bonus of scraps and end bits that can be turned into meat pastes, or even added to the dish such as the above. Not only that we have the drippings from the joint - the fat skimmed off and used for cooking (roast potatoes in beef dripping or Beloved's favourite, beef dripping on toast sprinkled with salt - an evil chuckle from me when I think of what the nutritionists and health experts would make of that). Plus the other meat juices to turn into gravy, real gravy, none of the packet or stock cube stuff. Good gravy is also worth freezing away until needed. Just thinking about is making me sniff the air like a Bisto Kid, and can actually recall the smell of beef roasting (reminds me to trial out something today. If it works will tell you. If not, may still tell you).
My guest last week, who is 'a lady that lunches', was telling me about one of her weekly pub lunches she has with a friend who has completely lost her sense of taste and smell. Yet she tucks into hearty meals and says she enjoys them because she can remember what they taste like. Memory is a strange thing. You would think it would be a good way to diet (friend of friend is always wanting to lose weight), if we could just sit and look a picture of a favourite dish and remember what it tastes like without the need to eat. Would also save quite a lot of money. Must try that (says she stuffing her face with toast and Marmite that Beloved has brought in).

Meanwhile, time for me to finish for today, still have much work to do on my recipe index, cross referencing by typing the major ingredients in the box at the side of each recipe, many with odd names I have to keep going back to the blog site to refer to. Taking me ages, but if any of you want a recipe for a certain ingredient, then it is easy to pull out only the recipes that use it.

Keep the comments coming, and enjoy your day.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Shape of Things to Come

(type archives in search box at top of page, click on 'search blog' and they will reappear)

Have to keep repeating the above for new readers, or they won't be able to look up past blogs. Sooner or later it will get sorted. Quite a few comments (hooray), so will start by replying to these.

Apologies Stella, gave you the wrong date for the soft-scoop ice-cream recipe, it should have been 31st Dec. '06. The later mention (came with one of my rare photographs) had slightly different proportions of ingredients, but not enough to be concerned about. The December recipe also came with several different flavours.
Worth looking up Dec. 20th (forgot to make a note of the year, try '06) for there you will find three easy desserts that can be made with the ice-cream.

Cheesepare: never thought of using up fallen apples, not the 'June drop' ones anyway as they were no bigger than cherry tomatoes, if that, but it is a very good idea. Will try that next year (if we are still here). Re the oatcakes, there is a recipe for these on 31st Oct '06, and virtually the same as Moira gave in her comment, although I used to use bacon fat or lard, rather than butter.
Have to say I use porridge oats for most recipes although this would be frowned on in Scotland where they treat their oats with more respect. Our porridge oats are rolled oats that have been steam treated to kill off any enzymes that would cause them to go rancid, the Scots prefer their porridge made with untreated (fresh) pin-head oatmeal. That is what my book tells me anyway.
When I buy ingredients for muesli, begin with a basic manufactured muesli mix then add all sorts of other things. Tesco do sell coarser rolled oats, think they are Jordan's. These I buy to include in the muesli and also to add to crumble mix, but they are more expensive than the stores 'own-brand' porridge oats' These I buy because they make a bowl of porridge so darn cheap compared to any other cereal breakfast. If I want oat flour then I whizz them up in the blender or food processor.

Thank you Moira for sending the oatcake recipe, and also for your suggestions for beans. Look forward to trying them.

Missed seeing the programme re sandwiches SweeterRita, but had made a note to watch it later this week when it is on one of the digital channels in the evening - where I think it again clashes with something else I want to watch, so will probably look as per your suggestion. Thanks for that.

You are really selling me the Remoska Janet, it does sound very good indeed and would make a perfect present for someone living in a small apartment or who has to share a kitchen. Suppose it could be used in any room that has an electric plug.
Glad to read that you found your stores kept you going when funds were low. Slowly building up a storecupboard, maybe buying one or two packs or cans at a time, is always a good idea. Foods to keep in store never come with a 'use-by' date, only the 'best-before', and it is known that they can be used for some time after that - like months, years...just as long as they eventually get used of course. Without my stores I would panic. Maybe I look on them as my survival kit.

Today, being 'an early appointment day', this posting may be shorter than normal, but still have plenty of time left. Decided to write about foods in general, but changing their appearance. So often we get used to making something to eat, be it sweet or savoury, and always it looks the same, and nobody really minds about that, but it can sometimes seem to be a bit like the way we (as an individual) can often seem to our families - there but not really noticed. But when we wear a different outfit, and especially if we have our hair done in a different way - they then sit up and really look. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but at least it made them look twice. Food deserves the same treatment.

My first suggestion is to those that make their own bread. Maybe it is always made in a machine, if so - try making the dough in the machine, then finish baking it in the oven, for this way you can shape it any which way you like. Maybe making one of those old-fashioned cottage loaves that are rarely seen these days, or dividing the dough into three, rolling each into a long sausage then plaiting it. That really looks good and the top can be enhanced by brushing with milk and sprinkling over sesame or poppy seeds before baking. In a mag. my guest brought me there is a savoury version of the plait - just knead crispy bacon bits and crumbled Stilton into the risen dough before plaiting and giving it a second rise.
Another way would be to roll a sausage of brown bread dough and roll this up in white bread dough (or vice versa), put it into a tin (or make a free-form Bloomer loaf), leave to rise for the second time then bake.

In a reply to one of the comments above, mentioned desserts that could be made using home-made (or even bought) ice-cream. Cheap and easy enough to make at home, these do cost a lot more when bought. But if wishing to stay with ice-cream in its 'natural state', we could instead serve three scoops per person, but each a different flavour (vanilla, strawberry, chocolate). Try also rolling scoops of basic vanilla ice-cream in grated chocolate or nuts and return to the freezer ready for serving. Anything for a change.

Even something as inexpensive as jelly can be made more interesting when half a pack each of three different flavours (lemon, orange, lime - or strawberry, blackcurrant, pineapple etc) are be made up and when set, chopped then put into a bowl (keeping the colours separate). Jelly cubes look very sparkly when cut with a wetted knife, like a bowlful of jewels. All you really need with that is a jug of pouring cream.

There will be some of you who feel that all this 'messing about' is not worth the effort. Do you know, I feel just the same when I see someone come out of the hairdressers with a style that looks just as if they have got out of bed. Mine looks exactly like that when I go into the salon. Querying this am told 'it is the fashion'. But we all tend to take time on our own appearance, some take hours (I can get ready in five minutes flat, but then never wear makeup these days), and a man can disappear into his shed 'to get something' and be away for ages. So always there is seems to be time to spare for these activities, and when preparing food we should always save a little of this time to put to good use now and again. Many people will spend happy hours with a favourite hobby, so why not turn cooking into a hobby rather than a chore?

Back to the re-styling: instead of normal sarnies, serve them double-decker as 'club-sandwiches' - just three slices of bread with fillings instead of two. These can be very substantial, and as they take the place of two rounds of sarnies, so we save a slice of bread anyway. Even with a plain two-slice sarnie, one slice could be white bread, the other brown.
For party fare, take one slice of bread (white or brown), remove the crusts (dry these out to use with dips or for making dried crumbs). Roll the bread out as thinly as possible, spread with a little butter, mayo or cream cheese, spread over chosen filling and roll up tightly. Wrap in cling film and chill. Depending upon the filling, these could be frozen ready for a forthcoming party. Fillings could be smoked salmon/cream cheese/brown bread; sandwich spread/white bread; meat and fish pastes/ white or brown bread; ham, chicken, beef/brown or white bread. Do not freeze hardboiled eggs (unless chopped very finely and bound with mayo, or any salad leaves, cucumber etc.

And time is now up so have to leave you for today. Hope some of the above has been useful. Must now try and think up something interesting to write about tomorrow. Seem to have covered just about everything. Heck it is now raining, but then it would do that just as I am about to go out.
Until tomorrow...

Pancakes - savoury or sweet. Do they always have to be yellow-tinged-with-brown? Savoury pancakes can be coloured with tomato puree, or beetroot juice (for red), spinach juice (green), and look much more interesting. Dessert pancakes can have a little cocoa powder sifted with the flour to make chocolate pancakes. A couple or so drops of food colouring (if you still use it, and I do) can also colour the crepes. To save time on the day, ideally make batches of these pancakes, interleave and freeze ready for use (and remember to label).

Even when coating fishcakes, rissoles and the like. Does it always have to be egg and breadcrumbs? No. Egg possibly, but this could be just the white of egg, or only the yolk blended with a little milk (why use a whole egg when one or other part would do ? Use the rest for something else). Instead of the bread, used crushed cornflakes, crushed bran flakes (and almost any cereal that will crush), crushed crisps (endless variety of flavours to choose there), even use cornmeal, semolina, chickpea flour, porridge oats.

Several of the above 'coatings' would also be good added to a savoury crumble topping. With the mention of crumble in mind, a quick way to make is not rub in the butter, but melt it, stir it into the ingredients, saves messy fingers and works just as well.

If wishing to avoid wheat/carbohydrate products, it is possible to give the effect of pasta by thinly slicing ribbons of courgettes, carrots, turnips, etc and cooking them until 'al dente' (courgettes need little more than blanching- the others take longer), and serve these instead of tagliatelle or noodles, with perhaps meatballs or spag.bol meat sauce, or just a sauce of your choice.
For those that can take carbos but allergic to wheat, it should be possible to make pasta using riceflour or cornmeal. Haven't yet tried it but see no reason why it shouldn't work.

Time has caught up with me so will have to finish. Hope that some of the above is of interest and useful. Back tomorrow like the proverbial bad penny. See you then.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Saucy Topics

If archives are still missing , scroll down and they will be found at the bottom, or type in archives in the search box at the top of the blog page, press 'search blog' and the archives should re-appear at the side.

It is said that (any) meat cooked on the bone has more flavour than if the bone is removed. If the bone has to be removed this is easier when meat has been frozen and is slightly thawed, rather than boned before freezing . Most meats are easier to handle when partially frozen, so even buying a piece of fresh fillet beef, worth chilling for 20 - 30 minutes in the freezer to make it far easier to slice really thinly and cook almost in seconds, useful for a Strogonoff, stir-fry or similar. The thinner the meat is sliced, the further it seems to go, so a case of buying less yet looking more.

Even though the protein content is still there, cheap poultry meat is virtually tasteless, so today am giving a selection of sauces that will definitely enhance a chicken dish. Some of these can be used for other meats so quite a useful collection to file away.
It is amazing how a few herbs and spices, and a couple or so other storecupboard ingredients can improve almost any dish, especially the economical ones. Look on it as chicken being a blank canvas (in these days one wonders if a real canvas would taste better) and the herbs/spices are the palette of colours (flavours) that when put onto the canvas (bird) will turn into one picture (dish) after another, and all different.

This first sauce is multi-purpose as it can be poured over chicken before cooking, or stirred into cooked Chinese noodles to serve as a side dish, used as a stir-fry sauce with vegetables and meat, and even drizzled over a crisp green salad as an alternative salad dressing.
oriental sauce:
1 tblsp sesame seeds
2 tblsp soft light brown sugar
1 tblsp soy sauce
1 tblsp sesame oil
1 tblsp sherry
half inch piece of fresh root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tsp water
Put everything together in a clean jam jar, screw on the lid and give a good shake to blend the ingredients. Keep in the fridge if not using all at once. Use within a couple of weeks, or freeze in small quantities.

creole sauce: serve with barbecued chicken, esp good with jerk chicken. Also with fish.
1 tbsp sunflower oil
1 onion, chopped
1 each yellow and orange bell peppers
2 tomatoes, deseeded and chopped
1 tblsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1 tblsp pineapple juice*
Put the oil in a frying pan and saute the onions until softened. Meanwhile char the pepper skins (by oven roasting or over a gas flame) place these in a plastic bag, leave to steam/cool for 5 minutes, then peel off the skins (the skins can be discarded). Deseed the peppers and chop. Add to the onions with the remaining ingredients and simmer for 10 minutes. Blitz in a food processor or blender until a smooth sauce.
Note: It is always worth buying a can of pineapple slices, open the tin, remove rings and wrap and freeze separately, then freeze the juice in ice-cube trays. One (or even half a) slice can be removed and chopped to add to fruit salads or stir-fries, the juice can be used for a sauce such as this, or added to a fruit salad.

tikka sauce: use as a marinade for chicken or fish
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
5 tblsp plain yogurt
half tsp each: ground cumin, coriander and cayenne
1 tblsp tikka curry paste
half inch piece ginger, grated
Mix everything together in a bowl and brush over chicken or fish and leave to marinade for at least 2 hours or preferably overnight in the fridge.

honey and mustard sauce: smear over chicken kebabs or serve with veggie burgers. Thinned down this also makes a good salad dressing.
2 tblsp Dijon mustard
1 tblsp runny honey
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp olive oil
Put all ingredients into a bowl and whisk together. Store in a screwtop jar in the fridge. Will keep up to a fortnight.

Use this next marinade for 12 - 16 chicken wings. Ideally, get into the habit of using ice-cube trays to freeze white wine, lemon and lime juices, other fruit coulis, even chopped fresh herbs, then whenever we wish to make a dish such as this, a lot of the necessary is there ready and waiting to be thawed. Even on Saturday, a bottle of red wine being opened to breathe, I was able to fill a couple of sections in the ice-cube tray. OK, not a lot, but it made very little difference to the amount in the bottle, and even just one cube dropped and cooked in a gravy would make a heck of a lot of difference to its flavour.
After marinading the wings for at least 4 hours in the fridge (or overnight, turning occasionally), bring back to room temperature and roast in the marinade, uncovered at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for half an hour (or slightly less), basting frequently until the chicken is tender and golden (check the honey isn't burning). Serve hot with lime wedges to squeeze over. Also eats well cold.

honey and lime marinade: serves 4
2 tblsp olive oil
2 tblsp dry white wine
6 tblsp lime juice
3 tblsp clear honey
1 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
2 tsp chopped fresh marjoram or oregano
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme

Here is a complete recipe where chicken drumsticks (or could be thighs or both) are cooked in an orange sauce - thus giving an entirely different flavour to any of the above suggestions.
marinated orange chicken: serves 4
8 chicken drumsticks
for the marinade:
4 fl oz (120ml) orange juice
5 fl oz (150ml) Greek yogurt
5 fl oz (150ml) single cream
half inch fresh root ginger, grated
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 tblsp soy sauce
pepper to taste
Mix together the marinade ingredients into a shallow dish large enough to take the chicken in one layer. Prick the drumsticks all over with a fork, then place in the marinade. Turn so the chicken is evenly coated. Cover and leave for 12 hours in the fridge, turning the chicken once or twice.
Remove from the fridge a good half hour before cooking as the chicken needs to return to room temperature.
Remove the lid/covering from the chicken and bake in the dish (with the marinade) at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for one hour, basting every 15 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and golden. Serve with what you will.

buttery chicken with spicy nut sauce: serves 6
3 oz (75g) butter
3 oz (75g) cashew nuts
3 large or 6 small chicken breasts
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
1 inch fresh root ginger, grated
1 tsp mild curry paste
4 green cardamom pods, crushed (use seeds only)
5 fl oz (15oml) chicken stock
5 fl oz (15oml) double cream
salt and pepper
Put half the butter in a pan and when melted add one-third of the cashew nuts and fry until a pale golden colour. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the chicken breasts to the pan (few at a time) and saute them over medium heat for about 8 -10 minutes on each side until golden brown. As they are cooked, keep warm while the remaining breasts are cooked.
Meanwhile, melt the remaining butter in a frying pan and fry the onion for five minutes, then stir in the garlic, ginger and curry paste and fry for a couple more minutes. Stir in the cardamom seeds, the remaining cashew nuts and continue frying until the nuts are turning golden. Cool slightly. Put this mixture into a food processor, start the machine at low speed, then while running, gradually add the stock. When pureed, return to the frying pan, stir in the cream and season to taste. Add the chicken and any juices on the plate. Heat gently, stirring until the sauce thickens slightly. Serve with rice, scatter the lightly fried cashews on the top.

Some years ago we were given a box of Italian delights brought back by a relative who had been on holiday. Two jars of large pieces of fruits in syrup were an Italian luxury, and intended to be eaten with cold meats, terrines etc. so here is a recipe for something similar that could be made at home.
mustard fruits: makes nearly 2 pints (1 litre)
9 oz (250g) dried apricots
9 oz (250g) dried pears
16 fl. oz white wine vinegar
1 lb (450g) gran. sugar
3 tblsp mustard seeds
2 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp rock or sea salt
Soak the dried fruits in warm water for one hour. Drain (reserving 4 fl.oz/125ml of the liquid). Place the reserved liquid, the vinegar, sugar, mustard powder, seeds and salt into a pan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Simmer, uncovered for 5 minutes. Add the fruit and simmer for a further 15 minutes. Ladle into hot sterilised jars, and seal immediately. When cooled down, store in the fridge. Not suitable for freezing.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Less Costly Variations

With a dish such as Coq au Vin we would expect that to be costly, but there is a way round this. Don't use a whole bird, use either chicken drumsticks, chicken thighs or some of each. Of course we have the problem of paying for the wine, but you never know, someone may give us a bottle now and again, and we could have a go at making some ourselves. It is said that red wine vinegar plus a few cubes of sugar will make a substitute for wine in cooking, so maybe we could experiment a little.
As this dish can be made up to 2 days in advance, then reheated gently but thoroughly before serving, it is a useful recipe to file away.
Cheat's Coq au Vin: serves 4
half a bottle of full bodied red wine
8 chicken thighs or drumsticks
3 tblsp sunflower oil
1 oz (25g) butter
2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 oz (25g) plain flour
2 bay leaves
1 sprig thyme
peel from one orange, all pith removed
12 plump prunes, stones removed
salt and pepper
Put the chicken into a dish add the herbs and pour over the wine. Leave for at least an hour (chilled overnight if possible). Remove from the marinade (reserving the liquid and herbs), pat dry and fry in the oil for a few minutes, turning occasionally, until coloured. Add the butter and continue frying until the chicken has caramelised and turned a dark brown colour. Add the tomatoes and cook on high for 2 minutes until they too begin to caramelise. Stir in the flour, and once all the lumps are dispersed, slowly pour in the marinade stirring to thicken, then add just enough water to cover the chicken. Add the herbs and pieces of orange rind, bring to the boil. Remove any scum that comes to the surface. Add the prunes and tip the lot into a casserole dish. Cover partially (not completely) and braise in a low oven (110C, 225F, gas 1/4) for a couple of hours. The liquid should not boil. When the chicken is tender enough to fall from the bones, remove from the oven, and - using a slotted spoon - take the prunes and chicken from the dish and keep warm. Put the juices from the dish into a pan and reduce to a gravy. Season to taste. Pour this over the chicken and prunes and serve with chosen vegetables.

This next recipe is virtually a kedgeree, and although this - in the olden days - was normally a breakfast dish, it eats well at supper time, and although normally served when freshly cooked, have found it also eats well cold. For economy use canned salmon, tuna or mackerel rather than the fish given in the recipe, although cooked kippers also work well. With many recipes, the major ingredient depends on whether we can afford it, and if not, ask ourselves what cheaper substitute could be use instead? Personally, if buying the pack of mackerel (as in the recipe), considering that the eggs give extra protein, would suggest using half the pack of mackerel (turn the rest into smoked mackerel pate or use for another dish) and add extra (cheaper) eggs. This dish is even faster to make if you have any left-over cooked rice that could be used.
Speedy Rice Supper: serves 4
10 oz (300g) long-grain rice
1 pint (600ml) hot vegetable or fish stock
1 oz (25g) butter
1 tblsp mild (Korma) curry paste
4 oz (100g) frozen peas, thawed and cooked
150g pack smoked mackerel, skinned
3 tblsp creme fraiche
2 hard-boiled eggs, quartered
freshly ground black pepper
Cook the rice in the stock until tender. Drain well. Melt the butter in a frying pan and stir in the curry paste . Break the mackerel into chunks, stir that in, add the peas and creme fraiche, heat through, season to taste and serve garnished with the eggs.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Super Spuds and More

Recipe today is for a version of Chelsea buns, but much more enjoyable. A good one for children to make and bake. If you have no square tin of the correct size, the spirals can be cooked in a round or even oblong baking tin. Just as long as they fit together with a slight gap between (to allow for expansion when left to rise).
A savoury version could be made with a filling such as cheese 'n chutney; or pesto, sun-dried tomatoes and cheese.
Tear 'n Share Banana Spirals: makes 9
half a batch of basic white or granary dough
1 oz (25g) butter, melted
2 medium bananas
3 0z (75g) no-soak apricots, chopped
1 tsp cinnamon
2 oz (50g) light brown sugar
zest of 1 small orange
2 tblsp runny honey
Roll the dough out onto a floured surface into a rectangle 12" x 10" (30 x 25cm), then brush the surface with the melted butter. Mash the bananas and mix in the apricots, cinnamon, sugar and orange zest. Spoon this over the dough leaving a half inch (1.5cm) border all round. Roll the dough up from the long side and then cut this 'sausage' into 9 even pieces and place in an 8" (20cm) buttered baking tin, cut side up barely touching each other.
Cover and leave in a warm place for half an hour. Warm the honey for a few seconds so that it runs more easily then brush half over the tops of the buns. Bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for for approx 25 minutes until golden. Cool in the tin before removing to a cake airer. Brush with remaining honey. Tear apart to eat.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Time Sharing

Buying a mixed pack of dried fruit salad (apricots, apples, pears, figs, dates etc) works out cheaper than buying a pack of each, or just use the dried fruits you have as long as some figs are included). Cutting the pastry after baking prevents the filling from oozing out and makes them look much neater.
Figgy Rolls: makes a good 2 dozen
8 oz (225g) mixed large dried fruits
2 oz (50g) candied peel
4 tblsp runny honey
2 oz (50g) dark chocolate, grated
1 tsp cinnamon
Mince or process the dried fruit and candied peel. Blend in the honey, chocolate and cinnamon. Cover and chill for a couple of hours. This mixture will keep for up to 2 weeks in the fridge.
2 oz (50g) butter, softened
1 oz (25g) caster sugar
1 egg
1 tsp lemon zest
6 oz (175g) self-raising flour
Cream together the butter and the sugar, beat in the egg and lemon zest, then stir in the flour and knead to a smooth dough. Cover and chill for at least an hour.
Divide botht the filling and the pastry into two halves. Roll out one half of pastry into an oblong 6" x 13" (16 x 33cm). Form the half filling into a sausage shape 13" (13cm) long and place this on the pastry and roll up as you would when making sausage rolls. Repeat with the second half of pastry and filling. Gently roll the top with a rolling pin to flatten slightly.
Place both rolls on a greased and floured baking sheet and bake for 10 - 12 minutes at 190c, 375F, gas 5 until the pastry is golden. Remove from the oven, and while still warm slice into 1" (2.5cm) portions. Cool on a wire rack.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Something for the Weekend?

Cheesecakes can be either baked or unbaked. Myself prefer not to use the oven unless necessary, so here is a great recipe for a chilled cheesecake made with bananas. No need to go out and buy biscuits for this base, just store all the broken bits of any sweet biscuits in an airtight jar, then and crush these up when needed.
Banana Bar Cheesecake: serves 8
3 large ripe bananas (approx 12 oz/350g when peeled)
juice half a lemon
2 oz (50g) light soft brown or caster sugar
1 sachet gelatine*
3 tblsp cold water
8 oz (225g) cream cheese
142 ml carton double cream
6 oz (175g) digestive (or other) biscuits, crushed
3 oz (75g) butter, melted
1 tblsp demerara sugar
Chop the bananas into large chunks and put into a food processor with the sugar and lemon juice and blitz until smooth (or mash in a bowl using a potato masher/fork). Put the water in a small bowl and sprinkle over the gelatine. Leave for five minutes then stand the bowl in a pan of hot water and stir until the gelatine has dissolved, then stir this into the banana puree.
Put the cream cheese into a bowl and beat in 3 -4 tblsp of the banana mixture, then fold in the rest. Whip the cream until the consistency of the banana mix** and fold together.
Line a 2 lb (900g) loaf tin with clingfilm and spoon the mixture into this. Level the surface and chill for a couple of hours or until set.
Mix together the biscuits, demerara sugar and butter. Spread this over the top of the cheesecake flattening the surface and replace in the fridge to chill for a further half hour.
To serve, invert cheesecake onto a piece of clingfilm on a board, remove cling film from round the sides and bottom and upturn onto a serving dish so the biscuit is at the base. Serve sliced with cream.
* Instead of the gelatine, use a lemon jelly, just dissolving the pack in no more than 5 fl.oz (150ml) water (or less). Jelly/water is quickly dissolved in a microwave, then stand the jug in cold water and stir occasionally to cool it down (but not set) before using.
**When folding cream, egg whites, mousse etc together, aim for them to be of the same consistency they they will fold together more easily and rapidly. The more folding has to be done, the more air can be lost.
Tip: To remove creases from the surface of the above (caused by the clingfilm), stand a palette knife or similar in a jug of hot water for half a minute, wipe dry then smooth the knife over the surface to iron out the wrinkles.

Not sure when the summer school holidays begin (or have they already?). But even when still at school there are always other times when children can help to make their own meals. Here is an easy recipe they could try making themselves, with enough enough delights (such as messy hands and worktops) to keep them happy for hours. Instead of the fish (or even with the fish) use 4 chopped (Mum do this) hard-boiled eggs, or 4 oz (100g) grated cheddar cheese. The fish used is tuna, but canned salmon tastes even better. The potatoes can be cooked in their skins in the microwave, then cooled for 5 minutes before mashing. After making, best let Mum do the frying.
Fun to Make Fishcakes: makes 8 to serve 4
1 1/2lb potatoes (750g) cooked and mashed
200g can tuna, drained
198g can sweetcorn, drained
2 tblsp tomato ketchup
1 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
1 egg, beaten
salt and pepper
4 tblsp milk
3 oz (75g) fresh breadcrumbs
Using a fork, break the tuna up into flakes, then stir these into the mashed potato, then stir in the sweetcorn, ketchup, parsley and egg. Season to taste. When thoroughly mixed, cover the bowl and leave to chill while clearing up the work surface and washing pots.
Using clean wet hands, divide the mixture into 8 and shape each into flat round patties about 4" (10cm) wide and 3/4" (2cm thick). Brush milk over both sides of the fishcakes and dip each into breadcrumbs so that they are evenly coated. Mum can then fry four at a time over medium heat turning once (3 mins each side) or until golden all over. Drain on kitchen paper, keep warm and serve with chosen veggies or salads.

Although not a recipe for a complete dish, if you like battered fried fish (with chips - that goes without saying), here is an extra good way of making a light crunchy batter. The amount below covers approx 8 pieces (large fish fingers) cut from 1 1/2lb (750g) cod or haddock (or similar fish) fillet. Serves 4.
Chip-shop style batter:
9 oz (225g) plain flour
1 sachet fast-action dried yeast
1 level tsp salt
half pint (300ml) lager
Sift flour and salt into a large bowl then add the yeast. Stir in the lager and mix well. Cover and leave for an hour for the batter to bubble. To use, dry fish using a kitchen towel, then dip in flour and pat off the excess. Dip the fish in the batter and fry a few at a time in hot oil for 4 - 5 minutes until the batter has crisped up. Drain on kitchen paper.
Tip: If having a party (or even if not), cook oven chips, and keep cooked fish warm - these can be re-crisped up if necessary by a quick plunge back into the hot fat. Serve the traditional British way by wrapping each serving in newspaper lined with a sheet of baking parchment (prevents printer's ink touching the food).

This next is a type of Ploughman's lunch, meant to be eaten (as in the old days) out of doors, preferably leaning against a haystack. Otherwise make do with a rug laid on the grass.
Ploughman's Stack lunch: serves 8
500g packed white or wholemeal bread mix
2 tblsp oil
3 tblsp chutney (ploughman's pickle)
1 lb (500g) mixed cheeses, grated, sliced or cubed
4 ribs celery, finely sliced
1 onion, thinly sliced
salt and pepper
sesame seeds (opt)
Make up the dough as per packet instructions, but adding the oil to the water. Knead the dough then cut in half and roll out each to a 10" (25cm) round. Place one round in a flan tin. Spread half the pickle over the surface, scatter over a little onion, then a little celery. Top with all the cheese, and finally more celery and onion to finish. Spread the remaining pickle over the second half of bread and upturn this to sit on the top of the filling (so the pickle is facing inside). Press the edges of the dough together to seal the 'packet', brush the surface with milk and sprinkle over a few sesame seeds (if using). Cover with a tent of foil or a damp cloth (but not touching the dough), and leave in a warm place to rise for half an hour(ish). The more the bread rises the lighter the texture. But don't overprove.
Bake the loaf at 190C, 375C, gas 5 for 30 - 40 minutes or until golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the underside. Remove from the oven and place on a cake airer to cook completely. Serve on site, cut into wedges.
variation: make a Mediterranean version by omitting the pickle and spreading over a little pesto. Include sun-dried tomatoes as part of the filling, and maybe even knead a few sliced black olives into the dough.

Monday, July 21, 2008

A Taste of Summer

No need to top and tail the gooseberries unless making the chunky variation.
Gooseberry and Elderflower Curd:
1 lb 2 oz (500g) gooseberries
1 tblsp water
9 oz (250g) caster sugar
3 oz (75g) butter, melted
3 eggs, beaten
3 tblsp elderflower cordial
Put the gooseberries into a pan with the water, cover and heat over moderate to high, for about 5 minutes until the gooseberries have collapsed into a pulp. Place a sieve over a bowl, tip in the contents of the pan and press down firmly to collect all the pulp and juices in the bowl beneath. Scrape the pulp from the underside of the sieve, then discard the seeds/skins. To the puree in the bowl add the remaining ingredients and place the bowl over simmering water. Stir and cook, and keep stirring for about 20 minutes until the thickness of custard. Pot up into warm sterilised jars, seal, cool then chill for at least 3 hours before it thickens to a spreadable consistency. Unopened jars will keep for up to 6 weeks in the fridge, once opened eat within 3 - 4 days. Makes about 1lb 8oz (750ml).
Variation: To make a chunky curd, no need to sieve the gooseberries, just mash them up.

Although pretty basic, this next recipe makes good use of broken pieces of meringue. Other berry fruits can be used instead, or even make it with canned fruit chopped into small pieces. The dish improves the more you add (see variations below).
Raspberry Ripple: serves 4
half pint (10fl.oz/300ml) double cream
5 fl.oz (150ml) Greek yogurt
half pint measure roughly broken meringue pieces
5 oz (150g) raspberries
5 tblsp raspberry sauce or coulis
Whisk the cream until firm enough to hold its shape then fold in the yogurt. Remove a few raspberries and crush the remainder lightly with a fork and mix in the raspberry sauce. Place dollops of cream/yogurt, with the meringue and raspberries in rough layers in four serving dishes or glasses. Serve topped with reserved whole berries.
Stir finely chopped stem ginger into the cream mixture and include slices of bananas mixed in with the berries.
Top the dessert with chopped toasted hazelnuts or crushed amaretti biscuits.

However much we tried to avoid eating prunes, it has to be said that when it comes to baking they have an almost magical way of tasting like something else. For example, this next recipe for brownies has almost a mocha (coffee and chocolate) flavour. Certainly healthier than some recipes for the traditional chocolate brownie.
Mocha Brownies: makes 12
6 oz ( 175g) ready to eat dried (pitted) prunes
4 tblsp boiling water
3 medium eggs
5 oz (150g) soft brown sugar
5 oz (150g) self raising flour
2 tsp instant coffee
8 oz (225g) icing sugar, sifted into a bowl
2 tsp instant coffee
1 tblsp boiling water
Put the prunes in a food processor/blender with 3 tblsp of the boiling water and blitz to an almost smooth puree. Put this puree into a bowl with the eggs and sugar, beat together then fold in the flour. Beat for a few more seconds to ensure it is well blended. Put the coffee into a cup with the remaining tablespoon of boiling water, stir until dissolved then fold this into the brownie batter. Spoon into a greased and lined Swiss roll tin 7" x 11" (18 x 28cm) shaking the tin to level the surface. Bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 20 - 25 minutes until firm and springy to the touch. Leave to cool in the tin.
Make the icing by dissolving the coffee in the water, then stir this into the icing sugar to make a thick spreading consistency. If necessary add a little more water but only a drop at a time. Spread this over the cake and leave to set. To serve, remove from tin, peel away the paper and serve in slices.
variation: give this a more chocolately flavour by dissolving a teaspoon of cocoa powder with the coffee, or stir a little grated chocolate into the mix.

For those that hate to be bothered with mixing, this is just a matter of assembling in layers. How easy can it get? Of course it needs to be cooked, but then you can't have everything.
Quick as a flash, Fruit Layered Fingers: makes 21
4 oz (100g) margarine
4 oz (100g) porridge oats
4 oz (100g) sultanas
2 oz (50g) glace cherries, chopped
2 oz (50g) chocolate chips or grated chocolate
3 oz (75g) desiccated coconut
405g can condensed milk
Grease and line a shallow baking tin 9" x 13" (23 x 33cm). Melt the margarine then pour this into the prepared tin, shaking or tilting the tin so that the marg. has spread evenly over the base. Immediately sprinkle the oats on top of the margarine, pressing it down to absorb some of the fat. Top this with a layer of sultanas, scatter over the cherries and chocolate, then sprinkle over the coconut. Pour the condensed milk on top.
Bake for 20 - 30 minutes at 180C, 350F, gas 4 until golden brown. Cool in the tin for 20 minutes then - still in the tin- cut into 21 fingers (or the number and size you wish). Leave in the tin to cool completely before removing the slices (perhaps easiest done by lifting the paper/contents out of the tin and placing onto a board).

Thursday, July 17, 2008


A dish with an oriental flavour, and a quickie as it takes no more than 10 minutes to cook. Again vegetarian but chunks of cooked chicken could be included, and as ever, different vegetables, although the ones used do go well together, and are around at this time of year either on the shelves or from the freezer.
Satay Stir-Fry: serves 4 (V)
2 tblsp sunflower oil
2 onions, cut into wedges
2 carrots, sliced
8 oz (225g) string beans, cut into 2" lengths
8 oz (225g) cauliflower, broken into small florets
1 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
2 ribs celery, sliced
2 oz (50g) unsalted cashew nuts (or peanuts)
8 fl.oz (250ml) ready-made satay sauce
Heat the oil in a wok or deep frying pan over medium heat then stir-fry the onions for 3 minutes. Add the rest of the vegetables and continue stir-frying for 5 minutes or until the vegetables are tender but still have a bit of bite to them. Stir in the cashew nuts and satay sauce and cook for a further minute or until heated through. Serve on a bed of Chinese noodles.

The final recipe today has a dual use. It could be served as a breakfast dish, or as a pudding. Ideal for this time of year as the fruits are in season, at other time use fresh blackberries and apple or thawed frozen fruits.
Warm fruits on Eggy Bread: serves 4
6 oz (175g) each redcurrants and blackcurrants
6 oz (175g) raspberries
5 oz (150g) caster sugar
eggy bread:
2 eggs
5 fl oz (150ml) milk
5 oz (150g) caster sugar
4 thickish slices bread, crusts removed
2 oz (50g) butter
Strip currants from their stems using a fork and put the fruit in a pan with the raspberries and sugar, heat gently until the juices flow slightly and the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the simmer and cook for a couple of minutes then remove from the heat and keep warm.
To make the eggy bread, put the eggs,milk and sugar into a shallow bowl and whisk together. Add the bread slices, one at a time, letting each sit in the milk for a minute, turning once. Heat the butter in a frying pan and as soon as it begins to foam (leave it too long and it will burn), add a couple of slices of the prepared bread and fry on both sides until golden brown. Drain, keep warm and fry the remaining slices adding a little more butter if necessary.
To serve, place a slice of bread on each of four individual plates (it can be left whole or sliced into triangles), and top with a portion of the warm fruits including a share of the juice. Much improved with the addition of a dollop of Greek yogurt or creme fraiche.
Tip: adding sugar to the eggs and milk may not seem necessary, but sugar does help to give the golden colour (by - presumaby - caramelising when touching the heat. Once I omitted the sugar when making Scotch pancakes (drop scones) and they ended up pale gold without any of the brown colour on both sides I was hoping for. The same thing happened when making pancakes.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

More (or less) than we Expect

For no particular reason, other than I like it, am giving a recipe for making sweet chilli sauce. Just love the stuff, but expensive to buy. Having bought a jar of chillies, can now make my own.
Sweet Chilli Sauce:
4 tblsp light soy sauce
juice of 1 lime
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
half tsp icing sugar
Mix everything together, and serve as a dipping sauce.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Keeping Account

Here is a recipe that will use up those scraps of left-over puff pastry. Never scrunch up this type of pastry prior to rolling out. Place the scraps one on top of the other, so the layers of dough/butter stack up, this way they will rise perfectly and not spread out every which way they can. This also uses storecupboard ingredients, although the spices could be changed, or even something like mincemeat used as a filling.
Cinnamon Twirls: makes about 20
4 0z (110g) puff pastry
1 oz (25g) butter, melted
2 tblsp caster sugar
3 tsp ground cinnamon
1 egg yolk, beaten
2 tsp water
Roll out the pastry to a rectangle 8" x 6" (20 x 15cm). Brush with the butter. Mix the sugar and spice together and sprinkle this evenly over the pastry. Working from both sides, roll the short sides of the pastry into the centre, brush the edges that meet with a little butter then press together.
Slice thinly (5mm/bare 1/4"), then lay each slice flat on the board and roll a little thiner. Place on a baking tray. Blend the egg yolk and water together and brush the tops of the Twirls with this (any surplus egg could go into another dish). Bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 10 minutes. Cool on a cake aire and store in an airtight tin.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Making it Easy

Muffins are probably one of the easiest to for a learner cook to make. Often I put the dry ingredients in one bowl, the wet into a jug, then leave them overnight to throw together the next morning. They do not want over-mixing, so simple enough for children to try. Best eaten the day they are made, they can be savoury as well as sweet and so easy to add different flavours to the basic mix. Here are some suggestions:
Basic Muffin Mix: makes 6 - 8
5 oz (150g) self-raising flour
half tsp baking powder
pinch salt
2 oz (50g) caster sugar*
4 fl.oz (120ml) milk
1 oz (25g) butter, melted**
1 egg, beaten
Put the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar into one bowl. Put the milk, butter and egg in a jug (** 1 fl.oz sunflower oil could be used instead of butter. Use this if preparing overnight as the butter would congeal again). Fold together using a metal spoon, including remaining ingredients (see below). Spoon the mixture into greased muffin tins (or line with paper muffin cases) and bake for 20 - 25 minutes until risen and firm to the touch. Leave in the tin for a few minutes, then remove to a cake airer. Serve warm or cold.
Note: paper cases tend to stick to the muffins when warm, but peel off cleanly when cool.
* the sugar can be granulated, demerara, soft light sugar, or dark muscovado according to the flavour you wish and the other ingredients.

sweet muffins:
choc-chip: melt 2 oz (50g) plain chocolate and stir this into the flour at the same time as the wet ingredients, then stir in 2 oz (50g) white or dark chocolate chips before baking.
lemon and sultana: to the basic mix add the grated zest and juice of 1 lemon, then fold in 2 oz (50g) sultanas.
banana and walnut: to the basic dry mix add 1 tsp ground cinnamon, and add 1 ripe mashed banana when folding in the wet ingredients, and 2 oz (50g) chopped walnut pieces at the end.
summer fruits: add a tsp vanilla essence to the liquids, and after mixing wet with dry, fold in 4 oz (100g) berries (raspberries, blueberries, blackberries etc). Sprinkle a little demerara sugar on top before baking.

savoury muffins:
bacon and onion: fry 4 streaky bacon rashers until crisp. Drain on kitchen paper and crumble into small pieces. Omit the sugar from the basic mix, add the bacon to the dry ingredients and stir in 3 oz (75g) garlic and herb flavoured philly-type cheese, slackened with a little of the liquid.
cheese and courgette: omit the sugar from the basic mix, add 1 tsp dry mustard, 1 oz (25g) finely grated Parmesan cheese, a good pinch of black pepper, and add an extra egg to the liquids. Grate one courgette, and press into a sieve to extract as much liquid as possible. Make up the muffin mix, stirring in the courgette at the end. Sprinkle a little more Parmesan over the tops of the muffins before baking.

Remember those Knickerbocker Glories? Tall glasses full of layers of jelly, fruit, ice-cream, cream. We should let the children assemble these again. Give them a bowl of set jelly (red always looks good - and preferably made with fresh fruit juice), a bag of mini-marshmallows, some tubs of fruit yogurt, a few chocolate muffins (to be broken up into chunks), an aerosol can of 'squirty' cream, and some grated chocolate. Add to these some fresh summer berries, maybe a sliced banana and let them start assembling. If you haven't the tall long glasses (and long-handles spoon to go with), then let them pile it all up in one large bowl in any order they like, just finishing off with squirts of cream and the grated chocolate on top. Guaranteed to be eaten right down to scraping the dish.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Making a Difference

This recipe contains cooked pulses (and it could be any similar sized bean), and substantial enough to get away with using less fish if you wish.
New York Chowder: serves 4 - 6
2 tblsp sunflower oil
2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 x 400g chopped tomatoes
2 tblsp tomato puree/paste
half tsp sugar
salt and pepper
few fresh thyme leaves, chopped OR half tsp dried thyme
1 x 410 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 lb (450g) thick white fish fillets (cod, haddock, ling etc)
handful of fresh parsley, chopped
Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium to high heat. Tip in the potatoes and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until the spuds are golden. Add the onion and fry for 3 minutes longer, then stir in the garlic. Cook for a further minute or until the onion is browned. Add the tomatoes, the tomato puree, the thyme, sugar and seasoning to taste. Boil for a few minutes until thickened to a sauce, then add the beans. Reduce heat to the simmer, cut the fish into chunks and stud these into the top of the sauce (do not stir or the fish will break). Cover and simmer for 4 - 5 minutes by which time the fish will be cooked. Spoon into individual bowls with a sprinkling of parsley to garnish the top.

We are used to eating freshly baked (American) muffins - sometimes as a breakfast treat, but instead of the more usual fruit flavoured, try these savoury muffins. As basil is the 'tomato herb', this is used in this recipe, but other herbs could be used if you wish to experiment with flavours.
Tomato and Herb Muffins: makes 9
9 oz (250g) self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
half tsp bicarbonate of soda
half tsp salt
2 oz (50g) Gruyere cheese, grated
2 oz (50g) sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
10 large basil leaves, torn into shreds
5 fl oz (150ml) milk
4 tblsp olive or sunflower oil
2 eggs, beaten
Sift together the flour with the raising agents and salt and put into a bowl with the cheese, tomatoes and basil. In a jug, beat together the milk, oil and eggs, then pour this into the dry ingredients and mix together until well blended. Pour into 0 greased muffin moulds (or line with paper cases) and bake for 20 25 minutes at 190C, 375F, gas 5 until risen and golden. Remove from oven and leave to stand in the tin for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.

Not that I wish to suggest we go out and buy the ready-mades, but as we are coming up to the dessert section, and frozen ones at that, it is up to the individual to choose whether to buy the 'ingredients' such as the meringues, cakes and biscuits, the lemon curd and custards, or take the easy route, buy the lot and more or less assemble the dishes. Myself prefer to make meringues in bulk, for they will store for months if kept in an airtight container. While making meringues from egg whites, might as well make the lemon curd using the left-over yolks. Or even the custard from the yolks.The cake could be a bought Madeira slab but to fit the tin, or one of those sponge flan bases, or just a sponge layer that you might have baked and put in the freezer. It doesn't matter how we get there, as long as we do.
Lemon Meringue Gateaux: serves 8 (F)
1 x 8" (20cm) round sponge layer
8 - 10 meringues, broken into pieces
500ml tub creme fraiche
jar lemon curd
small bunches ripe redcurrants to garnish
Line the base of an 8" (20cm) springform cake tin with greaseproof or parchment paper. Put the sponge layer in the tin. Put the broken meringues into a bowl, add the creme fraiche and fold together. Spoon alternate blobs of the meringue mix and lemon curd on top of the cake. If you wish for a marble effect just zig-zag a knife through just once, but better left as-is. Bang the tin down on the table to level the surface, then freeze for at least 4 hours. To serve, remove cake from the tin and garnish with the redcurrants.

This next is an easy ice-cream to make as it uses the ready made custards - this can be canned or in packets. As to the biscuits, the flavour of the ice-cream can vary according to what variety of biscuit is used. It could be ginger, bourbon, or choc-chip. Or custard creams, oaty biscuits - almost anything that has a good flavour.
Cookie Frozen Dessert: serves 6 (F)
10 fl oz (half pint/300ml) double cream
2 tblsp caster or icing sugar
400g carton custard
4 oz (100g) chosen biscuits roughly chopped
chocolate sauce to serve
Beat together the cream and sugar until soft peaks. Whisk in the custard until the mixture is fairly thick. Put into a container and freeze for an hour until frozen round the edges but still mushy in the centre. Stir sides to midde and beat again, then fold in the biscuits. Freeze for one hour, then beat again, return to freezer, cover and leave overnight. This will store for up to 2 months. Allow to thaw for 15 minutes before scooping out and serving with hot chocolate sauce poured over.
hot chocolate sauce: put five fl.oz *150ml) double cream in a pan with 4 oz chopped dark chocolate and heat until the chocolate has dissolved and the sauce is smooth. Of you wish add a knob of butter to make the sauce really glossy.

Finishing today with the traditional way to make lemonade. One of my bridge 'acquaintances' sampled this when we played here, and then asked me to make and take some to her house so she could serve it to her friends when we played bridge there. Both she and her friends were - let's say 'upper crust' so I felt honoured. When you get to playing bridge well enough, it is amazing how invitations flood in. Possibly the only way I would have ever got the chance to walk through the doors of a stately home as a visitor not one of those who pay at the gate. Once or twice was able to make and serve buffets for them. Now and again it was good to pretend I was higher up the social ladder than I really am. By the way, it was 'them in the big 'ouse' that always used the tea-bags twice. They have other secrets I will not divulge.

Shirley's Lemonade:
4 lemons
3 tblsp granulated sugar
2 pints (1.2 ltrs) boiling water
Slice the lemons thinly in a shallow dish, so that it saves all the juice that runs out. Put the fruit and their juice, with the sugar into a large bowl and pour over the boiling water. Cover and leave for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight. Strain and serve chilled in long glasses, add a couple of ice-cubes and garnish with a spring of mint and a slice of lemon.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Stretching the Budget

Today, and over the next few days, will be concentrating on 'making the most of...' today being chicken (as well as a few other suggestions). As ever, vegetarians can adapt a recipe to use a chicken (or other meat) substitute. Ideally, always buy chicken whole, not in portions, then use up every scrap. Once the chicken has been portioned it can be left as-is, or the skin and bones removed. These should always be used to make stock, along with the main carcase. Although the skin is something you feel should be discarded, it does have flavour, and - as mentioned before - if cooked with the bones will form a layer of fat on top of the jellied stock once chilled. This is an excellent 'free fat' that can be used for frying. Some cooks use it instead of lard when making pastry for chicken pies.
If not in the mood for stock-making, then bag up the bits, freeze and wait until another bird comes along and then you can make an even richer stock. If not using the chicken wings to make stock, freeze and add more as you get them, after several weeks they will make a dish in their own right. A recipe for these is given below.

This first recipe is for chicken pie, and uses cooked chicken. The pastry, as mentioned above could be made using chicken fat. By all means use less chicken and more of the vegetables - and these can be altered according to what we have. Personally I would omit the parsnip and add a couple of tablespoons of sweetcorn kernels. As ever, just add up the total weight of the ingredients, then make up to the same weight according to what you have, so the portions remain the same (the posh name for this is portion control).

Still cutting costs, a low-fat pastry is used in this recipe, but ordinary short or puff pastry could be used. You could even top the pie with mashed potato, dumplings or 'cobblers' (aka savoury scones).
Chicken Pie: serves 4
10 oz (300g) cooked chicken, cut into chunks
16 fl.oz (500ml) chicken stock
2 large potatoes, chopped
8 oz (225g) sweet potato or butternut squash, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 parsnip, chopped
1 tblsp cornflour
8 fl.oz milk (skimmed is fine)
5 oz (150g) frozen peas, thawed
1 tblsp each chopped parsley and chives
low-fat pastry:
6 oz (175g) self-raising flour, sifted
1 oz (25g) butter
3 fl oz (75ml) milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
sesame seeds (optional)
Put the stock into a pan and add the potato, sweet potato (or b.squash), celery and carrot. Simmer for about 10 minutes or until just tender. Using a slotted spoon, remove veggies, and set these aside. To the stock in the pan, add the onions. Simmer for 10 minutes, then pour contents of the pan into a food processor, add the herbs and blitz to a puree. Stir the cornflour into 2 tblsp of the milk, then add this with the remaining milk to the puree, and return to the pan. Stir over low heat until just boiling, simmer for one minute until thickened.
Mix the reserved vegetables and chicken pieces into this sauce and pour into four individual or one large oven proof dish.
Make the pastry by rubbing the butter into the flour. Make a well in the centre and add the milk with just enough water to make a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured surface and roll out dough cutting to fit dishes used plus half inch larger than the top of dish(es) used. Brush the top and outer rim of the dish(es) with beaten egg and place pastry over the pie(s), pressing the edges on and round firmly to seal.
Brush top(s) with remaining beaten egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds (if using). Bake for about 20 minutes at 200C, 400F, gas 6, until the top is golden.

This next makes use of those chicken wings that have been collected and frozen over the weeks. The sauce itself can be made with similar but different ingredients, to make it easy these have been bracketed at the side of the original ingredient. A good sauce to make when you have that dollop of ketchup sitting at the bottom of the almost empty bottle, remove the lid, upturn the bottle, stand it in a glass and let the gravity do the work. After half an hour (even leave it overnight) all the sauce should have drained out - if not, it will have collected in the neck and can be squeezed out. Never throw away even the last vestige of sauce in a bottle. Pour in a little water, put the lid back on and give a good shake, it will then pour out easily and can then be added to a casserole, spag.bol, or chilli.
The original recipe used 3 lb of wings, and this amount almost put me off writing up the recipe, so have adapted this, and suggest we forget the weight, just decide how many wings per person we wish to serve, and then work with this as a guide.
Asian Wings: serves 6
chicken wings, number as required
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped (optional)
2 fl.oz (50ml) hoisin sauce (or plum jam)
3 tsp light soy sauce (or dark soy)
3 tsp runny honey (or thick honey or g.syrup)
2 tblsp tomato puree (or ketchup)
1 tsp sesame oil (or walnut oil, or olive oil)
2 spring onions, finely sliced (or 1 shallot or small onion)
Putting the wings to one side, put the remaining ingredients in a bowl and mix together. Put the wings into a shallow dish and pour the marinade over, turning the wings so they are coated, then cover and chill for at least two hours - or they could be left in the fridge overnight.
The wings can then be barbecued or char-grilled, cooking for 20-25 minutes, turning once, and basting with some of the marinade during the cooking. Alternatively, the wings can be baked in the oven for about half an hour (turning once) at 180C, 350F, gas 4. Heat any remaining marinade in a pan to full boiling point (for it will contain raw chicken juices), then this can be served as a sauce.

We normally expect chilli con carne to be made with beef, but it is just as good made with minced chicken. If wishing to use raw chicken flesh taken from a bird (and off the bone), the dark meat works very well, and if no mincer, then give it a quick blitz in a food processor, or just chop it very finely (preferably do this on a plate so that no juices get worked into the chopping board). The chocolate is optional, but very traditional in Mexico, and strangely gives the chicken quite a 'beefy' look. Although this recipe does use oil, it is less than would be used normally. If using a non-stick pan, use even less. Instead of oil, use chicken fat. If you wish to use less chicken, add more onion and red beans.
Chilli con Pollo: serves 4
bare tblsp olive or sunflower oil
2 onions, finely chopped
12 oz (350g) minced chicken
1 - 2 tsp chilli powder
440g can chopped tomatoes
1 good tblsp tomato puree/paste
4 fl.oz (125ml) water
1 - 2 tsp sugar
425g can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 square dark chocolate (or 1 dessp cocoa) (opt)
Using a deep frying pan, heat the oil and fry the onion for a few moments until softened. Stir in the chicken, breaking up the mince with a wooden spoon so it doesn't clump together, and cook until browned.
Stir in the chilli powder and cook for one minute before adding the chopped tomatoes, the tomato paste and the water. Bring to the boil and simmer for half an hour, then stir in the sugar and the chocolate (or cocoa). Simmer for a further minute then add the beans. When heated through serve with tortilla chips, a cool dollop of Greek yogurt on top, and a side salad if you wish.

This next dish uses chicken thighs, again rather generous with the meat for - as so often happens with older cookbooks - they seem to expect anything up to 8 oz meat per serving, when nutritionally we can get away with half that. Even less if other protein is served. Removing the meat from the bone, and cutting the flesh into three makes it look a lot more, so worth doing. As the beans in this dish also contain a certain amount of vegetable protein, why over-egg the pudding I say? This is a great dish for adapting as cous-cous, barley risotto, or quinoa could accompany the dish instead of the suggested rice. Also different varieties of cooked beans could be used, several different beans in the one dish, why not? As to the white wine - diluted white wine vinegar is almost as good, or use a little diluted orange or lemon juice instead. Gardeners will love this dish as one of the ingredients is courgettes, and we are always desperate to find new ways to use them up. So a further suggestion, use less meat and more courgettes and beans. If you want to cut costs, this is the way to do it.
Hob-Top Chicken: serves 4 (F)
1 dessp olive or sunflower oil
8 chicken thighs, or 4 boned and chopped
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
3 tblsp white wine
8 fl.oz (250ml) chicken stock
1 tsp lemon zest
1 bay leaf
2 x 400g cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
3 - 4 courgettes, halved lengthways, then sliced diagonally
Heat the oil in a large flameproof casserole dish or deep frying pan. Fry the thighs a few at a time, for about four minutes, turning occasionally until browned all over. Remove and set to one side. Add the onion to the pan and fry for 5 minutes or until softened. Stir in the garlic, fry for a further minute, then add the wine and stock. Scrape the bottom of the dish to loosen the bits that have stuck, these help to flavour the stock. Bring to the boil, return the chicken to the pan, add the bay leaf and lemon zest. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 30 - 40 minutes until the chicken is tender. Stir in the beans and the courgettes and cook for five more minutes or until the courgettes are tender. When cooked this can be chilled and stored in zip-top bags or an airtight container to freeze up to 3 months. Thaw then reheat thoroughly. Serve with boiled rice.

This next recipe comes from a very old book and somehow it appealed to me. Because of the way it is made and cooked, chicken seems the best meat to use, as other meat may need longer and slower cooking. Perhaps this is the early version of a burger devised by someone who 'likes a bit of rough'.
Meat Rock Cakes:
8 oz (225g) finely chopped meat (suggest chicken)
1 grated onion
2 oz (50g) plain flour
1 oz suet (can be omitted if the meat is fatty)
salt and pepper
a little gravy to mix
Mix together the meat, onion, suet, meat and seasoning to taste. Moisten with gravy to the consistency of a rock cake mixture. Place on a greased baking tin in rough heaps. Bake in a fairly brisk oven (suggest 2ooC, 400F, gas 6 - or maybe 180C and the equivalents) for about half an hour or until the cakes are brown and crisp. Serve with thick brown gravy and vegetables as a dinner (lunch) dish, or with scrambled egg as a supper dish.

Have to include this next recipe just because of its name. How the egg/milk mixture came to be called this we will never know. We could make something similar (b & b pudding for example) and use the name. Will raise a few eyebrows.
Yorkshire Old Wives' Sod:
5 large eggs
3 gills (a gill is quarter pint/5fl oz)
pepper and salt
2 thin oatcakes
Break the eggs into a basin and beat for 2 minutes. Add the milk and seasoning, mixing well. Have ready a baking pan, nicely greased with fresh butter. Pour in the beaten eggs and milk. Next break up the oatcakes into half inch pieces. Sprinkle these on top of the sod. Add a few nuts of butter and place in a moderate oven (suggest 180C, 360F, gas 4). Bake for 20 minutes. If the oatcakes are lightly toasted and buttered before breaking up they make the sod a tastier dish.

Just love reading through old cookbooks, mainly the dishes served in those days were plain and always frugal, and that is what I like about them. Here, again from the same book, is a pudding that would eat well today.
Chocolate Apple Stirabout:
4 oz (100g) flour
3 - 4 cooking apples, peeled cored and diced
1 - 2 tblsp granulated sugar
1 tblsp cocoa
pinch salt and milk to mix
2 oz (5og) margarine
Mix flour, cocoa and salt together, then rub in the margarine. Add sugar and apples. Mix with milk to the consistency of a thick batter. Pour into a greased baking dish and bake in a hot oven (min 200C, 400F, gas 6) for 20 - 30 minutes. Serve with golden syrup.

Towards the end of the book comes a chapter entitled 'For your Corner Cupboard'. Old ideas are often the cheapest and work the best. Here are a couple that are worth trying:
Medicinal Jam:
1 lb prunes
1 lb raisins
1 lb Demerara sugar
4 oz whole almonds
1 pint water
Chop the fruit finely with the almonds (this could nowadays be done in a food processor). Put into a bowl with the water and soak overnight. Next day put this mixture and liquid into a pan, add the sugar, bring to the boil, lower the heat to medium low and cook for half an hour. Pour into hot jars and seal immediately. This jam is delicious on brown bread, and a milk natural laxative for children.

Buttercup Ointment:
put half a pound of pure vaseline into a pan with as many buttercup flowers (without the stems) as can possibly be pressed into it. Allow to simmer (but not boil) for 45 minutes. While still hot, strain through muslin into small pots. It is ready for use when cold and very good for all skin troubles.

Another old recipe, this time from a different book, but seasonal so thought it worth including.
Gooseberry Chutney: makes about 4 lb
3 lb gooseberries, topped and tailed
8 oz onions, finely chopped
12 oz raisins or dates (or mixture) chopped
1 tblsp salt
1 tblsp ground ginger
1 tsp mixed spices (they may mean allspice)
1 pint white vinegar
8 oz sugar
Put the gooseberries and onions in a large heavy pan with just enough water to prevent them scorching as they cook. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 20 minutes or until the fruit and onions are really soft and pulpy. Stir often to prevent them sticking to the pan.
Add the dried fruit, salt, spices and half the vinegar and cook on for a further 20 minutes until quite thick. Add the sugar and the remaining vinegar, heat gently, stirring to dissolve the sugar then simmer for another 20 minutes, stirring from time to time. By then the mixture should be thick enough to leave a path when the woodens spoon is drawn across the bottom of the pan. Pot and seal in the usual way. Leave to mature for a month before eating.