Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Cook's Companions

This next makes a good meal for a cold day, and unlike some suet dishes, is cooked in the oven and not steamed. Having said that, if you prefer - wrap the roll in foil and steam for an hour and a half.
Bacon Roly-Poly;
8 oz (225g) bacon oddments, finely chopped
1 large onion, finely diced
4 oz (100g) mushrooms, sliced (opt)
6 oz (175g) self-raising flour
3 oz (75g) suet
chopped fresh parsley
Gently heat the bacon in a pan until the fat runs free (add a little oil if short on fat), stir in the onions and fry until the onions are softened. Add mushrooms if using. When cooked, remove from the heat and set aside whilst making the pastry.
Mix the flour, suet and salt together with just enough water to mix to a soft dough. Roll out on a floured board into an oblong, spreading the bacon/onion mixture over, but leaving half an inch clear pastry at the sides. Sprinkle over the parsley.
Dampen edges all round, roll up tightly and place on a greased baking sheet. Bake at 190C, 375F, gas 5 for one hour and serve it hot with a well flavoured tomato sauce (not ketchup - more a herby type of passata).

the whole world, so many 'basic' foods are very alike, maybe using a different flour or fat, often no fat - just flour and water. Flatbreads are a perfect example: corn tortillas, wheat tortillas, chapatis, all very similar, as are the yeasty pitta and naan flatbreads. So it is with the larger breads: focaccia, ciabatta, bloomers, farmhouse loaves, 'artisan' breads, and the smaller muffins, crumpets, pikelets... we can almost play around with ingredients and turn up with something that has not yet been 'invented'. Even our beloved Yorkshire Pudding can turn up in several guises: Popovers in the US, Toad in the Hole over here, and Clafouti (with cherries) in France. Cooking can be great fun once we understand how the recipes work, and in many cases how similar they really are.

The following recipe is a classic. As normally 2 eggs per person are used when making an omelette, this would obviously serve more, and as this should be served flat and not folded, would need cutting into wedges to serve. As this omelette contains fish, salt can be omitted.
Omelette Arnold Bennet:
5 oz (150g) cooked smoked haddock
6 eggs
2 tblsp grated cheese
2 tblsp cream
Remove the skin and any bones from the cooked fish and flake the flesh. Beat the eggs and add them to the fish together with half the cheese. Season with a pinch of pepper.
Melt a knob of butter in an omelette pan and when beginning to froth, pour in the egg mixture, tipping the pan so that the egg covers the base, also shaking so that the fish is fairly evenly spread. Cook until the underneath is golden and set, then sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top and pop under a hot grill until the top is creamy and just setting and the cheese is melting. Slide onto a warm plate and serve.

This next is very similar to a Spanish Omelette, but whereas that is made with vegetables and cooked in a similar way to the above recipe, this version 'scrambles' the eggs. A useful dish in that quite an assortment of quick-to-cook veggies can be used, but as the pleasure of this dish comes from the colours, try to include something red and something green (could be red peppers, green peppers, peas, tomatoes...)
1 large onion, sliced
1 oz (25g) butter
1 tblsp oil
1 green bell pepper, deseeded and cut into strips
4 tomatoes, skinned and chopped
1 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepepr
4 - 6 eggs (according to size)
Put the butter and oil into a pan and place over moderate heat. Stir in the onion and cook gently until softened. Stir in the pepper, tomatoes and parsley and season to taste. Beat the eggs and pour over the veggies then - using a fork - keep stirring it all together until the eggs are cooked. Serve immediately.

Monday, September 29, 2008

In the Meantime...

Today's recipes are unusual and useful in that although making a loaf, neither use yeast, egg or butter. So simple enough for anyone to attempt.
With this first recipe dare say using Ovaltine instead of Horlicks might make it taste more like a malt loaf, especially if using black treacle instead of syrup. Instead of dates, prunes, figs or apricots could be used. Add nuts if you wish. An easy one for children to make.
Horlicks Loaf: gives 16 slices (F)
8 oz (225g) self-raising flour
2 oz (50g) Horlicks powder
2 oz (50g) caster sugar
4 oz (100g) dried dates, stoned and chopped
3 tblsp golden syrup
5 fl oz (150ml) milk
2 tblsp water
Put all ingredients into a bowl and beat together to make a thick batter. Pour into a well-greased 2 lb (900g) loaf tin and bake at 190C, 375F, gas 5 for 50 minutes until golden and firm. Turn out and cool on a cake airer. To freeze: when cold, wrap seal and label. Use within 3 months. Thaw for 2 - 3 hours at room temperature. Serve spread with butter if you wish.

This second loaf is much more of a savoury. If you store any hard cheese (such as Red Leicester, mature Cheddar) until quite hard, it will grate down as fine as Parmesan and have just as much flavour but be less costly. For the canned red pimento myself would substitute a few small Peppadew, or instead chop up a sweet red bell pepper and add a good pinch of cayenne, paprika or chilli powder to give that hint of spice or dash of Tabasco. If no fresh parsley, then add half a tsp dried mixed herbs.
Cheese, Herb and Pepper Loaf: gives 16 slices (F)
1 oz (25g) margarine or butter
8 oz (225g) self-raising flour
half teasp baking powder
good pinch of salt
2 tblsp grated Parmesan cheese
2 oz (50g) canned red pimento (see above), chopped
1 medium onion, grated
1 dessp chopped fresh parsley
2 fl oz (60ml) milk
melted butter
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and rub in the fat. Stir in the cheese, pimento, onion and herbs. Mix to a smooth dough with the milk and shape into a round. Place on a baking sheet and bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 40 - 45 minutes. Turn out onto a baking sheet to cool, brushing the surface with melted butter. Can be served hot or cold. Freeze as explained in above recipe.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Learning Curves

A recipe for an alternative Moussaka in that it is topped with a cheese sauce, and handy in that it can be assembled the day before it is required.
Moussaka with a Cheese topping: serves 6
1 lb (450g) aubergines
3 tblsp olive oil
2 onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 lb (1kg) minced lamb
1 tsp dried marjoram or oregano
1 x 227g can plum tomatoes
5 fl oz (150ml) red wine
salt and pepper
1 pint (600ml) tomato passata
Slice the aubergines and spread out in a single layer. Sprinkle with salt and leave for 1 hour. Meanwhile half half the oil in a pan and saute the onions for five minutes, then stir in the garlic and cook for a further 2 minutes before adding the lamb. Stir well and cook until the meat has browned. Add the herbs, tomatoes with their juice, the wine and seasoning to taste and simmer for 15 minutes.
Rinse the aubergines under cold water and pat dry with kitchen paper or clean tea-towel. Heat remaining oil in a frying pan and fry the aubergines, a few at a time, until lightly browned on both sides. Drain on kitchen paper.
Assemble the dish by layering the aubergines first, then the lamb and the passata, alternating and finishing with the aubergines. Cover with the topping (see below) and cook in a moderate oven 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 45 minutes.
half pint (300ml) white sauce
2 oz (50g) Parmesan cheese, grated
1 egg
pinch ground nutmeg
Beat topping ingredients together and pour over the Moussaka, following recipe above.

As meatballs can be made in advance and frozen either raw or cooked, these also make good snack or party food. Although the recipe suggests they are cooked in the oven, they can also be cooked on the hob, using shallow oil, turning often. They can be served with a hot pasta type sauce (cream or tomato based) or speared on sticks to dunk into a cold creamy dip.
Lamb Meatballs: makes about 30
1 lb (450g) minced lamb
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp chopped fresh mint
1 shallot, or a couple of spring onions, chopped
salt and pepper
1 oz (25g) fresh white breadcrumbs
1 egg, beaten
Although the recipe does not suggest this, meatballs (also sausages and burgers) always seem to 'eat' better when made with meat has been run through the mincer twice. So either use the mince as normally bought and mix with the remaining ingredients (using just enough egg to bind) , or pop them all (but the egg) into a food processor and blitz them together, adding enough egg to bind as necessary.
Using floured hands, roll the mixture into 1" (2.5cm) balls. Place on a greased roasting tin and cook for 15 -20 minutes at 200C, 400F, gas 4, until well browned and cooked through.
These can be chilled overnight and re-heated thoroughly in a sauce of your choice, maybe served with pasta or what you will. Or served hot/warm with a cold dip.

Instead of kippers, cooked smoked haddock or smoked mackerel could be used instead. For speed use ready-made pastry, for flavour make the cheese pastry as in the recipe - and even this could be made in advance and frozen to be thawed and rolled later.
Kipper Quiche: (F) serves 6 - 8
9 oz (250g) plain flour
pinch salt
bare 5 oz (125g) butter
2 oz (50g) lard
3 oz (75g) grated Cheddar
1 egg, lightly beaten
Put the flour and salt into a bowl and rub in the butter and lard until like breadcrumbs. Using a knife, stir in the cheese and egg, adding a very little water if necessary until the mixture just holds together. Gather into a ball, wrap in foil or clingfilm and chill for half an hour before rolling out and lining a greased 9" (23cm) flan tin. Prick the base lightly with a fork (the recipe doesn't suggest this, but myself would bake the case blind for 10 minutes, remove paper and beans and give a further 5 minutes, then cool before adding the filling).
3 whole eggs plus 1 egg yolk
5 fl oz (150ml) single cream or milk
salt and pepper
2 onions, cut in half then finely sliced
1 oz (25g) butter
2 - 3 kipper fillets
hot water
Whisk the eggs with the cream and season to taste. Fry the onions in the butter over low heat until soft and transparent. Put the kipper fillets into a jug and pour over hot water. Stand for one minute, then remove, pat dry and scrape the flesh from the skin, making sure all bones are removed. Flake the flesh and add it to the egg mixture. Stir in the fried onion and pour into the pastry case and bake at 190C, 375F, gas 5 for 35 minutes or until the centre is just firm to the touch (it will carry on cooking for a minute or two after being removed from the oven). Eat hot, cold or freeze, and bag up when solid. Thaw at room temperatue and eat cold or re-heated.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

More from the Store

Normally, always keep a good supply of bog-standard porridge oats in my storecupboard. Not only do they make the cheapest breakfast possible (porridge), but are exceptionally good for us - containing protein and also help to lower cholesterol. Also one of the low GI foods that give slow release of energy.
When blitzed in a food processor, the porridge oats then turn to flour (as coarse or as fine as you wish), and this can then be added to ordinary wheat flour to make bread, cakes, biscuits etc. Add the oats as-is to bulk out something like spag. bol sauce (they take up the flavour of the sauce and are a cheaper protein than using all meat). The very fine flour makes a good thickening agent for soups and sauces.
This next recipe uses oats to make a type of shortbread, but far healthier than the rich Scottish shortbread.
PetticOAT Shortbreads:
5 oz (150g) oat flour (see above)
2 oz (50g) plain flour
3 oz (75g) caster sugar
quarter tsp bicarbonate of soda
half tsp salt
4 oz (100g) butter, softened
Put all the ingredients into a food processor and blitz until it comes together. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently to a dough, then roll out to a circle the thickness of a pound coin (or - more accurately 5mm). Mark the top across into 8 - 10 wedges (or can be rolled out to an oblong and cut into fingers - in other words cut them any shape you wish) prick with a fork then place on an ungreased baking sheet and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 15 - 20 minute until golden and just firm. Cool on a wire rack.

Another recipe using oat flour is offered, this time for a more savoury biscuit to eat with cheese. There are simpler recipes for oat biscuits to eat with cheese, but this one can be adapted in various ways. Use the whole rolled (porridge oats) for a rough textured biscuit, or blitz them down for a more finely textured biccie. Use wholemeal or white flour according to your pleasure (or what you have). Use less sugar if you wish (could use honey instead) or omit it altogether and add flavouring by way of celery salt (or even garlic salt?) instead of ordinary salt, and plenty of black pepper. If you find you enjoy the first batch you have made, then next time try a different version.
Oatie Cheese Biscuits:
2 oz (50g) oatmeal or porridge oats
6 oz (175g) wholemeal or plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
half tsp salt
2 tblsp caster sugar
4 oz (100g) butter, cubed and chilled
3 tblsp milk
Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl, then rub in the butter. When like breadcrumbs add enough milk to make a dough. Turn out onto a floured board and knead gently. Cover with a cloth or bowl and leave to stand for 15 minutes, then roll out to 3mm thickness. Prick with a fork then cut into rounds, triangles, squares or what you will, and place on a lightly greased or non-stick baking sheet. Bake at 180c, 350F, gas 4 for 10 - 12 minutes until golden. Cool on the tray then transfer to a cake airer until cold. Will keep in an airtight tin for a good week.

One further recipe using porridge oats. No not gone mad, it's just that porridge oats should always be to hand in our storecupboard, and with the rest of the ingrdients being fairly basic, we have no excuse not to make these cookies. Instead of chocolate chips, either coarsely grate chocolate or chop it very small.
Oatmeal and Chocolate Cookies: makes approx 36
4 oz (100g) butter or marg
4 oz (100g) caster sugar
1 egg, beaten
half tsp vanilla extract
3 oz (75g) plain flour
pinch salt
2 oz (50g) porridge oats
4 oz (100g) chocolate chips
Cream the fat and sugar together until light an fluffy, then gradually beat in the egg and vanilla. Sieve in the flour and salt then fold in the oats and chocolate.
Using a teaspoon, put blobs onto well greasd baking sheets, allowing room to spread. thn bake atll my favourite temperature 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 12 - 15 minutes until pale brown. cool on baking trays for five minutes before transferring to a cake airer.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Second Use

Many of you I know make your own cakes, bread, yogurt etc so today am including recipes that can use up any surplus ingredients.
This first recipe is for a cake made using yogurt. Instead of the lemon zest, use orange. Experiment with a little cocoa powder in place of some of the flour, and add a spoonful of ginger. With a fairly basic recipe such as this, there is always room to play around with the flavouring.
Greek Yogurt Cake:
6 oz (175g) plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
half tsp salt
2 oz (50g) butter, softened
5 oz (150g) caster sugar
3 eggs, separated
5 fl oz (150ml) Greek yogurt
2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
Sieve together the flour, bicarb and salt. Cream the butter and mix in the egg yolks and sugar. The mixture should appear crumbly. Add the yogurt and lemon zest and beat well. Gradually stir in the sieved flour. Whisk the whites until stiff, then fold them into the cake mixture. Spoon into a greased and lined 8" (20cm) cake tin. Bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for one hour fifteen minutes. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a cake airer. If you wish you can ice the cake with 4 oz (100g) sieved icing sugar, and about one teaspoon of lemon juice blended to a thick pouring consistency.
This cake improves if kept for a day before eating.

This recipe is for a savoury loaf and especially good served with a vegetable soup. Equally good eaten as part of a Ploughman's Lunch. Using no yeast it is quick and simple to make and a good way to use up the ends of the celery. Grate the celery stump if you have run out of sticks (that I call ribs).
Cheese and Celery Bread:
9 oz (250g) self-raising flour
1 tsp salt
2 oz (50g) butter or marg
2 ribs celery, very finely chopped
4 oz (100g) Cheshire or Cheddar cheese, grated
1 small clove garlic, crushed
1 egg, beaten
4 fl oz (100ml) milk
Sieve together the flour and salt. Rub in the butter, then add the celery, cheese and garlic. Mix well. Stir in the egg and milk and mix to a soft dough. Flour your hands and knead the dough while it is still in the bowl, then form into a thick sausage shape and place in a well greased 1 lb (400g) loaf tin. Bake at 190C, 375F, gas 5 for one hour or until well risen and golden. Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes before turning out onto a cake airer. Serve warm or cold, spread with butter.
Tip: If finding it difficult to turn bread or cakes out of a baking tin, stand the tin on a cold wet cloth for a minute, then turn and shake and the contents should come free.

This is a bread, this time made with cottage cheese - and bearing in mind that yogurt can also be turned into a cheese, that could be used instead. Although previously mentioned - cottage cheese that has been frozen becomes more like curd cheese once thawed and easily mashed so requires no sieving- so useful when making this bread or cheesecakes.
Soft Cheese and Walnut Bread:
8 oz (225g) cottage cheese, sieved
5 oz (125g) soft brown sugar
3 eggs, beaten
3 oz (75g) walnuts, chopped
8 oz (225g) self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
half tsp salt
Cream together the cottage cheese and the sugar, then beat in the eggs. Fold in the walnuts. Sieve together the flour, baking powder and salt and fold into the mixture then spoon into a well greased and floured one and a half pound (600g) loaf tin. Bake at 180F, 350F, gas 4 for one hour until well risen and golden. Cool in the tin for 5 minute before turning out onto a cake airer. Serve sliced and spread with butter.

Next is a cake that, up to a point, can use up the oddments of dried fruits you may have in store. As it uses little flour also fairly economical. But this also means it will not rise overmuch, so could be made in either a shallow square (parkin type) baking tin, or a round one if you prefer.
Tutti-frutti Cake:
4 oz (100g) butter
4 oz (100g) sugar
2 tsp grated orange or lemon zest
2 egg, beaten
3 oz (75g) self-raising flour
2 oz (50g) fresh breadcrumbs
2 oz (50g) prunes or dates, stoned and finely chopped
2 oz (50g) no-soak apricots, finely chopped
2 oz (50g) glace cherries, finely chopped
1 oz (50g) chopped mixed peel
Cream the butter, sugar and citrus zest together until light and fluffy, then slowly beat in the eggs, adding a tsp of flour with each egg (prevents it curdling). Sieve in remaining flour and fold into the creamed mixture along with the breadcrumbs. Finally stir in the chopped fruits. Spoon into a greased 7" (18cm) cake tin and level the surface. Bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 1 hour or until golden. Cool in the tin for 5 minutes before turning out onto a cake airer.
Decorate the cake with butter icing:
3 oz (75g) butter
6 oz (175g) icing sugar, sieved
1 tblsp orange or lemon juice
Beat the butter, then beat in the icing sugar and citrus juice. Spread on the top and sides of the cake. Leave the cake for one day before eating.

Final recipe today I have chosen because the cake itself has few ingredients. Admittedly there is a filling and the icing should be a 'frosting' - but as that is not the easiest icing to make, suggest you either use water icing or make extra filling and spread this over the cake. The cake itself could be made then completed the following day.
Walnut Layer Cake:
3 eggs
3 oz (75g) caster sugar
3 oz (75g) self-raising flour
2 tblsp corn oil or sunflower oil
4 oz (100g) walnuts, finely chopped
Whisk the eggs and sugar together until very thick and the whisk leaves a ribbon when trailed over the surface (beating the eggs and sugar in a basin standing over hot water helps to speed this up).
Sieve in the flour and fold in, followed by the oil and the walnuts. Divide the mixture between two greased and lined sandwich tins 7" (18cm) across and level the surface. Bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 20 - 25 minutes or until pale gold and the centre spring back when lightly pressed. Cool in the tins for 3 minutes before turning out onto a cake airer. They can be left like this and filled in the normal way, but ideally once the cakes are cold, split each layer in half to make four layers and divide the filling between them.
Tip: to cut a sponge or plain cake in half, wrap a length of sewing cotton around the cake, placing it where you wish the cut to start, then cross the ends over and pull the cotton and it will cut through the cake leaving a perfectly flat surface.
recipe for the filling (make extra to ice top and sides)
4 oz (100g) butter
6 oz (175g) icing sugar, sieved
few drops vanilla extract
Cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla, adding enough milk to make a spreading consistency. Spread over three of the rounds, then assemble using the plain round for the top.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Cook's Perks

In domestic kitchens, even chefs will use bought and bottled sauces, some even make gravy using a stock cube. Even so - let us say we are snow-bound (chance would be a fine thing), and have to rely on what we have, so am offering a recipe for a brown sauce that could double up as vegetarian gravy. No mention in the recipe was given as to whether it would keep, so suggest making half or freeze the surplus away in small tubs.
Brown Sauce:
2 tblsp sunflower oil
1 onion, finely chopped
3 tblsp wholemeal flour
2 pints (1 ltr) vegetable stock (could be made from a cube)
2 bay leaves
2 tsp Marmite
3 tblsp tomato puree
black pepper
Put the oil in a pan and fry gently until transparent. Add the flour, and keep stirring it for five minutes then slowly add the stock, the bay leaves and the Marmite. Simmer for 10 minutes, then remove the bay leaves and blitz the sauce on a blender until smooth. Add the tomato puree and season to taste, giving a quick blitz to bring the lot together. Use as required.

Here is another sauce, given mainly because it gives me the chance to remind you that if you have no red wine to add to a casserole or similar, then red wine vinegar in which has been dissolved some sugar will make an excellent substitute. Have forgotten the exact proportions, but these were given a few weeks ago. Again this recipe makes quite an amount, so suggest reducing it by a quarter for the average servings.
Red Wine and Sage Sauce:
1 pint (half litre) vegetable stock
1 onion
1 tblsp dried sage (or handful fresh sage leaves)
3 bay leaves
1 pint (half litre) red wine
3 tblsp sunflower oil
2 oz (50g) wholemeal flour
1 tsp sea or rock salt
2 tblsp lemon juice
1 tblsp demerara sugar
Put the stock, onion, sage, bay leaves and wine in a pan and simmer until the liquid has reduced by half. Then strain and reserve the liquid (myself would save the onion to add to another dish).
Melt the oil in a saucepan, stir in the flour and cook/stir for 3 minutes then gradually whisk in the reserved liquid. Bring to the boil and add the salt and lemon juice.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

What the Future Brings

With a day such as this, brunch is always an option, so here are a few suggestions if you feel inclined to cook. The first recipe being a variation of Hash Browns, using parsnips or other seasonal root vegetable mixed in with the potato. They can be frozen, and also best served with a brunchy breakfast such as bacon, eggs and tomatoes.
Seasonal Hash Browns: makes 4 (F)
12 oz (350g) waxy potatoes (salad spuds such as Charlotte)
10 oz (275g) parsnips or turnips etc
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 egg, beaten
seasoning to taste
3 tblsp sunflower oil
Peel the potatoes thinly, and coarsely grate. Do the same with the other chosen root vegetable. Mix together and place in the centre of a clean tea-towel, pick up ends of towel, twist round and squeeze as much of the liquid from the vegetables as possible. Then tip them into a bowl.
Stir in the onion, garlic, egg and seasoning (spice them up a bit if you wish), then divide into four and shape into flat cakes. Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the cakes for about 5 minutes on each side until golden and tender. If the pan is small, fry in two batches. Drain on kitchen paper. Serve with grilled bacon and tomatoes, and fried or poached eggs.
to freeze: after cooking, cool then interleave with foil then bag up and freeze for up to a month. Reheat by unwrapping, and place on a lightly greased baking sheet, brush surface with oil and bake from frozen at 190c, 375F, gas 5 for 15 minutes.

Not quite sure where to place this next dish. Has a leaning towards Mexican (tortillas), and although called tostadas if made into a sandwich with a tortilla either side of the filling (both sides heated - and served cut into wedges) it would then be called a quesadilla. In all truth the open tostada looks more like an Italian pizza, and if the filling was put on half the tortilla and the other half folder over (then turned so that both sides are heated), it would be almost a calzone. The filling has a resemblance to the our Ploughman's Lunch and am now beginning to wish I had never started analysing it in such depth. Better get on with the recipe and you decide how you would like to prepare it and suggest giving it a name chosen by yourself.Y
You name it Tostedas: makes 2
2 x 8" (20cm) flour tortillas
few drops olive oil
2 tblsp mild pickle or chutney (mango would be good)
5 oz (150g) cooked chicken or ham, shredded
4 oz (100g) grated hard cheese (cheddar etc)
2 spring onions, chopped
Brush one side of each tortilla with a little oil, then place oil side down on a baking tray. Spread with the pickle then scatter over the chosen meat and finish with a layer of cheese and onions. Bake for 8 minutes at 200C, 400F, gas 6. Serve cut into wedges and eat hot.
variation: to make quesadillas put the oiled side of the tortilla down on the base of a heated frying pan and spread the filling on top (in any order), place the second tortilla on the top, brush the surface of this with oil and when the cheese is beginning to melt, turn the lot over and cook for a few more minutes, then remove to a plate, cut into wedges and eat like a sarnie.
Note: small versions of this (still using flour tortillas) could probably be cooked in a sandwich toaster.

Time (as ever) is moving on too fast, so will leave you with one easy brunch recipe - although may have posted something similar a few months ago. As canned fish is used, sardines, pilchards, mackerel, salmon would also work.
Tuna Melts: serves 2 - 3
200g can tuna (any sort) drained
1 shallot or 3 spring onions, finely chopped
4 tblsp mayonnaise
3 slices granary or wholewheat bread (toasting thickness)
2 - 3 oz (50 - 75g) grated cheddar cheese
pinch paprika or ground black pepper (opt)
Flake the tuna and mix with the onion and mayo. Toast the bread under a grill, then spread on side with the tuna mixture, making sure it reaches to the edges. Scatter the cheese on top and return to the grill and cook until the cheese is melting and beginning to brown. Sprinkle with chosen pepper (if using), cut each toast in half and serve.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Highs and Lows

With the tomato season now coming towards its end, feel that this recipe could make good use of a glut. For anyone who does not grow their own, canned plum tomatoes have even more flavour. To gain a more intense taste from the fairly bland bought tomatoes, cut in half and place cut side up in a grill pan, then grill until soft and beginning to scorch around the edges. They could also be roasted in the oven (when cooking something else). Not sure if the name I have given this soup is linguistically correct (Zuppa is Italian for soup and Pomodoro is Italian for tomatoes but what the heck... ). If you wish just a hint of garlic, remove slices from the oil after frying. If you like garlic blitz some or all of the slices with the tomatoes where stated.
Zuppa Pomodoro: serves 6
8 fl oz (225ml) olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
9 lb (4kg) tomatoes, skinned, quartered, deseeded
...OR half their weight in canned plum tomatoes
1 pint (570ml) water
salt and pepper
1 tsp sugar or to taste
1 ciabatta loaf
handful fresh basil leaves
Heat half the oil, but not too hot and stir in the garlic. Cook over low heat for a few minutes until just beginning to colour, then either remove the garlic, or leave in the pan. Add the tomatoes and simmer, uncovered for about half an hour, stirring from time to time. When the liquid has reduced and the tomatoes become concentrated, stir in the sugar and seasoning to taste. Pour in the water, stir and bring to the boil.
Remove as much of the crust from the ciabatta as you can and tear the crumb into chunks. Add this to the tomato mixture and stir until the bread has absorbed the liquid (add more boiling water if too thick). Remove from heat and cool for 5 minutes, then tear up the basil leaves and stir these into the soup, along with the remaining oil. Stand for 10 minutes, then serve with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a scattering of fresh basil leaves.

This next soup is simple to make, and although the traditional way is to use a home-made gammon stock, myself prefer to use a ham stock cube. Alternatively this soup can be made using vegetable stock. Although the weight of carrots is given, this can be approximate as carrots do not always come in uniform sizes, so we don't want to be left with a couple of inches do we?
Carrot and Lentil Soup: serves 6
9 oz (250g) carrots, finely chopped
2 onions, finley chopped
4 oz (100g) red lentils
3 pints (1.7ltrs) gammon stock*
ground black pepper
Put everything into a large saucepan, cover and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about half an hour until everything is tender. Puree in a food processor or blender. Serve with chopped parsley or croutons.
Note: * the one stock made in the Goode kitchen is always (and usually only) chicken stock. Chicken stock cubes are too salty. On the other hand it is often worth keeping other flavoured stock cubes. Fish, ham, lamb and Italian Vegetable stock cubes are always useful to keep in store. The Marigold bouillon vegetable powder is excellent. As to beef stock, myself prefer to use a spoonful of Bovril (from a jar), or AWT's Beef Gravy. For vegetarians, Marmite can make a good substitute for beef stock. A spoon of Bovril or Marmite stirred into boiling water makes a good winter drink. Not quite a soup and certainly not a cup of tea, but nonetheless very satisfying and warming.

This next soup, although made similar to the above with lentils, carrots and gammon stock is completely different. For a change try making it with all split peas, or half split peas, half lentils
Lentil Soup with Bacon: serves 4
1 oz (25g) butter
1 clove garlic, crushed
8 oz (225g) red lentils, washed and drained
2 tblsp tomato puree
2 1/2 pints (1.5ltrs) ham stock
4 oz (100g) streaky bacon, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely diced
handful fresh parsley, leaves finely chopped
Saute the onion in the butter, adding the garlic after 3 minutes. Cook a further minute then stir in the lentils and tomato puree. Cook for five minutes, stirring to prevent sticking, then add the stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for half an hour or until the lentils are tender. Blitz in a food processor/blender until smooth then return to pan and add the bacon, carrot and parsley. Simmer until the carrots are tender then serve.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Harvest Time

Recipe today is for a biscuit. Or several different kinds of biscuits depending on what you do with them. They can either be different in flavour eaten as a thin biscuit, or sandwiched together to make 'custard creams' (using a butter cream filling), or 'Jammy Dodgers', with a jam filling. Cut them square, round or oblong, with or without a hole in the top. If wishing for a plainer biscuit to introduce a different flavour, then omit the custard powder and replace with either cornflour or plain flour. Please note: only egg yolks are used in this recipe, so a chance to make a large batch of meringues or my soft-scoop ice cream with the whites.
The Adaptable Biscuits: makes 2o double/40 single (F)
8 oz (225g) butter
5 oz (150g) caster sugar
3 egg yolks, beaten
8 oz (225g) plain flour
1 oz (25g) custard powder
4 oz (100g) ground almonds
butter cream or jam for filling
Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the beaten eggs and mix together thoroughly. Sift the flour and custard powder together and mix these into the egg mixture along with the ground almonds. Knead into a ball, wrap and chill for an hour.
Roll out the biscuit dough to about the thickness of a £1 coin, and cut into chosen shapes. Any dough leftover can be clumped together, kneaded lightly and re-rolled. Place biscuits onto baking sheets lined with baking parchment or 'Magic Carpet', and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for approx 12 minutes or until golden. Cool on the baking trays for a few minutes before removing them to a cake airer to get cold. They can then be sandwiched together with the filling of your choice, and improved with a dusting of icing sugar over the top (optional). Can be frozen for up to 2 months.
Tip: When filling with jam, ideally cut the rolled out dough into rounds then cut the centre out of half the rounds so that you can see the filling once assembled in true 'Dodger' fashion. Even if intending to eat as a plain, unfilled biscuit, cutting out the centre then gives a little more dough to make extra biscuits.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

An Abundance of Apples

Apple recipes... he first being traditional to the Channel Islands, and is dark and spicy.
Black Butter: makes approx 4 lbs (2 kg)
2 pints (1.2 ltrs) cider
1 lb (500g) cooking apples, peeled, cored and sliced
2 lb (1 kg) eating apples, ditto
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
half tsp ground cinnamon
half tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Put the cider into a large heavy saucepan and fast-boil until reduced by half (ie down to 1 pint). Add half the cooking apples and half the eating apples to the cider, lower the heat to medium/low and cook until the apples are soft, then add the remaining apples, lemon zest and juice. Cook until well reduced down and pulpy. When ready, measure the pulp and add 12 oz (375g) sugar to each pint (600ml) apple pulp. Put the pulp and sugar into the pan and stir in the spices. Continue simmering and stirring until no liquid remains. Pot up and cover in the normal way. Store in the fridge.

Apple Cheese: makes 3 lbs
3 lb (1.5kg) cooking apples, windfalls, crab apples
approx 2 pints (1.2lts) water
half tsp ground cinnamon
pinch ground cloves
Wash the apples (no need to peel or core) and roughly chop. Put the pieces into a large pan with just enough water to cover and simmer for 1 hour or until the apples are really soft and pulpy. Using a wooden spoon, press the apples through a plastic sieve and measure the puree. To each pint of puree you will need 1 lb (500g) sugar. Put the puree in the pan and add the spices and the measured sugar and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved, then bring to the simmer and, stirring frequently, boil for 30 - 45 minutes until very thick. It should come to the stage where the wooden spoon drawn across the base of the pan leaves a path behind it.
Pot and cover in the usual way. Keep in a cool place.

Windfall Marmalade: makes a good 4 lb (2 kg +)
1 lb (500g) windfall apples
1 grapefruit
2 lemons
2.5 pints (1.5lts) water
2 lb 8 oz (1.25 kg) sugar
Peel and core the apples (reserving the peels and cores) and chop the flesh. Cut the peel away from the grapefruit and lemons, removing any pith, and shred the peel finely. Remove the flesh from the citrus fruits and discard the pith and membranes but reserve any pips. Tie the peel, pips, apple peel and cores in a muslin bag. Put all the fruit (apples , grapefruit and lemons) into a preserving pan with the water and the muslin bag. Simmer for two and a half hours until the peel is very soft and the contents in the pan reduced down to half.
Remove the bag, squeezing out the juice back into the pan, then add the sugar to the pan, stirring until dissolved and boil rapidly for 15 - 20 minutes. When setting point has been reached, leave to stand for 15 minutes, stir to distribute the peel and then pot up in the usual way.

Apple and Marrow Chutney: makes 3 lbs (1.5kg)
2 lb (1 kg) marrow, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 oz (40g) salt
1 lb (500g) cooking apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped
8 oz (225g) shallots or small onions, peeled and chopped
8 oz (225g) soft brown sugar
1 pint (575ml) white pickling vinegar
half a tsp ground ginger
Place the marrow in a bowl layering with the salt. Cover and leave for 12 hours/overnight. Next day drain the liquid from the marrow, place the marrow in a sieve and rinse well under running cold water. Pat dry then put the marrow in a preserving pan with the prepared apples and onions, the sugar, vinegar and the ginger. Cook over medium to low heat for about 2 hours, stirring frequently until the chutney has become very thick and most of the liquid has evaporated (do the spoon test - see above recipe). Pour into warm jars and cover immediately sealing with vinegar-proof lids.

Apple Dumplings:
Not really a recipe, more a method and useful for those really large cooking or crisp eating apples. Peel and core but leave whole. Fill the centre with dried fruit and sugar (or mincemeat). Wrap up in shortcrust pastry and bake in the oven (200C/400F/gas 6) for about 20 minutes until the pastry is golden. Alternatively, once wrapped in the pastry they can be frozen and baked directly from frozen but allow five to ten minutes extra cooking time, tenting the pastry after half an hour to prevent it browning too much.

Lemony Apple Curd:
A delightful curd, the recipe published quite early in the blog (so check up 2006). Do remember doing a whole posting relating to recipes using lemons around that time and sure this was included. Always useful to freeze apple puree as, once thawed, it can be used to make this curd, or as apple sauce or in the other ways mentioned in Moira's comment.

drying apples
Apples can be dried at home using any source of low heat along with ventilation. Ideally an airing cupboard or over a kitchen boiler is a good place to dry apples as there is a continuous supply of warm air that can also circulate. Oven temperatures are too high, but the residual heat can be used - although this will take longer. The fruit needs to dry out as slowly as possible to prevent it shrivelling up too much.

Prepare the apples by peeling and coring, then slice the fruit into rings about quarter inch (0.5cm) thick. Put the fruit into salted water (1 gallon water to 2 oz /50g salt) to prevent it discolouring. Leave to soak for 5 minutes then pat dry with a cloth.
Spread the fruit on wire racks (cake airers etc) or thread on thin sticks and place or hang in a warm place (as mentioned above) until they become leathery. This can take up to a day. When dry, remove from the heat and leave to cool. Pack into jars or boxes (need not be airtight) and store in a cool, well ventilated place.
Can be eaten as a snack, or soaked in cold water overnight and drained well before used to make pies etc.
pears, plums and apricots:
Prepare the pears as for apples and dry in the same way. The plums and apricots need cutting in half and the stones removed. No need to soak on water. Place cut side up on a wire tray and dry as for the apples.
To cook, soak overnight in cold water and use in cooking as for fresh.

These next few recipes use whole pieces of apple as an ingredient, and begin with a recipe that can double up as a pudding when eaten warm, or eaten cold as a cake. Dare say it would even bake as a tray-bake. Although cooking apples are used (they tend to cook down fairly soft), other crisp eating apples could be substituted.
Chunky Monkey Cake:
3 oz (75g) softened butter or soft marg
6 oz (175g) soft brown sugar
6 oz (175g) plain flour
2 oz (50g) wholewheat flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 large egg beaten
2 tsp baking powder
1 tblsp chopped preserved ginger
grated zest of 1 orange
1 1/4lb (550g) cooking apples
Sift together the flours, cinnamon and baking powder. Peel , core and dice the apples, place in a bowl and sprinkle over 1 tblsp of the sieved flour. Toss so the apples are coated.
Put the fat and sugar into another bowl and beat until pale and fluffy. Then gradually beat in the eggs, adding a little of the flour if it looks as though it is curdling. Finally, fold in the flour, and lastly the orange zest, ginger and the prepared apples. Add a little milk only if the mixture is too dry. Tip the mixture into a greased and lined 9" (23cm) cake tin, greasing the surface of the paper as well. Level off the surface of the cake and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for about 1 hour or until just beginning to shrink away from the sides of the tin. Cool in the tin for 15 minutes before turning out.
variations: used candied peel instead of the preserved ginger, use mixed spice instead of the cinnamon, use half white and half wholewheat flour, include a handful of raisins or sultanas if you wish.
Serve warm with whipped cream for a pud, or cold as you would a cake.

Apple Crumble Cake:
cake mixture:
6 oz (175g) prepared apples (peeled, cored, sliced)
4 oz (100g) self-raising flour
pinch salt
2 oz (50g) caster sugar
2 oz (50g) softened butter or marg
1 egg
few drops vanilla or almond essence
2 tblsp milk
3 oz (75g) self-raising flour
2 oz (50g) caster sugar
1 oz (25g) butter or marg
2 tsp cold water
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tblsp demerara sugar
First make the crumble mix by rubbing together the flour, sugar and fat until like breadcrumbs. Sprinkle over the water, stir to form coarse lumps then set aside.
Make the cake mixture by beating the flour, salt, fat, egg, milk and essence together until smooth. Spoon this into the base of a greased and lined 8" (20cm) cake tin, then lay the apples slices on top. Sprinkle the crumble mix over the surface and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for about an hour. Cool in the tin for a good 20 minutes then remove and sprinkle the surface with the spiced sugar. Store in an airtight tin.

Not a cake recipe as such, but an apple filling that would be perfect for layer cakes, especially plain sponge, walnut, chocolate or ginger cakes.
Apple Cake filling:
1 lb (500g) eating apples, peeled, cored and sliced
2 tlsp apricot jam
grated zest and juice of 1 small lemon
Put the prepared apples into a pan with the jam and the lemon zest and juice. Cover and simmer gently until the apples are soft but still hold their shape. Leave to cool then spread between layers of cake.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Looking Back, Moving Forward

Today the recipes are looking towards the cooler days and give a few suggestions as to what could be made in advance, or that can be adapted to suit the occasion. We begin with biscuits:

The first recipe makes crunchy 'gingersnap' biscuits, but tasting of spice. Omit the spice and instead use ground ginger and they become a ginger biscuits. Alternatively flavour with a little orange zest and cinnamon. For an even deeper flavour, use black treacle instead of the syrup.
Spice Biscuits: makes 16
4 oz (10og) self-raising flour
1 rounded tsp mixed spice
1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 oz (50g) gran. sugar
2 oz (50g) margarine
2 oz (50g) golden syrup
Sift the flour, spice and bicarb together then add the sugar and rub in the margarine until like breadcrumbs. Stir in the syrup and mix well to a stiff paste. Divide mixture into 16 small balls and place on greased baking sheets - fairly well apart for they will spread. Flatten slightly and bake at 190C, 375C, gas 5 for 12 - 20 minutes. It is normal for the biscuits to end up with a cracked surface. Cool on the tin then transfer to a cake airer to get completely cold and store in an airtight tin.

Crispy Ginger Hollows: makes 36 (F)
4 oz (100g) margarine
12 oz (350g) caster sugar
1 large egg
9 oz (250g) self-raising flour
2 level tsp ground ginger
Cream the margarine and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg. Sieve together the flour and ginger and stir this into the creamed egg mixture, working it together to make a pliable dough. Knead gently and roll into balls, small walnut size. Place on greased baking sheets, leaving plenty of space to spread and bake at 150c, 300F, gas 2 for 25 minutes until just beginning to colour and have puffed up in size. Cool on a wire rack. When bitten into they should be crispy on the surface and hollow in the centre.
When cooked can be frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw for one hour at room temperature.

Considering the cost of making a rich fruit cake these days, even though it keeps so well, we could instead make a chocolate Christmas Cake. As long as the decoration is festive, then it will go down well. This next recipe is based on a brownie recipe. Use the best chocolate that has at least 70% cocoa solids.
Christmas Chocolate Cake:
11 oz (300g) plain dark chocolate
4 oz (125g) butter
2 eggs
4 oz (125g) dark brown sugar
3 oz (75g) self-raising flour
2 tblsp mixed chopped nuts
2 x 200g bars milk chocolate
7 oz (200g) dark or white chocolate for decoration
Put the chocolate in a bowl with the butter and place over a pan of simmering water. Stir until dissolved and combined. Beat the eggs with the sugar until the sugar has dissolved, the combine the two mixtures together, folding in the flour and the nuts.
Sp0on into a 9" (23cm) square tin and line with parchment paper. Bake at 190C, 375F, gas 5 for 10 minutes and cool in the tin. Meanwhile, melt the milk chocolate and pour this over the cooling cake giving it a shake to make a level surface. Leave to set.
To decorate, melt either very dark chocolate or white chocolate and pipe words over the top such as: "Season's Greetings", Merry Christmas", or what you will.

An alternative cake to the above would be a Rigo Jansci which is basically a triple layer cake, the bottom layer being a chocolate sponge, on top of this is a thick layer of ganache, and the final layer melted chocolate left to set. This could be decorated in the above fashion.

At one time used to make great piles of popcorn as - using a dry-heat pop-corn machine - it was so easy to do and the children loved to have something to nibble. The popping corn itself is very cheap - a couple of tablespoons, once popped could fill a small bucket.
It is also possible to pop corn in a saucepan with a very little oil (keep the lid on otherwise once popping begins you will find your kitchen covered in the stuff. There are also packs that can be popped in the microwave.
Not so long ago I would make up bags of flavoured popped corn to hand out on Trick or Treat night.
Butterscotch Popcorn:
2 oz (50g) popping corn
2 oz (50g) caster sugar
2 oz (50g) butter
pinch salt
1 rounded tblsp golden syrup
Pop the corn in as per instructions on the packet or machine. The place the popped corn in a large bowl, making sure to remove any unpopped corn kernels (they are so hard they could break your teeth - but usually fall to the bottom). Put the sugar, butter, salt and syrup in a small pan and heat gently until dissolved. Bring to the boil and bubble for a couple of minutes then pour this over the popped corn. Use two forks and keep tossing the corn until the kernels are coated with the butterscotch and shining.
Spread the coated popcorn in a single layer on a non-stick baking sheet (may need two) and cook for 10 minutes at 150C, 300F, gas 2 by which time the corn will have turned a golden brown. If you can, turn or move the corn around half-way through the cooking time so that it colours evenly.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin. When cool it will have turned crunchy. Fork through to break up the clusters and store in airtight bags or containers.

Chocolate Popcorn:
above ingredients plus:
half tsp vanilla extract
1 tblsp cocoa powder
Follow above instructions, adding the vanilla and cocoa to the sugar, butter and syrup before melting. Then proceed with the directions for the Butterscotch popcorn (above).

This next recipe is to do with making your own Granola, and wish I had discovered it before I paid out for a bag of ready-made 'crunch' to add to my home-made muesli. This uses maple syrup - sold in supermarkets - and this is lighter than golden syrup with a much better flavour in my opinion, so perhaps would also work with the popcorn recipes instead of using the suggested syrup. Please note that the following recipes use adaptations of the basic granola mix, so if you plan to both breakfast on the cereal and also use it for baking, then make up the separate versions and keep separate. If deciding not to use one or t'other, they can be added to the basic mix and tossed together.
Basic Granola:
2 tblsp light olive oil
5 fl oz (150ml) apple juice
4 fl oz (100ml) maple syrup
half tsp vanilla extract
pinch salt
12 oz (350g) jumbo rolled oats
4 oz (100g) oat bran
2 oz (25g) sesame seeds
3 oz (75g) each pumpkin and sunflower seeds
2 oz (50g) golden linseeds
7 oz (200g) raisins or dried cranberries/blueberries
Put the apple juice, maple syrup and vanilla into a pan. Add the salt and warm through, stirring until combined.
Put the oats, bran and all the seeds into a large bowl and pour over the liquid. Stir to coat thoroughly then spread out over one or two parchment lined baking trays. Bake at 170C, 325F, gas 3 for 40 minutes, stirring the granola frequently, then add the chosen dried fruit, stir again and cook for a further 15 minutes. Remove from heat, cool on the tin then store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks. Eat as a breakfast dish with milk or yogurt. Can be eaten dry as a snack. See below for further recipes that use this granola as an ingredient.
Tips: if you prefer to see the granola in 'cluster form', squeeze the prepared mixture in your hands before spreading out onto the baking sheets.
To make a tropical version: add pieces of dried fruits such as coconut, pineapple, mango etc towards the end of the cooking time instead of the cranberries.

The next couple of recipes use a variation of the above granola. If you don't fancy prunes in this first recipe, then used dates or no-soak apricots instead. It is suggested that half the granola recipe is made using 2 fl oz (50ml) honey instead of the maple syrup, 4 oz (100g) walnuts instead of the seeds and the suggested fruit instead of the raisins/cranberries. But you can adapt as you wish.
Walnut, Honey and Prune Cake:
7 oz (200g) granola mix using adaptations (see above)
5 oz (150g) butter, softened
5 fl oz (150ml) runny honey
3 eggs, beaten
14 oz (400g) self-raising flour
half tsp baking powder
7 fl oz (200ml) milk
Cream the butter with the honey until light and fluffy, then gradually beat in the eggs. Sift together the flour and baking powder and sift this again over the creamed mixture. Add the granola and the milk and stir together until combined. Pour into a greased and lined 2 lb (1kg) loaf tin and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for one hour until risen and golden. Turn out onto a cake airer until cold. This will keep for up to 4 days in an airtight tin.
To ice: mix together 5 oz (150g) cream cheese with 1 tblsp honey and 1 tbsp icing sugar, adding a few drops of vanilla extract if you wish. Spread this over the cake and sprinkle chopped walnuts on the top.

Although using the basic mix, this recipe requires the seeds to be replaced with roughly chopped pistachio or other nuts. Other fruits such as no-soak dried apricots or black cherries can replace the raisins.
Granola Bars: makes 15
half quantity of basic granola mix (adapted as suggested)
7 fl oz (200ml) apple sauce/puree
2 oz (50g) ground almonds
Put the half quantity of granola (baked as basic recipe but with the alternative dried fruit) into a bowl and stir in the apple sauce and ground almonds. Press into a square 9" (23cm) tin that has been lined with baking parchment, and bake for a further 25 minutes at the oven temperature set for the basic mix. When cooked it should be pale golden. Leave in the tin until quite cold, then turn out and cut into bars. These should keep in an airtight tin for up to 4 days.

Friday, September 12, 2008

At the Present Time..

The first time I was introduced to Couscous as a dish was when I went to Tunisia. Traditionally this is made with meat and seven vegetables that are then served on a bed of couscous. Omit the meat and the vegetable version is just as good. Generally the veggies are the chunky ones, and include chickpeas, but vary the veg according to the season and price. Use Harrisa paste for speed or follow the footnote to make up your own spice. If you have no dates, prunes work just as well.
Vegetable Couscous: serves 4 (V)
2 carrots
1 large parsnip
2 small turnips
12 oz (350g) sweet potato
12 oz (350g) butternut squash
2 onions, sliced
1 tblsp olive oil
1 - 2 good tsp Harissa paste* (2 taste)
vegetable stock or water
12 oz (350g) chickpeas, canned or home-cooked
4 oz (100g) no-soak dried apricots, roughly chopped
4 oz (100g) dried dates, stoned and roughly chopped
2 tblsp runny honey
salt and pepper
2 tblsp chopped fresh coriander or parsley
2 oz (50g) toasted flaked almonds
Where necessary, peel the vegetables removed seeds and cut into even sized chunks. Not too small. Fry the onion in the oil until softened. Stir in the harissa paste and the prepared vegetables, pouring just enough stock or water to cover. Bring to the simmer and cook gently for 45 minutes.m then add the rest of the ingredients (except the herbs and almonds) and simmer for a further 15 minutes or so until the liquid has reduced to a sauce consistency. Serve at table from the pan, or decant into a warm serving bowl and scatter over the parsley and almonds.
Note: * Instead of using the spicy hot harissa paste, make a gentler but still tasty paste using the following recipe:
Spicy Paste:
2 tblsp tomato puree
half tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp ground ginger
pinch ground saffron
1 tsp turmeric
half tsp ground cinnamon
Mix together and use in place of the harissa paste. Adjust the amount of spices used to suit personal tastes. To make it hotter, add a little chilli powder

Another spiced up vegetable dish, but from another country. Again adjust the vegetables according to season. The best vegetables to use are: cauliflower, mushrooms, green beans, and red bell pepper. Small potatoes and peas can also be included in place of the beans).
Biryani made with Vegetables: serves 4 (V)
10 oz (275g) long-grain rice (pref basmati)
2 oz (50g) butter
1 large onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tblsp grated root ginger
1 tsp turmeric
half tsp chilli powder
1 tsp ground coriander
1 lb (500g) mixed vegetables (see above)
5 fl oz (150ml) water
black pepper
seeds from 5 cardamom pods
3 whole cloves
fresh coriander for garnish
Soak the rice in cold water for at least half an hour, the longer the better. Melt the butter in a heatproof casserole over medium heat. Add the onion and fry until softened and beginning to caramelise. Stir in the garlic , fresh ginger and the first three spices and fry for 2 minutes then add the vegetables and water, cover and cook gently for 4 minutes. Season well with pepper. The remove from heat.
Drain the rice and put into a saucepan with the cardamom seeds and cloves and cover with water, simmer for five minutes then drain well and fold into the vegetable mixture. Cover with a well fitting lid and place on the hob for one minute - the idea being to build up plenty of steam inside the casserole, the place immediately into a pre-heated oven 150C, 300F, gas 2 and cook for 15 - 20 minutes or until the veggies are tender. Serve garnished with chopped coriander and poppadoms.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Chicken Chat - and Cakes

Tree smaller chickens were priced at £4 each (each weighing 1.55kg) but on offer at "3 for £10", and it turned out these were a good buy.

Was puzzled how each bird could be exactly the same weight, but forgot to weigh them individually before I rolled up my sleeves and began work on them. Perhaps a little water had needed to be syringed into them to bring them up to the required weight. Did later notice on the back of the label "weights are approximate" so they may have been lighter, or even heavier. But they did look exactly the same.

Although I have done this in the past, and was not intending to do it again, decided I might just as well weigh the pieces after jointing - the results might be useful. Obviously with three birds this gave me six breasts (from which I took the fillets before weighing - and the breasts came to 2 lb 2 oz (950g), the fillets 11oz (300g).
The six wings weighed in at 1 lb 5 oz (600g), and although I divided two of the legs into drumsticks and thighs, did leave four as they were, but together they weighed 3 lb 5oz (1.5kg). The bones were left in. Then was left with three carcases, still with some flesh on them, to turn into stock.

When broken down into portions (and many of us do buy portions), then comparing the weights above against the cost of buying portions packs, think you will discover that buying the three birds was economical. If guests had been staying with us at the time of purchase, would probably have roasted one as a whole bird, or even frozen one to be cooked later, but had not large enough freezer space - split into in flat packs yes, but not a full-sized bird on the bone.

For those budding cake-decorators, may I refer you to my cousin's website. Sally-Ann now lives in America, but has always been interested in cooking and latterly has concentrated on making and decorating cakes. She got so good at it she has now turned it into a thriving business and you can see many of her cakes on her website http://www.forgetmenotcakes.com/ . Do click onto her sugarcraft page for there are closeups there of sugar flowers that are so lifelike and truly amazing.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Take a Second Look

In the newspaper yesterday read something about how we are being urged to eat meat less often and begin to serve one or two vegetarian meals a week . Ideally, it would be worth serving a vegetarian meal on alternate days, or even more often, for it would certainly save money and we can still obtain the necessary protein by other means. So today am giving one or two recipes for 'meatless' meals.

The first uses three different cheeses - hence the name, but it is just a guide, use two or - at a pinch - just one, but the more we use the more flavour we gain. With gnocchi, flavour IS important, for on its own it has virtually none - just acting as a sponge for the more strongly flavoured ingredients. So up to a point, and within reason we can vary the flavours according to what we have and - more importantly - to our taste.
Three-Cheese Gnocchi: serves 4 (V)
2 oz (5og) Parmesan or Pecorino cheese, grated
2 oz (50g) Stilton or Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
3 oz (75g) Mozzarella cheese, grated
half a pint (300ml) single cream*
1 tblsp plain flour
1 tsp Dijon mustard
grating of nutmeg
salt and pepper
2 oz (50g) walnuts, chopped
handful chopped fresh parsley
1 lb (500g) pack potato gnocchi
2 tblsp fresh breadcrumbs
Put the cheeses and cream into a small pan and heat until the cheese has melted, then whisk in the flour and simmer for 2 - 3 minutes before adding the mustard and nutmeg. Season to taste. Remove from heat and stir in the walnuts and parsley.
Cook the gnocchi according to packet instructions, then put into a large shallow dish and level the surface. Pour the cheese sauce on top and sprinkle over the breadcrumbs with more grated Parmesan (or Cheddar) if you wish. Bake for 15 minutes at 200C, 400F, gas 6 until bubbling and golden. Serve at once.
Note: * if you do not wish to use single cream, enrich milk by stirring in one or two tblsp of dried milk. Alternatively use half and half milk and evaporated milk.

The first part of this recipe makes a good sauce that can be used for any bolognaise dish, meat or veggie. Blitzed down it will also make a good sauce to spread over a pizza base, or even thinned down slightly would make a pleasant soup.
Beany Bolognaise: serves 6 (V)
2 tblsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely diced
1 rib celery, finely sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tblsp tomato puree
1 tsp sugar
2 cans plum tomatoes
1 tsp dried marjoram or oregano
freshly ground black pepper
2 x 410g cans mixed pulses, drained and rinsed
1 lb (500g) spaghetti
Parmesan or Pecorino cheese, grated or shavings
Heat the oil in a pan and saute the onion, carrot and celery for 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic, fry for a further minute then stir in the tomato puree, the sugar and the plum tomatoes. Break up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon to incorporate them into the mixture. Add the dried herbs and season with pepper. Lower heat to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes before adding the pulses. Cook on for 10 more minutes then stir in the parsley, adding more seasoning if required.
Meanwhile cook the pasta as per packet instructions, drain and add to the bean sauce and toss together. Serve in individual heated bowls and sprinkle over the cheese.

The third veggie recipe is a good one to make for lunch. With a poached egg on top it could also make a breakfast dish. Ideally, use a granary bap or ciabatta rolls, but any port in a storm I say, so feel free to use a bog-standard bap. If you must.
Rustic Chargrilled Hot Sandwich: makes 4 (V)
1 large red bell pepper, deseeded and quartered
1 yellow bell pepper, treated the same
4 large flat field mushrooms
1 aubergine, cut into 1/3" (1cm) slices
2 fl oz (50ml) olive oil
salt and pepper
2 tblsp balsamic vinegar
4 oz (100g) cream (philly) cheese
4 fresh rolls, split
Brush the peppers, mushrooms and aubergine with oil. Either put the pepper and aubergine on a baking tray under the grill for a few minutes, or cook in a ridged griddle pan. After 3 minutes add the mushrooms (may be necessary to do this in batches if using a pan), and continue for 5 - 8 minutes, turning occasionally until the vegetables are tender. When cooked, put the veggies into a large bowl and sprinkle over the vinegar. Set to one side.
Toast the rolls on both sides, then spread each bottom half with cheese and top with the warmed vegetables, then replace top of the bun. Serve warm.

Final 'recipes' of the day are more on the lines of how to make "veggie toast toppings.' The better the bread the more the impact. When fancying toast made with granary or other good bread, don't feel that it cannot be afforded, ideally buy the loaf then freeze it and take just a slice when you fancy toast. This makes it last a lotlonger than having to use it up within a week, and makes a slice now and then with chosen topping make an agreeable lunch.

spicy beans on toast:
Drain a 400g can of mixed beans (or used home-cooked). Put into a pan with a 227g can of chopped tomatoes, a dash of Tabasco and 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce. Simmer away the liquid, then serve on hot toast.

hummous on toast:
Using a food processor, blend 220g can (or homecooked) chickpeas with the juice of half a lemon, a little crushed garlic and a tblsp Greek yogurt and 1 tsp olive oil. Season to taste. Spread thickly on toast, eat as is- or can be heated under the grill.

stilton melt:
Blend 3 oz (75g) Stilton (or other blue) cheese with 2 - 3 tblsp creme fraiche. Spread onto toast and pop back under the grill until bubbling. Serve topped with caramelised onions (or put the onions on the toast then put the cheese over that).

Sunday, September 07, 2008

It's All in the Genes

The good thing about slow-cookers is that (especially when on Low) they can be left to 'cook' for longer than the recommended time without spoiling. So if held up at work or in a traffic jam, not a problem - the meal will be still be able to be eaten.

Please note: the recipes are expected to be cooked in a 5 qt (10 pint) slow-cooker. We normally use ones much smaller than this, so adjust amounts accordingly.

Potato and Sausage Crock-pot supper: 6 - 8 servings
4 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced
1 lb (450g) cooked Polish sausage, cut into 1/2" slices
2 medium onions, sliced and separated into rings
1can condensed cream of celery soup
1 can condensed mushroom or chicken soup
8 oz (225g) frozen peas, thawed
Layer a third of the the potatoes, sausage, onion rings and celery soup (undiluted). Repeat layers twice. Pour the second can of undiluted soup over the top. Cover and cook for 5 - 6 hours on Low or until the potatoes are tender. Half an hour before serving add the peas (or they could be cooked separately and served when dishing out.

Tesco do some very good Danish (or is it Swedish?) meatballs that are pre-cooked ready to eat, but can be re-heated. Alternatively make your own, cook and store in the freezer. A good seasonal recipe as apple juice and apple jelly are used and would go particularly well if the meat balls were made of pork.
Buffet Meatballs:
8 fl oz (225ml) apple juice
8 fl oz measure (225ml) apple jelly
8 fl oz measure (225ml) tomato ketchup
4 lbs fresh or frozen meatballs
Put the apple juice and jelly into a saucepan and heat gently until the jelly has dissolved. Stir in the ketchup. Put the meatballs in the crockpot and pour the sauce over the top, moving the meatballs around so they are all coated in the sauce. Cover and cook on Low for 4 hours or until heated through.

This recipe uses mainly storecupboard and freezer ingredients. If you cannot find the flavour soup that is asked for, use a complementary flavoured one instead. This is one dish for the slow-cooker that takes less than expected to cook, so could be started after a late lunch ready for supper. As it makes 12 servings best kept for a dinner party as the shrimps/prawns will not freeze again happily. If the crock pot is average size, then reduce amounts by half. (Note: this is mainly slow-cooking the sauce, and much smaller amounts could be made far more speedily by heating the sauce in a pan on the hob, then stirring in the cheese and prawns at the end.)
Slow Shrimp Chowder: serves 12
1 onion, chopped and sauted in...
...2 tsp butter, melted
2 x 12oz (350g) cans evaporated milk
2 cans condensed potato soup
2 cans condensed cream of chicken soup
1 can (11oz/300g) sweetcorn, drained
1 tsp Creole seasoning
2 lbs (900g) cooked shrimps/small prawns
3 oz (75g) cream cheese, cubed
4 rashers bacon, crisply fried and crumbled.
Put the onion, evap.milk, undiluted soups, sweetcorn and Creole seasoning into the slow-cooker and blend together. Cover and cook on Low for 3 hours, then blend in the cream cheese and shrimps/prawns. When the cheese has melted and the shellfish has heated through, serve garnished with the bacon pieces.

This last slow-cooker dish makes good use of the chicken wings that many of us save when portioning a chicken. Collected up they can make either a useful dish such as the one below, or be used to make chicken stock. Again the original recipe (as given) uses a 5 qt crock-pot, so adjust the amounts if you wish to make a smaller amount. Good party fare when made in bulk. Suggest being mean with the chilli sauce and the other hot seasonings, taste as you go, you can always add more sauce at the end of cooking time.
Sweet and Spicy Chicken Wings: yields about 4 dozen
approx 4 lbs chicken wings
1 bottle (12 oz/350g) chilli sauce
2 fl oz (50ml) lemon juice
2 fl oz (50ml) black treacle
2 tblsp Worcestershire sauce
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tblsp chilli powder
1 tblsp tomato puree
3 drops Tabaso
Place the chicken wings in the slow-cooker. Put the remaining ingredients into a bowl (this is the time for the taste test) and pour over the chicken. Stir to coat, cover and cook on Low for 8 hours or until the chicken is cooked through.

Final recipe today is for those who use a bread machine (although can also be made by hand). Am including it because it is 'different'. The one recipe that does need the flour to be measured by the 'cup' but am sure you can cope.
Cappuccino Chocolate Chip Bread: makes 1 loaf (1 1/2 lbs)
6 fl.oz (175ml) warm milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
3 tblsp instant coffee granules
2 tblsp sugar
2 tblsp water
1 tblsp butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
half tsp salt
3 cups strong bread flour
2 tsp quick action dried yeast
3 tblsp coarsely grated dark chocolate
Place into the bread machine - in the order recommended by the manufacturer - all the ingredients except the chocolate. Select the basic bread setting and choose crust colour and loaf size as desired. Bake according to directions. Check dough after 5 minutes of mixing, adding 1 - 2 tblsp water OR flour if needed). Just before final kneading, add the chocolate.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Name that Prune

This next recipe is definitely for the children (although Beloved would eat them if allowed). A good nibble to make for the Halloween Trick or Treat visitors, or for Bonfire night.
Hubble, Bubble Bars: makes 24
5 oz (150g) marshmallows
2 oz (50g) butter
5 oz (150g) rice crispies or similar cereal
3 oz (75g) hundreds and thousands
Snip the marshmallows into small pieces and put in a pan with the butter. Het getnly until melted., then stir in the rice crispies and hundreds and thousands. Mix well together.
Line a 7" x 11" (18 x 28cm) Swiss roll tin with foil, and grease lightly. Pour the marshmallow mixure into the tin and level the surface. Leave to get cold. Cut into bars when set.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Fruits of Our Own Efforts

Leaving you with one quick-to-make recipe, and - as ever - the filling can be your personal choice. Most of us now own a microwave, if not - just cook the potatoes in the oven in the traditional way, but it will take longer. To help speed up oven baked potatoes, first boil the unpeeled potato for 10 minutes, then put it in the oven and bake in the normal way, but it should be ready in half the time.
Golden Jackets: serves 4
4 baking potatoes
1 oz (25g) butter
6 oz (175g) Brie or other soft cheese
1 egg yolk
salt and pepper
4oz (100g) cooked peeled prawns, defrosted if frozen
2 tblsp golden breadcrumbs
Microwave the potatoes on High for approx 16 minutes, turning after 8 minutes. Leave to stand for 5 minutes then slice in half lengthways and scoop out most of the flesh. Mash this with the cheese, butter and egg yolk, adding seasoning to taste. When smooth, stir in the prawns (if large, chop up the prawns). Spoon into the potato shells, sprinkle with the breadcrumbs and place under a pre-heated grill until golden brown.
Note: if the filling has cooled down to0 much, pop the filled spuds back into the microwave and cook for five minutes before grilling.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Foraging for Food

As it is blackberry time, worth including a few recipes to make the most of them. The first is for a blackberry and apple jam and so easy when it comes to remembering the weights and measures. You will need the same weight of blackberries to prepared sharp cooking or eating apples, and the combined weight of both in sugar. Plus the juice of half a lemon (or one small one - better too much lemon juice than not enough). But for those who prefer to see a recipe printed out here it is:
Bramble Jam:
1 lb (500g) blackberries
1 lb (500g) Bramley apples, peeled and chopped
2 lbs (1kg) granulated or preserving sugar
juice of half a lemon
Warm the sugar by putting it into a heatproof dish and heating it through at 150C, 300F, gas 2 for a few minutes. Meanwhile put both fruits into a preserving pan with the lemon juice and heat very gently for about 15 minutes or until the fruit is very soft, then add the warmed sugar. When this has dissolved, raise the heat, and boil the jam for 10 - 15 minutes or until setting point has been reached. Pot up into hot sterilised jars, and seal.

This next is an autumn version of Eton Mess. Made of course with blackberries instead of strawberries, and although could be eaten without freezeing (as Eton Mess would be), this gives it another dimension. For adults use cassis (if you have it) for children use Ribena - although both are optional. As to the meringues, just make your own and store in a box until needed. So don't throw away even one egg white, turn it into a meringue (whisk until thick then whisk in 2 oz sugar (50g) for each egg white. Place on a greased baking sheet or parchment paper and dry off in the residual heat of an oven - overnight and without peeping.
Meet 'n Bless Terrine: serves 6 (F)
5 oz (150g) blackberries
3 tsp cassis or Ribena (opt)
12 oz (350ml) whipping cream
1 oz (25g) icing or caster sugar
8 meringue nests, crushed (or equivalent amount)
If using the cassis/Ribena, heat the berries through in this, then leave to cool. Whip the cream with the sugar until thick, then fold in the blackberries and the crushed meringues. Line a 2lb loaf tin with clingfilm, using enough so that it hangs over the edges, then spoon in the berry mixture and level the surface. Fold back the clingfilm to cover, then freeze until firm (at least four hours, or it will keep for days). To serve, remove from freezer, leave in the tin for five minutes, then unwrap the clingfilm and turn out the terrine onto a serving plate. Serve sliced.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Cook's Choice

This recipe uses ingredients that we have both in the cupboard and freezer, and although the recipe originated in the US and uses 'a can of mixed vegetables' have converted this to it around a pint measure of chopped onion, diced carrot, peas, green beans, and sweetcorn which will then cook on in the liquid. Add the peas towards the end when adding the fish, so they stay a lovely green colour.
Fisherman's 'Meal in a Bowl' Soup: serves 4
16 fl.oz (450ml) chicken stock
1 x 410g can chopped tomatoes
1 pint measure veg (see above)
2 ribs celery, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
Tabasco sauce
8 oz (225g) fresh or frozen cod or haddock fillets
If the fish is frozen, thaw. Remove skin from fish and cut into 1" chunks. Set aside.
Into a pan put the chicken stock, tomatoes, vegetables, celery, garlic and bring to the simmer. Cook gently until the vegetables are tender (about 10 minutes). Add a few drops of Tabasco according to taste. Stir in the fish and return to the simmer, pour the peas on the top, cover and simmer very gently for about 5 minutes or until the fish flakes easily with a fork. Serve in individual bowls with chunks of crusty bread.

With meat, vegetables and pastry, this 'pasty' is a complete meal in itself, and a hungry teenage lad might just manage to eat one turnover all by himself. If not two.
Turkey Turnovers: makes 2 turnovers, serves 4
1 lb (450g) cold cooked turkey, minced or finely chopped
1 large onion, sliced and fried
1 tblsp sunflower oil
8 oz (225g) chopped (canned) tomatoes
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 medium carrot, grated
1 tblsp raisins or sultanas
1 tsp curry powder or paste
salt and pepper
half tsp ground cumin
shortcrust pastry (enough to roll into two 9" rounds)
1 egg, beaten
Fry the onions in the oil until softened, then stir in the curry powder and cumin, fry for one minute more then stir in the tomatoes, pepper, carrot and raisins, adding seasoning to taste. Simmer for 5 minutes then stir in the cooked mince. Raise the heat and boil until just about all of the liquid has evaporated, stirring occasionally to prevent contents of the pan burning. Remove from heat and leave to cool.
Roll out the pastry on a floured board and cut into two 9" circles. Spread half the filling over one half of each of the pastry, leaving the edge clear. Moisten edges with water, then fold the uncovered part of the pastry circle over the filling and seal and crimp the edges. Brush the tops of the turnovers with beaten egg and cut a couple or so slits in the top of each to allow steam to escape. Bake at 190C, 375F, gas 5 for about 25 minutes or until golden brown. Serve hot, cutting each turnover in half to make four portions.

If a hungry teenage girl, then massive turnovers might not be so enticing, however a few dainty nibbles would not go amiss, and the following recipe is good for the occasional snack or made in bulk to serve with drinks or at a full-blown buffet party. For ease, roll the pastry and cut the circles in advance, then freeze away until ready to be baked, and even this baking can be done a couple or so days in advance for the pastry keeps well in an airtight tin, especially if salt has been put over the base of the tin, covered with kitchen paper, and the 'biscuit bases' layered above. The salt will absorb any moisture in the tin and so the pastry remains crisp. Works well when storing vol-au-vents. As the amounts are in even figures this makes it easy to reduce to making half or even quarter the amount.
Italian Bites: makes 24
1 x 350g pack puff pastry
2 oz (50g) Parmesan cheese, finely grated
pesto sauce (from a jar)
8 oz (226g) feta cheese, crumbled
12 - 24 cherry tomatoes
handful of flat-leaf parsley
pitted and halved black olives
Roll out the pastry to the thickness of a 10p coin. Then cut out 24 circles using a small cutter (top of a sherry glass approx 6cm). Chill for half an hour. Place pastry bases onto ungreased baking sheet, prick surface through with a fork and bake at 200c, 400F, gas 6 for around 20 minutes until golden. Remove to a wire rack to cool (see above re storing cooked puff pastry).
To serve: put the feta in a bowl with enough pesto to mash into a thick paste. Slice the tomatoes in half, or 0 if large enough into four slices. Spoon a little of the pesto mix on top of each of the biscuits and top with a couple of slices of tomato. Garnish each with a wee sprig of parsley. Arrange on a serving platter with a few black olives sprinkled around. - or if you wish tuck a halved black olive alongside one tomato half on top of the feta paste.

Another recipe that can make the most of the season's offerings or maybe odds and ends in the fridge that need using up - is this quiche. The vegetables are given as a guide, but others (within reason) could be used, and feta cheese or something similar - such as crumbled Wensleydale or goat's cheese. When it comes to cheeses, almost any could be used, just crumble the softer cheeses and grate the harder ones. Writing as I think, remember that Stilton and walnuts go together, and so do walnuts and spinach, so a quiche could be made using these. Use the following recipe as a guide - then make your choice of what to include, and go for it!
Gardener's Quiche: serves 6
9" (23cm) pastry case, baked blind
2 oz (50g) butter
2 small courgettes, sliced diagonally
2 oz (50g) runner or string beans, sliced
3 oz (75g) fresh (or frozen and thawed ) peas
3 spring onions, finely sliced, including green tops)
half pint (300ml) milk
1 oz (25g) plain flour
salt and pepper
2 eggs,beaten
4 oz (100g) feta or goat's cheese, sliced or crumbled
2 tomatoes, sliced
Keep the cooked pastry case in its tin (preferably loose-based). Make the filling by melting the butter in a saucepan, then stirring in the courgettes, beans and onions until beginning to soften. If using fresh peas add these also. When the veggies have softened, stir in the flour then add the milk, stirring continuously until a smooth sauce. Season to taste. If using thawed frozen peas, add them now. Remove from heat and leave to cool, stirring from time to time to prevent a skin forming (or cover surface with a fitted circle of greaseproof or parchment paper). After five minutes cooling, stir in the eggs and half the cheese. Pour into the pastry case, scattering remaining cheese on top and placing tomatoes around the sides. Bake at 190C, 375F, gas 5 for 40 minutes and allow to cool slightly before removing from the tin. Serve with a green salad.