Thursday, October 30, 2008

Gathering Information

With the Sunday roast being almost a thing of the past, for economy - and even to make a change - we should consider serving up a vegetarian 'roast' now and again. Don't let the vegetarians alone eat all such good dishes, we should plan to include many meatless dishes within the weekly menu. Not only will they taste good, they will do us good.
Vegetarian 'Roast' with gravy: serves 4 (V)
6 oz (175g) brown rice
salt and pepper
1 oz (25g) dried porcini (or other) mushrooms
1 oz (50g) butter
3 large carrots, grated
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 lb (450g) button mushrooms, chopped
1 tblsp chopped rosemary leaves
6 oz (175g) Brazil nuts, toasted and chopped
3 oz (75g) pine nuts, toasted
4 oz (100g) walnuts, chopped
10 oz (275g) Cheddar cheese, grated
2 eggs, beaten
Boil the rice in salted water for 30 or so minutes until al dente. Meanwhile soak the dried mushrooms in warm water for 20 minutes, then drain, pat dry and chop. Drain the rice .
Melt the butter in a frying pan and stir in the carrots and onion. Saute for 5 minutes then - in the order given - stir in the garlic, chopped button mushrooms, the chopped porcini mushrooms, rosemary and the rice.
Cook until softened, then puree the lot in a food processor.
Tip the mixture into a bowl and add the nuts, the cheese and the eggs. Season to taste and pour into a greased loaf tin and bake at 190C, 375F, gas 5 for an hour and a half or until firm. To serve, turn out onto a serving plate and cut into slices. Serve with gravy (recipe below).
vegetarian gravy:
1 oz (25g) butter
1 carrot, diced
1 leek or onion, diced
1 rib celery, finely chopped
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
1 pint (450ml) vegetable stock
3 tomatoes, deseeded and diced
Melt the butter in a pan and saute the carrot, leek and celery until softened. Stir in the garlic and herbs. Add the stock and simmer until the liquid has reduced by half. Strain and add diced tomato to the gravy and serve immediately, over the slices of 'roast'.
Tip: do not discard the veggies left in the strainer, for they can be blitzed with more vegetable stock to make a pureed vegetable soup.

This next recipe is for the alternative Christmas pud, and can be made several hour (or even days) in advance as it is a frozen dessert called a bombe. The centre of this pud is an orange sorbet, but it could be ice-cream and probably easier if you bought this rather than make it yourself. The outer 'case' is assembled at home. As it feeds a goodly number of people, for the average sized family, just cut the ingredients by half and use a smaller bowl.
The Alternative Christmas Pud: serves 10 (F)
6 oz (175g) mixed dried fruit
3 oz (75g) no-soak apricots, chopped
1 x 250g tub Mascarpone cheese
7 oz (200g) cold custard (or use bought custard)
2 oz (50g) caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
grated zest of 1 large orange
4 tblsp of orange juice (or use orange liqueur)
1 x 284ml whipping cream
1 x 500ml tub orange sorbet
If necessary chop the apricots to the size of the raisins and other dried fruits, then put all into a bowl with the orange juice or liqueur (or half of each) and leave for at least an hour (or overnight) to allow all the liquid to be absorbed.
Beat the mascarpone cheese until softened, then beat in the custard, sugar, vanilla and orange zest until well blended. Whip the cream and using a metal spoon, alterntely fold into the cheese mixture with the fruit.
Tip into a 3.5 pint (2 ltr) pudding basin, then press into this a smaller basin (approx 18 fl oz/500ml) until the cream/fruit mixture comes up to the rim. If necessary place a weight in the small basin to hold it in place. Freeze for several hours (pref. overnight) until firm. To remove the smaller bowl, pour in hot water, swirl it around for 3 seconds, then twist and remove. Fill the centre with the orange sorbet, cover and return to the freezer. Freeze for at least 2 hours but can be made up to 3 weeks in advance of serving
To remove the bombe from the bowl, dip the bowl into very hot water for 2 - 3 seconds, then invert onto a place. Decorate with imitation holly sprigs, cranberries and segments of clementines (membrane removed).
Tip: defrost the sorbet for 10 - 15 minutes before spooning into the bombe as this makes it easier to handle.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Root of the Problem

Here are three recipes based on almost-the-same seasonal veggies. The first two are both classed as 'soups' - but one is almost a meal in its own right. First is the recipe for a 'chunky' one. Use more or less of the vegetables according to what we have. Omit the bacon and use the same weight of sliced mushrooms to make a vegetarian version.
Minestrone for Chilly Days: serves 4
1 onion, chopped
4 oz (1oog) streaky bacon, chopped
2 tblsp olive oil
2 carrots, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 potato, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 x 4oog can chopped tomatoes
1 3/4 pints (1 ltr) vegetable stock
1 tsp dried sage or mixed herbs
salt and pepper
few cabbage leaves, shredded
1 x 400g haricot or cannellini beans, drained
handful parsley, chopped
Put the oil in a large saucepan and fry the onion and bacon for 5 minutes, then stir in the garlic and cook for a further minute before adding the carrots, celery and potato. Stir well and saute for a few minutes longer. Add the tomatoes, stock, dried herbs and seasoning to taste. Simmer for fifteen minutes, then stir in the cabbage and simmer for a further 15 minutes. Stir in the beans and parsley. Cook for a further minute to heat the beans then serve in warm bowls with croutons on top, or crusty bread on the side.

Spicy Root Vegetable Soup: serves 4
2 onions, thickly sliced
1 tsp cumin, ground or seeds
3 tblsp sunflower oil
2 leeks, sliced
2 large carrots, sliced
2 medium potatoes, chopped
1 large parsnip, peeled and chipped
2 tsp mild curry paste
1 3/4 pints (1 ltr) vegetable stock
8 fl oz (250ml) natural yogurt
salt and pepper
handful fresh coriander, chopped
Put 2 tsp of the oil in a saucepan and fry half the onions for 3 minutes, the stir in the cumin and continue frying until the onions are browned. Stir in the curry paste and the prepared vegetables, and when well coated with the paste pour in the stock and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to the simmer and cook for half an hour or until the vegetables are tinder
While this is cooking, heat the remaining oil in a frying pan, and fry the remaining onion until crisp. Drain on kitchen paper.
Puree the soup (may need to be done in batches) then return to the pan and stir in two-thirds of the yogurt.
Season to taste then reheat gently, but do not boil. Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and dress each with a dollop of yogurt topped with fried onions and a sprinkling of coriander.

Again, similar vegetables but this time a vegetarian 'tagine'. A little harissa paste (to taste) could be used instead of the spices as shown, but as the spices can be used in many other dishes (both sweet and savoury) it is worth building up a spice rack.
Vegetarian Tagine: serves 4 (V)
2 tblsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
half tsp turmeric
half tsp paprika pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1 cinnamon stick
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
1 large carrot, sliced lengthways then cut into batons
1 parsnip, peeled and cut into chunks
1 turnip, sliced into thick rounds
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into cubes
1 pint 6fl oz (750ml) cold water
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 crisp green eating apple, peeled and cored, cut into 8 wedges
handful fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
10 oz (280g) couscous
1 oz (25g) butter
13 fl oz (375ml) boiling water
Put the oil in a frying pan over high heat and fry the onion for 3 minutes, then stir in the garlic and fry for a further minute. Lower the heat to medium then stir in all the spices and cook for 2 minutes to allow them to release their flavour. Pour in the cold water, add the tomatoes and season well. Bring to the boil then stir in the carrot and parsnip. Cook for half an hour then add the turnip, sweet potato and apple. Cook for a further 20 minutes or until all the vegetables are tender, then stir in the mint.
Immediately you have added the turnips etc to the tagine, prepare the couscous by putting into a large bowl with the butter. Pour over the boiling water, giving it a quick stir, then cover with clingfilm or a plate and leave to stand for 15 minutes. Remove cover and stir again with a fork, re-cover and leave for five minutes longer. Fluff up with a fork, tip into a warm shallow dish and top with the vegetable mixture.

For once am giving a dish designed to be cooked (or rather heated) in the microwave. If you have a microwave and some plain cake that needs using up, then this is the one for you. Canny cooks will keep plain cake in the freezer, and dried fruits in the storecupboard so that this can be prepared and cooked in all of fifteen minutes, but as with any dish such as this, the syrupy fruit part can be made in advance - even the whole pud can be assembled in advance then that cuts down time to less than 5 minutes. A variation is also given for those who have ginger cake left over after Halloween.
Spiced Apricot Pudding: serves 4
6 dates, stoned and roughly chopped
8 no-soak dried apricots, chopped
1 tsp mixed spice
2 tblsp runny honey
5 fl oz (150ml) orange juice
2 tblsp chopped mixed nuts
1 madeira cake
Put the dates, apricots, spice, honey and orange juice into a small pan, and bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes or until the dates have collapsed and you end up with a thick syrupy sauce. Stir in the nuts then set aside.
Cut the madeira cake in thick slices and use a cutter to cur circles to fit into the top of four ramekin dishes.
Divide the fruit mixture between the ramekin dishes, then top each with a circle of the cake , pressing down gently. Cover with clingfilm and microwave on High for 3 minutes. Serve by upturning each onto an individual plate and serve with ice-cream, pouring cream or custard.
Instead of plain cake, use ginger cake, and for the sauce use a can of pear halves (drained) instead of the dates and apricots. Heat the pears instead with a handful of raisins or sultanas, good pinch of ground cinnamon. zest of 1 lemon or orange, the honey as above and just a splash of orange juice. When the pears have cooked down to a pulp (add more orange juice or juice from the can if necessary) then continue and cook as above.

Banella Toasties: serves 2 -4
butter, softened
4 slices (medium cut) white bread
Nutella spread
1 large banana, sliced
Thinly spread the butter on one side of each slice of bread. Turn over and spread the unbuttered side with Nutella spread. Cover with sliced banana, then cover with a second slice of bread butter side up.
Heat a dry frying pan, then put one sandwich (or two if they will fit) into the pan and cook for 3 minute on each side until the bread is golden and crisp. Remove from the pan, slice across diagonally and serve one or two triangles (per portion), dusted with icing sugar with a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of ice-cream.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Kitchen Chat

Browsing through an old cook book came across a recipe for faggots. This is made with pig's liver and belly pork, but it says bacon could be used instead, and might have a go at making some of these using a few pigeon breasts (as they turned out to be very similar to liver in texture). Faggots were traditionally wrapped in 'caul' a sort of fatty mesh from the innards of the animal, but this recipe does not require that, and as they can be frozen, worth making.
Faggots: serves 4 (F)
1 lb (450) pig's liver
1 onion, diced
4 oz (100g) belly pork or streaky bacon
salt and pepper
pinch dried sage
pinch dried thyme
1 egg, beaten
8 oz (225g) fresh white breadcrumbs
Wipe the liver and remove any tubes. Mince the liver and bacon together and season to taste, adding the dried herbs and egg. Stir in sufficient breadcrumbs to make a stiff mixture. Using floured hands, shape into 10 or 12 balls, and place in a greased roasting tin and bake at 190C, 375F, gas 5 for about half an hour or until browned. Serve with gravy.
To freeze: after cooking, cool and pack into a rigid container. Seal and freeze. Use within 2 months. Thaw in fridge overnight to serve cold, or reheat from frozen by placing in a tin and cooking at above temperature for about 40 minutes to allow the faggots to re-heat through completely.

We are familiar with savoury pies that have a mashed potato topping, and pies that have a pastry topping, but for a change top make a Cottage, Shepherd's or Fish Pie with a savoury crumble instead. The crumble could be made in bulk and kept in the fridge/freezer in the same way we keep our home-made pastry, scone and crumble mixes. Just remember to label correctly - they all look much the same.
Savoury Crumble Topping: covers a dish to serve 4 (F)
4 oz (100g) flour
2 oz (50g) butter or margarine
1 oz (25g) grated cheese
salt and pepper
(pinch of dried herbs can be added when using if you wish)
Rub the fat into the flour, then stir in the cheese. Season with salt and pepper.

Here is a recipe that uses cold turkey and a useful one for Boxing Day as it uses up leftovers (planned leftovers remember). But it should work with any poultry, so if you have cooked chicken meat left on the carcase this coming weekend, then this dish could be tried out before the festive season. When entertaining family and guests it is always useful to have a trial run with any recipe not attempted before.
For ease a teacup is used for measuring most of the ingredients, but a mug could be used instead.
Turkey Loaf: feeds 6
2 teacups minced roast turkey
half teacup cooked carrot
1 teacup cooked peas
1 teacup fresh breadcrumbs
1 teacup hot milk
2 egg yolks
half tsp salt
1 tsp grated onion
dash lemon juice
1 teacup condensed mushroom soup
Put the turkey and vegetables through a mincer (or blitz in a food processor), then mix in the crumbs, milk, egg yolks, salt, onion and lemon juice. Pack into a greased loaf tin 8" x 5" (20 x 13cm) and bake for about 40 minutes at 180C, 350F, gas 4. Heat the mushroom soup, then unmould the turkey loaf onto a flat plate and pour over the soup (to act as a coating). Serve with mashed potatoes and green vegetables.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Time to begin Planning

The first recipe today is economical and was originally part of a Christmas menu - served with roast goose. Am including it because of the mention of using canned potatoes. These really are not comparable to the fresh small potatoes, but when 'tarted up' in the way described, could be acceptable. Canned new potatoes are very inexpensive compared to the fresh, even the cheapest own brand are not that much different from those higher priced. Worth keeping a few cans in stock.
Caramelised Potatoes: serves 8
4 oz (100g) caster sugar
4 oz (100g) butter, melted
24 cooked new potatoes...OR
...2 x 15 oz (425g) cans new potatoes, drained
In a heavy and dry frying pan, melt the sugar over a low heat, stirring continuously until it has turned golden but not brown. Add the butter and half the potatoes. Toss for about 5 minutes to heat through and become coated with the caramel. Remove to a hot dish, keep warm and cook the remaining potatoes in the caramel left in the pan. Serve at once.

Stretching the Christmas mincemeat makes sense, and a way to make one jar go as far as it can is to:
Add 1 large grated cooking apple
Add 1 - 2 oz (25 - 50g) ground almonds
Add finely grated zest of one orange and a tblsp of orange juice
Add 1 oz (25g) finely chopped almonds or mixed nuts
Add 1 tblsp brandy, rum, sherry, whisky or liqueur
Add handful of dried fruits soaked overnight in juice or spirit

Dutch Boterletter: serves 10 (F)
1 x 190g pack puff pastry
1 x 225g pack marzipan
1 egg, beaten
Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured board to a strip 28" x 4" (70 x 10cm). Knead the margarine until it softens enough to roll easily into a sausage 26" (65cm) long. Place marzipan down the centre of the strip of pastry, dampen edges of pastry with beaten egg and roll up to enclose the marzipan. Seal the final edge. Put on a baking tray - and traditionally this is formed into the letter 'M' for mother but form it into any shape you wish (at this point it can be open-frozen and when solid, wrapped and sealed. Will keep for up to 3 months. When ready to use, replace on baking sheet then continue as for the following baking as for freshly made). Glaze the pastry with the egg and bake at 220C, 435F, gas 7 for half an hour (35 minutes from frozen) until golden brown. Cool and serve sliced.

Final recipe today is a useful one in that it is a biscuit recipe that - being 'thins' - makes the ingredients go a long way. Using a star shaped cutter (or cut round a cardboard template), a hole could be put in one of the points (before baking) and a cord threaded through so they could be hung on the Christmas Tree. Ideally, cover the surface of the biscuits with icing, then when set they can be stacked up to make a pretty gift to go into that hamper.
Ginger Thins: makes 15
4 oz (100g) plain flour
1 tsp ground ginger
pinch ground cinnamon
pinch mixed spice
bare half a tsp baking powder
2 oz (50g) soft brown sugar
2 1/2 oz (65g) butter, cut into cubes and softened
Put everything into one bowl and rub in the butter with the fingertips until like breadcrumbs then gather and squeeze the mixture between your finger until it has formed a soft dough.
Roll out the mixtue between two sheets of baking parchment. Remove the top sheet of parchment and cut out required shapes from the dough. Remove surplus dough and place the sheet of shapes directly onto a baking sheet, reform the scraps and re- roll to make more biscuits. Place these on paper on a second baking sheet.
Bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 5 - 7 minutes until just golden, Remove from oven, leave for a couple or so minutes on the baking tray then remove to a cake airer to get cold. These (with or without the icing) can be stored in an airtight container for up to two weeks.
icing: Mix 2 oz (50g) sifted icing sugar with 2 tsp orange or lemon juice and when smooth spread over the top of the biscuits and leave to set. Add more sugar or juice if the mixture is too soft or firm.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Now and Then

A couple of recipes, the first is for a fish pie that uses a smaller amount of fish than normal. The fish itself could be cod, haddock, smoked haddock, or salmon or a mixture of all. If using the sweetcorn/peas means you could reduce the amount of fish used, the eggs adding extra protein.
Fish Pie with Sweet Mash topping: serves 2
1 lb (450g) sweet potatoes. peeled and cut into chunks
1 lb (450g) ordinary potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
2 hard-boiled eggs
2 oz (50g) butter
salt and pepper
1 onion, chopped
1 small can sweetcorn, drained (optional)
4 oz (100g) frozen peas, thawed (optional)
8 fl oz (225g) creme fraiche
10 oz (300g) haddock (see above) cut into chunks
2 tsp mustard (English or Dijon)
2 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
Cook both the prepared potatoes in boiling water for 10 minutes or until tender, then add half the butter and mash together, adding seasoning to taste. Set to one side.
Heat the remaining butter in a frying pan and saute the onion for a few minutes until softened, then stir in the mustard and creme fraiche. Bring to the simmer and add the pieces of fish and cook for 5 minutes, by which time the fish should be cooked through (if using sweetcorn and peas add these at the same time as the fish).
Cut the shelled hard-boiled egg into quarter and stir this with the parsley into the pan, season to taste then pour into a ovenproof dish. Top with the dual potato mash, forking up the top to make a rough surface then grill for 4 - 5 minutes until golden and bubbling. Serve immediately on warmed plates.

This next recipe is an old one, probably eaten by all our grandparents at some time or another, but one worth bringing back and serving to the family. Cutting the veggies into 'cubes' is similar to dicing, only diced veggies are smaller - and cubes are bigger and give the appearance of a more substantial dish. Aim for something around th size of a sugar lump. Other root vegetables, also leeks could be used instead or included.
Family Roots Pie: serves 4
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 parsnips, peeled and cubed
2 carrots, cubed
1 oz (25g) butter
half tblsp sunflower oil
4 shallots, cut into four (or use one onion)
1 tblsp plain flour
half pint (300ml) dry cider or chicken stock
3 tblsp Philadelphia cream cheese (pref garlic and herb)
salt and pepper
9 oz (250g) puff pastry
Boil the potatoes, parsnips and carrots in salted water for 15 minutes then drain well.
Heat the butter and oil in a frying pan and saute the onions until softened. Stir in the flour and cook for a further minute then pour in the cider and stir/cook until thickened. Add the cooked vegetables and simmer for a further 7 minutes then stir in the cream cheese and season to taste. Spoon the mixture into a deep heatproof dish. Roll out the pastry to an inch wider than the top of the dish, then lay the pastry over the filling and roll/pleat the surplus pastry around the edge. Brush the top with milk and bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 20 - 25 minutes or until the pastry is puffy and golden.

Final recipe today is for a variation on the macaroon. Sandwiched two together with a filling (recipe also given) they would make a very good festive treat.
Chocolate Macaroons: makes 20
4 oz (125g) ground almonds
9 oz (250g) icing sugar
3 egg whites
1 1/2 oz (30g) caster sugar
1 oz (25g) cocoa powder
Whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks, then whisk in the caster sugar until the mixture is glossy and stiff. Sieve together the icing sugar and cocoa powder and gently fold this into the egg white (meringue) together with the ground almonds. Either put the mixture into a piping bag that has a half inch nozzle, and pipe or spoon mixture to make one and a half inch circles (4 cm) onto parchment lined baking trays (you may need 2 - 3 trays) spacing well apart. Leave to stand for 15 minutes to allow the surface to form a crust.
Then bake at 190C, 375F, gas 5 for 5 minutes, then turn the lining paper upside down and bake for a further seven minutes, then leave to cool completely.
6 fl oz (175ml) double cream
2 oz (50g) dark chocolate, melted
icing sugar for dusting
Whip the cream untll thick, then fold in the chocolate.
An hour before serving, sandwich together the chocolate macaroons and dust the tops with icing sugar.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Playing the Part

This recipe for Pumpkin Soup comes from an American so is as authentic as you can get, but at least the 'cups' have been converted to the 'imps and mets'.
Pumpkin Soup: serves 4 - 6
1 small knob butter
2 tblsp finely chopped onion
12 fl.oz (350g) cooked pumpkin, thoroughly drained
1 pint (575ml) chicken stock
1 pint (575) milk
pinch ground cloves
half tsp sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
2 - 3 drops Tabasco
pinch salt
4 tblsp double cream
Melt the butter in a saucepan, then add the onions and cook gently for five or so minutes until soft and transparent. Stir in the pumpkin, stock, milk, cloves, sugar, lemon juice and Tabasco. Stir thoroughly to mix everything together. Bring to a boil, add the salt then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, stirring from time to time, for 15 minutes. Puree the soup by forcing it through a food mill or coarse sieve, or pulsing in a food processor, using a blender would result in the soup being too bland and smooth. Return to the pan and stir in the cream. Heat through until just but now quite boiling. Check the seasoning, and serve hot with croutons. This can also be served chilled, if so, omit the croutons.and garnish each dish with a slice of peeled and chilled orange.

For good measure am including a further pumpkin recipe - this time for an oven baked dish. Most cooks would have the rest of the ingredients to hand.
Pumpkin Bake: serves 4
1 lb (450g) pumpkin, rind removed and chopped
4 oz (100g) butter or margarine
4 oz (100g) onions, chopped
6 oz (100g) carrots, chopped
4 oz (100g) celery, chopped
6 oz (175g) breadcrumbs
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
salt and pepper
15 fl.oz (450ml) natural yogurt
4 oz (100g) grated Gruyere cheese
1 tblsp sesame or olive oil
pinch salt
1 egg, beaten
2 tbslp chopped chives
2 oz (50g) sesame seeds, toasted
Steam the pumpkin until tender, then drain. Make the stuffing by melting the butter in a pan and fry the onions, carrots and celery until softened. Stir in the breadcrumbs and herbs and season to taste. Put half the pumpkin into a greased ovenproof dish, cover with the stuffing mixture and top with the remaining pumpkin. Put the yogurt, cheese and oil in a small pan over low heat and cook until the cheese has melted then add a little salt. Have the beaten egg in a bowl and stir in a little of the cheese sauce, then stir the egg mixture back into the pan of the remaining sauce and add the chives. Mix well, then pour over the pumpkin and sprinkle the top with the sesame seeds. Bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for half an hour. Serve hot.

If Bonfire night is dry but cold, this drink may prove welcoming.
Mulled Cider: serves 4
2 pints (1.2 litres) medium dry cider
2 oz (50g) dark muscovado sugar
pinch salt
4 whole cloves
2 " (5cm) piece of cinnamon stick
4 whole allspice
strips of orange peel
Put the cider, sugar and salt into a saucepan. Tie the spices loosely in a piece of muslin and add to the pan. Bring gently to the boil, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove spice bag and serve the drink hot in mugs.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Cost-cutting Corners

This recipe is one of my cheat's recipes, to cut costs.
cheat's condensed milk:
2 0z (50g) dried milk powder
3 oz (75g) icing sugar
2 fl oz (50ml) boiling water
2 oz (50g) butter or margarine, softened
Put all the ingredients into a blender or food processor and whizz until smooth. Pour into a bowl and chill in the fridge. Keep in the fridge until ready to use.

Children might like to have a go at this - just make sure their hands are clean before they start. Also an adult supervises the initial heating of the butter. Before I had to cut down my sugar intake, these were one of my favourite sweets.
coffee creams: makes approx 3 dozen
1 oz (25g) butter
2 tsp instant coffee
2 tblsp milk
8 oz (225g) icing sugar
Put the butter into a pan and heat gently until melted. Add the coffee and milk and blend until the coffee has dissolved. Stir in the icing sugar, a few ounces at a time, until well blended and has formed a firm dough. Turn out onto a board dusting with icing sugar and knead until smooth. Roll out until an eighth of an inch thick (3mm) and cut into small circles*. Knead back the scraps and repeat until all the dough has been used up.
Place on a baking sheet and leave for several hours to firm up. Store in an airtight container, in the fridge, for up to 2 weeks.
Note:* find something to use as a cutter that has a diameter of around one inch. Possibly use the top of a sherry glass, or even cut the top off a plastic soft drinks bottle and use the open end as a cutter. If you wish, roll it out slightly thicker and cut into three-quarter inch (2 cm) lengths and coat completely with either white or dark chocolate to give a coffee cream centre. If doing this, they will not need to be dried out, and will keep for up to two weeks in a cool place (not the fridge).

In the chapter dealing with autumn, and the section to do with Halloween, have re-discovered my recipe for doughnuts that can be made without yeast. Have been searching for that for months.
American Doughnuts:
8 oz (225g) self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 oz (50g) granulated sugar
1 oz (25g) soft margarine
1 egg, beaten
4 fl oz (120ml) milk (approx)
sunflower oil for frying
caster sugar and cinnamon
Sift together the flour and baking powder, stir in the sugar and rub in the margarine. Mix in the beaten egg and enough milk to make a firmish dough. Roll out on a floured board to quarter inch thick (5mm) and cut into ring (removing the centres with a much smaller cutter).
Heat the oil in a frying pan to approx 1" depth, and fry the doughnuts - a few at a time - until golden, turning once or twice. Drain well on kitchen paper, then immediately toss in caster sugar mixed with a little cinnamon.

Hands Across the Ocean Tart:
12 oz (300g) shortcrust pastry
1 thick slice bread
4 oz (100g) pecan nuts
9 oz (250g) golden syrup
2 apples, peeled, cored and dice
zest 1 small orange
Roll out the pastry and line a 9" (23cm) tart tin. Blitz the bread (including the crusts) in a food processor with half the pecan nuts until coarse crumbs.
Put the syrup into a pan and heat gently, then add the bread/nut mixture, the apple and the orange zest. Mix well together, then stir in the remaining pecans, chopped in half..
Spread the mixture over the pastry base and bake at 190C, 170F,, gas 3 for half an hour. Serve warm or cold with either ice-cream, custard or thick cream (whipped or pouring).

The mention of pecans reminds me also of a similar nut - the walnut (the latter being used originally in the above dish). Either or both can be eaten as a festive 'nibble' when dealt with in the following way:
Sugared Walnuts or Pecans:
4 oz (100g) caster sugar
2 tblsp water
4 oz (100g) walnut halves or pecans
extra 2 tblsp caster sugar
Put the sugar in a small pan and add the water. Heat gently until the sugar has dissolved, then raise the heat and boil until the syrup is turning golden. Remove from heat and stir in the nuts plus the extra sugar.
Working quickly, spoon the nuts onto a non-stick paper lined baking sheet, keeping the nuts slightly apart from each other, and leave to set. Store in an airtight jar for up to two weeks.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Everything in the Garden's Lovely

Time-saving, money-saving, fuel saving. These three now seem to take priority in the kitchen - which is a pity. Money I can do without, but sometimes a little bit more time and not having to worry about the cost of fuel can make the difference between a good meal and a great meal.
However, today am giving recipes that have always been quick and easy to prepare, and need not be expensive at all. They also take little time to cook.

For this first dish, save fuel time by using quick-cook pasta. This takes rarely more than five minutes to cook, less if needing it al dente, so the whole dish should be on the table within 10 - 15 minutes. Although the traditional (nay classic) way to make carbonara is with spaghetti, my preference is using a shorter pasta - such as penne or macaroni because the creamy sauce can ooze its way both into and around the pasta, and - if you wish - can be eaten with a spoon. Beat the egg mixture with a wooden spoon rather than a whisk, to prevent too much air being mixed in.
A good tip for any dish that may have a gravy or what I call 'loose sauce' with it that would normally be eaten with a fork, is to place a slice of crusty bread in the individual serving dish/bowl before the food is put in. This will soaks the surplus liquid and can be eaten at the end.
Pasta Carbonara: serves 4
6 oz (175g) streaky bacon
1 tblsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
3 large eggs
1 egg yolk
4 tblsp creme fraiche or whipping cream
12 oz (350g) quick-cook penne or other shapes
salt and pepper
freshly grated Parmesan or other hard cheese
Put the eggs, yolk and cream/creme fraiche into a bowl and beat with a wooden spoon and season well. Chop the bacon into thin strips, heating the oil in a pan and frying the bacon gently so the fat begins to run free. After 6 minutes frying, stir in the garlic and cook for a further minute until the bacon is crisp.
While the bacon is frying, cook the pasta as per packet instructions, then when al dente, drain thoroughly and add to the bacon and garlic. While the pasta is still very hot, remove pan from the heat and immediately pour over the egg and cream mixture. Stir so that the pasta is coated with the egg cooked just enough to cling to the pasta and not begin to scramble. Sprinkle over a dusting of Parmesan, and serve immediately.

This next dish is perhaps more an exercise of what to make with 'planned' leftovers, for the potatoes, haddock and even the poached eggs can be 'pre-cooked'. But even if cooked 'from fresh', this meal would take no longer than 30 minutes cooking time.
Smoked Haddock Hash: serves 2 - 3
1 lb (450g) salad (waxy) potatoes, cooked and diced
4 oz (100g) streaky bacon, chopped
1 shallot, finely diced
1 lb (450g) smoked haddock, cooked and flaked
handful fresh parsley
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1 oz (25g) butter
2 - 3 eggs, poached
Put the oil in a frying pan and add the bacon, cook for a few minutes, then remove and set aside. Add the butter to the fat in the pan and fry the potatoes. When beginning to brown, stir in the shallot and when that has softened, add the fish and the bacon. Season with pepper and sprinkle over the parsley. Slip the pre-poached eggs into a bowl of very hot water, and leave to heat through while dishing up the Hash. Serve the Hash with a poached egg on top of each portion.

For a light lunch or starter to a dinner party, this is a really speedy hot dish. Takes only 8 minutes cooking time and any preparation can be done well in advance. Ideally use English muffins as the base of this dish for they have a firmer texture than ordinary bread rolls (sometimes called baps). Otherwise fall back on good old toast.
Mushroom Muffins: serves 2
8 oz (225g) mushrooms
1 oz (25g) butter
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tblsp finely chopped fresh chives
2 tsp lemon juice
4 thin rashers streaky bacon
4 English muffins
4 tblsp double cream or creme fraiche
salt and pepper
Slice the mushrooms thinly and fry in hot butter, seasoning to taste with. As the juices begin to flow from the mushrooms stir in the garlic and half the chives. Keep frying gently, stirring from time to time, until most of the liquid has evaporated**. Test for seasoning, adding the lemon juice.
Meanwhile, cut the bacon rashers in half and fry until crisp. Drain on kitchen paper. When the food is ready, toast the muffins lightly, and whip the cream (the cr.fraiche will be thick enough). Spread half the cream over the muffins, top with the mushroom mixture and sprinkle over the chives. Spoon a blob of the remaining cream on top of each and press the bacon rashers in lengthways. Serve immediately.

One way to save money is to use less of something than normal, so with this in mind have chosen this recipe for apple tart that uses puff pastry that we would normally keep in the freezer (and use less of it). The apples could come from the freezer as well. Either way we need to allow time to thaw and/or prepare. The cooking time takes less than 15 minutes. For future use, roll out the pastry to the thickness (in this case thinness) that is needed, cut to size, interleave and re-freeze, so half the work is done for the next time. Personally would cut the pastry into squares rather than circles, as this would leave very little waste pastry scraps (puff pastry cannot be scrunched up and re-rolled as can shortcrust). The 'sharp cream' is my name for creme fraiche.
Apple Puff with Sharp Cream: serves 4
1 x 250g pack puff pastry
4 apples (pref Cox's)
juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp caster sugar
2 tblsp icing sugar
1 tsp sunflower oil
1 oz (25g) butter
creme fraiche
Using a floured board, roll out the puff pastry really thinly. Cut four circles, using a saucer as a guide - the remaining pastry can be cut to shapes or rolled up with greaseproof paper and refrozen.
Lay the circles on a wetted baking sheet and prick the centres with a fork, leaving a quarter inch unpricked rim around the edge (this will rise up higher than the centre and help to contain the fruit).
Put the lemon juice and sugar into bowl and set to one side of the work area. Peel, core and slice the apples and immediately put the slices into the lemon mixture turning them to coat all sides (this prevents the apple going brown). Cover the entire surface of the pricked part of the pastry circles with overlapping slices of apple. Then sieve the icing sugar over the apples and pastry rim. Dot the apple part with a little bits of butter and bake in a hot oven 240C, 475F, gas 9 for 10 minutes. Depending upon the oven (you may wish to use slightly less heat or a fan oven) it may need a further 5 minutes. Can be served hot, warm or cold with a good dollop of creme fraiche.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Welcome Warmth

Originally, this Hot Pot would have been made using a whole small chicken, but why bother when chicken thighs and drumsticks are so much cheaper and have a good flavour? So have taken this in to account when writing up the ingredients. Plum tomatoes also have more flavour than chopped tomatoes, and the tins can be a few pence cheaper (possibly because you have got to chop them yourself), and although either could be used, suggest you buy according to the price.
Gardener's Casserole: serves 4
3 oz (75g) butter or margarine
2 oz (50g) rindless streaky bacon, chopped
2 onions, sliced
2 ribs celery, sliced
4 oz (100g) mushrooms, sliced
8 chicken joints (thighs and/or drumsticks)
1 lb (450g) small potatoes
half pound (225g) turnips, sliced
1 x 400g can tomatoes
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
salt and pepper
1 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
Melt 1 oz (25g) of the butter in a pan, and add the bacon. Cook gently until the fat is released from the bacon and then stir in the onions, celery and mushrooms. Saute these until soft but not browned, then - using a slotted spoon - transfer the vegetables to an ovenproof casserole dish.
Add the remaining butter to any remaining juices in the pan and when melted, place in the chicken joints and fry until brown on all sides. Place these on top of the vegetables in the casserole, pouring over any juices from the pan, and top with the potatoes (cut to even sizes if necessary), turnips, tomatoes and sprinkle over the dried herbs. Add seasoning to taste.
Cover tightly and cook at 160C, 325F, gas 3 for two hours or until the vegetables are tender and the chicken cooked through. Serve sprinkled with parsley.

With chicken drumsticks being remarkably low cost compared to some other meats, the cheapest have little flavour, so worth giving them a bit of a lift. Below are three different 'coatings' that can be given to the drumsticks, all cooked in a roasting tin at the same temperature: 190C, 350F, gas 5, and all for 30 minutes. When cooking for numbers - you may wish to make and cook all three at the same time (in different tins) and let everyone take their pick.

Each of the following is enough to coat 8 drumsticks:
coconut and apricot coating:
4 oz (100g) apricot jam
4 tblsp orange juice
4 oz (100g) desiccated coconut
Warm the jam and mix with the orange juice. Smear this generously over each drumstick and coat them with the coconut. Cook as directions given above.

nutty crunch coating:
3 oz (75g) breadcrumbs
4 oz (100g) peanuts or cashew nuts, finely chopped
good pinch pepper
1 tsp ground coriander
1 egg beaten
Mix together the dry ingredients. Coat the drumsticks with the egg, then cover with the dry mix. Bake as above.

sesame and spice coating:
4 oz (100g) sesame seeds
half teaspoon chilli powder
salt and pepper
1 egg, beaten
Mix the sesame seeds and chilli powder together with a pinch of salt and pepper. Brush the drumsticks with the beaten egg then roll the chicken in the seed mixture. Cook as above.

Not every economy dish has to be pauper's fare. Sometimes it is quite easy to serve Posh Nosh for Pennies. And how much easier can you get than this next dish - which could be likened to the shallow end of 'how to cook a souffle'. We have to begin somewhere, so play with this one and them move on to something more classical (but not necessarily more difficult). After all, a true souffle is not much more than an enriched white sauce, into which is folded the flavouring (cheese or vegetable) of your choice, and an egg white folded in.
Sweetcorn (sort of) Souffle: serves 4
half ounce (15g) plain flour
half pint (300ml) milk
1 x 350g can sweetcorn, drained
1 egg white, beaten
salt and pepper
Mix the flour with a little milk, then mix this into the rest of the milk and the rest of the ingredients - folding in the beaten egg white last. Turn into a buttered souffle dish, tent with foil and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 30 minutes until the centre is set. Serve at once.

Although we are all familiar with eating mint sauce with lamb, this more elaborate version adds a little something extra and especially good when served with cold cooked lamb.
orange mint sauce:
1 good handful mint leaves
1 tblsp boiling water
2 tsp caster sugar
2 tblsp white wine vinegar
3 - 4 tlsp orange juice
Chop the mint finely (chopping with the sugar sometimes makes it easier), then add the rest of the ingredients, mixing together well (this can be done in a food processor, starting with the mint and then adding the rest). Serve with lamb or other meats.

Apart from this next being a good sauce to pour over pasta, by adding a few cooked beans or soya mince, could also form the base of a vegetarian (or even meat) spag.bol sauce. Layered between sheets of pasta, with a further layer of ricotta or similar cheese, and maybe even a layer of spinach, this could also be used when assembling a lasagne, all you need is a cream sauce on top (this can be something as simple as a tub of creme fraiche) and plenty of grated cheese sprinkled over to bubble and brown whilst heating through.
lentil sauce:
4 oz (100g) red lentils
1 tblsp sunflower or olive oil
1 onion, finely sliced
half green bell pepper, diced
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
2 - 3 fresh basil leaves
salt and pepper
Tabasco (optional)
Put the lentils in a pan and cover with water. Simmer for about half an hour or until tender, then drain and set aside. Put the oil in a saucepan and fry the onion and pepper until softened but not browning, then add the tomatoes and cook for a further 10 minutes. Add the lentils, herbs and seasoning to taste (if you wish it to be more spicy, add a few drops of Tabasco). Cool slightly, then blitz in a food processor or blender to make a puree. Serve with pasta.

Stepping away from bought curry sauces, and avoiding the more complicated and exacting curry sauces that we ought to be able to make from scratch (but few of us do), here is a simplified version that anyone should be able to make.
curry sauce:
2 oz (50g) butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tblsp curry powder (or to taste)
half ounce (15g) plain flour
half pint (300ml) milk
5 fl oz (150ml) chicken or vegetable stock
2 tblsp sweet chutney or mango chutney
salt and pepper
Melt the butter and fry the onion until softened. Stir in the curry powder and the flour and continue frying for a further 2 minutes then stir in the milk and the stock. Keep stirring as the sauce thickens, then boil for a couple or so minutes to get rid of the taste of raw flour. If necessary, chop the chutney before adding to the sauce, and season to taste. Good served with chicken or just plain vegetables.

The following recipe is more a suggestion for using up odd soft drinks that might have reached their life-span and as it does not contain spices (although you may add them if you wish) can be experimented with.
Apple Cider Traybake: makes 16
8 oz (225g) sultanas
5 fl oz (150ml) dry cider (or other fruit juice)
4 oz (100g) butter or margarine
4 oz (100g) soft brown sugar
2 egg, beaten
8 oz (225g) plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Put the dried fruit into a bowl with the cider (or other) and leave to soak overnight. Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, then beat in the eggs with half the flour and all the bicarb.
Mix in the sultanas and cider, then fold in the remaining flour and pour into a greased 7" (18cm) square cake tin and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for one hour until risen and firm. Leave in the tin to cool down - approx 30 minutes - then turn out onto a cake airer. When cold, cut into squares.

Not quite sure what to call this little sweetheart as it is a sort of upside-down as well as right-side up crumble, but firm enough to be able to be cut into bars. Was thinking of calling this Blackapple Bars, but instead used my other choice which sounds much 'prettier'.
Appleberry Bars: makes 20
6 oz (175g) plain floour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
6 oz butter or marg.
8 oz (225g) soft brown sugar
4 oz (100g) porridge oats
6 oz (175gg) blackberries
1 lb (450g) cooking apples, peeled, cored, chopped
2 tblsp cornflour
3 tsp cinnamon
Sieve together the flour, baking powder and salt, then rub in the butter. Stir in the sugar and oats and spoon half the mixture into a greased 13" x 9" (33 x 23 cm) baking tin (large Swiss roll size), pressing it down firmly. Mix the apples, cornflour and cinnamon together and spread half over the base, top with the blackberries then the remaining apple mixture. Cover with the second half of the flour/oat mix pressing lightly to level the surface, then bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 35 minutes. Cool in the tin before cutting into bars.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Goode Eating

Today's recipes are taking into account seasonal produce, and some - although not unusual - are not the first choice when it comes to making a preserve or pickle.
This first could make good use of the very last of the rhubarb in the garden, often left because it has become too coarse.
Cottager's Marmalade: makes 2 lb (900g)
1 lb (450g) rhubarb, chopped
3 oranges
1 lb (450g) granulated sugar, warmed
Grate the zest from the oranges and put into a pan with the rhubarb. Remove the pith from the oranges and also the pips and tie these in a muslin bag. Add this to the pan. Slice the oranges across the centre, and cut each slice into quarters and add these to the pan, adding only enough water to just cover. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes until the fruit is soft, then remove the muslin bag of pith and pips. Stir in the warmed sugar then when dissolved, bring to the boil and boil fairly rapidly for 15 minutes or until setting point has been reached. Cool slightly, and stir well before bottling up into hot sterilised jars. Seal in the usual way.

As courgettes are just young marrows, if you allow some to grow to adult size these can be used to make this jam, or use a marrow, grown as a marrow (if you know what I mean). A friend of mine used to just love this and each year I made several pots especially for her.
Marrow and Ginger Jam: makes 5 lb (2.25 kg)
4 lb (1.75 kg) marrow, after peeling and dicing
3 lb (1.5 kg) sugar
grated rind and juice of 2 large lemons
4 oz (100g) stem ginger, chopped
Place layers of marrow and sugar in a bowl, cover and leave in a cool place for 24 hours. Next day put the contents of the bowl into a preserving pan together with the lemon zest and juice and the ginger. Stir over low heat until the sugar has dissolved, then boil for 45 minutes until the marrow is clear and tender and setting point has been reached. Pot up into hot sterilised jars in the normal way.

Although chutneys are an economical way of using up produce, they can take time to make, so thought you might be interested in a chutney that requires hardly any cooking.
Almost no-cook Date Chutney: makes 4 lb ( 1.75 kg)
1 oz (25g) pickling spice tied in muslin
1 pint (600ml) vinegar
2 lb (900g) dates, stoned and minced
2 tsp mustard powder
6 tblsp (90ml) golden syrup
Put the spice and vinegar into a pan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 7 minutes then remove the spice bag. Stir in the remaining ingredients, and when thoroughly blended remove from heat and leave to get cool. Give a good stir then pot up into clean jars and seal with vinegar proof lids.

We now come to the foods proper, starting with a dip that uses salami although almost any continental cooked and spicy meats (all very similar) could be used in this dish.
Spicy Salami Dip: serves 4
3 oz (75g) salami, roughly chopped
6 oz (175g) cream cheese (philly type)
2 tblsp mayonnaise
1 tblsp tomato ketchup
2 tblsp olive oil
1 tblsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp mustard powder (or made mustard)
salt and pepper
Put everything into blender or food processor and blitz together into a smooth puree. Spoon into a bowl and chill. Serve with crudites, tortilla chips or savoury biscuits.

Many of us have been lucky this year to have our own apples, or some given to us, and although this recipe uses cooking apples, any sharp eating apple would do just as well.
Bombay Apple Soup: serves 4
1 oz (25g) butter
1 onion, finely chopped
2 oz (50g) plain flour
1 tblsp curry powder
1 1/2 pints (900ml) chicken stock
1 1/2 lb (750g) cooking apples, peeled, cored and sliced
juice of 1 small lemon
salt and pepper
6 tblsp natural yogurt
Melt the butter in a saucepan and gently fry the onion until softened. Stir in the flour and curry powder and stir/cook for one minute, then add the stock, lemon juice and apples. Raise the heat slightly and keep stirring until the liquid thickens and comes to the boil, then add salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the apples are softened then blitz to a puree in a blender or food processor. Reheat in the original saucepan and serve in warmed bowls, adding a swirl of yogurt on the top of each.

Because chickpeas and split peas contain plenty of vegetable protein and cheap with it, am including this vegetarian dish for that very reason. If you haven't a block of creamed coconut, use a little coconut milk or even soak some dessicated coconut in hot water and use that instead.
Two Peas and Mushroom Curry: serves 4 (V)
2 oz (50g) split peas, soaked overnight
2 tblsp sunflower oil
1 oz (25g) butter or marg.
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 onions, finely chopped
1 tblsp curry powder (or to taste)
3 tblsp tomato puree
2 oz (50g) creamed coconut, grated
8 oz (225g) button mushrooms, sliced
1 lb (450g) cooked chickpeas, drained if canned
salt and pepper
Cook the soaked split peas in boiling water until tender. Drain well. Heat the oil and butter and fry the onion until softened, then add the garlic and fry for a further minute. Stir in the amount of curry powder you wish to use (you could always add more later), then stir in the tomato puree, the coconut and the mushrooms. Cook for 5 minutes, adding seasonings to taste, then stir in the chickpeas. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Serve with boiled rice or any cooked grain you may prefer.

Before I move onto the cake recipe, here is an 'eat in the hand' vegetarian snack, although it could be made using 'real meat' sausages
A Pocketful of Crunch: serves 4 (V)
4 vegetarian sausages, sliced
2 red eating apples, cored and sliced
1 lb (l450g) cottage or curd cheese
1 - 2 ribs celery (approx 2 oz/50g) chopped
4 pitta breads, pref wholemeal
Grill the sausages until crispy, then chop into small pieces. Mix together the apples, cheese and celery and season well with the pepper (or to taste). Warm the pitta breads under the grill, split to open up the pockets and stuff with the filling. Heat through in a warm oven 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 10 minutes before serving.

Although there are plenty of recipes for fruit cake on this site, this one is made using no sugar as the dried fruits themselves contain natural sugar (fructose).
Sugar-free Fruit Cake: makes 1 cake
6 oz (175g) plain flour
6 oz (175g) wholemeal flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp mixed spice
4 oz butter or marg.
3 oz (75g) each currants and raisins
3 oz (75g) dates, stoned and chopped
1 ripe banana, mashed
2 eggs, beaten
4 tblsp orange juice
Sieve the flours, baking powder and spice together, adding any coarse flour left in the sieve. Rub in the butter until like crumbs, then stir in the dried fruits, the banana and eggs, adding enough orange juice to make a soft dropping consistency.
Spoon mixture into a greased 7" (18cm) cake tin and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 1 1/4 hours (that's 75 minutes) until the centre of the cake springs back when lightly pressed. Cool in the tin for a few minutes then turn out and leave to get cold on a cake airer. Store in an airtight tin. Will not keep as long as a normal fruit cake.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Little Things Mean a Lot

Here is a recipe that can be prepared now, especially if you have the makings to hand, and is an alternative way to serve vegetables that works particularly well at Christmas.
Festive Vegetable Ring: serves 8 - 10 (F)
1 lb (450g) parsnips, peeled, and chopped
1 lb (450g) turnips, peeled and chopped
2 oz (50g) butter
1 egg, beaten
1 tblsp sherry
1 lb (450g) carrots, peeled and sliced
1 bunch spring onions, trimmed and sliced
1 level tblsp chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper
Cook the parsnips and turnips in salted boiling water until tender. Drain well then return them to the pan and shake/heat until they have dried off all the surface moisture, then remove from heat and add the half the butter, all the egg and sherry and season to taste. Beat well until thoroughly blended (this could be done in a food processor). This mixture can be frozen in a rigid container for up to 6 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge, then continue as below - for serving on the day.
Put mixture into a well greased 1 3/4 pint (1 ltr) ring mould and level the surface. Bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for half an hour. Meanwhile, cook carrots in boiling salted water until tender, then drain and keep warm. Melt remaining butter in a pan and lightly fry the spring onions for 3 minutes, then add the carrots and toss together, sprinkling over the parsley. Take the baked veggies from the oven and turn out onto a hot plate, filling the centre with the carrot mixture. Serve at once.
Tip: if you do not have a ring mould, use a large cake tin and put a foil covered mug or jam jar in the centre, greasing the foil, then remove when ready to turn out. If the jar or mug is tapered, place the wide (open) end facing upwards.

When it comes to savouries, these can be nibbles or starters, buffet food or for a light lunch or supper. Here are some ideas and to these you can add or take away according to your personal tastes.

This first is a basic salad, but if the salami is kept whole - usually round slices - these can be served with a little of the salad on individual plates to make a pretty decent starter.
Roman Salad: serves 8
12 oz (350g) canned or frozen sweetcorn
1 oz (25g) each black and green olives, stones removed
2 oz (50g) salami, cut into strips
2 slices white bread
4 tblsp olive oil
2 tblsp vinegar (pref tarragon)
salt and pepper
If using frozen corn cook in boiling salted water until tender. Drain and cool. Leave olives whole, or halve, slice as you prefer and mix with the corn and salami. Cut the bread into half inch (1cm) pieces and fry in the (hot) oil until crisp and golden. Drain on kitchen paper.
Mix oil and vinegar together adding seasonings to taste, and stir into the corn mixture. Chill before serving, then serve with the fried bread croutons sprinkled over.

This next can be fairly simple, made into the basic pate and served with Melba toast or small circle of fried bread. For something more special it could be spooned into small ramekins that have been lined with strips of smoked salmon, the overlapping ends of salmon folded over, then turned out onto individual plates and served with toast, croutons and maybe a few rocket leaves. Instead of whipping double cream, you could use creme fraiche which is fairly thick to start with and needs no whipping.
Creamed Smoked Salmon: tops 40 canapes (F)
8 oz (225g) smoked salmon pieces
2 oz (50g) butter, melted
2 tblsp lemon juice
4 tblsp double cream, whipped
freshly ground black pepper
Put the salmon, butter and lemon juice in a blender/processor and blitz to a puree. Scrape mixture out into a bowl, stir in the cream until well blended, adding pepper to taste. To freeze, pack in rigid container, seal and label, use within a month. Thaw in the fridge for 4 hours then either make up as suggested in the foreword, or pile onto croutons of fried bread and top each with a slice of stuffed olive.

This next recipe is a variation of stuffed puff pastry 'horns' - where strips off puff pastry are wound round greased cream horn tins then baked. But how many of us own those tins now? Instead suggest - for a buffet -fill ordinary sized vol-au-vent cases with the mixture below, for a starter bake and fill larger ones, round or square - you could bake the cases yourself to any size you wish. If you can spend a little extra, a tin of 'real' crab could be used instead of (or even with) the crab paste. Hardly worth freezing as so quick to make, but as it can be frozen, can at least give you the choice. Personally, I prefer to make and serve almost anything without it having to be frozen. But that is just me.
Creamy Cheese and Crab: (F) fills 20 'horns'
1 x 53g jars of crab paste
1 x 75g pack Philadelphia cream cheese
1 level tblsp chopped fresh parsley
salt and cayenne pepper
Mix everything together, adding seasoning to taste. To freeze: pack in rigid container, seal, label and use within a month. Thaw in the fridge for about four hours and spoon into pastry cases just prior to serving.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Way Things Are....

Having just picked up an cookbook at random (an old one I hasten to say), and opening it on page 153 as though it matters, see a recipe for a salad dressing that uses no oil. Oil is becoming more expensive, so perhaps one worth trying. Ingredients and method as the recipe (brackets and metrics I have added).
Salad Dressing (without oil):
2 small dessertspoons of flour
1 slice of margarine, bit more than 1 oz (25g)
breakfastcupful of milk (possibly 8fl oz/225ml)
2 tsp mustard (powder)
2 tsp sugar
half tsp salt
half teacupful vinegar (a teacup is around 6 fl oz but check)
Melt margarine in a saucepan. Mix flour and other dry ingredients with it. Add milk and cook until mixture thickens. Add vinegar last. Beat well.

Another interesting recipe from the book uses both rose-hips and apples, so perhaps one you may with to try and it should be full of vitamin C. Not sure how long it is supposed to last, but it comes in the chapter dealing with preserves. Recipe has not been adapted and appears to be more a jelly than a 'honey'.
Rose-Hip Honey:
In making preserve use a wooden spoon, or the jam will darken in colour.
Take 1 lb (450g) of hips and cover with water and boil until tender. Strain through a jelly-bag one night. Next day pulp 3/4 lb (threequarters of a pound) of cooking apples in a little water. Add to hip juice and measure. Return to pan and add 1 lb (450g) sugar to 1 pint (450ml) of fruit juice. Cook until it sets when tested. Put into hot jars and tie down.

Here is a recipe for a cake, quite suitable for Christmas, that in the old days was pruned down to fit into households when finances were a bit tight, hence the name. But it still makes a good cake that, although not keeping as long as the more luscious ones, will still keep for 2 months, and can be frozen, wrapped tightly in foil, to keep for 3 months.
Half-Pay Fruit Cake: 8" square /or 9" round cake (F).
8 oz (225g) prunes, stoned and chopped
8 oz (225g) currants
2 oz (50g) chopped candied peel
2 oz (50g) glace cherries, quartered
2 oz (50g) dates, chopped
half pint (300ml) cold tea
4 oz (100g) soft brown sugar
2 oz (50g) chopped nuts
10 oz (275g) self-raising flour
2 oz (50g) ground rice
1 tsp mixed spice
4 oz (100g) butter, melted
2 eggs, beaten
Put the prunes, currants, peel, cherries and dates into a bowl with the tea, cover and leave to soak overnight. Next day stir in the sugar and the nuts. Sift together the ground rice, flour and spice and stir into the mixture. Pour in the butter and eggs and mix well.
Turn the mixtureinto a cake tin that has been greased and lined with a double thickness of baking parchment or greaseproof, and level the surface. Bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 1 hour, then reduce heat to 150/300/2
and cook for a further 2 hours, tenting with foil if browning too quickly. Turn out, remove paper when cool and wrap in foil. Store in a cool, dry place. If deciding to freeze, allow to thaw out overnight at room temperature and if wishing to decorate with marzipan or icing, do this after the cake has thawed.

This is a more economical way of making the Christmas Pud and worth remembering that if the main course fills the tums as it usually does, we hardly need a pudding of any size to finish off the meal so as this amount makes 2 x 2lb (900g) puds, we can either reduce the amounts or divide into four bowls and once cooked, give three away and keep just one for yourselves. The cooking time is not reduced when making smaller quantities - normally using 1lb basins, the initial steaming of 6 hours remains the same. The second steaming can be reduced to just 2 hours.
Paupers Pudding: (F)
8 oz (225g) prunes
half pint (300ml) water
8 oz (225g) currants
2 oz (50g) chopped peel
4 oz (50g) chopped dates
4 tblsp orange marmalade
2 tblsp black treacle
6 oz (150g) fresh breadcrumbs
4 oz (100g) carrot, grated
8 oz (225g) cooking apples, cored and grated
1 lb (450g) dark brown sugar
8 oz (225g) shredded suet
4 oz (100g) self-raising flour
1 level tsp freshly grated nutmeg
good pinch salt
2 large eggs
few drops almond essence
2 tblsp rum
Soak the prunes overnight in the water, then drain, remove stones and chop. Then put these with the rest of the ingredients into a bowl and mix well together.
Put into two buttered 3 pint (1.7ltr) basins, cover with buttered greasproof, then foil or a pudding cloth tied on securely. Place basin in pan with boiling water coming two thirds of the way up the sides of the basin. Boil steadily for six hours adding more boiling water as necessary.
Leave to get cold then remove all coverings and replace using fresh buttered greaseproof paper and foil. Store in a cool dry place.
To serve, boil/steam for 2 1/2 hours topping up with boiling water as necessary.
If wishing to freeze this, remove the cold pudding from the basin after the initial steaming, wrap seal and label. This will keep up to four months in the freezer. This pudding needs replacing into the original buttered basin, left to thaw overnight then cover and steam on as in above recipe.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Food Stretching

Whizzed through yesterday's posting at a rate of knots, and quite pleased to discover time truly can stretch when the mind is focused. With that thought, after returning mid-morning, decided to write up some recipes on 'Word' so that they could be 'cut and pasted' today. This will give me more time this morning to prepare for guests expected mid-afternoon. May do that regularly, as more often than not it is lunch time before I leave the comp. what with the blog, correspondence etc to deal with.

One advantage with writing the recipes up first on Word is that the fractions (weight) appear as they should, blog doesn't seem able to do this (unless perhaps am using the wrong font) and even more importantly (to a cook) words that are French appear with the correct accents in place. Not that they make the food taste any better, but somehow add that touch of class.

To your comments. Janet have always found that cheese seems to go further when it is grated. Perhaps you do this anyway, but when making sarnies with sliced cheese have discovered this uses up more than if it had been grated, same when making cheese on toast. Just a tablespoon of grated cheese sprinkled over a few lettuce leaves after adding a little dressing (helps make the cheese stick to the leaves) makes the salad more flavoursome. All our ends of cheese (usually mild or mature Cheddar and Red Leicester) are grated up and stored in boxes, usually in the fridge (for it keeps well enough) or in the freezer. The stronger the flavour the cheese (eg extra-mature Cheddar), the less you need to use when grated. When topping pizzas, mozzarella is good for that is what I call a 'stretchy' (stringy when melted) cheese, and sometimes buy that to grate up and mix in with the rest. Several recipes today use grated cheese as one of the ingredients.

Have not heard about energy prices going down Moira, other than perhaps oil/petrol and that is only a possibility. As to lentils, managed to get a large plastic (sweet type) bottle from the Indian and Asian shelves at Tesco, full of red lentils and much cheaper (by weight) than if I had bought the normal 500g packs. If you have any Asian shops in your nearest town, then worth popping in to see what prices they charge. Often rice, lentils, even chicken joints are cheaper than supermarket prices, and on a recent cookery programme heard that Pakistani mangoes have far more flavour than those grown in other countries. Many European and especialy Asian countries seem to have far more knowledge about the best uses for and take pride in using fresh produce, so worth exploring any ethnic supermarkets.

Late last night watched two runners for the American Presidency replying to questions from the audience. Appears their finances seem to be in a worse plight than ours, although we possibly are swimming in the same melting pot. Perhaps we are not told the true story, or America throws too much money away keeping wars going.
Having tried to get my head around why, all of a sudden, there seems to be a lack of money, where has it all gone to? Doesn't money work like most of life - what goes around comes around? Beloved tried to explain, although am none the wiser. All I know recessions, depressions, call them what you will, have come and gone over the centuries, and we just have to 'go with the flow' and learn as much about how people coped in the 'olden days' during times like this.

Remember in the very early days of this blog, some man writing in saying there was never any need these days to go to the extremes that I do. Who wants to live as we used to do in war-time? No thank you very much! At that time wondered if he was right. Now I think he may not have been. As I write so often in this blog 'forewarned is forearmed', and once we have mastered cost-cutting-cooking, we can move from strength to strength, saving money with each step we take. Sometimes I feel this blog is full of cliches or mixed metaphors or whatever they are called. Perhaps because I am unable to express myself very clearly without using them.

Today have come up with recipes for this blog that might have the touch of the miserliness about them, but once we understand that each ingredient has a place in the great scheme of things (there I go again), we should not think of these as economical 'padding', but as an alternative and cheaper source of protein (as with the oats) and any veggies used are all to the good.

This first recipe for beefburgers - when made correctly - should contain little other than good quality steak mince (with maybe a bit of onion) but when these other ingredients are added this makes the meat go a lot further to make a burger that is both (if not more) nutritious and cheaper. Not to mention - healthier.
All good things go into this burger, so if you wish to use even less meat, add more of the rest. Although beef is used in this recipe, it would work with minced lamb, turkey or chicken (even a meat substitute). Choose the best herbs to suit the meat (mint with lamb for example, sage with pork).
All things nice Burgers: makes 6
1 oz (25g) butter
1 tblsp grated onion
3 oz (75g) streaky bacon, chopped
2 oz (50g)mushrooms, chopped
1 lb (450g) minced steak
3 oz (75g) porridge oats
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp finely chopped fresh parsley
half tsp dried mixed herbs
1 tblsp tomato ketchup or tomato puree
Melt the butter in a frying pan and sauté the onion for a few minutes, then add the remaining ingredients in the order given. Remove from heat, cool slightly then gather the mixture together and turn out onto a floured board.
Divide into 8 equal portions and shape each into a flat round burger. Place on a baking sheet, slightly apart, and bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for about 15 minutes, turn the burgers over and continue baking for a further 10 minutes.
Alternatively, fry the burgers over medium heat for 5 minutes on each side,, making sure they are cooked through. Serve in any way that you would serve burgers.

Before the next recipe, the earlier mention of using grated cheese has led me to offer these suggestions:
Ice-cream wafers:
Spread thinly with butter and sprinkle with grated cheese. Brown lightly under the grill.
Cream Crackers:
Allow 2 per person and butter each, sprinkle thickly with grated hard cheese and season with pepper. The butter can be seasoned with a little made mustard before spreading to give an extra kick. Brown under the grill until the cheese bubbles.
Spread slices of hot toast with butter and a smear of Bovril or Marmite. Spread over sweet pickle, then cover this with thin slices of tomato, topping the lot with slices of processed cheese. Pop under a hot grill until cheese melts, then serve.

Next comes a recipe for pasta sauce that contains apples. Am not suggesting you need to go out and buy apples, for there are plenty of recipes on this site to make a basic tomato sauce without them. But for those who grow their own and maybe have a glut, or for anyone who has one languishing in a fruit bowl, then this recipe is for you. This is also a good sauce to serve with fish,
Tomato and Apple Pasta Sauce: serves 4
1 oz (25g) butter
1 apple, peeled and grated
1 small onion, grated or finely chopped
2 tsp cornflour
1 small tin tomato puree
half pint of water
1 tin chopped tomatoes
pinch sugar
salt and pepper
Melt the butter in a pan and fry the onion until soft. Stir in the apple and cook that for a few minutes until softened, then stir in the tomato puree. Blend the cornflour with the water and add this to the pan along with seasoning to taste. Stir and simmer until thickened and cook for 5 minutes (this removes the taste of the cornflour) then add the canned tomatoes. Simmer for a further 4 minutes adding seasoning to taste and the sugar. Serve with pasta and meat or fish balls.

Another cheapie coming up, and how cheap depends more upon the brand of curry sauce you use. By now think most of you are aware that curry sauce is on sale for only 4p a tin, and this can be upgraded by stirring in a little curry paste (of the strength and flavour you wish) with the onions or whatever is being cooked, before adding the sauce and mixing it together.
My son-in-law cannot eat spiced foods – unless fairly cool as regards heat (spice not temperature) - and so usually has to avoid them. But he did love to eat curries, and now the cheap 4p curry sauce is proving to be his saviour. He gets the taste of curry without too much spiciness and heat.

This next recipe uses chicken joints - the drumsticks and thighs - as these have the most flavour and are much cheaper than chicken breast. Quite often it is possible to pick up a pack of these at a reduced price. Even if you have not planned to use any or all from a pack on the day, store the surplus in the freezer first wrapping each separately so that when needed, you pull out only the amount you want and not have to thaw out a whole pack. This is such a simple dish to make think it ought to be filed under ‘student’s recipes’. Although it may not seem much protein as regards the chicken (joints can often be quite small) the lentils contain enough vegetable protein to make up any shortfall. By all means add other vegetables if you wish – carrots and cauliflower go well with curries, and also frozen (thawed) peas can be put on top of the rice to cook for the last few minutes in the steam (cooking peas too long and they tend to change colour to khaki).
Chicken Dhansak: serves 4
6 oz (175g) red lentils
4 skinned chicken joints
1 onion, thinly sliced (optional)
1 tblsp sunflower oil (optional)
1 can (approx 14fl oz/400g) curry sauce
1 tsp curry paste (optional)
6 oz (175g) long grain rice
Soak the lentils overnight in cold water (or can be soaked during the day). Drain when ready to use.
If intending to use curry paste, then fry the onions in the oil until softened, stirring the paste in at the end, then blending in the curry sauce. If not using paste, the onion/oil can be omitted if you wish, but will add extra flavour to the dish.
Place the chicken joints in a 3 pint casserole and spoon over the lentils and the curry sauce (with or without the onions etc). Cover and cook at 180C, 350F, gas 6 for an hour, or until the chicken is tender and cooked through. It may need a few minutes longer. If you wish turn out the oven a few minutes before the end of the cooking time and leave it to cook on in the residual heat. While the chicken is cooking, cook the rice in salted boiling water until tender (takes about 4 – 5 minutes if you have allowed the rice to soak for several hours before cooking. To serve, make a bed of rice on a serving dish, place chicken joints on top and pour over the sauce.

Yet another easy recipe worthy of a student fest. This recipe was discovered in a pamphlet printed in the late ‘50’s, when food had not quite progressed to the heights it has now. Even so, worthy of making when (let’s say) living on the breadline. Packs of bacon (indeterminate rashers and bits – the fatty parts VERY useful to render down for later use) can be bought quite cheaply, so why pay for expensive pre-cut rashers, when we can usually find a cheaper way to buy them? Seek out cans of pineapple rings at a sensible price. When using one or more, drain and freeze the rest. These are great to use in a dish such as this, or chopped up and used in a stir-fry or to add to a fruit salad. The syrup or juice can help to make up a pineapple jelly.
Upsey-Downsey Bacon Pie: serves 4
1 oz (25g) butter
8 oz (225g) streaky bacon rashers
3 pineapple rings (quartered)
3 oz (75g) margarine
10 oz (275g) self-raising flour
salt and pepper
1 egg, beaten
Melt the butter and brush over the base of a Swiss Roll tin. Remove any rinds from the bacon (if any), and lay over four bacon rashers and 4 pineapple quarters to form a pattern in the tin.
Rub the marg into the flour, adding salt and pepper to taste,. Cut remainder of the bacon into very small pieces and stir into the flour. Mix to a soft dough with the egg and enough milk as necessary, and roll out on a floured board into an oblong to fit the tin. Lay this over the bacon rashers and pineapple and press down firmly.
Bake on the top shelf of a hot oven 220C, 425F, gas 7 for 20 minutes. Upturn onto a serving plate or board and serve with perhaps a salad.

Still thinking frugally, this next dish is a most unusual way to serve white fish. In the old days this would be made from two plaice that had been filleted (making four fillets), but less expensive white fish could be used instead. – and these being thicker than plaice, one each should be enough, and if really thick need not be rolled, just laid flat. Note the use of ‘bacon dripping’ – this adds so much to the flavour of the dish and is what I call a 'free' fat, thus saving the more expensive oils and butter to use another time..
Chef’s Fish Special: serves 4
4 fillets of white fish,pref skinned and boned
salt and pepper
tomato ketchup
1 lb (450g) tomatoes, peeled and sliced
2 oz (50g) mushrooms, sliced
bacon dripping, melted and hot
2 oz (50g) plain flour
2 eggs, separated
half pint (300ml) milk
Wash and dry the fish. Season on each side with sat and pepper and spread the top only with the tomato ketchup. Roll each up.
Arrange the sliced tomato over the base of a buttered shallow ovenproof dish and sprinkle over the mushrooms. Drizzle over the bacon fat then lay the fish on top.
Sift the flour with a pinch of salt and stir in the egg yolks. Beat until smooth, adding the milk gradually. Cover and leave this batter to stand for one hour, then beat the egg whites until stiff then fold gently into the batter. Pour this over the fish.
Bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for about 45 minutes. Serve with what you will.

This next recipe is both seasonal and cheap and a good way of using courgettes that were hiding under a leaf secretly hoping to grow into a marrow. In other words used oversized courgettes. Gardeners usually have the last of the tomatoes hanging indoors still clinging to the vine so that they will eventually turn red, some of these can also be used for this dish.
Baked Stuffed Courgettes: serves 6
3 large courgettes
1 tblsp grated onion
1 oz (25g) butter. melted
half pint fresh white breadcrumbs
quarter pint fried and peeled tomato
salt and pepper
6 bacon rashers
Cook the courgettes whole in boiling salted water for 10 minutes (keeping the pan covered). Drain and slice in half lengthwise. Scoop out the centres and mix this pulp with the onion, butter, crumbs, tomato and seasoning, making sure the mixture is well blended. Pack this mixture back into the shells and place on a baking sheet. Bake at 180F, 350C, gas 4 for 15 minutes, meanwhile grilling the bacon.
Serve each courgette garnished with a rasher of crispy bacon. Alternatively serve with a slice of fried gammon.

There you go, not yet eight of the clock and have just about finished for today. May take an hour to write up some more recipes on Word ready to cut/paste tomorrow. Still time though for a bit more update on the Goode Challenge. The food is lasting out well, so far it has been only bananas that needed replacing. Plus a loaf of bread, the rest of the bread being home-made (but sometimes get fed up of making it). We had a beef casserole the other evening which was excellent, and instead of using a packet 'casserole mix' to make the gravy, decided instead to stir in a heaped teaspoon of AWT's gravy mix (comes in a jar a bit like Bovril). Not wishing to give free advertising in the normal way, and if so only when I feel the product is worth having, have to say this 'gravy mix' is the best thing (for me) since sliced bread. It not only has an excellent flavour but also thickens at the same time, and very good to stir into a chunky vegetable and lentil soup. I use it a lot.
Making the casserole was easy. Fried some stewing steak with onions on the hob, poured over water and simmered away for an hour then added one thinly sliced carrot, and stirred in the heaped tsp of gravy mix. Kept it simmering for a further hour, needed to top up with a bit of boiling water from time to time as, although the pan was covered, the cooking reduced the liquid somewhat. All that was needed was to add a green vegetable, some string beans or peas (not that I used either). We just ate it as it was - and it was good.

Yesterday had a real craving (could it be I am pregnant?) for fish and chips, and not the home-made, the ones from the chippy. Beloved fetched them and we discovered that the two fish had ended up as three as one had stuck to the base of the other and not noticed when packed in its polystyrene box (bring back newspapers I say). The batter in the local chippy is so crisp, I could just eat the fish and no chips, but had the lot plus mushy peas (having run out of my home-made), and have to say my peas are better (and much, much cheaper) than theirs. With plenty of tomato ketchup on top (they say that is now good for us), some vinegar and salt, I was on cloud nine.

Today our guests have said they will be providing supper - a meal from the local Chinese take-away - so again feeling rather good about life. Sometimes cooks need to take a couple or so days off. Maybe I will get around to making the marmalade today as I have time to spare.

Two minutes to eight and am all ready to move on to my household chores. Even though finished far earlier than normal, hope you feel you have got your money's worth. Considering this blog is free, that perhaps doesn't count for much. Even so.
Back again tomorrow - have a good day.


Sunday, October 05, 2008

Sow with the Flow

The basic sponge cake recipe was given a few days ago (with variations) so today am giving a basic biscuit dough to which can be added flavourings or spices. As this recipe makes enough for 70 (assorted) biscuits, worth making in bulk and freeze the dough in small amounts to use as and when required. If preferring to make a quarter the amount, custard powder could be used instead of cornflour - it may change the colour of the biscuit and add a taste of vanilla but that should be acceptable. Note: the metric equvalent to the imperial weights are slightly different than usual, so stick to the recipe.
Basic Biscuit Dough: (F)
1 lb (500g) plain flour
2 oz (50g) cornflour
1 tsp baking powder
8 oz (200g) butter or hard marg, cut into cubes
8 oz (200g) caster sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Put the flour, cornflour and baking powder into a bowl, add the butter and rub in using the fingertips until resembling fine breadcrumbs (this could be done in a food processor). Stir in the sugar and eggs and work together to make a firm dough. Turn onto a floured surface and knead until smooth (can be frozen at this point), then shape as desired (see variations below).
Place on baking sheets and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 12 - 15 minutes until pale golden. Cool on a cake airer. Store in an airtight tin for up to 2 weeks.

Lemon Biscuits:
Knead zest of 1 lemon into quarter of the basic biscuit dough and roll the dough fairly thinly, using cutters of shape and size you wish. Bake as above. Place 8 oz (200g) icing sugar in a bowl and mix in enough lemon juice to make a smooth icing that will coat the back of a spoon. Spread the icing over the biscuits and leave to dry. These are best iced on the day of eating.

Roll out a quarter of th basic dough very thinly. Cut a hole out of the centre of half the biscuits. Bake as above. Spread the base of a solid biscuit with lemon curd or jam and sandwich together with the biscuit with the hole on top. Best assembled on the day of eating.

Here is a couple of recipes taken from an old leaflet suggesting ways to cook bulk amounts to sell at fairs and fetes. No doubt 'elf and safety have new rules about what can be sold, but for family gatherings, Trick or Treat, Guy Fawkes night - well these could just be perfect.

Chocolate and Fruit Fudge: makes 12 x 4 oz (100g) bags
8 oz (200g) cooking chocolate
8 oz (200g) hard margarine
3/4 pomt (345ml) boiling water
1 x 131g packet of instant potato (powder or flakes)
8 oz (200g) icing sugar
4 oz (200g) raisins
Place the cooking chocolate and margarine into a bowl. Add the boiling water and stir until melted, then sprinkle over the instant potato and beat well with a wooden spoon, making sure there are no lumps.
Sift over the icing sugar and stir in with the raisins, and when well mixed, pour into two 7" x 7" (18 x18 cm) shallow tins (or 1 roasting tin 12" x 9" (30 x 22 cm). Leave to cool then put in the fridge to chill. When set, cut into 1" (2 cm) cubes. Carefully lift out using a fish slice or palette knife and leave on a board to dry out. Best left loosely covered in a cold place as it tends to go sticky if stored in an airtight container.

Suffice to say this is very economical to make as the small amount just explodes up into a huge airy volume, so use the largest pan you have (or make half the amount - twice). The best way to get the exact amount of syrup is to first weigh the whole tin, then spoon out directly into the pan until the tin weights 6 oz )150g) less.
Bonfire (Honeycomb) Toffee: fills 8 bags
6 oz (150g) golden syrup
6 oz (150g) granulated sugar
6 fl oz (150ml) water
2 tsp (2 x 5ml spoons) bicarbonate of soda
Put the syrup into the pan (see above), then add the sugar and water. Stir over gentle heat until all the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and boil rapidly without stirring until 'hard crack' stage is reached (300F/150C) on the sugar thermometer, or until a little dropped into a bowl of cold water sets hard and becomes brittle.
Remove from heat and stand pan in a bowl of cold water to prevent further cooking, then quickly stir all the bicarb into the syrup using a wooden spoon. As the mixture foams up, quickly pour it into a greased shallow tin 11" x 7" (28 x 18 cm) and leave until set hard. Break into pieces and store in an airtight container.

Finishing today's recipe selection with the onion, bread and cheese soup one promised. Make, eat and enjoy.
Ploughman's Soup: serves 4
2 oz (50g) butter
4 large sweet (Spanish) onions, thinly sliced
9 oz (250g) stale sourdough bread, thinly sliced
5 oz (150g) coarsely grated Parmesan cheese
boiling water
1 - 2 tblsp brandy
1 oz (25g) butter shavings
Melt the butter and cook the onions very gently for half an hour, stirring from time to time. Cover the pan and cook for a further half an hour by which time they should be turning golden. Uncover, raise the heat slightly and cook/stir for a few more minutes until a rich deep golden (caramel) colour.
Spread each slice of bread (bar one - leave that plain) with a thick layer of onion, then place one into a large casserole dish (avoid empty spaces so cut bread and onion to fit, and scatter over a goodly layer of cheese, then repeat the layers until the dish is two thirds full. Put a final layer of plain bread on top and sprinkle over more cheese.
Slowly pour enough boiling water around the edges of the dish, letting the bread soak it up and also rise until just floating, then cover and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and add a little more boiling water, sprinkling over remaining (or more) cheese and the shavings of butter. Then continue baking uncovered, until the top is golden and crusty. Allow to cool slightly before serving.