Sunday, November 30, 2008

Something a bit Different

The first recipe is a vegetarian chilli, to be cooked for all of 8 hours (or even longer - although best to check manufacturer's instructions when it comes to cooking times). There are no specific weights for many of the ingredients, it more a matter of how many servings you wish to make, so use your own judgement.
Slow-cooked Vegetarian Chilli: (V)
onion, chopped
courgette, chopped
clove(s) garlic, peeled and finely chopped
celery, chopped
green or red bell pepper, de-seeded and chopped
mushrooms, sliced
tsp chilli powder
1 chopped and de-seeded chilli
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
1 x 400g red kidney beans
14 fl oz (400ml) water
Put everything into the slow cooker, and cook for around 8 hours.

Often, when it comes to the simplest of recipes, we can make them more upmarket by altering the ingredients slightly. Although this recipes is an easy version of the Russian blini, have dumped the traditional caviar and instead suggested serving with a small amount of hot or cold cooked salmon, or smoked salmon. Sour cream agains is the traditional topping, but I prefer to use creme fraiche, or even thick Greek yogurt.
Buckwheat 'blinis' with Salmon: serves 4
6 oz (175g) buckwheat flour
half tsp bicarbonate of soda
10 fl oz (300ml) milk
2 eggs, beaten
2 tsp sunflower oil
4 0z (100g) cooked flaked (or smoked) salmon
juice of half a small lemon
4 good tblsp creme fraiche
1 - 2 tblsp finely chopped fresh chives
freshly ground black pepper
Sift the flour with the bicarb into a bowl, then add the milk and eggs. Whisk until a smooth batter, then leave to stand for 15 minutes.
Heat a dry frying pan until hot, then add the oil, swirl it over the base, then pour in a little batter to make a 4" (10cm) diameter circle. Depending on the size of the pan it may be possible to cook four 'blinis' at a time (there should be enough batter to make eight). When bubbles appear on the surface and start to burst, flip the 'blinis' over and cook for a further 30 - 40 seconds. Place on a cake airer than has been covered with half a tea cloth, and lay on each each 'blini' when cooked, folding over the surplus cloth to cover, so they don't dry out.
Once all have been cooked, place two on each plate and arrange some salmon on top, drizzling over a little lemon juice and give each a light grind of black pepper. Place a dollop of creme fraiche on top, sprinkle with chives and serve.

Pears, blue cheese and walnuts go very well together, and - at a pinch - very well drained canned pears could be used instead of fresh, patting them dry of the juices , slicing and leaving them open to the air overnight to dry out slightly. Otherwise use fresh pears as given in the recipe. After a large meal, a sweet dessert, followed by a cheese board some might feel would be going a step too far, so feel that the following dish gives the best of both. Use any blue cheese you wish, but Gorgonzola or Stilton would be my choice.
Blue Cheese with Pears, Walnuts and Honey: serves 4
3 firm dessert pears
1 oz (25g) butter
9 oz (250g) blue cheese of your choice, crumbled
3 tblsp walnut pieces
4 fl oz (100ml) runny honey
Remove stalk from pears, halve and remove cores, then slice each half into 6 pieces. Melt half the butter in a frying pan and saute half the pear slices for 4 minutes until golden brown. Remove using a slotted spoon, and keep warm while repeating with the remaining butter and pears.
Divide the pears between four plates, sprinkling over the cheese, walnuts and finishing with a good drizzle of honey.

Some of you, like me, will be cooking the turkey ahead of time, maybe the day before so that it can be cooled and sliced to be re-heated later, or cooked even earlier to be sliced and frozen. Either way there will be oddments of cooked turkey flesh that should not be discarded, so here are a few recipes to make use of these. Cooked chicken could be used instead.
Potted Turkey: serves 4 - 6
4 oz (1oog) butter
zest of 1 lemon
2 tsp crushed coriander seeds (opt)
12 oz (335g) cooked turkey oddments, finely chopped
freshy grated nutmeg
2 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper
Put the butter in a pan with the lemon zest and coriander. Heat until just beginning to foam, then remove and stir in the remaining ingredients, adding seasoning to taste. Spoon into individual ramekin dishes and chill for half an hour. Serve with toast.

This next turkey dish uses store cupboard ingredients, and if you haven't fresh mushrooms, canned would do, or alternatively use a condensed mushroom soup as the 'sauce' rather than the creme fraiche. Tagliatelle is the Italian name for 'noodles', but just about any pasta shapes could be used.
Turkey Tagliatelle: serves 4
12 oz (335g) tagliatelle
4 rashers streaky bacon, pref. smoked, diced
1 tblsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
4 oz (100g) mushrooms, sliced
4 oz (100g) frozen peas, thawed
10 oz (300g) cooked turkey, diced
1 x 200ml tub creme fraiche
salt and pepper
juice of half a lemon
Put the pasta on to cook, following packet instructions. Meanwhile, put the bacon into a frying pan and dry-fry until the fat flows free and the bacon is crisp. Remove using a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Set to one side.
To the fat in the pan, add the oil and stir in the garlic and mushrooms and cook on high for 2 - 3 minutes, then stir in the peas and the turkey. When the peas are cooked and the turkey fully heated through stir in the creme fraiche adding seasoning to taste.
Drain the pasta and stir into the turkey mixture. Tip into a warmed serving dish, drizzle over the lemon juice add a little extra black pepper and sprinkle the bacon on top.

This next has to be one for the children, although am sure adults will find it enjoyable. Again really a matter of using food most of us keep in store, plus of course the turkey. Cooked sausages could be used instead of the turkey, or even pre-cooked meat balls.
Chip Pie: serves 4
675g oven chips
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1 large onion, sliced
1 tblsp plain flour
7 fl oz (200ml) turkey or chicken stock
1 lb (400g) cooked turkey, chunks or scraps
1 tblsp sweet chilli sauce (or could use tomato ketchup)
1 x 420g can baked beans
salt and pepper
3 oz (75g) grated Cheddar cheese
Cook the chips as per packet instructions and temperature but for 15 minutes only, then lower the oven temperature (if needed) to 200C, 400F, gas 6. While the chips are cooking, heat the oil in a pan and fry the onion for 5 minutes, then sprinkle in the flour and stir/cook for a further minute. Add the stock gradually, stirring all the time, until the mixture has thickened and come to the boil, then stir in the chilli sauce and the turkey. Simmer for 5 minutes, then add the baked beans and season to taste.
Sp0on into a shallow, ovenproof dish and cover the surface with the chips, then sprinkle over the cheese and bake for 15 - 20 minutes until the well heated through and the cheese is bubbling.

This next is a suggestion for Boxing Day. When a child we always had cold turkey with Bubble and Sqeak on B.Day, but tastes chance, cooking as become more adventurous and dare I say more 'grown0up' and so as this 'hash' makes good use of leftover veggies that might have been served with Chritmas lunch, then at least younger folk, not tied to traditional apron strings, may care to make this almost-omelette.
St. Stephen's Hash: serves 4
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1 oz (25g) butter
1 onion, cut into 10 wedges
1 green bell pepper, de-seeded and sliced
1 lb (450g) - or thereabouts, cooked turkey, diced
leftover roast potatoes and carrots,
adding leftover roast parsnips, cauliflwer and sprouts
4 eggs, beaten
salt and pepper
2 tomatoes, cut into slices
handful black olives, stoned and halved
Heat the oil and butter in a frying pan, add the onions and saute for a couple of minutes before adding the strips of pepper. Fry for 5 minutes over medium heat. Dice the chosen cooked vegetables and stir these into the pan, then stir in the turkey. When heated through, pour over the eggs, giving the pan a gentle shake so the eggs flow over and through to the base. Top with the tomatoes and olives and cook over a medium to low heat until the eggs have set like an omelette. If you wish, pop under a hot grill for one minute to set the top. Serve straight from the pan cut into wedges. Alternatively leave to get cold, again cut into wedges and serve with a salad and pickles.

For the last turkey dish of today, and still using cooked turkey (or chicken), this is one that can be rustled up in double quick time. The trick behind speedy cooking is to have the ingredients ready prepared and assembled, so it is just a matter of putting the lot together in the order given.
Curry in a Hurry: serves 4
2 tblsp sunflower oil
2 red onions, thinly sliced
2 tblsp curry paste (fairly mild)
15 fl oz (450ml) turkey or chicken stock
4 oz (100g) sliced green beans
12 oz (335g) cooked turkey, chopped into chunks
1 x 400g can chickpeas, drained (or use home-cooked
boiled rice and yogurt to serve
Heat half the oil in a pan until quite hot, then fry half the onion for 2 - 3 minutes until crisp. Remove from the pan, and drain on kitchen paper. Add the reserved tblsp of oil to the pan and over a low to medium heat, then fry the remaining onion until softened.
Stir in the curry paste, fry for a further minute then add the stock. Sir and bring to the boil, then add the green beans. Reduce heat to simmer, cook the beans for 2 minutes then stir in the turkey and chickpeas, then simmer uncovered for 15 minutes until the sauce has thickened.
Serve with boiled rice, topping the curry with the crispy onions and a dollop of yogurt.

Biscotti is a twice cooked biscuit - normally eaten with a cup of coffee, and - in my opinion - more like a rusk than a dunkin' doughnut. However, it is fast becoming 'the new black' when it comes to 'coffee and biscuits', so here is a fruit 'n nut version that - given an added pinch of mixed spice - might be just perfect served around the festive season. Note: the 'rounded' tsp of baking powder does not mean 'heaped', just slightly more than level.
Biscotti with Fruit and Nuts: makes 30
9 oz (250g) plain flour
1 rounded tsp baking powder
pinch salt
half tsp mixed spice (opt)
7 oz (200g) caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs, beaten
2 oz (50g) no-soak apricots, chopped
2 oz (50g) dried cranberries, chopped
2 oz (50g) dried figs, chopped
3 oz (150g) chopped mixed nuts
Sieve together the flour, baking powder, salt (and spice if using), and stir in the sugar. Make a well in the centre. Mix together the eggs and vanilla, then pour this into the flour, mixing and pulling the flour in from the outsides to the centre until everything is fully combined and making a soft dough.
Add the prepared fruit and nuts, and - using a wooden spoon - stir to ensure they are evenly distributed throughout, then turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently for half a minute.
Form into a ball, then cut this in half and roll each to form two 'sausages' about 14" (34cm) long and just under 2" (4.5cm) wide. Place both on a parchment lined baking sheet, leaving room to spread, and put into the fridge for up to half an hour or until the dough has firmed up.
Bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 25 - 30 minutes or until a golden colour and firm on top. Leave to cool for 20 -30 minutes. Meanwhile reduce oven heat to 140C, 275F, gas 2.
Using a bread (serrated edge) knife, slice the 'logs' into 1" (2.5cm) pieces, placing the cut side down - in a single layer - on a baking sheet and return to the oven (now at the lower temperature) and bake for a further 10 minutes until a pale gold. Turn them over half-way if you wish. Cool on a wire rack, then store in an airtight container.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

'Yule' be Pleased with These

Firstly the 'snacks' - all aimed to be made from ingredients we usually keep in store, and all easy to make. None require a 'recipe' as such, the method only given of how to prepare/present the snacks.

Ham and Egg 'Squeak': Mash up leftover greens and potato to form 'veggieburgers'. Fry until hot and crispy and place each over a sliced of cooked ham, top the 'burgers' with a poached egg, and top this with a spoon of your favourite relish.

Tex-Mex Tortilla Wrap:
Heat chosen cooked beans (borlotti, cannellini, butterbeans etc), drain if necessary and mash in a little crushed garlic and lemon juice. Mash a small avocado with lemon juice and spread warm tortillas with the bean mixture topped with the avocado. Top with grated cheese and pop under the grill for half a minute to allow the cheese to melt, then roll up the tortilla, slice across diagonally and eat while hot.

Kick Start Sardines on Toast:
Spread thick sliced white toast with butter and wholegrain mustard. Top with canned drained sardines and cover with grated Cheddar cheese. Grill until the cheese has melted and bubbling, and serve with a handful of watercress.

Tuna and Sweetcorn Toasties:
Mash drained canned tuna with canned sweetcorn, chopped spring onions, may0nnaise and seasoning to taste. Place some salad leaves on top of freshly cooked toast, and top with the tuna mixture. Season with salt, pepper or paprika to taste.

Breakfast Toast:
Toast and butter muffin halves, top with grilled tomato and bacon and top with a poached egg.

The following recipe is for a hot sweet pickle that is just perfect to eat with any cold meats and cheeses around Christmas time. Of course also good to eat any time of the year - try it with a Ploughman's. As this pickle is best left for a month to allow flavours to develop, then this weekend could be a good time to make a pot or two. Omit the chillis if you don't wish the pickle to be too hot. You may prefer to add grated ginger root instead. Other ingredients such as raisins and walnuts can also be added.
If sterilized and sealed properly, this pickle will keep for up to a year. Once opened, keep in the fridge and eat within a month.
Sweet Tangy Winter Pickle: fills 6 jam jars (1 kg total)
4 oz (100g) carrots, finely diced
6 oz (175g) swede, finely diced
half small cauliflower, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
1 courgette, finely diced
4 oz (100g) raw beetroot, peeled and finely diced
1 large apple, peeled and finely diced
3 oz (75g) dried dates, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
4 oz (100g) dark muscovado sugar
half tsp salt
2 tblsp lemon juice
6 fl oz (175ml) malt vinegar
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp dried crushed chillies
1 tsp allspice
Put all the ingredients into a large pan and bring to the boil. Reduce heat so that the mixture just simmers, and keep it simmering for 1 1/2 hours until the vegetables are tender but still have some bite (if cooked at too high a heat the vegetables will go mushy). Unlike most pickle, this mixture will still have liquid visible. Carefully spoon the pickle into hot, sterilised jars, packing it down firmly so the liquid is pushed to the top. Screw on vinegar-proof lids, but fairly loosely, then tighten lids when the contents of the jars have cooled completely. Store in a cool place.

Now to the cake recipes, and with a celebration cake it is more often the decoration that fits the occasion rather than the content. So when adding a chocolate or white icing, pipe on a seasonal or anniversary message, sift over icing sugar to represent snow, and/or add a decoration (robin, holly?).
Mocha Christmas Roulade: (F)
7 oz (200g) plain dark chocolate
2 tblsp instant coffee powder (the richer the better)
4 tblsp water
5 eggs, separated
9 oz (250g) caster sugar
1 x 284 carton double cream
icing sugar
Take 6 oz (175g) of the chocolate, break into pieces and put into a bowl with 1 tblsp of the coffee powder and 3 tblsp of the water. Heat over a pan of simmering water until the chocolate has melted, stir to combine then leave to cool slightly.
Put the egg yolks into a bowl with the sugar and beat until very thick and creamy, then fold in the cooled chocolate mixture. Whisk the eggs whites until stiff, and fold a little into the chocolate mixture to slacken it slightly, then fold in the remainder of the whites. Spoon into a lined and greased 8" x 12" (20 x 30cm) Swiss roll tin, and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 20 - 25 minutes until slightly risen and firm. Leave in the tin for five minutes, then cover with a clean, damp tea towel. Leave for several hours, or overnight. Carefully remove the cloth, turn the 'roulade' onto a sheet of greaseproof paper that has been dusted with icing sugar, and peel away the lining paper.
Place remaining chocolate and coffee powder into a bowl with the last tablespoon of water and melt as above, over simmering water. Whip the cream to standing peaks, then fold in the chocolate mixture and spread evenly over the roulade base. Roll up like a Swiss roll. The cake will crack - so don't be put off - and transfer to a serving plate. It will keep in the fridge for several hours until ready to serve. Prior to serving sift over more icing sugar, then serve.
To freeze: place the completed roulade in the freezer, and open-freeze until as solid as it will go, then wrap loosely in foil. Store up to 4 weeks. The day before serving, unwrap and allow to defrost overnight in the fridge.

This next cake is almost an everyday one, but can be adapted to make an excellent party cake, either by serving the cake as-is with a decorated chocolate topping, or using the recipe to make a shallow cake (baked in a Swiss roll tin, covering it with ganache (equal quantities of dark chocolate and cream heated together until dissolved, then cooled and beaten - with or without added liqueur). Spread this over the sponge base in a really thick filling, then when that has cooled an set in the fridge, top with a layer of melted chocolate.
Now that I come back to the recipe, have a deja vu feeling that it might be one previously posted under the name of Chocananna Cake. But worth a second showing.
Chocolate and Banana Cake: serves 10
6 oz (175g) butter, softened
6 oz (175g) brown sugar
6 oz (175g) self-raising flour
1 oz (25g) cocoa powder
4 large eggs, beaten
4 tblsp golden syrup
4 tblsp water
3 oz (75g) dark chocolate, chopped
1 large banana, sliced
Beat together all the ingredients except the banana and the chocolate. When smooth and creamy fold in the chocolate and banana then tip into a 2 lb (1kg) base-lined loaf tin, and level the surface.
Bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 1 hour or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Leave the cake to cool in the tin, then remove, peel off the paper and spread the chocolate icing (recipe below) over the top and sides. Leave to set then decorate as required. Serve sliced.
chocolate icing:
1o oz (275g) dark chocolate, roughly chopped
4 tblsp water
4 tblsp double cream
3 tblsp icing sugar, sifted
Put the chocolate and water into a bowl and place over a pan of simmering water. Stir until melted, then remove from heat, beat in the cream and icing sugar, and set aside to cool slightly and thicken, then spread over the cake (see above) and leave to set.

Panettone: makes 1 loaf (serves 8 - 10)
12 oz (350g) strong white bread flour
good pinch of salt
1 sachet (7g) easy-blend dried yeast
2 oz (50g) caster sugar
4 oz (100g) sultanas
2 oz (50g) chopped mixed peel
zest of 1 small lemon
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
4 tblsp warm milk
4 oz (100g) butter, melted
half ounce (12g) butter, melted
Sift the flour and salt into a bowl, stir in the yeast, sugar, sultanas, peel and lemon zest. Make a well in the centre and add the eggs, milk and butter. Beat together for five minutes until the dough becomes elastic and leaves the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth, then shape into a round, place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover and leave in a warm place until doubled in size. Note: because of the extra ingredients this dough will take longer to rise than normal.
When the dough has risen, tip onto a lightly floured surface and knock back slightly, not too much, then shape it into a ball and place in a round 7" (18cm) greased and lined cake tin. Using string, tie a double layer of greaseproof paper around the outside of the tin leaving a collar about 3" (7.5cm) above the rim.
Slash a cross in the top of the dough, cover and leave to rise again for about half an hour or until again doubled in size.
When ready, brush the top of the panettone with all the melted butter, and bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat down to 180C, 350F, gas 4 and bake for a further 30 - 35 minutes or until the top is golden and crisp. Turn out and cool on a cake airer. Cut in wedges to serve.

This next recipe is again bread-dough based, with a touch of not just Stollen about it, but also Chelsea buns and Hot Cross buns. this 'crown' is made by baking small rolls together to 'tear and share'.
Festive Fruit Crown: serves 16
1 x 500g packet white bread mix
2 oz (50g) butter, diced
1 oz (25g) caster sugar
zest of 1 small orange or tangerine
2 - 3 tsp orange (or tangerine) juice (for the icing)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
approx 9 fl.oz (250ml) warm water
6 oz (175g) sultanas
4 oz (100g) marzipan, cut into 16 cubes
4 oz (100) icing sugar
1 oz (25g) toasted flaked almonds
Put the bread mix in a bowl and rub in the butter. Stir in the sugar and orange zest, then add the egg with enough water to mix to form a soft dough.
Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead until smooth and elastic., then knead the sultanas into the dough. Divide into 16 equal pieces and roll each into a ball. Press one cube of the marzipan into the centre of each ball, then re-roll to make sure the marzipan is enclosed.
Arrange 11 balls around inside edge of a greased 9" (23cm) diameter deepish round cake tin (could be slightly larger tin) then fit the remaining 5 balls in the centre. Cover and leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in size.
Bake the 'crown' at 190C, 375F, gas 5 for 45 - 50 minutes or until risen and golden brown, tenting loosely with foil after about 30 minutes if browning too quickly. Turn out and cool on a cake airer.
Blend the icing sugar with the orange juice to make a smooth icing and spread over the rounded top of the loaf, scattering over the almonds. Pull rolls apart to serve. Can be eaten hot or cold.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Suffering Yules Gladly

As so many of us have blackberries stored in our freezers, why not try this variation of a traditional Scottish dish (where raspberries are normally used). As this can be prepared in advance, to be chilled before serving, apart from the final addition of berries, a good one for the festive season. The caramelised oats can be prepared well in advance and stored in an airtight container. Any left over oats can be added to muesli.
Blackbonnet Cranachan: serves 8
4 oz (100g) medium oatmeal
6 tblsp demerara sugar
3/4 pint (15 fl.oz/325ml) whipping cream
2 tblsp runny honey
3 tblsp whisky or Drambuie
10 oz (300g) blackberries
Line a shallow baking tin with foil and sprinkle over the oatmeal and sugar. Grill for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, and watching very carefully to see the sugar doesn't burn. When it has caramelised, allow to cool and break up into crumbs.
Whip the cream until thick, then fold in the honey and the spirit, then fold in the prepared oats. Reserve a few whole blackberries to use as garnish, then mash the remainder with a fork. Put half the cream and oat mixture into 8 individual glass serving bowls and cover this with the mashed berries, then spoon over the remaining cream mixture then chill. Top with the reserved berries just before serving.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Mincing Words

Because cooked ham is something we may well be cooking or certainly eating over Christmas, here are a few more recipes that also use minced cooked ham, the first ending up as a 'meat loaf' that can be eaten hot with a mushroom or tomato sauce, or cold and served sliced with salads.
Wham, Bam, thank you Ham Loaf: serves 6
1 pint measure minced cooked ham
1 mug cornflake crumbs
2 eggs
2 tblsp grated onion
1 tblsp chutney, pickle or relish (cooks' choice)
8 fl oz (225ml) milk
pinch of cayenne pepper
4 tblsp finely chopped fresh parsley
Place all ingredients into a large bowl and mix well together. Spoon into a greased loaf tin, pressing it down well, cover with foil (or leave uncovered if you want a crusty surface) and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 35 minutes. Serve hot or cold.

Alth0ugh this next recipe is made with ham, it would also work with cooked chicken or turkey. When a can of pineapple rings has been opened, I always try to save a couple, wrap each separately and freeze away to add to a dish such as this, or to a fruit salad or stir-fry.
Ham and Salad Spread: enough for four sarnies or rolls
half pint measure very finely chopped or minced cooked ham
2 tblsp finely chopped celery
2 tblsp chopped almonds or cashew nuts
1 - 2 rings (drained) canned pineapple. chopped
2 - 3 tblsp mayonnaise
Mix together the ham,celery, nuts and pineapple. Add enough mayo to make a good spreading consistency and store in a covered container in the fridge. Use within 5 days.

Am stepping away from the true 'minced' meat for this next recipe, for this is a great way to make a speedy cassoulet (normally these can take hours to cook). Cassoulet is a very traditional French dish and I suppose you could call this the bastardised version. However, this does make an excellent and very well flavoured winter casserole, and as this version uses diced cooked ham (could be minced), chicken wings and some spiced smoked sausage (my favourite being chorizo), the rest of the ingredients being cheap enough (especially if you have cooked your own beans and then stored them in the freezer), this version is pretty low cost.
Quick Cassoulet: serves 6
1 can red kidney beans, drained
1 can haricot, cannellini or butter beans, drained
2 large onions, sliced
3 tblsp sunflower or olive oil
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 tblsp tomato puree
1 tblsp black treacle (or muscovado sugar)
half pint (300ml) beef stock
salt and pepper
4 oz (100g) cooked ham, diced or minced
6 chicken wings
4 oz (100g) spiced smoked sausage, diced
2 oz (50g) butter
2 tblsp dryish breadcrumbs
2 oz (50g) grated Cheddar cheese
Fry the onions in the oil for 3 minutes, then stir in the garlic. Fry for a further minute, then add the tomatoes, tomato puree, treacle (or sugar), the stock and seasoning to taste. Bring to the boil and simmer for 3 minutes, then stir in the beans. Heat through then set aside.
Put the butter in a frying pan and fry the chicken wings and diced smoked sausage over medium heat until the chicken wings are browned all over. Stir in the prepared ham and set aside.
Put half the bean mixture into an ovenproof casserole, then top with the meats and juices from the frying pan, covering these with the remaining beans. Cover and cook for 30 minutes at 180C, 350F, gas 4 then remove from oven, stir the ingredients together, cover the surface with the breadcrumbs and cheese, return to the oven, uncovered, and bake on for a further half hour. Serve hot, straight from the casserole.
Note: if the chicken wings have been cooked through thoroughly before adding to the casserole, and the rest of the ingredients heated through to boiling point (following the above directions as far as possible) it would then be a matter of just combining the lot, covering with the crumbs and cheese and finishing off in the oven for half an hour. On the other hand, the longer the food can stay together, the more the flavours develop, so an alternative way would be to follow the first part of this note, combine when everything is heated through, and the chicken has certainly been cooked, then the casserole could be cooled quickly, covered and chilled overnight to allow flavours to develop, then the next day top with the crumbs and cheese finish off baking as above for the last half hour.
tip: bring the cassoulet from the fridge and allow to 'warm up' to room temperature while the oven is heating up - this will make it heat through more evenly. If taking straight from fridge to oven, allow a further five minutes cooking time.

only after first tasting the dish.

The dessert recipe today is for a steamed pudding. Many decades ago these were eaten every week, particularly during the winter months for these are both warming and filling. Faced with the Credit Crunch at this present time, more of these should be made for they are extremely inexpensive. Below I give the basic recipe with variations. Although these are traditionally made and steamed in one pudding basin, the mixture can also be put into tea-cups 3/4 full, and then these take less time to steam, usually about 20 minutes.
Basic Steamed Pudding: serves 4
4 oz (100g) butter or margarine
4 oz (100g) caster sugar
6 oz (175g) self-raising flour
pinch of salt
2 eggs, beaten
2 tblsp milk
Beat the butter or marg until creamy, then beat in the sugar. When light and fluffy, add the salt and sift in the flour alternately with the beaten eggs. When combined, fold in the milk.
Spoon into a greased 2 pint (1.2 ltr) pudding basin and level the top. Cover with greased baking parchment or greaseproof paper, then a sheet of foil, tucking (or preferably tying with string) to secure edges under the rim.
Either place the pudding in a steamer standing over a pan of boling water OR stand the basin on a trivet (or upturned saucer) in a saucepan with enough boiling water poured in to come half-way up the basin. Cover and steam for 1 1/2 hours. Always keep the water boiling, adding more water as necessary. Unmould onto a shallow serving dish and serve immediately, with custard.
variations of flavour:
chocolate: remove 1 tblsp flour and replace with 1 tblsp cocoa, sieve this into the flour before adding to the creamed mixture, then follow directions above.
coffee: dissolve 2 tsp instant coffee in 2 tsp boiling water and mix this into the milk before stirring into the batter.
citrus: omit the milk and in its place add the grated zest and juice of either one orange or one lemon.
sultana: as the basic recipe, but adding up to 4 oz (100g) sultanas to the batter.
syrup/jam: put a tablespoonful of golden syrup, jam or black treacle in the base of the greased basin before adding the pudding batter.
ginger: sift a couple of teaspoons of dried ginger with the flour, and also add a little diced crystallised ginger to the batter, or put into the base of the pudding basin before the batter is added.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Looking to the Future

This dessert recipe is a variation on 'Poor Knight's of Windsor', which was traditionally made with a crustless jam sandwich cut into fingers then fried in a little butter. with sugar then scattered over. Being slightly more upmarket had better give this one a different name.
'Poor Princes of Windsor': serves four or more
8 thin slices white bread
4 oz (100g) cream cheese
3 tblsp sultanas
2 tblsp demerara sugar
2 eggs
4 tblsp single cream
3 oz (75g) butter
Spread the top of each slice of bread with the cheese, and sprinkle half of these with the sultanas and sugar, then cover with the remaining bread, cheese on the inside. Roll each sarnie lightly with a rolling pin, or press down firmly with the palms of your hand. Remove crusts and cut each sandwich in half (diagonally or crosswise as you prefer).
Put the eggs and cream in a shallow dish and beat together. Lay the sandwiches slices in this, turning them over to the egg/cream coats both sides. Leave them to soak in the dish if you have time.
Melt the butter in a frying pan, then place the egg moistened bread strips into the hot butter and fry gently for 2 - 4 minutes on each side until crisp and golden. Remove from the pan and serve immediately, either dusted with caster sugar, or pour over a warmed jam sauce (to make jam sauce add a little water to jam and heat in a pan while the 'princes' are cooking.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Fast Food and Quick Cooking

This first quickie is a 'quiche' that is cooked on the hob and not in the oven, and - if you have the pastry ready-made, and the ingredients assembled (several could be prepared earlier in the day and kept in the fridge) - this should be able to be made, completed and on the table well under 20 minutes.
Quick-pan Quiche: serves 2 - 4
6 oz (175g) shortcrust pastry
3 eggs
half pint (300ml) single cream
6 oz (175g) grated cheese
salt and pepper
2 large tomatoes, sliced
Roll out the pastry fairly thinly to a width that is the diameter of a non-stick omelette pan plus a couple of inches wider. Line the dry pan with the pastry, pressing it down and also up the sides of the pan.
Prick the base and sides all over with a fork then put over a low-medium heat and cook for 3 - 4 minutes.
While it is cooking, beat the eggs with the cream, 2/3 rds of the cheese (approx 4 oz) and season to taste. Pour this into the pastry case after the initial cooking time, cover and cook for a further 4 minutes.
Remove cover, top the quiche with the sliced tomatoes and sprinkle over the remaining cheese. Then put under a hot grill until the filling is puffed and the top is golden. Slide the quiche onto a plate and serve cut into as many wedges as needed.

As with any cooking, the more preparation that can be done the speedier and easier it will be. With this next dish cut down time and labour by using quick-cook pasta penne, having the onion ready sliced (and covered) in the fridge, and hard-boil 4 eggs (these can be cooked the day before, and kept in their shells in cold water -see tip below- kept also in the fridge). It goes without saying the cheese will have already been grated and taken from your supply in the fridge or freezer. If following tips above, the white sauce will already be made and sitting in the fridge, the onions could also have been previously fried.
With any speed-feed always put the oven on to pre-heat before assembling a dish.
Pasta Eggs Lyonnaise: serves 4
8 oz (225g) quick-cook penne
olive or sunflower oil
salt and pepper
1 oz (25g) butter
1 tblsp plain flour
half pint (300ml) milk
4 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
1 large onion, sliced
4 oz (100g) grated cheese
Cook the pasta in salted water for one minute less than the recommended time (it will cook further in the oven). Drain and drizzle/toss with a little oil to prevent it sticking to itself.
Meanwhile make the white sauce (if not already made) by melting the butter in a pan, stirring in the flour, cooking it for one minute then gradually whisking in the milk until it thickens. Stir in the chopped eggs and add seasoning to taste. Add the drained macaroni to the sauce and then tip the lot into a greased, shallow, ovenproof dish.
Fry the onion in a little oil until it begins to brown, spread this over the top of the pasta mixture and sprinkle over the cheese. Bake at 200C, 40oF, gas 6 for 15 minutes. Serve immediately. Eats well with a salad.
Tip: very fresh eggs that are hardboiled are difficult to shell. Preferably use eggs that are about two weeks old. After boiling for 8 minutes, drain and cool in cold water (this may need changing after a minute as it heats up) the gently crack the shells all over, let them sit in a change of cold water until ready to shell. If wishing to use them a day later, leave the shells on, for if any white breaks to reveal the yolk, it is not a good idea to put these in water. Perfect, unbroken, shelled eggs can be covered in water and left in the fridge for up to two days.

This next dish is fast-food at its speediest as, even allowing for preparation time, it should be on the table within 20 minutes. Instead of soft-boiling the eggs, why not lightly poach them the day before, slip the poached eggs into a bowl of cold water and keep in the fridge*. Remove with a slotted spoon and slip them into the mix below to heat through.
Sweetcorn, Pea and Egg Fricassee: serves 4
4 large eggs
2 oz butter
3 tblsp plain flour
half pint (300ml) chicken stock
half pint (300ml) milk
1 x 275g can sweetcorn kernels
6 tblsp frozen peas, thawed
salt and pepper
2 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
Put the eggs into a pan of cold water, bring to the simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Drain and plunge the eggs into a bowl of cold water. Carefully crack and remove the shells then place the shelled eggs in a bowl of warm water.
Melt the butter in a frying pan, stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute, then gradually stir in the stock and milk. Bring to the simmer then add the sweetcorn, peas, soft-boiled (or poached) eggs, adding seasoning to taste. Simmer for 2 - 3 minutes. Serve sprinkled with the parsley, accompanied by a bowl of hot, boiled rice and/or triangles of hot toast.
Note:* regarding poached eggs. Practically all hotels poach eggs the day before (or certainly hours before) being needed. They are then put into bowls/pan of cold water and kept chilled. When the breakfast order comes in, the egg is taken, slipped into a pan of very hot water to heat through, and then served. It is not just breakfast when poached eggs are served, these are often included in many lunch and supper dishes.

This next dish, although taking the normal time to cook, is one that can be prepared in advance and left in the fridge - perhaps when planning to go out straight from work and let the family take care of their own supper. To save even more time, the pizza dough base(s) could be made, bagged up separately and frozen - as they will thaw in the fridge anyway. 'Ordinary' cooked sausages could be cooked and sliced to top the pizza instead of the spicy chorizo, and a blend of again 'ordinary' cheese could be grated with Mozzarella and kept in the fridge or freezer to use for topping any pasta dishes or pizzas.
Waiting for the Moment Pizza:
1 x 10oz packet white bread mix
4 large tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2 tblsp tomato puree
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
4 tblsp olive oil
3 oz (75g) thinly sliced chorizo or other spiced sausage
6 oz (175g) Mozzarella cheese, sliced
1 tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper
Make up the bread mix as per instructions on the packet, then knead on a lightly floured surface for 5 minutes before rolling out into a large circle (approx 10"/25cm dia). Place on a greased backing sheet.
Mix the chopped tomatoes with the tomato puree and spread this over the pizza base, cover with overlapping slices of chorizo and cheese, brush the top generously with oil, then sprinkle over the dried herbs and seasoning to taste.
Put the pizza, still on the baking sheet, into a large polythene bag - allowing space above for the dough to rise - then place in the fridge and leave overnight. During this time the dough will rise, albeit very slowly.
Next day, when ready to bake, remove the tray and pizza from the bag, and sprinkle over more oil, brushing any bare edges of dough also with the oil, then bake at 220c, 425F, gas 7 for 25-30 minutes.

This next is another 'prepare ahead' dish that this time can be left in the fridge to be eaten cold the following day. Although using cooked chicken, this is better taken from a boiled or roasted chicken while the meat is still hot, for it will absorb the flavour better. If you prefer, make it with the flesh taken from simmered and cooked chicken joints. If necessary, plan the meals ahead, roast a large chicken to eat in the normal way, then remove as much flesh as needed for the amount of mouths you wish to feed the following day. Adjust amount as necessary. If the roasted meat has cooled down, then don't warm it up, use as-is, and don't forget to keep the carcase to make chicken stock. Don't sigh and say this is all too much to do on any one day. The carcase can be frozen away for you to make the stock when you have more time.
Chicken in a Tuna Sauce: serves 4
1 lb (450g) freshly cooked chicken meat
1 x 200g (7oz) tuna, drained
5 fl oz (150ml) mayonnaise
5 fl oz (150ml) creme fraiche or Greek yogurt
juice 1 small lemon
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
half tsp Tabsaco
2 tblsp capers
2 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
1 can anchovy fillets (opt)
freshly ground black pepper
Put the tuna, mayo, creme fraiche or yogurt, lemon juice, garlic and Tabasco into a blender or liquidiser. Add half the capers, half the parsley, and half (if using) the anchovies. Season with plenty of pepper and blitz down to make a smooth sauce.
Arrange pieces of cooked (preferably hot) chicken in a serving dish and immediately spoon the above sauce over the top. Cover loosely with foil and chill in the fridge overnight. When ready to serve, garnish with the reserved capers, parsley and anchovy fillets. To be served cold.

Now we come to desserts, and while this next one takes about half an hour to prepare, it could be made earlier in the day and in any case is far easier and quicker to make than using the yeast dough needed for the proper rum babas. This is also quite a 'special' one, so good to serve at dinner parties.
Ideally make this in individual sponge flan cases, but could be made in one of the larger ones to cut into wedges when serving.
Sponge Babas: makes four (or one larger one)
4 individual sponge bases
5 fl oz (150ml) water
4 oz (100g) sugar
3 tblsp rum
3 oz (75g) raisins or sultanas
4 tblsp apricot jam, warmed
5 fl oz (150ml) double cream
2 tblsp toasted flaked almonds
glace cherries (opt)
Put the flan cases in a shallow dish and, using a fork or cocktail stick, prick all over and right through the base.
Put the water and sugar into a pan, and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil, and - without stirring - simmer for 5 minutes. Then remove from heat and stir in the rum.
Spoon this syrup over each of the flan cases until all are well moistened. Leave them for a while so they get the chance to soak up any syrup that has soaked through or drizzled down the sides, then remove to a wire rack and brush all over with the apricot jam.
Scatter the dried fruit in the recess of each sponge cake, then put on a plate and leave in the fridge to cool. Then whip the cream and pipe or spoon this into the centre of each baba and top with the toasted almonds. If you wish to add a bit of colour, tuck in snippets cut from a glace cherry or two.

The following dessert is more a method than a recipe and mainly for those who have a pile of ready-made pancakes in the freezer and a bowl of rum butter that needs using up (so could be made on Boxing Day).
Christmas Crepes: serves 4
8 readymade pancakes
rum butter
extra butter
orange juice
extra rum
Spread the pancakes with rum butter, fold in half and then half again to make wedge shapes. Put a knob of butter to heat in a large frying pan and add shallow layer of orange juice and heat through. Slide in the pancakes, overlapping if you wish, or do them in batches, then heat through, spooning over the hot juice from time to time. If you wish - when ready to serve - pour in an eggcupful of rum and tilt the pan so it ignites - but take care, don't lean over the pan as I did once, or your hair may catch fire. Take the pan to the table, and serve immediately.

So many times I have urged readers to make meringues using left-over egg whites, and as recently mentioned, these meringues keep almost indefinitely when stored in an airtight tin. You would be surprised how many meringues can be made from 2 eggs whites and 4 oz caster sugar.
With this in mind, and expecting you all to have meringues at the ready (don't even think about buying them), all you need to make this worthy-of-the-top-table dessert is some whipped double cream and coffee liqueur (or just use bog-standard Camp coffee blended with a little whisky or brandy). Grated chocolate is an optional garnish, and worth remembering that grated chocolate can also be prepared weeks ahead of use and stored in an airtight or dry container in a cool place.
Meringues Chantilly: serves 6
12 meringues
1 pint (600ml) double cream, whipped
2 tblsp coffee liqueur
grated chocolate
Stir the liqueur into the whipped cream and sandwich between two meringue halves, opening the halves up slightly like an open oyster shell so that more cream can be dolloped between them. Place in a paper cake case to keep their shape and sprinkle some grated chocolate over the cream.
Note: if you prefer, make meringue 'nests' and fill the centres of these with the cream. Depending upon size serve one or two nests per person.
Before I leave this dish must mention how - in the past - I used to dry out squiggles of meringue, in the shape of a swan's head and neck, and then when assembling meringues, tuck the swan's neck into the cream at the front of the meringues. The meringues themselves looked like swan's wings held slightly away from the body. Perhaps more a retro way to serve than any other, but children would enjoy them. They also look quite pretty 'swimming' on a glass plate.

Final dessert is another worthy of 'fine dining', and with a bit of luck you may already have the makings in your storecupboard. If not, worth ordering them in for one way or another you will find a use for them. There are two ways to make this, either with the muffin/cake base or without - just serving the cherries, the syrup and cream.
Black Forest Jubilee: serves 6
3 chocolate muffins or oddments of chocolate cake
1 x 425 cans black cherries
4 tblsp redcurrant jelly
zest and juice of one large orange
3 tblsp kirsch or brandy
double cream, whipped for serving
Drain the cherries and put them into a bowl. Put the juice into a pan with the redcurrant jelly, and the orange zest and juice. Heat gently until the jelly has dissolved. Add the chosen spirit and the cherries and bring to the boil. Remove from heat, and cool slightly.
Into 6 individual serving glasses crumble the muffins or cake and spoon over a little of the juice. Leave for a few minutes to soak in, then top with the warm cherries and cover these with the remaining juice. Serve immediately with whipped cream.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Losing Pounds and Saving More

Honeyed Chicken and Bacon Skewers: makes 16
16 chicken fillets (taken from the back of the breasts)
1 tsp runny honey
2 tblsp olive oil
2 tsp Dijon mustard
salt and pepper
approx 8 streaky bacon rashers (see above)
16 pre-soaked wooden skewers (see above)
Put the honey, oil and mustard into a bowl and mix together. Add the chicken fillets and turn around in the mixture until fully coated, add salt and pepper to taste, give one more turn then leave them to marinade for half an hour (if making for a buffet, these could be prepared to this point earlier in the day and to chill in the fridge for longer).
Shape the chicken fillets as required (folded or pleated), then wrap each in bacon and skewer them together, singly on cocktails sticks, or several on one skewer as preferred.
Grill for 12 - 15 minutes or until the bacon is golden and turning crisp and the chicken has cooked through. Turn the skewers around from time to time. Serve as you wish (suggestions above).

As with many recipes, one leads to another. So bear with me while I give you something similar but also something that ends up quite differently. You could choose to use the marinade from the above recipe instead of the one given below, and vice versa. Again chicken breasts are part of the original recipe, so will leave as-is with the reminder that chicken fillets (to the approximate weight) could be used instead. Other herbs and other nuts could also be used. These make a good teenage snack, picnic fare, or can be taken to eat at work as a packed lunch. These even have the potential for each wrap to be sliced into narrow-depth rolls and served as finger-food at a buffet. Note - if following the tip under the recipe, this actually makes the chicken go further, so less need be bought. If the breasts are beaten really thinly, they need not be shredded as they could be laid directly on the wrap either before or after the nut and mayo spread, then rolled up. Anything to save time and labour.
Spicy Chicken Wraps: serves 6
1 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp paprika pepper
1 tblsp olive oil
about 1 lb (500g) chicken breasts
3 oz (75g) walnut pieces, finely chopped
4 fl oz (125ml) mayonnaise
4 tblsp finely chopped fresh basil leaves
salt and pepper
6 flour tortilla wraps
rocket or watercress leaves
Mix the mustard, pepper and oil together in a shallow dish, then add the chicken breasts, turning to coat all sides. Cover and chill for at least an hour (they can be kept in the fridge overnight if you wish).
Heat a dry frying pan over medium heat, then place in the chicken and fry for five minutes on each side or until cooked through (the thicker the breasts the longer they take). Remove from the pan and leave to get cold, and then shred the chicken into small bite-sized strips and place into a bowl together with the walnuts, mayo and basil. Add seasoning to taste. Divide the mixture into six and spoon spread over the six tortilla wraps, topping each with chosen salad leaves. Roll up each, fairly firmly, to hold the filling securely, then secure each by wrapping with a strip of parchment paper, or a paper napkin (useful if eating out), and tie with string or hold together by pushing through a cocktail stick.
Tip: to save cooking time, cut the chicken breasts through horizontally, then place each piece between two sheets of clingfilm and bash with a rolling pin to make them really thin. After marinading, they then take only 2 - 3 minutes to cook on each side - although they will probably need to be cooked in batches, so not a lot of fuel time is actually saved.

Cook roast spuds by this lower-fat method. Each serving contains 6g of fat (saturated fat 1 g) rather than the normal 14g fat.
Slimmers Roasties: serves 4
1 lb 12 oz (800g) roasting potatoes, quartered
1 clove garlic, sliced
7 oz (200m) vegetable stock
2 tblsp olive oil
salt and pepper
Put the prepared potatoes, garlic and stock in a roasting pan, then brush the tops of the potatoes with half the oil. Season to taste then 'roast' in the oven at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 50 minutes. Brush the potatoes again with the remaining oil and continue cooking for a further 15 minutes, by which time the stock should have been absorbed and the potatoes browned and cooked through.

Floating Snowballs: serves 4 - 6
1 pint (560ml) milk
few drops vanilla extract
5 eggs, separated
pinch of salt
5 oz (150g) caster sugar
2 oz (50g) icing sugar
2 tbslp water
Put the milk in a pan with the vanilla and heat gently. Put the egg yolks, salt and 3 oz (75g) of the caster sugar into a bowl and mix together, then stir in the warm milk. Return this mixture to the pan and heat slowly, stirring all the time until just below boiling point - remove from heat and test, when it is ready the custard will coat the back of a wooden spoon and when a finger is drawn across it should leave a clear path. Be vary careful when making custard in a pan - too hot and the eggs will start to scramble.
When ready, cool slightly then pour into a serving dish, then chill.
Heat a saucepan of water (or could use a wide deep frying pan) to simmering. Whisk egg whites until stiff, sprinkle over the icing sugar and whisk well until again stiff. Using two soup spoons, make oval balls of the egg whites, carefully lowering each as made onto the simmering water. Leave for 15 seconds and then turn to cook the other side for a further 10 seconds. Remove using a slotted spoon and place on a wire rack keeping them apart (or they stick together). When all are cooked and have dried off, carefully pile them up over the custard.
In a small pan, dissolve the remaining 2 oz (50g) caster sugar in the 2 tblsp water and boil down until it turns a golden brown (caramel). Pour over the egg balls and serve immediately.

Often a recipe can have much the same ingredients as another, but end up as a completely different dish because one or two other crucial ingredients have made it so, and to prove this point this last recipe, although containing many of the ingredients in the recipe above, turns out - when eaten hot - much more like a cross between a cake and souffle.
Note that with both recipes, because eggs and milk are ingredients, these can be part of the protein intake for the day, so either puds would be an excellent choice served after a vegetarian main course.
Lemon Pudding: serves 4 - 6
4 oz (100g) butter
6 oz (175g) caster sugar
4 eggs. separated
zest and juice from 1 large lemon
3 tblsp plain flour
half pint (300ml) milk
1 tblsp icing sugar
Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy, then beat in the egg yolks, zest and juice of the lemon. Gradually fold in the flour and then the milk.
Beat egg whites until stiff, then fold these into the mixture (start by folding in a tblsp to slacken the mixtgure, then fold in the rest of the whites). Turn into a greased 7" (18cm) ovenproof dish and sift over the icing sugar. Place dish in a roasting tin containing an inch (2.5cm) hot water. Bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 40 -50 minutes by which time the pudding will have risen and turned golden on top. Can be served hot or cold.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Good enough for Guests

The first recipe is a soup - with dumplings. It is the dumplings that control most of the flavour, the soup is basically stock. But to get this right it should be a good stock, preferably home-made and a quality home-made chicken stock cannot be beaten - this should always be in our freezer. Because this is such an inexpensive dish, this is still worthy of a dinner party. Instead of the bacon ( or included with) lightly fried chicken livers could form the meat part of the dumplings. To make the dish slightly more interesting, some dumplings could be made with white breadcrumbs, some with brown, serving both with each bowl of soup.
Bacon Dumpling Soup: serves 4 (F)
12 oz(350g) stale white bread, crusts removed
half pint (300ml) milk
2 oz (50g) back bacon rashers. chopped
1 oz (25g) butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tbslp chopped fresh parsley
good pinch dried marjoram
salt and pepper
3 eggs. lightly beaten
4 oz (100g) self-raising flour
2 pints (1.1ltrs) clear chicken or beef stock
chopped parsley for garnish
Tear the bread into chunks and put in a bowl with the milk. Leave to soak for a couple of hours. Meanwhile, fry the bacon with the butter until crisp, stirring in the garlic near the end. Remove using a slotted spoon, drain on kitchen paper and set aside.
Add the onions, garlic-flavoured bacon, parsley and dried marjoram to the soaked bread. Season well, using plenty of pepper, and stir in the eggs. When well mixed together, sift over the flour and stir this in until completely absorbed.
Put the stock into a large saucepan and bring to the simmer. Form the dumpling mixture into 1" (2.5cm) balls, rolling them in a little flour (the flour prevents them falling apart when cooking). Carefully put the dumplings into the stock and simmer for 15 minutes. Serve hot with a sprinkling of fresh parsley.
If wishing to make in advance, the dumplings can be frozen separately to the stock. Thaw dumplings before adding to the hot stock.

This next dish is certainly worthy of serving - possibly as a starter - at a dinner party. Why? Because the pasta and filling has been 'home-made'. Although this pasta dish is cooked in salted water (and do use salt when cooking pasta in water), a little more flavour could be given by cooking the pasta in chicken stock. As to whether you wish to serve a dish of grated Parmesan with this is a matter of cook's choice. It doesn't need it, so why bother?
Ravioli Duxelle: serves 4 (F)
12 oz (350g) strong plain flour
1 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper
3 eggs
1 lb (450g) mushrooms
3 shallots, or 1 onion
pinch freshly grated nutmeg
2 oz (50g) butter
Sift the flour and salt into a bowl, make a well in the centre and add the eggs. Stir the eggs and flour together, bringing the flour from the sides into the centre, and using clean hands, knead together to make a smooth, glossy dough. When ready, pop in a polybag and put in the fridge to rest while preparing the duxelle mixture.
Chop the mushrooms and shallots (separately) as small as possible. Melt half the butter in a frying pan, and first fry the shallots for a few minutes until transparent, then stir in the mushrooms and season to taste. Stir-fry over medium heat for about 10 minutes or until the liquid that leaches out of the mushrooms has evaporated. Reduce heat to low and cook for a further 5 minutes. Stir in the nutmeg, then remove from heat and leave to cool.
Roll out the dough on a floured surface and cut into 3" (7.5cm) squares. Divide the mushroom mixture (duxelle) between the squares, wet the edges of the dough slightly, fold over and press edges together to seal (if you wish you can make the dough into strips so that when folded they look like square packets - alternatively cut round the shape with the rim of a glass to make half-moon shapes. Just make sure the edges are sealed together).
Take a large saucepan and fill with plenty of water (lightly salted) and bring to the boil. Drop in the ravioli and cook for 10 - 15 minutes. Drain well and place back in the pan. Melt the remaining butter and pour this over the ravioli, tossing to spread the butter over the pasta, then immediately turn into individual heated bowls.
Tip: to add more flavour, omit the nutmeg and sprinkle a little sherry or brandy over the chopped mushrooms, allowing them to absorb this before frying on.

Final recipe today is for a pudding. This I have chosen as it is made with semolina, and because of this it is open to adaptation. Instead of the grain suggested, use cornmeal or ground rice/rice flour. The milk itself could be reconstituted dried milk, diluted evaporated milk, coconut milk, soya milk...the sugar itself could be replaced by honey or golden syrup. As to the sultanas - just think about all the other dried fruits that could be used instead, and these could be soaked in wine, brandy, rum, sherry, or orange juice instead of water This recipe could be rewritten a hundred times over and each would be different. Use this one as a guide and do your own thing.
Austrian Sweet Semolina: serves 4 - 6
2 oz (50g) sultanas
warm water
1 pint (560ml) milk
1 oz (25g) butter
3 oz (75g) semolina
Put the sultanas in a bowl and cover with warm water, and leave to soak for at least an hour, longer if possible. Put the milk into a saucepan with the butter and heat until just warm and the butter melted,, then pour in the semolina, stirring constantly while bringing it to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes then stir in 3 tblsp of the sugar.
Drain the soaked fruit and mix into the semolina (if soaking in wine etc, this can be added to the semolina if you wish). Pour the mixture into a greased ovenproof dish and level the surface. Bake at 180F, 350C, gas 4 for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and raise the temperature to 200C, 400F, gas 6. Stir the semolina with a fork to loosen the texture and sprinkle over remaining sugar. Return to the oven for 5 more minutes or until the roughened top is dry and crisp. Serve hot straight from the dish. Good eaten with cream.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Taking it Easier

It may be that you have not yet got around to buying mincemeat, or even making your own. If you want to make your own, maybe you have not got enough spare jars. But there again, you might have plenty of apples and whis to use them up, so maybe this recipe will fit many bills. This version is especially for keeping in the freezer (as the amount of apples means it will not keep more than 3 weeks stored in any other way). If you choose not to freeze, then make it mid-December to keep in the fridge, and use by the end of the year. Ideally, after assembling this mincemeat, fill small (or large) pies using short-crust pastry, and freeze these, un-baked, ready to pop into the oven when on for something else.
Mincemeat from the freezer: (F)
1 lb (450g) raisins
3 oz (75g) mixed peel
2 lb (1kg) cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped
12 oz (325g) currants
8 oz (225g) sultanas
8 oz (225g) dates or no-soak apricots, finely chopped
6 oz (175g) shredded suet
1 tsp mixed spice
4 tblsp lemon juice
zest of 2 lemons
1 1/2lb (675g) gran sugar
6 tblsp rum, brandy or sherry
Ideally, mince the dried fruits and apples (these could be grated and the rest of the fruit chopped or processed together to bring them down to an even size. Otherwise chop as small as possible, but whichever way, they should have some body to them, not turned into a puree. When prepared, place in a bowl and add the suet, spice, lemon juice and zest, and whichever booze you have chosen. Mix thoroughly and leave to stand overnight.
Freeze by packing into small containers, cover, label and freeze. Thaw overnight in the fridge and use as required.

This 'freezer dish' is the perfect way to recycle some of those plastic containers that come wrapped around 'things'. Recently bought a pack of Jaffa cake 'rolls', each tucked inside an orange 'mould', and these plastic containers were saved and perfect for this dessert. If you don't have any similar containers, brush the insides of paper cup-cake cases with the chocolate. Once filled and frozen, the paper peels off easily.
As to the glace fruits. Ideally, use glace cherries that come in assorted colours: red, yellow and green. Alternatively use some chopped peel (as used in cakes) with some chopped red glace cherries and chopped green angelica.
Chocolate Tutti-frutti: serves 6 (F)
5 oz (150g) plain chocolate
2 eggs, separated
2 oz (50g) caster sugar
5 fl oz (150ml) double cream
3 oz (75g) glace fruits, chopped
Liqueur (Drambuie, Cointreau etc to taste)
Melt the chocolate in a bowl standing over simmering water, and use this to coat the inside of six small moulds or paper cake cases.
Whisk the egg yolks until pale and thick. Using bery clean beaters and bowl, whisk the egg whites until thick, adding the sugar a teaspoon at a time to make a meringue. Using the same beaters, whisk the cream until softly peaked then fold in the beaten egg yolks alternately with the meringue, finally folding in the liqueur and glace fruits.
Spoon the mixture into the chocolate cases, and smooth level the tops. Cover surfaces with foil and freeze at once. Thaw at room temperature for about 5 minutes, then ease out of the moulds and upturn to serve on a plate.
Tip: if there is not enough filling to reach the tops of the moulds, then freeze as above for a short time to firm up, then cover with more melted chocolate to enclose filling completely then return to the freezer. Use within 3 months.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Using and Improving

This next recipe is cross between a quiche, tart and pizza, in that it has all the makings, or at least part of, and hope you like the name I have chosen for this dish as it combines all. This is a way to use up tomatoes that are going a bit squidgy, and also some basil that has just about come to the end of its life on the windowsill. Ideally, make your own semi-dried by slicing tomatoes and part-drying them off in the oven - this saves buying the more expensive ones in jars. The base is puff pastry, but at a pinch a proper (dough) pizza base could be used instead, just punch the inner part down once the dough has rinsen, leaving a risen rim around the edge to contain the fillings. The mascarpone cheese could just as easily be ricotta, or sieved cottage cheese, or your own home-made yogurt cheese. If you have no parmesan, then grate down bits of cheddar or other firm cheese that have been left to go rock hard in the fridge. Worth making more pesto, as the surplus can be stored in an airtight container - , keeping the surface covered with oil - and will keep for up to a month in the fridge. See no reason why it couldn't also be frozen.
Tomato Quizzart: serves 4
3 oz (75g) semi-dried tomatoes, chopped
3 tblsp olive oil
1 small clove garlic, peeled and chopped
small handful basil leaves
1 x 500g pack puff pastry
1 x 250g (9 0z) tub mascarpone cheese
2 oz (50g) grated parmesan cheese
2 egg yolks
8 large tomatoes, sliced
First make a pesto by putting the semi-dried tomatoes, oil, garlic, basil and pine nuts into a food processor, and blitz to a puree.
For individual servings, cut the pastry in half and roll out each into oblongs 6" x 12" (approx 15 x 30cm) the idea being that two 6" (15cm) circles can be cut from each, making four in total. Note: if you wish to avoid having scraps leftover, cut squares instead of circles, or make one large base to be cut up and shared after cooking. With the latter suggestion, you may not need all the pastry and have some left over to make cheese straws or something else.
Score a line 3/4" (2cm) in from the edge of each pastry. Mix the pesto with both cheeses and the egg yolks. Spread this mixture over the pastry, keeping it within the scored lines, then lay the slice of tomatoes on top. Bake at 190, 375F, gas 5 for 35 - 40 mins or until the pastry is crispy and the tomatoes softened and lightly charred.

quick tips to add more flavour:
Toasting seeds and nuts releases far more flavour and also add more colour to a dish. Just about any nut or seed can be toasted by either spreading out on a baking sheet to brown under a medium grill, or dry-fry in a non-stick frying pan. Either way, keep an eye on them and move them around so they toast evenly.

Add flavour to home-made breadcrumbs by blitzing with lemon zest and a herb (sage, thyme or parsley). Or make another batch with lime zest and desiccated coconut. To other crumbs add a touch of paprika pepper or a mild curry powder. Bag up, freeze, then they are ready to use when coating fish or chicken, or even to use when making a stuffing.

Make a small amount of meat go further by cooking it with pulses. Lentils (especially the green ones) when cooked with smoked streaky bacon, are a marriage made in heaven. The cooked white beans, such as haricot, butterbeans, cannellini and borlotti eat well with chicken, served with a spicy tomato sauce.

Whether added to stews or a fish dish such as a paella, smoked paprika pepper adds extra flavour, and also a good substitute for salt - try sprinkling it over potatoes before roasting, likewise with chicken.

Am including this next recipe because it would make a good addition to the Christmas Hamper, and most of the ingredients we will probably have in store. As this chutney needs at least one month after making for the flavours to develop it could be made any time now. If giving as a gift, write on the date of making and a 'use-by' six months later. Once opened it will keep for a month in the fridge.
Christmas Chutney: makes about 3 lb
4 lb (900g) cooking apples, peeled, cored, chopped
4 oz (100g) sultanas
2 oz (50g) crystallised ginger
3 cloves garlic, roughly sliced
2 fl oz (50ml) water
quarter tsp each mixed spice, cayenne, salt, ground coriander
half pint (300ml) malt vinegar
13 oz (375g) light muscovado sugar
Put the apples, sultanas, ginger and garlic into a food processor and, using the pulse button, bring it down to a rough mince but still on the chunky side. Put into a pan with the water, cover and boil rapidly for ten minutes, then stir in the spices, salt and half the vinegar. Reduce heat to medium and cook, uncovered - stirring occasionally - for 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, stir the remaining vinegar and sugar together until the sugar has melted. Then after the chutney has cooked for the above time, add the vinegar syrup to the pan, turn the heat to as low as possible and simmer, still uncovered, for a good 2 hours more. Keep up the occasional stirring, and once the chutney has reached the required consistency (see below*), leave to cool then pot up into sterilised jars, up to the brim, and seal with vinegar proof lids.**
Note: * When a wooden spoon is drawn across the base of the pan containing the chutney, it should leave a clear path with no trace of liquid oozing across. In other words, all the liquid has been both absorbed by the fruits and other ingredients, and also lost by way of steam.
** For gifts, if possible jars that have new rubber seals and fasten by way of a spring-clip. If using jam jars, use ones with plastic coated lids (vinegar corrodes metal). Save all jars with their lids that have held pickles of any kind for their lids can safely be used again - sterilise all jars and boil all lids before using.

Came across this method of making and storing crispy fried onion - cooked in the microwave. These are great served as a garnish to rice, with salad leaves, sprinkled over soups and dips, and probably have a countless other uses too.
Crispy Onions:
Thinly slice 1 large onion and place in a medium, non-metallic bowl. Top with 1 oz (25g) ghee (or the clear part of melted butter), cover with cling-film and pierce this twice. Microwave on full power in a 900W oven (lower power will take longer) for 15 - 16 minutes, shaking the bowl occasionally after the first 10 minutes, until the onions are golden and crisp. Take care they don't burn!!
Drain on kitchen paper, then store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week. They may even freeze - to find that out, test for yourself. If it works, let us know.

Final recipe today is a variation on the shortbread that has a seasonal flavour. Do use unsalted butter when baking, it is generally the same price as the salted, and if a recipe calls for salt then salted butter could be used instead. Unsalted butter will freeze for longer than the recommended time for salted.
Yule-tide Shortbread: makes 12
3 oz (74g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 oz (75g) plain flour
1 tsp ground ginger
2 oz (25g) icing sugar
2 oz (25g) cornflour
vanilla extract
Cream the butter until light and fluffy. Mix together the flour, ginger, icing sugar and cornflour, and sift this over the butter. Add a drop of vanilla extract and beat everything together.
Turn out onto a sheet of cling film an form into a roll about 2" (5cm) dia. Wrap and chill for 2 hours until firm enough to cut evenly. Slice into 12 rings, and place - well apart as they will spread - on a greased baking sheet. Bake at 190C, 375F, gas 5 for 10 minutes, until golden. Cool on a wire rack. Dust with icing sugar before serving.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

News from the Kitchen Front

Many of us make our own chutneys and pickles, possibly piccalilli among the selection. However - if you normally buy these ready-made, here is an almost-instant version of piccalilli that eats well with not only cold meats, terrines and pates, but also smoked fish.
Salad of pickled Vegetables: serves 4
8 oz (225g) frozen string (French) beans, thawed
2 small carrots, thinly sliced
1 red onion, thinly sliced
8 radishes, thinly sliced
1 small cauliflower, florets only
1 tblsp English mustard
1 tsp white wine vinegar
2 tblsp sunflower oil
2 tblsp creme fraiche
salt and pepper
2 bunches (or bags) of watercress.
Cut the longer beans in half, then blanch all the beans in boiling water for 2 minutes, then drain. Add to a bowl with the other prepared vegetables.
Whisk together the mustard, vinegar and oil together, then fold in the creme fraiche adding seasoning to taste. Fold this into the vegetables. Remove most of the long stems from the watercress, and when ready to serve the salad, fold in the watercress leaves and tops.

Boston baked beans must have been the forerunner to the canned baked beans as we know them today, and to make them again, traditionally they would need quite an amount of slow cooking. Here is a speedier version that would eat well with a ham or gammon joint, the meat being either hot or cold. They could even be served up on toast as we do with baked beans. Although always having canned baked beans in store, this is another way to make use of the dried haricot and cannellini beans that we may have soaked, cooked and frozen.
Boston-type Baked Beans: serves 4 (F)
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tsp tomato puree
2 tblsp golden syrup
1 tblsp black treacle
2 tsp English mustard
pinch ground cinnamon
2 x 400g cans haricot or cannellini beans, rinsed
half pint (300ml) ham, chicken or vegetable stock
black pepper
Put the oil in a saucepan, and gently fry the onion until softened, then stir in the tomato puree, the syrup, treacle,mustard and cinnamon. Cook/stir for a couple of minutes then add the beans and stock, cover and simmer for 10 minutes, then remove the lid, raise the heat to medium and bubble away some of the liquid until reduced to a thick sauce. Season with the pepper and serve with chosen meat and a veg such as broccoli or cauliflower. To freeze. Cool, pack in rigid containers and freeze for up to 6 weeks. To serve, thaw and reheat in a covered pan or in the oven (170C, 325F, gas 5) for 20 minutes. Season and serve as above.

Friday, November 07, 2008

And now for the Goode News

At a pinch this final recipe for Christmas Pudding would be perfect for vegetarians as it is made without suet (or any fat), and even though vegetarian suet is on sale, there are many people who try and avoid fat whenever possible so this is for them. The 30th of this month is 'Stir-up Sunday' the traditional day to make your Christmas puddings and the time get the family, each in turn, to give it a stir for luck. If you haven't yet made your Pud, then that would be a good day to do it.
Suet-Free Christmas Pudding: serves 8 -10 (V)
9 oz (250g) plump raisins
9 oz (250g) currants
4 oz (100g) dried cherries
7 oz (200g) fresh wholewheat breadcrumbs
4 oz (100g) soft brown sugar
2 oz (50g) ground almonds
1 oz (25g) chopped candied peel
zest of 2 lemons
1 tsp mixed spice
half tsp cinnamon
3 large eggs
5 fl oz (150ml) sherry or port
Put all the fruits in a bowl together with the sugar, ground almonds, breadcrumbs, candied peel, lemon zest and spices. Beat the eggs with the sherry or port (or if you wish omit the booze and use lemon juice - this blends well with brandy, so this could be used as an alternative booze) then pour this over the fruit etc. Mix very well together then spoon into a greased 2 pint (1.2lt) basin that has been base-lined with buttered paper . Lay a fitting circle of greased greaseproof paper over the top, then cover the bowl with greaseproof then foil tied on tightly.
Stand the basin in a saucepan and pour in boiling water to come halfway up the basin. Keep the water at the simmer cover and steam for 3 hours, topping up with more boiling water if needed. Leave pudding to get cold before removing foil and paper, then re-cover with fresh paper and foil. Store in a cool place.
On the day, steam for 2 hours before serving. Serve with brandy sauce.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The Long and the Short of It

This dish is something that my Beloved used to love when we first got our own home. At that time - lacking any knowledge of cookery - it was possibly the only tasty snack I was able to make, not sure what it was called, possibly just Ham and Pineapple on toast, for 'Melt' - as a name - had not been thought up in those days.
Ham and Pineapple Melt: serves 1
1 wholemeal muffin, split in half
2 slices ham
2 pineapple rings, drained of juice
grated mature Cheddar
Worcestershire sauce
Lightly toast the muffins. Top each with a slice of ham, followed by the pineapple ring and cover with a small handful of the grated cheese. Place on a baking tray and grill for 3 - 4 minutes until the cheese is bubbling. Adding a splash of W.sauce before serving gives extra zing. Eat as-is or with a green salad.

Pasta has many shapes and sizes, so this next recipe is one geared up to using left-over pasta, and also makes use of the apples that are in season at the moment. Instead of using canned beans, would be using up oddments of a variety of home-cooked beans I have in the freezer.
Mixed Bean Pasta Pot: serves 4
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 large apple, peeled and chopped
1 x 410g can chopped tomatoes
half tsp dried mixed herbs
1 x 300ml carton passata
1 x 290g can mixed beans. drained
3 tblsp red or green pesto
11 0z (300g) left-over cooked pasta
Heat the oil in a pan and gently fry the onion until softened. Stir in the apple and cook for a couple of minutes or until the apple has softened. Stir in the tomatoes, dried herbs and mixed beans. Bring to the simmer and cook for 10 minutes, then stir in the pesto and pasta. Mix well. Cook until the pasta has heated through then serve in individual bowls with crusty bread.

Finishing today with two recipes using pastry, the first being a savoury pastry that would be ideal for quiches. Cheddar Pastry Crust: enough for a 10" (24 cm) flan tin
6 oz (175g) plain flour
3 oz (75g) butter
3 oz (75g) mature cheddar, grated
1 egg, lightly beaten
Blitz the flour, butter and cheddar in a food processor until like breadcrumbs, the add the egg, give a quick blitz to form it into a ball. Wrap with clingfilm and chill.
To use, roll out on a floured board to the size to fit a 10" flan tin. Chill again for 10 minutes then line the case with baking parchments and fill with baking beans (or whatever you use) and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 15 minutes, then remove paper and beans and continue cooking for a further 10 minutes. Remove from oven and it is ready to fill with what you will.

For the final and second recipe using pastry, this is for 'Baklava' made with bought filo pastry, and as it will keep for several days after making, could be worth making as a last-minute addition to that Christmas Hamper that I know so many of you are making as presents.
Grecian Baklava: serves 6 - 8
1 lb (450g) sugar
half pint (250ml) water
1 tblsp lemon juice
5 tblsp rosewater
9 oz (250g) butter, melted
9 oz (250g) pack filo pastry
7 oz (200g) chopped almonds
4 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch ground cloves
2 oz (50g) sugar
First make the syrup by putting the sugar and water in a pan over a low heat. When the sugar has dissolved, raise the heat and gradually bring the syrup to the boil. Boil over medium heat for about 5 minutes or until it begins to thicken. Do not boil it too long or it will turn darker and caramelise. Cool, then stir in the lemon juice and rosewater.
To assemble the Baklava, brush some melted butter over a 9" x 12" (23 x 30cm) shallow tin. Carefully separate the filo sheets place half of them in layers into the tin, brushing each layer with butter as they are placed in. Mix together the almonds, spices and the sugar and spread this over the filo, then top with the remaining sheets, again each layer brushed with butter, giving the top filo a more generous covering of butter. Using a very sharp knife, score a diamond pattern across the surface, then place the tin in a pre-heated oven 180C, 350F, gas 4, and bake for half an hour. Increase heat to 220C, 425F, gas 7 and bake for a further 6 - 9 minutes or until the pastry is golden.
Remove from the oven and immediately pour over the cooled syrup. Leave to soak for at least an hour (all day is even better) before cutting and serving from the tin.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Spice is Nice - plus Oct. recipe index

Nowadays the traditional sandwich (two slices of bread plus a filling) is being replaced by the 'wrap' - sometime something stuffed into a pitta pocket, more often something rolled up in a tortilla. This next recipe has a touch of fusion food about it, a cross between a Spanish, French and Mexican, and just about a complete meal in its own right, so - as it can be eaten cold - just perfect to take for a packed lunch - at school or at work. Instead of lettuce, use mustard and cress getting the children to grow their own on a windowsill.
All Wrapped Up for Lunch: makes one
1 oz (25g) sliced chorizo (or other cooked meats)
2 eggs, beaten
good pinch mild chilli powder
few drops olive oil
half pint measure shredded iceberg lettuce
1 large soft flour tortilla
1 tblsp red or green pesto
Cut the meat into thin shreds and add to the beaten eggs with the chilli powder. Heat the oil in a small pan for one minute then tip in the egg mixture. As the egg sets around the edges, drag the sides to the centre and tip the pan so the uncooked egg runs to the sides. Continue doing this until the eggs become set, then let the omelette cook for 3 - 4 minutes. Slide onto a plate and leave to cool.
Heat the tortilla in the microwave on High for 8 seconds, or warm under a grill (or heat through in a frying pan) for one minute, then spread on side with the pesto and cover this with the omelette, finishing with the lettuce. Fold the two sides over a little way to control the filling, then roll up tightly from an unfolded end. Cut in half, wrap in cling film then chill until ready to pack in the lunch box.

Final recipe is for an afternoon tea-cake, and apologies if I have given it before (but cannot place it), however it is very seasonal, and at other times of the year other soft fruits could be used
Autumn Crumble Cake: gives 10 slices
9 oz (250g) self-raising flour
6 oz (175g) butter
6 oz (175g) soft brown sugar
half tsp cinnamon
2 rounded tsp demerara sugar
1 eating apple, grated
2 eggs, beaten
grated zest of 1 orange
1 tsp baking powder
8 oz (225g) blackberries
Put the flour, butter and sugar into a large bowl and rub together to form fine crumbs (or whizz together in a food processor). Measure out 5 level tablespoon of this mixture into a small bowl and to this mix in the cinnamon and demerara sugar. Set aside.
Into a bowl put the grated apple, the beaten eggs and the orange zest. Into the large bowl - containing the remaining crumbed mixture - add the baking powder and stir in, then quickly fold in the egg mixture until if falls from the spoon. Do not overmix.
Using a metal spoon, carefully fold in 6 oz (175g) of the berries, avoiding breaking any, and spoon the mixture into a greased and base-lined loaf tin 3.5" x 8" x 5" ( 9 x 20 x 13 cm). Level the top then scatter over the remaining fruit. Take the reserved crumbed mixture (set aside in the small bowl) and spoon this over to make a crumble-type topping. Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes at 180C, 350F, gas 4, tenting with foil after 50 minutes to prevent browning too much. When cooked, the cake should feel firm to the touch.
Leave to cool in the tin for half an hour before turning out, then cool on a cake airer. Peel the paper away when ready to slice. This cake will keep up to 3 days if wrapped in foil or kept in an airtight tin.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Dishes to Suit the Occasion

Club sandwiches are made up of a double layer of filling (having a slice of bread in the middle) and sometimes called a 'double-decker'. Almost any substantial sandwich can be made up in this way, maybe keeping meat and onions in the bottom half, the salads in the top half, or in any which way you like.
The filling for this 'club' is based on the 'prawn cocktail', so would make a good snack, and probably an interesting packed lunch for adults. If, like me, you don't like chunky bits falling out of a deep sandwich, the filling could go into pitta 'pockets', or even be blitzed up to make a 'sandwich spread'.
Prawn Cocktail Clubbies: serves 4
1 tblsp Marie Rose sauce (see below for recipe)
4 oz (100g) cooked and peeled frozen prawns (thawed)
3 spring onions, chopped
8 slices brown bread (preferably Granary)
4 slices white bread
butter or marg for spreading
2 oz (50g) iceberg lettuce, finely shredded
2 carrots, grated
4 oz (100g) bean sprouts
salt and pepper
Place the tbslp of sauce into a bowl and mix in the well-drained prawns and spring onions. Toast all the bread lightly on both sides. Lay out eight brown or Granary slices and spread top-side only with the butter. Take four slices, butter-side up and spoon over the prawns, placing a layer of lettuce on top on top of each, covering with the white toast (lightly buttered on both sides). Mix together the carrots, beansprouts and seasoning to taste, and spread these over the white toast, covering with the final brow or Granary bread, butter side down. Cut each sandwich diagonally in half and serve. Sometimes it helps to hold the contents together by spearing each wedge of sandwich with a cocktail stick. But take care when eating that it doesn't stick in your face.
Marie-Rose prawn cocktail sauce:
4 tblsp mayonnaise
1 tblsp tomato ketchup
dash of lemon juice
dash of Worcestershire sauce
Mix well together. Keep in a clean screw-top bottle in the fridge and use as required. Will keep for at least a week in the fridge. This eats very well with chips instead of the bog-standard ketchup. Good also spooned over poached or grilled white fish instead of a white sauce.

This next recipe is oven-baked and as cooked at the same temperature as the dessert below, worth cooking both at the same time, as the advantage of this dish is that it can be eaten hot or cold (for a packed lunch perhaps?) so eat the pudding the day of making, and the pasta bake the next.
Easy-peasy Vegetarian Pasta Bake: serves 4
3 oz(75g) pasta penne or macaroni
1 onion, diced
3 oz (75g) frozen or canned sweetcorn
3 oz (75g) frozen peas
1 red bell pepper, deseeded and diced
2 large eggs
5 fl oz (150ml) milk
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves (or chopped mint or parsley)
2 oz (50g) mature Cheddar cheese, grated
2 tblps grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
Cook the pasta in boiling salted water for 8 minutes, then add the prepared vegetables and cook for a further 2 - 3 minutes or until the pasta is al dente and the vegetables softened. Drain well then tip into an oiled or buttered baking dish.
Beat the eggs with the milk and stir in the chosen herbs. Mix the cheeses together and add half to the egg mixture. Season to taste. Pour this over the pasta/vegetables, stirring gently so the egg will hold it all together when cooked, and then sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Bake at 190C, 375F, gas 5 for 35-40 minutes until set and golden. If wishing to eat hot, cool slightly before cutting into four and serving with a green salad, or cool completely before cutting to eat cold

Final recipe today is the dessert. Depending upon whether you wish to impress or not, make it either the semi-professional way (as given today) or when you have managed to save a couple of egg whites, bring down the tin of custard powder and use to make the custard (hot) using the whites for the meringue.
Bananas and Custard Meringue: serves 4
3 bananas
1 pint (575ml) milk
3 tblsp cornflour
2 large (or 3 medium) eggs, separated
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 oz (75g) caster sugar
Blend the cornflour with a little milk, then pour the rest of the milk into a saucepan, adding the egg yolks, vanilla and the slaked (blended) cornflour. Whisk gently to break up the yolks, then over low heat, cook - stirring all the time with a wooden spoon, or a small whisk) until the mixture thickens and begins to boil. Simmer for one minute - still stirring, then remove from heat and stir in half the sugar. Peel and slice the bananas and stir into the custard. Spoon into ramekin dishes or heat-proof teacups. Keep warm whilst making the meringue.
Whisk the egg whites until they hold their shape, then whisk in the remaining sugar and keep beating until the meringue is glossy. Pile onto the custards and bake at 190C, 375F, gas 5 for five minutes unil golden.
Tip: for fuel saving, plan to make this dessert when the oven is on for something else. Alternatively, place under a low grill to brown the meringue, or use a chef's blowtorch.