Tuesday, December 30, 2008

What Shall We Eat First?

The following dish has chicken, sweetcorn and cheese as the three main ingredients. There are also a variety of vegetables included, and this is where we can adapt. Even though the recipe is given in its original form, it is an exercise in 'moving the goalposts'. The best thing about this recipe is that most of the ingredients have already been cooked before being assembled, so to save time this could be a 'planned' dish made from 'planned left-overs'.

Myself would never use all the flesh from a whole chicken as the recipe suggests, for 4 oz (100g) per person should be adequate. Working within these boundaries, there should be cooked chicken left over which can be used to make another meal. Also cooked turkey could be used instead of chicken, so a timely recipe for this season.
The total weight of the (given) ingredients in any savoury recipe is what we should aim for, or the dish may end up serving less than it should. Make up the shortfall by adding more veggies, and whether we add more of some and less of another depends upon what we have and what we can spare. The use of olives is interesting, if you have them - use them. If not, leave them out. Those of us who love Peppadew may prefer to chop up a couple and use these instead.
Casserole of Chicken and Sweetcorn: serves 4
2 eggs, beaten
1 x 450g can sweetcorn
4 oz (100g) grated hard cheese
1 cooked chicken, flesh only (use bones for stock)
3 oz (75g) carrots, diced and cooked
8 oz (225g) string beans, cooked and chopped
8 oz (226g) peas, cooked
salt and pepper
5 fl oz (150ml) chicken stock
2 oz (50g) green olives, stoned and sliced
1 oz (25g) raisins
1 oz (25g) butter
oddments of bell peppers for garnish (opt)
Put the sweetcorn, cheese and eggs into a bowl and mix together. Dice the chicken flesh and put this into another bowl together with the vegetables, stock, olives and raisins, adding seasoning to taste.
Using a 3 pint (1.75 ltr) greased casserole dish, place a layer of the sweetcorn mixture over the base, top with a layer of the chicken, then repeat layers ending with the corn. Dot the top with the butter and garnish with srips of different coloured bell peppers (opt). Bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 30 - 40 minutes. Serve hot.

Although not a dish in its own right, this 'sauce' adds great flavour to many dishes. It can be poured over a grilled beef or pork steak, or could cover hot cooked chicken. Avoiding the meats altogether, it makes an excellent sauce to add to a bowl of cooked and drained pasta.
Creamy Mushroom Sauce: serves 4
2 tsp sunflower or olive oil
5 oz (125g) chestnut mushrooms, sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
half pint (300ml) vegetables stock
4 oz (100g) full or low-fat soft cheese (Philly type)
1 tblsp chopped fresh tarragon, basil or parsley
Put the oil in a frying pan over medium heat, then add the mushrooms and cook until their juices have evaporated (takes about 8 minutes). Stir in the garlic, fry for a further minute then stir in the stock. Raise the heat and boil for a few minutes until the liquid has reduced by about one third (takes about 3 mins), then whisk in the soft cheese then stir in the herbs. Remove from heat and spoon over cooked meats or add to drained cooked pasta.
note: this sauce can be made and set aside to be reheated while the meats are cooking.

Around this time of the year we almost certainly have oranges in our fruit bowl, and possibly vacuum packs of beetroot (these can keep for months) in our fridge. Once a pack of beetroot has been opened, it will then need using up within a few days, so bear this recipe in mind - just make a smaller version. If you have enough freshly cooked beetroot, then make the recipe as it stands.
Beetroot and Orange Salad: serves 4 - 6
2 large oranges
3 - 4 tblsp French dressing
1 clove garlic, crushed (opt)
1 lb (450g) cooked beetroot, sliced
Grate the rind from one of the oranges into a bowl and stir in the dressing and garlic (if used). Remove the peel and pith from both oranges, then slice the oranges thinly.
Arrange a ring of orange slices around a plate, then on top of these (allowing a rim of orange to show) place on a layer of beetroot, continue with alternate layers, working inwards towards the middle of the plate so it ends up like a flat pyramid, then pour over the dressing. Cover and chill before serving. This eats very well with a watercress and cold meats.

The dessert dish today uses rum, cream, ginger syrup and ginger biscuits. Just because we do have these in our house does not mean everyone will have them. But one day the lot may come together and 'need using up', so this dish can then be made without too much extra expense. If it helps, a way of making a 'cheap' ginger syrup will be shown below. We can make our own ginger biscuits, and I dare say orange juice (maybe with a splash of Cointreau added) could be used instead of rum. Even a blend of whipped cream and Greek yogurt could be used to keep down the costs.
Ginger Roll: serves 4
24 ginger snap biscuits
4 tblsp rum
15 fl oz (450ml) double cream
1 rounded tsp ground ginger
1 rounded tsp caster sugar
1 tblsp ginger syrup
stem ginger to garnish
Place the biscuits in a shallow dish and sprinkle with the rum. Cover and leave until the rum has been completely absorbed.
Put the cream in a bowl with the ground ginger and sugar, and whip until stiff. Fold in the ginger syrup.
Sandwich the biscuits together with two-thirds of the cream, stacking side by side to make a long roll. Place this on a serving dish and cover with remaining cream. Chop a little stem ginger and sprinkle this over as decoration.

ginger syrup:
Buy one jar of stem ginger in syrup. Drain into a bowl and spoon the syrup between three or four similar sized (and sterilised) jars. Slice the ginger and divide this also between the jars. Top up each jar with stock sugar syrup, place on cap (this should also be sterilised) give a shake and then store in a cupboard. As you use up the syrup, top up with more sugar syrup. The ginger keeps flavouring the syrup, and the syrup preserves the unused ginger.

stock sugar syrup:
The easiest way to make this is measure (by volume) equal quantities of water and granulated sugar. Put both into a pan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. DO NOT STIR (or sugar crystals may reform after cooling). To aid dissolving, from time to time, hold the pan by the handle and swirl the water round.
Once the sugar has dissolved, boil for 3 minutes then cool and bottle up in sterilised lidded jars. It should keep indefinitely in a cool place.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Taking Stock

Cost-cutting does not mean cutting down, it means becoming price-wise, and buying the best value for the money. It means learning how to make a meal given at a set price (as on some supermarket's recipe cards) and then making the same thing for less cost - often ending up with a better dish because of it.
Similarly making a dish from 'left-overs', does not mean blitzing yesterday's scrapings from the plate to make today's soup (although this can work), it means using the very ends of everything, such as turning the core, stems and pale inner leaves of a cauliflower into soup. Add the rind left from a Stilton cheese, and this gives it even more flavour.
Oddments of vegetables (such as 'bendy' carrots and parsnips and a celery stump) can all go into a pot with water (don't for get an onion) to make a vegetable stock. Add a good handful of chicken winglets and you get enough good chicken stock plus enough chicken meat from the bones to add to the veggies to make a pie.

Even the stump cut from the end of a lettuce (plus a few sad outer leaves), when cooked with a few frozen peas then blitzed to a puree will make a wonderful pea soup. Often it is the outer leaves and stems that have the most flavour, so why throw them away.
Going back to making a vegetable stock - put vegetable peelings (scrub veggies first) into a pot and cover with water and simmer to make stock. Adding the brown onion skins gives a deeper colour, useful when making a gravy.

As well as making a drink to sooth a cold, this also makes a good warming drink to settle ourselves to sleep.
Hot Lemon: makes about 20 drinks (F)
2 tsp tartaric acid
zest and juice from 3 large lemons
half pint (300ml) boiling water
honey (or ginger syrup) to taste
sugar sweetener (opt)
Put the tartaric acid into a bowl and add the lemon zest. Pour over the boiling water and stir well. Cover, then leave to get cold, then stir in the freshly squeezed lemon juice. To freeze: pour into ice-cube trays and freeze until solid. Pack into freezer bags, seal and label. Use within 4 months. To serve: put one frozen cube in a heatproof mug and finish as in "to serve now" (see below).
To serve now: Pour a little of the lemon mixture into a heatproof glass or mug and add 1 - 2 tsp honey or ginger syrup. Pour over about 5 fl oz (150ml) boiling water, adding sweetener if using.

Although these buns can be eaten cold (and also can be frozen) they are particularly nice eaten warmed.
Warm Lemon Buns: makes 16 (F)
1 x 567g packet white bread mix
zest and juice of 2 lemons
2 eggs, beaten
tepid water
2 oz (50g) butter, softened
3 oz (75g) soft brown sugar
4 oz (100g) chopped mixed peel
2 tblsp lemon marmalade or honey
Put the zest and the juice of the lemons in a jug with the eggs and mix together, then make up with the tepid water to the amount of liquid stated on the packet of bread mix. Put the bread mix into a bowl, and stir in the lemon, egg and water mixture to make a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes until smooth in texture.
Cream the butter and sugar until well blended, then stir in the peel. Roll out the dough to 15" x 12" (40.5 x 30cm) then spread the butter mixture evenly over the dough.
Roll the dough up lengthways, then sliced across into 16 equal pieces (1" deep). Place buns, cut side up (4 across, 4 down) in a 9" (23cm) buttered square tin. Cover with oiled clingfilm (or tent with foil) and leave in a warm place for 40 minutes (or longer) until doubled in size.
Remove covering and bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for about 22-0 - 25 minutes or until golden. Remove from tin in one piece and place on a cake airer then brush tops with marmalade or honey.
To serve now: tear off buns as required.
To freeze: open freeze until solid, then wrap, seal and label. Eat within 3 months. Thaw at room temperature for 5 hours or microwave from frozen - 10 mins at Defrost.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Aftermath

It is all so easy to give details of my own approach to 'coping' but am blessed with having already built up a well-stocked 'dry goods' store-cupboard, and although have both a fridge and freezer it would be wrong for me to expect everyone has the same. Most people do have a fridge and usually these have a small freezing compartment at the top, but would hate to think that suggestions given on this site are only useful to 'those who have everything'. Please do remember that food processors appeared in our kitchens only recently (like within 50 years) or anything electrically driven for that matter. Since the year dot, cooks have managed with just a knife, fork, spoon and a bowl. It is only time that we save using the kitchen gadgets, we can still do almost everything by hand.
Whenever I can I try to put myself in the worst case scenario (like living at the top of a high-rise flat with windows that have no sills, and a long bus-ride to the supermarket), but often need you to remind me that what I have/can do/afford is not always the same for others, and this sometimes makes it difficult for me to suggest ways to save money unless I have a wider picture to work with.

Even though in the Goode kitchen we have no cold turkey to use up (other than slices saved to add with other cold meats), am pretty sure many readers will have some, so today am giving two recipes to use up cooked turkey (or chicken) as both make good use of the little scraps that can be pulled off the bones.

This first is a salad with not too many ingredients. As turkey and chicken go so well with: ham, diced apples, sliced celery, sliced bell peppers, flaked almonds... some or all of these can be included if you wish, making just a little of each go that much further.
Turkey and Fruit Salad: serves 4 - 6
1 iceberg lettuce, torn into large pieces
12 oz (350g) cooked turkey, diced or shredded
2 oranges
4 tblsp creme fraiche
2 tblsp double cream
salt and pepper
2 bananas
Slice the peel off the oranges, and remove the segments from the pith, capturing any juices into a bowl. Beat the cream fraiche and cream together, then beat in the saved orange juice and add seasoning to taste.
Put the torn lettuce into a bowl, separating the leaves slightly, then pour over the creamy dressing and sprinkle over the orange segments. Peel and slice the bananas and scatter these over, also adding the turkey pieces then lightly toss everything together so all is coated with the dressing. Serve immediately.

This next is a hot dish and quite unusual, and although it does contain canned pimento (myself would use Peppadew) other spices - or curry paste - could be added to give a different flavour. The 'crown' is the shape of the dish, not the cut of the turkey. The cream crackers are often the ones left over in a box of assorted cheese biscuits, but any water biscuits can be used. Always save the dry savoury biscuits for these can be crushed and used instead of dried breadcrumbs when coating chicken or rissoles.
Turkey Crown: serves 4
12 oz (350g) cooked turkey, diced
1 onion, grated
4 oz (100g) cream crackers, roughly crushed
3 tblsp diced canned red pimento
1 rib celery, finely diced
1 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
5 fl oz (150ml) milk
5 fl oz (150ml) turkey or chicken stock
2 eggs, beaten
salt and pepper
Butter a 2 pint (1 litre) ring mould and butter the underside of a piece of foil large enough to cover and fold round the top.
Heat 1 tblsp butter in a pan and when melted fry the onion gently until softened. Then remove from heat and stir in the turkey, followed by the remaining ingredients. Then pour this mixture into the prepared ring mould and cover tightly with the buttered foil (butter side down).
Place the ring mould in a deep roasting dish, and add enough hot water to the roasting dish to come two-thirds of the way up the mould (the safest way to do this is first put the roasting tin in the oven with the ring mould standing in it, then pour in the water to the level required, then push the tin further into the oven).
Bake at 180C, 350F, gas 6 for 50 minutes or until the mixture is firm to the touch. To serve, slide a knife around the sides of the mould and upturn onto a serving dish. Pour over the hot white sauce and fill the centre with watercress. Serve immediately.

Once this weekend is over, will be 'stock-taking' and making lists of everything in the food cupboard, on the shelves and in the fridge/freezer, right down to the sauces and spices. It is only when we see how much we have (or even how little we have) that we can visualise how much more use can be made from it. This is why I prefer to keep most of my 'dry goods' on open shelves, otherwise they would be stuck at the back of a cupboard being "out of sight, out of mind". Also when jars become part-empty, and others remain full, it reminds me that I am using too much of one thing and not enough of another, so try and work my way evenly through them all. But even if some run out, we should not rush to fill the space with more of the same if we still have something else we can eat instead. It is a matter of preference - either work our way through most of our stores before we stock up again, or re-stock as things run out. Myself prefer to never run out of anything, but this means we always have far too much food in store at any one time. So I have to be very strict with myself.
At least, working through the 'stock-taking' list, it would be rare for me to run out of anything, for I would begin with using foods that I had the most of, then slowly work my way through the rest. With me it is not just a matter of knowing I have onions in my basket, I need to know exactly how many onions, and possibly making them go further by cutting the larger ones in half (one half for one dish, the other half for another). Let us hope I do not get to the stage of counting out every green pea.

Of course all this is not necessary. I do it because it is fun. Why not turn poverty into a game? The more we play a game the faster we gain experience. We all have our own ways to reach our goal, so please share your own cost-cutting hints and tips. Between us we may all end up having a very good (e) year.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Counting the Cost

Am leaving you with a few tips to make the food go that little bit further, and how to present 'normal' food in a Christmassy way.
bacon: if making bacon rolls or wrapping round sausage, make the rashers go twice as far by stretching them with the back of a knife - this makes them extra thin and they crisp up faster.
sausages: instead of serving one thick sausage per person, twist the sausage to make two fat small ones, either serve one of these per person, or let them have both - two small sausages somehow look more than one larger one.
breadcrumbs: if not already made and frozen away, crumb the bread and leave to stand overnight on a baking tray. This will cause the bread to dry out somewhat (stale) and it will make a thicker bread sauce.
breadsauce/stuffing: put a whole onion, studded with a few cloves, in a pan of milk, bring to the simmer, then turn out the heat, cover and leave overnight.
Next day remove the onion, discard the cloves, then chop the onion finely and add to home made or bought 'packet' stuffing to extend it further. Either make the stuffing into balls (these can be made now and kept chilled) or cook all the stuffing in one tin. If stuffing the bird, do this only at the neck end and allow extra cooking time for the extra weight.
chicken: improve the colour of chicken skin by either basting it with juices and a little honey, or glazing it with beaten egg just before it is removed from the oven. Make frills for the knuckle joints from greaseproof or chicken joints.
vegetables: prepare what you can on Christmas Eve. Keep chilled in bags or in water. A good assortment of vegetables means we could get away with serving less turkey as all everyone looks for is a fully loaded plate - and loads it up twice if any of you are like our lot. If there are any leftover veggies or anything for that matter, plan to use these on Boxing Day (as everyone has done since the year dot).
Serve peas in a halved satsuma shells, these look pretty placed around the bird, or on a plate by themselves. This way we can get away with serving less peas.
Cauliflower could be served in a cheese sauce. Never thought of that before, but when eating this with turkey at a local carvery, they went very well together and the whole lot can be cooked and prepared using the microwave.
Thinly sliced carrots appear more than when thickly sliced, they also take less time to cook. These taste even better when tossed in a little melted butter with a small addition of grated orange zest.
Parsnips can be par- cooked the day ahead (they cook quite rapidly) and then drained and tossed in butter, next day finish them off by cooking in the oven or on the hob if you want a caramelised effect.

If wishing to keep jugs of gravy and sauces hot, they can be made a little earlier and reheated in the microwave, or several (while still hot) stood in a large pan of simmering water - a type of hob-top 'bain marie'. If a large roasting tin is needed to hold several jugs/containers it may need placing over two burners. Cover the tops and the food will keep hot until needed.

Worth preparing several bowls of different dips: curry flavoured, hummous, garlic and cheese etc, and keeping them covered in the fridge, then when snacks are needed, just put the dips on a large tray, withopen tortilla chips or a bowl of broken cheese biscuits to use as 'dippers', plus some 'crudites' (matchstick raw veggies: carrots, bell peppers, celery etc. plus cauli florets and chunks of mushrooms...) and this will keep a roomful happy dipping away. Add a plate of sliced Stollen and a plate of mincepies and who needs to offer more.

Have A Very Happy Christmas

Monday, December 22, 2008

'Tis the Season...

So much seems to have happened during the last 24 hours, where do I start? Firstly, let me thank Silversewer for her timely explanation of the best way to cook a turkey crown. After carving up our cooked crown yesterday, it did give about 18 good sized slices plus two packs of smaller pieces destined for later Cold Meat Platters. At the moment they are all in the freezer - and, moving stuff around to make room, discovered the missing pack of frozen peas. Ah well.

After a fairly slack period, the Goode kitchen yesterday was a hive of activity as I decided to make some Lemon Curd in the microwave, using up the old lemons (new ones being delivered). Then thought I had better make some mincepies ready for over Christmas, so defrosted a pack of shortcrust pastry (take the easy route I thought). When I came to use the pastry, discovered it was mouldy throughout, so it must have been one I had kept in the fridge, decided I wasn't going to use it and then froze it without first checking the date). Luckily a second pack was fine. Made a dozen mince pies plus one larger Cornish Pasty shaped for Beloved.
Decided also to take a look-see how the couple of eggs saved and kept in the fridge (use-by date February 08) would appear once cracked. Expected them to be black and smelly, or the yolks would be runny, but would you believe they appeared as fresh as though they had just been laid. Not that I used them. Even I was a bit doubtful. But it did prove something.

Also yesterday morning made an apple and blackberry crumble, cooked some red cabbage with apple (to eat with beef another day), and made turkey stock from the bones.
The groceries arrived around 4.00pm and although Beloved helped unload from the boxes, it was in my own interest to put everything away then I would know where it was. this took AGES.
Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. In the very last bag I discovered a fresh turkey crown that I had ordered after all and (if you have been reading the recent postings) had believed I hadn't. On looking back through my additions to my orders (over several days, a few at a time) did discover it, so had obviously not checked thoroughly enough. However, my daughter said she would like it, so it was given to her as a Christmas gift and as she is returning home today, she will be able to make good use of it.

Yesterday evening's supper was (courtesy of daughter and SIL) Chinese Takeaway, the Goode kitchen provided assorted quality cheeses, cheese biscuits, grapes etc - plus wine for afters, as well as the mince pies. Most of the pies have now been eaten, so will need to make a further batch tomorrow when the next visitors are due to arrive. Did not myself order any Chinese (for me) as having been dealing with food all day, had quite lost my appetite.. so I just sat and watched them, nibbling on a prawn cracker now and again. For cook-dieters, this is the one great thing about Christmas, we still have the fun of preparing and cooking the food, tasting as we good, and also enjoying the aromas - but several hours of that we never feel like eating much at all. Perhaps this is why some TV cooks remain so slender.

It goes without saying, that with the food, wine and good conversation, the evening was a jolly one, and everyone staggered up to bed very happy. With half the groceries (only the dried and canned) still to be put away, plus mounds of plates and cutlery, wine glasses, coffee cups to be washed up, there was not a clear space in the kitchen. Was too tired myself to deal with it last night, so for the first time for years, got up at five and went downstairs (instead of writing my blog). Did the washing up, put the gammon joint on to cook, and reduced the turkey stock down. Put most of the groceries away so the table is clear for brekkies.
The ham is still cooking, although should be done shortly, Beloved has been asked to turn out the gas under the pan when the oven-timer pings (and to shout upstairs to me to tell me he has done so). The ham will stay in the liquid until cooled - this will help to keep it moist. Not quite sure how the flavour will turn out, but for the cooking liquid I used the end of a bottle of ginger ale and also some cider.

Reading through my grocery statement, over £30 went on non-foods and the turkey crown (am including the turkey as not keeping it). Having given practically all my freezer bags and foil containers to another daughter, discovered I had none left, so had to order more. These plus a large pack of rolls of kitchen paper, some paracetamol, washing up liquid etc (plus most of the food) are intended to keep me going for several weeks beginning New Year.
Apart from the fresh produce, practically all the other food items were for the store-cupboard (chopped and plum tomatoes, baked beans, some risotto rice, couscous, pasta penne, tea-bags, makings for muesli, dried pulses, dried fruits, packets of jelly, pots of mustard, assorted jars of spices, and a jar of honey.). Did order that extra packet of frozen peas, and also two packs of fish pie mix, all to be kept in the freezer.

The problem with setting up a store-cupboard is where to start? In all honesty I have built up a good stock of the basics, but this has taken months if not years. Do we really need the full range of basmati rice, easy-cook long-grain rice, Arborio (risotto) rice, paella rice, brown rice, pudding rice? No, of course not, but rice keeps for almost ever, and over a long period of time have found that using the right rice for the dish really does make a noticeable difference. At a pinch, pudding rice would serve for all the dishes that need a short-grain rice (such as risotto), and the long-grain for everything else. Or if only one, keep the long-grain.

There are various types of flour, but if we keep raising agents, then plain flour would be the one to keep for it can be adapted to suit all purposes (unless you wish to make bread). Even using self-raising flour instead of plain doesn't always make THAT much difference. We should never stop cooking just because we haven't the ingredient called for, for we may have something very similar that could be used instead.

We can thicken liquids using plain flour, and if we can do that, do we need to keep cornflour in stock? Do we need to keep both chopped AND plum tomatoes. Why bother to keep three (or more) types of mustard? Why so many different types of oil (extra virgin, virgin, light olive oil, sunflower oil, sesame oil, avocado oil, etc...). Then there is vinegar, brown malt, white (clear) malt, white wine vinegar, red wine vinegar, cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar...). Even salt: cooking salt, table salt, sea salt, rock salt, celery salt, garlic salt...where does it end?
All I can say is that however similar things are, they also have slightly different flavours, and the more cooking we do the more we like to use the right product for the right dish. But when starting to build up a stores , few are what I call essential. Vinegar is vinegar, salt is salt, flour is flour. Begin with the bare minimum then add more when we can afford it.

Yesterday was reading the usual supermarket 'testing' done by AWT. This time it was Scotch pancakes (drop scones). For one thing I would never buy a pack because they average out at about 10p each, but mainly because they are so easy to make and home-cooked you would make about 30 pancakes for 2p each. So many things are easy to make, so why buy them?

After making lemon curd yesterday had kept back some egg whites to make a tub of soft-scoop ice-cream, but with no room in the freezer for an ice-cream tub, instead froze the egg whites so that I could make the ice-cream when there was more room. When working within a budget, it is very necessary to throw nothing away that can be saved and used later.

Beloved has just come up to tell me he has turned out the gas under the ham, and also that he cannot move the two wheelie bins to the street due to the cars blocking the drive. Beloved can get to work, but unless the rest of the family wake in time and get their car moved, we may miss having our bins emptied. Perhaps - for once - the vans will arrive later. Usually they are here by 7.30, and it is past that now, however - due to extra collections being made so they can have Christmas Day off, maybe they will be much later - if at all, for we also had a letter shoved through the door telling us that industrial action may be taken by the 'bin-men', so we may have no collections anyway.

Got past caring about anything at the moment. The whole of life seems to be going to pot. Can anyone tell me why we now seem to be getting slugs coming into the house? At least they are small thin slugs, and following their trails back, it seems they climb up to the ventilator (to give an air flow for our gas boiler) which is at the back of our kitchen, and come in through there. Not only that, they now seem to want to slither right across the kitchen floor, the last one having made its way right across the wooden hall floor and heading for the dining room. In slug-distance, this is MILES. Luckily these 'intruders' are few and far between, and perhaps sprinkle salt under the ventilator, spooning some salt in through the slats may prevent them.
We have also seen snails slowly working their way up the house and having a nap on one of the upstairs bedroom windows. At the moment I have better things to do than worry about such things, but it is puzzling.

Getting myself motivated today to make an early start in the kitchen, is turning out to be a blessing. I can spend more of the day relaxing and not end up a cross-patch. Still have bed linen to wash and fresh linen put on the beds, but that is all that really needs to be done and I do not intend ironing them once they are dry. The food is under control, Beloved is 'saving himself' for Christmas and says he will be happy with just sardine sarnies for supper (plus some apple crumble). The extra work this morning (and over the next week) will hopefully knock off an extra pound or so of my weight. Things are looking good.

Even though it is still early (not yet 9.00am) will wind up for today as someone else wishes to use the computer and will leave you with just the one recipe today - a variation on the basic drop scone recipe. If you wish them plain, leave out the dried fruit.

Sultana Scotch Pancakes: serves 4
1 egg
7 fl oz (200ml) milk
5 oz (150g) self-raising flour
1 tblsp caster sugar
3 oz (75g) sultanas
Beat the egg into the milk. Sift the flour into a bowl and stir in the sugar. Make a well in the centre and pour in the eggs/milk, beating with a wooden spoon, and working the flour in from the sides until it forms a smooth batter. Fold in the sultanas.
Dry-heat a large frying pan over medium heat, then grease lightly (dip a little pad of kitchen paper into oil or melted butter and wipe this over the base of the pan). Spoon tablespoons of the batter onto the pan, leaving room to spread then cook for a couple of minutes or until bubbles have risen to the top and the first ones break open, then turn with a spatula or fish slice to cook the other side.
Place a tea-cloth on a cake airer, leaving plenty of overlap, and when the pancakes are cooked, place on the cloth, overlapping and keep covered with the surplus cloth to keep in the steam and to prevent them drying out.
If necessary grease the surface of the pan again before cooking the next batch. Serve the pancakes warm with a little melted butter and maple syrup, or serve cold with a little butter and jam. They can be frozen but best freshly made.

Bye for now...back tomorrow.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Mother Hubbard's Cupboard? Not!

The recipes today am hoping will interest all readers, although did have a few regular 'commenteers' in mind when I chose them.

Although this first recipe is not strictly vegetarian, it is 'meaty' enough for those who prefer not to eat a raised pie made with pork.
Raised Haddock Pie: serves 6
12 oz (350g) plain flour
half tsp salt
3 oz (75g) hard marg
3 oz (75g) lard
3 tblsp water
2 egg yolks
Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl, then rub in the marg and lard until like fine breadcrumbs. Beat the water and egg yolks together and add to mixture to make a soft dough. If necessary add a little more water. Using floured hands, knead gently then wrap in clingfilm and chill for half an hour.
1 lb (450g) smoked haddock fillet
1 lb (450g) fresh haddock fillet
2 eggs, hard-boiled and chopped
3 oz (75g) long-grain rice
3 oz (75g) mushrooms, chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 oz (25g) butter
freshly ground black pepper
Place the smoked haddock in a large frying pan, cover with cold water then slowly heat to simmering point. Cover with lid, plate or foil, and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain, then removed skin and flake the flesh into a bowl. Set aside.
Meanwhile, wrap the fresh haddock in foil and place in a heat-proof dish, then bake for ten minutes at 180C, 350F, gas 4 until the flesh is firm and white. Remove skin and flake the fish, adding it to the smoked haddock.
Cook the rice in the usual way, drain well and add to the fish with the chopped eggs. Melt the butter in a frying pan and saute the mushrooms and shallot until softened. Add these to the fish mixture. Add pepper to taste (the fish is salty enough).
Roll out two-thirds of the pastry and use to line a loose-bottomed or spring-sided 8" (20cm) cake tin. Spoon in the filling, packing it down firmly. Roll out the remaining pastry, dampening edges and laying over the top of the filling to form a lid. Make sure the edges are sealed together. If there are pastry trimmings left, roll these out to make leaves to decorate the top.
Make a hole in the centre to allow steam to escape, then chill pie for one hour before cooking. Brush with beaten egg and bake at 200c, 400F, gas 6 for about 45 minutes or until the pastry is golden, then carefully remove sides of the tin or slide the pie up still on its base, and return to oven to cook for a further 10 -15 minutes. Serve warm or cold with salad.

Whether you wish to save this next recipe for the 'frugal feasting' we are aiming to provide in the early months of next year, this is up to you. Suffice to say if you have flour that needs using up, why not make a stack of pancakes now (interleaved) and freeze them for future dishes.
Once you have made a batch of pancakes, choose from the fillings suggested below (or make up your own) and follow directions:
Savoury Pancake Stack: serves 6 - 8
ready-made pancakes, as many as needed
assorted fillings (choice given below)
cheese sauce (recipe below)
Using a loose-bottomed cake tin slightly larger than the pancakes, place one pancake on the bottom, then cover with a filling of your choice, cover with another pancake, another filling, and repeat until the height/amount required, finishing with a pancake. Spoon over the sauce making sure it runs down between the pancakes and the sides of the tin. Sprinkle remaining cheese over and bake for around half an hour or until browned on top. Remove from oven and carefully push up the pancake stack, leaving it on its base, and place on a serving plate. Serve, cut into wedges. It needs nothing more than a side salad.

suggestions for fillings:
Mix 4 oz (100g) chopped cooked ham with 1 tsp made mustard and 2 tsp mayonnnaise.
Mix together 4 oz (100g) chopped cooked turkey or chicken, bound with 2 tsp mayo or double cream or cranberry sauce.
Mix canned and drained flaked tuna with a little tomato ketchup and mayonnaise.
Mix together 4 oz (100g) finely diced cooked carrots, sliced mushrooms and a little grated onion, with a tsp of melted butter to bind.
Mix together 4 oz (100g) left-over cooked meat (beef, lamb or pork) finely diced with 1 tblsp tomato ketchup, HP sauce or chutney/pickle/relish.
Use any pasta sauces, reduced until thick.
Mix together 8 oz (225g) cooked and finely chopped 'green' vegetables (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, green beans) mixed with a little finely sliced fried onion add plenty of seasoning to taste (salt, pepper, herbs etc).
Mix finely sliced cooked leeks or shredded cooked cabbage with a thick cheese sauce.

sauce recipe:
2 oz (50g) butter
2 oz (50g) plain flour
15 fl oz (400ml) milk
2 eggs, separated
salt and pepper
5 oz (125g) grated Red Leicester or Cheddar cheese
Melt the butter in a saucepan, stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute, then slowly whisk in the milk, and keep stirring until the mixture begins to boil and thicken. Simmer for 3 minutes, then beat in the egg yolks and seasoning to taste then stir in 2 oz (50g) of the cheese. Whisk the egg whites and fold into the cheese sauce. Pour this over the pancake layer (see above for full details) and cook as given above.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Nearly a Disaster

Some many years ago John Tovey gave me his recipe for Sticky Toffee Pudding, and this I adapted and Beloved renamed it as "Ticket Office Pudding" - so it could be a couple of years ago that recipe ended up on this site. Today I give a simplified version, made with much the same ingredients, but in a slightly different way. This is the perfect pudding for a cold winter's day and as STP freezes so well, it would be worth making the full amount. To reheat cut into portions and reheat in the microwave.
Butterscotch Pudding: serves 12 (F)
5 oz (150g) caster sugar
5 oz (150g) butter, softened
5 oz (150g) self-raising flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
4 fl oz (100ml) water
2 eggs, beaten
3 oz (75g) dates, chopped
Cream together the sugar and butter until soft and fluffy. Sieve the flour, bicarb and baking powder over the creamed mixture, then carefully fold it in. Stir in the water and eggs. add the dates, and when mixed in, spoon the mixture into a greased 7" (18cm) square oven-proof dish. l Bake at 180C, 350F, gs 6 for 20 - 25 minutes. Check with a skewer or cake tester to make sure it is fully cooked through, if not return to the oven for a few more minutes.
While the pudding is baking, make the sauce by putting 7 oz (200g) butter, 13 oz (375g) sugar, and 9 os (250g) double cream into a pan and heat gently until the butter and sugar has dissolved. Stir frequently until the sauce thickens.
When the pudding is cooked pour the butterscotch sauce over the top and cut into 12 even-sized wedges. Serve hot with extra pouring cream if you wish.
To freeze: After the sauce has been poured over the pudding, allow to get cold in the dish - the sauce should then have begun to set. Mark into squares then cover, wrap and freeze. Once frozen the squares could be removed and individually wrapped. Heat each portion for 1 - 2 minutes in a microwave or until heated through (timing depends on the portion size you wish to serve).

At this time of the year we sometimes feel we have missed out an important item from our shopping list (with me it is the turkey and frozen peas- can you believe that?), and if the absent item is sweets, then never despair for who needs to buy sweets anyway? There are many that can be made at home, and because of this - they could be better for us. Not to mention cheaper
Here are speedy ways of making a plateful of fairly healthy sweets from items that (hopefully) we always keep in store. You don't need to make the full amounts, or even the same nuts, just use the recipes as a guide.
Pistachio Stuffed Apricots:
1 lb (450g) no-soak apricots
3 oz (75g) shelled pistachio nuts
3 oz (75g) ground almonds
2 oz (50g) icing sugar
1 egg white or orange juice
Mix together the nuts, ground almonds and most of the sugar. Use enough of the egg white or orange juice to bind them together.
Open up the apricots and fill the cavity with some of the mixture, the mould the apricot back into shape and roll each in the remaining sugar. Leave to dry on a wire rack before serving.

Fruity Chocolate Bars:
4 oz (100g) prunes
4 oz (100g) no-soak apricots
4 oz (100g) dates
4 oz (100g) roasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped
1 egg white
2 oz (50g) dark (70% cocoa solids) chocolate
Mince or chop (or pulse in a food processor) the fruits, then mix in the nuts with a little of the egg white to bind the lot together. Press the mixture into a small shallow tin that has been lined with greaseproof or parchment paper.
Melt the chocolate in a bowl standing over (but not touching) simmering water, then when melted pour this over the fruit and nut mixture, spreading over the surface with a knife. Leave until set, then cut into bars.

Iced Peanuts:
2 oz (50g) peanuts, skins removed
1 egg white
4 oz (100g) icing sugar
Beat the egg white until just begin to stiffen, then stir in enough icing sugar to make an icing that will coat the back of a spoon.
Dip the nuts into this 'meringue' mixture, and place on a lined baking sheet. Bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 5 minutes, or until the coating of icing is turning light brown. Cool on the tray, then serve in bowls for people to help themselves.

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Little of What you Fancy...

Starting with a recipe for bagels, and these - unlike most breads - are 'twice-cooked', first poached in water, then finished off in the oven.
Bagels: makes 12
8 oz (225g) strong white bread flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
8 oz (225g) strong plain wholemeal flour
1 sachet (7g) easy-blend dried yeast
1 tblsp caster sugar
2 tblsp sunflower oil
approx half pint (300ml) warm water
1 tblsp granulated sugar
milk for glazing
poppy seeds, sesame seeds or caraway seeds (opt)
Sift the white flour with the salt into a large bowl, then stir in the wholemeal flour, yeast and caster sugar. Make a well in the centre then add the oil and enough water to mix to a soft dough.
Knead dough on a lightly floured board until smooth and elastic. Shape into a round, place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover and leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk.
Knock back the dough on a floured board, then divide into 12 equal portions. Shape each into a ball, then using the floured end of a wooden spoon (or your little finger) make a hole through the centre of each ball, pulling the dough outwards slightly to form rings. It is important to make sure the holes are big enough, for they will close slightly as they are rising and also cooking.
Place bagels on a couple of greased baking sheets, cover and leave to rise again for half an hour - or until doubled in size.
Pre-heat the oven to 200c, 400F, gas 6, and also heat a large pan of water until simmering (a deep but wide frying pan would do), then stir in the granulated sugar. When this has dissolved, carefully place 3 or 4 bagels in the water and poach for about 3 minutes, turning once. Remove from the water, drain well, then place back on the baking sheets. Repeat until all bagels have been poached. Brush each with a little milk and sprinkle the tops with the seeds if using.
Bake at above temperature for 15 - 20 minutes or until golden. Cool on a cake airer. Cut in half to serve, either warm or cold.

This next recipe uses cooked fresh salmon, but could also be made using canned salmon (as so much cheaper), and this together with soft cheese and smoked salmon - plus a bit of seasoning - makes a salmon mousse that can either be served as made in ramekin dishes, or turned out onto a small plate. Great for serving as a 'starter' as it needs chilling for a few hours and preferably overnight. Instead of using wine to poach the salmon, flavour the water with lemon juice (some of the poaching water is used as an ingredient), or if using canned salmon, add a little lemon juice in place of the poaching liquid. If no dill, use chopped fresh parsley or dried dill or even a smidgin of horseradish sauce would give it a bit of a lift.
Salmon Mousse: serves 4
9 oz (250g) salmon fillet, poached in a little water/white wine
2 tsp chopped fresh dill
ground black pepper
5 oz (150g) soft (philly type) cheese
7 oz (200g) smoked salmon
lemon wedges
Flake the cooked/canned salmon into a bowl. Add 2 fl oz (50ml) of the poaching liquid, the soft cheese and the chosen herbs. Mix well together. Line four ramekin-sized dishes with the smoked salmon, leaving enough salmon to over-hang the sides. Spoon in the salmon mixture and fold the overhanging salmon back to cover the surface. Chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours, and preferably overnight. Serve in the dish or turned out onto a small plate. Can be served with lightly toasted wholemeal or granary bread, or flatbread.

Now we come to the recipe for sausage rolls made with lamb. The recipes states it makes 8, but much depends upon the size of the 'sausages' and pastry. Sometimes it is easier to make one long sausage roll (whatever the filling) and then cut this up AFTER baking into the sizes you wish. On the other hand you may prefer to make lots of smaller ones. The choice is yours.
Shepherd's Rolls:
1.2 lb (500g) lamb mince
1 good handful fresh mint, finely chopped
1 tblsp mint sauce
salt and pepper
7 oz (200g) puff pastry
1 egg, beaten
Thoroughly mix together the lamb, chopped mint and mint sauce, adding seasoning to taste. Divide the mixture into eight portions and roll each into a sausage shape.
Roll out the pastry, fairly thinly, and divide this also into eight oblongs, each slightly longer than each sausage, and wide enough to go twice round.
Brush the pastry with the egg, then place a 'sausage' on each sheet, folding the pastry round and making sure the edge is sealed. Using a floured rolling pin, lightly roll over the top of the pastry to flatten the 'sausage rolls', then seal the ends by coating the pastry with egg and pressings the ends together with a fork.
Make a few slits across the top, then bake at 190C, 375F, gas 5 for 20 - 30 minutes until golden.

Cheese and Mushroom Bread Pudding: serves 4
2 oz (50g) butter, softened
10 oz (300g) mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 small leek, washed and cut into small pieces
6 slices white bread
pinch dried herbs
4 eggs, beaten
7 fl oz (200ml) milk
4 oz (100g) Gruyere cheese
2 tsp Dijon mustard
Heat half the butter in a frying pan then fry the mushrooms until golden (takes 2 - 3 minutes). Stir in the leek and dried herbs and set to one side.
Spread remaining butter on one side only of each slice of bread and cut slices in half (oblongs or triangles). Arrange the bread in a greased bowl in alternate slices with the mushroom and leeks mixture.
Put the eggs, milk and mustard into a bowl and beat together, then stir in half the cheese. Pour this over the bread and leave to stand for half an hour (or longer).
to microwave: microwave the pudding on Full for 4 - 5 minutes, then sprinkle over the remaining cheese and place under a hot grill for a couple of minutes until the cheese is bubbling and browning.
to oven cook: sprinkle remaining cheese over the top of the 'pudding' and bake at 200F, 400F, gas 6 for half an hour or until cooked. If you prefer more of a creamy 'souffle' texture, bake in a bain marie at 170C, 325F, gas 3 for up to one hour.

Because, over the past few days, have been chatting about chicken, slow cookers etc, today am including a nourishing - yet economical recipe - that makes use of those chicken winglets that I so love to collect up and freeze. Not only that, it gives instructions for cooking in a pressure cooker OR in an ordinary saucepan.
The lentils, rich in iron and Vit.B, give this broth its thickness, and unlike other pulses, do not require soaking before cooking. Because the chicken winglets are small, they can be cooked from frozen, but if using a larger chicken joints such as a drumsticks or thighs, these should be thawed first.
Chicken and Lentil Broth: to serve four
1 tblsp sunflower oil
4 chicken winglets
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, diced
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 rashers streaky bacon, chopped
4 oz (100g) split red lentils
1 1/2pt (750ml) water
1 bay leaf
half pint (300ml) milk
salt and pepper
Heat the oil in an open pressure cooker or large saucepan. Fry the chicken wings until golden, then add the onion, carrot, celery and bacon. Lower heat and fry gently for about 7 minutes or until most of the oil has been absorbed.
Wash the lentils in a sieve, under cold running water, then add these to the pan with the measured water, a pinch of salt and the bay leaf. Bring to the boil.
to pressure cook: cover pan and gook at high (15lb) pressure for 15 minutes.
to hob-top cook: cover saucepan and simmer the broth for 40 - 45 minutes or until lentils have cooked down and thickened the liquid and the vegetables are tender.
to serve both: remove chicken wings and discard skin and bones. Remove the bay leaf. Shred the chicken flesh and add this back into the broth. Stir in the milk and reheat, adding more seasoning if required. Serve hot.

Young children (right up to teenage) often wish they could have the same to drink as the adults. So here is an alcohol-free mulled wine that would also be perfect for those adults who will be driving.
Mulled Grape Juice: fills 8 mugs
1 large orange, sliced
3 pints (1.7lts) grape juice (red or white)
6 - 8 tblsp honey or demerara sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
10 whole cloves
Slice the orange and stud the end rind pieces each with 5 cloves. Put these and the remaining orange slices (cut in half) into a large pan with the rest of the ingredients. Heat VERY gently, making sure the sugar has dissolved, and as soon as the surface simmers and little bubbles appear at the edge, remove from the heat (note this must not be allowed to boil). Pour the mulled juice into mugs or heat-proof glasses and serve steaming hot, adding a slice of orange to each mug.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

How Much or How Little?

The following recipes were all made from one just-over-3lb (1.5kg) bird (weight before cooking). All serve four or more (as stated). The winglets can be removed before cooking and frozen away to collect with others to make another dish later, or added to the stockpot after roasting and the flesh removed to add to soup or one of the dishes below.
Chicken Meatballs: serves 4
1 courgette, peeled and minced
6 oz (175g) cooked chicken, minced
2 slices bread, crumbed
1 tblsp onion, grated
pinch mixed herbs
1 egg, beaten
salt and pepper
Mix everything together, adding seasoning to taste, then roll into balls and fry in a little oil until evenly browned. Serve with noodles and a sauce of your choice.

Chicken and Sweetcorn Parcel: serves 4
1 x 250g sweetcorn and peppers
2 thick slices of bread, crumbed
1 egg, beaten
8 - 12 oz (225 - 350g) cooked chicken, diced
2 oz (50g) bacon, fried then chopped
8 oz (225g) puff or shortcrust pastry
milk to glaze
Drain the sweetcorn and mix with the bread and egg. Roll out the pastry to a 12" (31cm) square . Place a layer of chicken over half the pastry, top with the sweetcorn mixture and then the bacon. Fold the remaining pastry over and seal the edges. Make a couple of slits in the top to allow steam to escape, then brush the pastry with a little milk and bake for 35minutes at 180c, 350F, gas 4. Serve hot or cold.

To some extent the vegetables can be what you have, but the any of the following go well together: carrots, red bell peppers, celery, sweetcorn, mushrooms, green beans, peas, courgettes, broccoli, cauliflower)
Oriental Chicken: serves 4
1 tsp ground ginger
2 tblsp soy sauce
1 tblsp runny honey
1 tsp cornflour
1 lb mixed vegetables (see above)
1 large onion, cut into wedges, then separated into leaves
2 tblsp peanuts or cashew nuts (opt)
8 oz (225g) cooked chicken, chopped
Mix the first four ingredients with the water and set aside.
Slice the carrots, celery and peppers into matchsticks, and if using cauliflower etc, break into small florets. Slice courgettes etc into rings. Once prepared, mix with the smaller veg such as beans, peas and sweetcorn. Put the oil in a wok or deep frying pan and when hot, fry the onion for 3 minutes, then stir in the vegetables. Stir-fry for one minute then add the cooked chicken. Stir again for a further minute then pour in the cornflour mixture, lower the heat , and simmer for 3 minutes or until the sauce has thickened. Occasionally stir the contents of the pan so that everything is coasted in the sauce. Serve hot with boiled rice.

This next chicken 'extravaganza' is a way to make a little chicken go a long, long way - for it could serve a goodly number of people. Save this dish for a buffet party.
Chicken Terrine: serves 8 - 10
1 large carrot, cooked then sliced lengthways into thin strips
8 oz (225g) cooked chicken, minced
zest of 1 orange
8 oz (225g) cottage cheese
2 eggs, beaten
4 oz (100g) spinach or peas, cooked and pureed
4 - 6 large soft lettuce leaves
Mix together the cottage cheese and eggs. Take one-third of this and stir into the spinach or pea puree. Mix the remaining two-thirds with the chicken and orange zest.
Line a well-greased 2 lb loaf tin with 4 - 5 overlapping large lettuce leaves, leaving enough overlap to fold over. Spoon in half the chicken mixture, pressing in half the carrots along the length of the pan. Top this with the spinach mixture, then finish with more chicken, carrots and a final layer of chicken on top. Cover with a lettuce leaf, folding over the lettuce flaps to make an enclosed parcel.
Cover with a double fold of greaseproof or parchment paper, and a lid of foil. Place in a roasting tin half-filled with hot water (bain marie) and bake for 45 minutes at 180C, 350F, gas 4. Cool in the tin, then chill in the fridge. Remove foil and paper, turn out onto a serving plate and serve cut into fairly thick slices.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Offaly Goode for You

The first recipe today is a fairly basic liver 'n bacon, but should not be ignored as liver cooks really rapidly, so think of the fuel saving as well as the low cost, not to mention the high protein content (in other words value for money).
Liver, Bacon and Apple: serves 4
2 oz (50g) butter
2 large cooking apples, peeled and cored
1 lb (450g) lambs' liver, sliced
4 rashers lean or streaky bacon, rind removed
Slice the apples into thick rings. Melt half the butter in a frying pan and saute the apple rings until softened, then transfer to a warm dish and set aside.
Melt the remainder of the butter in the pan, then add the liver and fry gently for 2 minutes on each side, until tender and barely pink in the middle.
Grill the bacon until crisp (or this could also be fried in the pan before adding the liver - the bacon fat adding extra flavour). Place the cooked liver onto a warm serving platter, interleaving with the apple rings, and place the bacon either side. Serve immediately.

(economy tip: this is the type of dish where the cheaper 'offcuts' of bacon rashers or thicker pieces can be used, often these contain quite an amount of fat, which can be rendered down to save as 'bacon dripping'. Just tossing some steamed cabbage in hot bacon dripping will improve the flavour. Also fry breaded liver 'gougons' in bacon dripping instead of oil, and you cut down on using bacon rashers - or omit them completely. When serving liver, cabbage, bacon and new potatoes, also fry on the cooked potatoes in the bacon fat for a few more minutes, again to give added flavour).
Liver Jalousie: serves 6 (F)
1 tsp dried thyme or mixed herbs
8 oz (225g) plain flour
pinch salt
2 oz (50g) margarine
2 oz (50g) lard
cold water to mix
1 oz (25g) bacon dripping
1 onion, chopped
6 oz (175g) lambs' liver, sliced
6 oz (175g) rindless bacon rashers, chopped
2 oz (50g) mushrooms, chopped
1 crisp eating apple, peeled, cored, chopped
1 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper
Sift the dried herbs with the flour and salt. Rub in the fats and add water to bind to a soft pastry dough. Set aside.
Put the dripping into a frying pan, and when melted, fry the onion, liver and bacon/ When cooked, remove to a flat plate or surface and chop finely. Put into a bowl and mix in the mushrooms, apple and parsley, adding seasoning to taste.
Divide the pastry dough in half and roll each into a rectangle 12" x 8" (30 x 20cm). Place on onto a baking sheet and spoon over the liver filling, spreading to within 1/4" (0.5cm) of the edges. Moisten the exposed edges with water, then place over the remaining pastry, pressing the edges together to seal.
At this point open-freeze the 'jalousie' and when solid, wrap tightly in foil, then bag, seal, label and keep frozen for up to 3 months. To cook from frozen, unwrap, place back on baking sheet and brush with egg or milk, then carefully cut through the top layer of pastry only, across, but not right up to the sides, at half inch intervals. Cook at 200c, 400F, gas 6 for 30 minutes, then reduce heat to 180C, 350F, gas 4 and cook for a further 15 minutes. Serve with a well-flavoured (pasta type) tomato sauce.
If wishing to cook once assembled, brush the pastry with beaten egg or milk, slash the top as above, and cook at the 200C etc temperature for about 30 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown and the dish is heated through.

When buying liver from the butcher, request the slices be no more than a quarter inch (1/2cm) thick to give even cooking. Cooking at excessively high heat for too long will toughen liver, so cook at medium to high heat and for only about 2 minutes on either side. The liver should remains slightly pink inside.
Liver with wine gravy and Potatoes: serves 6
approx 12 large thin slices lambs' liver
2 - 4 tblsp flour
salt and pepper
pinch dried tarragon or mixed herbs
6 large onions, thinly sliced
4 tbslp butter
half pint (300ml) light red or rose wine
1 tblsp Dijon mustard
mashed potatoes
Mix the dried herbs with the flour, adding salt and pepper to taste, then dip the slices of liver in this to coat, patting the surface of each slice to remove excess flour.
Put half the butter into a frying pan over medium heat, and fry the onions until softened and golden, but not letting them burn (this should take between 10 - 15 minutes). Remove from the pan using a slotted spoon, and set aside, but keeping them warm.
Add remaining butter to the pan, raise the heat, and when foaming, add the sliced liver (will need to be done in batches) and sear quickly on both sides (2 - 3 minutes each side). As each batch is fried, removed to a heated serving dish and keep warm.
When all the liver is cooked and in the serving dish, add the wine to the juices in the pan, and over high heat, bring to the boil, scraping sides and bottom with a wooden spoon to gather all the liver flavours into the gravy. Check the seasoning, adding more if necessary, then reduce heat to low and stir in the mustard. Simmer for 1 minute, then add the onions and mix well together.
Pour the onion gravy over the liver in the serving dish, and sprinkle over the parsley, serve immediately with a bowl of mashed potatoes, or (if you have the time and a piping bag of mash at the ready) pipe the potatoes around the liver.

cheat's tip: by now, readers will be fully aware that I use a convenience sauce mix when it saves me time, and there is a Colman's 'Liver and Bacon' casserole mix that I used recently when wishing to cook some pigeon breasts. Normally 78p a pack, Tesco are selling these (and other mixes) at three for £1.00. One of these could be used, with the onion added, as the gravy for the above recipe, and would work out cheaper than when using wine, and also saving a lot of time and trouble. If serving six, maybe an extra half packet of the mix may need to be added (with extra water), and worth remembering - like most foods - not ALL of a packet of dry mix (or stock cube, cup a soup etc) needs be used every time it is opened. Just fold the pack tightly over to contain the surplus, and keep this to be used later.

Because of the festive season coming up, am giving two recipes for the same dessert as these are worth making for any buffet or dinner party. The joy of is that they can both be prepared and chilled several hours before serving. Take heed of what I suggested above re stocking up with culinary booze, for this dish uses more than one type.
Syllabub: serves 6 - 8
finely grated zest of 2 lemons
half pint (300ml) sweet sherry
2 tblsp brandy
1 pint (600ml) double cream
2 egg whites
3 tblsp caster sugar
Put the lemon zest in a bowl and cover with the sherry. Cover and leave to soak overnight. Next day, strain the sherry into a bowl, using a muslin lined sieve.
Add remaining ingredients and whisk until thick and frothy. Pour into six tall or 8 shorter serving glasses and chill for at least 4 hours before serving. Serve with sponge fingers or biscotti. Decorate the sides of each glass by slotting over a slice of lemon, alternavely sprinkle a little lemon zest on the top of each syllabub.

Everlasting Syllabub: serves 6
5 fl oz (150ml) sweet white wine (eg Sauterne)
1 tblsp sweet sherry
2 tblsp brandy
1 lemon or 1 orange
2 oz (50g) caster sugar
half pint (300ml) double cream
Pour the wine, sherry and brandy into a bowl. Squeeze the juice from the lemon (or orange if you prefer to use this), and add to the booze. Remove the pith from the shell, then cutting the peel into thin shreds and add half the peel to the bowl. Cover and leave overnight, the next day removing and discarding the peel.
Boil the remaining peel in 5fl oz (150ml) water for 2 minutes to remove any bitterness. Drain and cut it into finer shreds and reserve for garnish.
Stir the sugar into the wine mixture until dissolved, then whisk in the cream to thicken to soft peaks. Spoon into wineglasses and chill for at least 2 hours (or longer). When ready to serve, sprinkle the peel shreds over the top of the syllabub.
(tip: personally see no reason why the peel removed from the booze after an overnight soaking could not be boiled in the water and shredded finely - this would save a half lemon shell, which could then be frozen, added to others and used as a container for sardine pate etc, or just for adding to a pan of water to flavour rice. Alternatively use the booze soaked peel to flavour casseroles (lemon with fish, orange with beef) or other savoury dishes. Whenever you can, remember: USE NOT LOSE).

Friday, December 12, 2008

Comfort Eating

recipe today is the one for Yorkshire Parkin, and as this is best made a day or three before being eaten as the texture improves with keeping, so worth making a batch this coming week to serve up over the festive season. Well wrapped in paper then foil, it should keep for several days. Don't worry about the dimensions of the baking tin, use it only as a guide - in any case my roasting tin works just as well. As to using the fine oatmeal, I tend to improvise (again) and give porridge oats a quick blitz in the blender to break them down.
Yorkshire Parkin:
8 oz (225g) wholewheat flour
2 tsp ground ginger
half tsp freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
8 oz (225g) fine oatmeal (see above)
1 oz (25g) soft brown sugar
4 oz (100g) black treacle
4 oz (100g) golden syrup
2 oz (50g) butter or soft margarine
1 egg, beaten
8 fl.oz (225ml) warm milk
Sieve together the flour, spices, baking powder and salt. Stir in the oatmeal. Put the sugar, treacle, syrup and butter/or marg, into a small pan and heat gently until everything has dissolved, then remove from the heat, allowing it to cool slightly before beating the mixture into the flour alternately with the egg and milk. The mixture will be very soft, so pour this into a lined and greased 10"x 8" x 3" (25 x 20 x 7.5cm) tin.
Bake at 179Cm 325F, gas 3 for 45 minutes. Leave to cool in the tin then turn out and wrap in foil. Keep for a least two days before cutting into squares.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Chicken Little and Talking Turkey

The advantage of this quiche is that once the rice has been cooked (and this can be done in a day previously and kept in the fridge), with the other ingredients also being prepared (in some cases can be 'leftovers') it is just a matter of assembly.
No need to cook - Chicken Quiche: serves 4 - 6
1 8" (20cm) pre-baked shortcrust flan case
2 oz (50g) rice
2 oz (50g) cooked peas
2 oz (50g) cooked carrots, diced
3 tsp French or oil and vinegar salad dressing
2 oz (50g) cooked chicken, minced or diced
2 tomatoes, sliced
1 hardboiled egg, sliced
Boil the rice until tender, then drain and rinse under cold water, making sure it is again well drained and shaken as dry as possible. Mix the rice with the cooked peas and carrots, add the dressing and mix well, then spread this over the base of the cooked flan case. Cover with the prepared chicken and spread a very thin layer of mayonnaise over that.
Top with overlapping and alternate slices of tomatoes and hard-boiled egg.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Beyond the Box

There are many recipes for Flapjacks, but this is one of the simplest. As these will freeze, worth making a batch now - when the oven is on for something else - and then they will be ready for Christmas and beyond.
Flapjacks: makes 12 (F)
3 oz (75g) butter
3 oz (75g) demerara sugar
4 oz (100g) rolled oats
Cream the fat, then work in the sugar and the oats until well mixed together. Press into a greased shallow 7.5" (19 cm) square tin, and level the surface. Bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for about 15 - 20 minutes or until golden, turning the tin halfway through cooking to ensure even baking (no need to do this if using a fan oven). Cool for 10 minutes in the tin, then mark into fingers with a knife, also running the knife around the edges to loosen the flapjack. When the flapjack is firm, turn it out, break it into fingers and place these on a cake airer to cool completely.
To freeze: freeze the flapjack in the tin, when firm remove and wrap in paper/foil. Will keep for up to 6 months. To serve: unwrap and thaw on a cake airer at room temperature for half an hour.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Economise, Prioritise

When made with beef burgers this is a variation of Cottage Pie. Made with 'lamburgers', call it 'Shepherds...'. Because this recipe is geared up to use frozen food (always convenient - as is the instant potato), it can also be made using 'fresh' ingredients.
Cottage 'burger: serves 3 - 4
4 frozen beefburgers
4 oz (100g) frozen mixed vegetables
1 x 226g (8oz) can plum tomatoes, drained and chopped
3 oz (75g) instant potato
half ounce (15g) butter
1 egg, beaten
salt and pepper
2 oz (50g) Cheddar cheese, grated
Grill the burgers until cooked through. Meanwhile cooking the vegetables is boilingsalted water until tender, then drain and stir in the tomatoes to heat through. adding seasoning to taste.
Make up the potato as per packet instructions, and beat in the butter and egg. Season to taste.
Place the tomato/vegetable mixture in the base of a heatproof dish, cut the burgers into strips and place these over the veggies, then pile the potato on top, spreading to cover, then roughly fork up the surface. Sprinkle over the cheese and put under a hot grill until brown and bubbling.

Pauper's Strongonoff: serves 2
4 frozen beefburgers, partially thawed
1 oz (25g) butter or marg
1 small onion, finely sliced
3 oz (1--g) frozen or fresh mushrooms, sliced
sa;t and pepper
5 fl oz (150ml) creme fraiche or sour cream
Melt the butter in a frying pan. Slice the beefburgers into thin strips and fry until nearly cooked (about 5 minutes) then stir in the onions and mushrooms. Fry gently for a few minutes until these too are cooked, then add seasoning to taste. Stir in the cream and serve immediately with boiled rice or noodles.

Here is an unusual and economical dish made with pilchards (or sardines if you prefer), and although the cannelloni can be bought as dry pasta tubes, they can also be made using dry lasagne strips that have been soaked in hot water, and then rolled around the filling. Or make them using home-made pasta.
Pilchard Pasta: serves 4 (F)
2 ribs celery, finely chopped
3 oz (75g) mushrooms, finely chopped
1 oz (25g) butter or marg
1 lb (454g) can pilchards in tomato sauce
freshly ground black pepper
1 tblsp lemon juice
12 cannelloni tubes (or lasagne sheets)
1 pint white sauce (see recipe below)
Melt the fat in a frying pan and saute the celery and mushrooms until softened. Tip the contents of the can of pilchards into a bowl and mash with a fork, adding the vegetables, pepper and lemon juice. Cook the pasta tubes in boiling salted water until just tender (do not over cook or the pasta will split). Rinse with cold water then stuff with the fish filling and arrange in a baking dish (if wishing to freeze, line the dish with foil, or place the tubes in a foil container in a single layer, pour over the sauce, cover, cool rapidly and freeze. Eat within 2 months. To use: remove wrappings and heat in an ovenproof dish, from frozen, at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 45 minutes.
To bake without freezing, pour the sauce over the pasta and bake at the above temperature for 30 minutes or until heated through. If you wish, add grated cheese on top of the sauce, before or after baking.
2 oz (50g) butter
2 oz (50g) flour
1 pint (600ml) milk
salt and pepper
Melt the butter in a pan, then remove from heat and stir in the flour, then gradually blend in the milk. Return pan to the heat, keep stirring while you bring the milk to the boil, and cook for one minutes until the sauce has thickened. Season to taste, then pour over the pasta making sure it is covered completely.

Final two recipes today use mincemeat. Although mincepies are traditional at Christmas, we can often have too much of a good thing, so by all means eat one 'proper' mincepie, and then have a go at making (and eating) these.
Christmas Ice-cream: serves 4 (F)
5 fl oz (150ml) milk
half tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
2 oz (50g) caster sugar
2 tblsp mincemeat
1 tblsp brandy
5 fl oz (150ml) double cream
Put the milk and vanilla into a pan and heat gently. Cream together the egg and the sugar until light and fluffy, then slowly beat in the hot (but not boiling) milk. Strain through a sieve back into the pan and place over a low heat, stirring all the time, until it begins to thicken (just coating the back of a wooden spoon). Take care the custard does not 'split' and the eggs begin to 'scramble'. If it does, a chef would normally start again, but rub it through a sieve and add a little slaked cornflour to the sieved custard, reheat very gently and it should then be fine. Pour the custard into a bowl and leave to cool, then stir in the brandy and mincemeat. Whip the cream lightly, then fold this into the mixture. Pour into a container and freeze until firm. With any luck the sugar and brandy will keep the ice-cream fairly soft-scoop, if not, allow to stand 15 minutes (or less) at room temperature to scoopable consistency. Return unused ice-cream immediately to the freezer.

Mincemeat Meltaways: makes about 16 (F)
8 oz (225g) plain flour
3 level tsp baking powder
half tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
4 oz (100g) butter or marg
4 oz (100g) caster sugar
1 egg, beaten
8 oz (225g) mincemeat
flaked almonds
Sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Rub in the fat until like breadcrumbs, then stir in the sugar and the egg. Knead the dough lightly on a floured surface and roll out to about an eighth of an inch (0.3cm) thick (either on the same surface or between sheets of baking parchment). Handle the dough carefully.
Stamp out both circle and lids to the size required to line 16 bun tins (top diameter 2.5"/6.5cm). Place a circle of the dough in the base of each tin and cover with 1 tsp of the mincemeat. Top with the lids (these will seal themselves when cooking), and scatter over the nuts. Bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for about 15 minutes. Leave in the tins for five minutes, then slip the 'meltaways' onto a wire rack to finish off cooling.
To Freeze: open freeze, uncovered, until firm. Pack in rigid containers, seal and return to the freezer. To serve: unwrap, place on a wire rack, and thaw at room temperature for about an hour.


Friday, December 05, 2008

Using Left-overs

Below is a favourite recipe of mine for making economy marzipan and am also giving a recipe for economy fondant icing. If you have a blender/liquidiser, then use this to grind granulated sugar down to caster, then continue grinding small amounts of the caster down to make icing sugar (cheaper than buying icing sugar). For fine icing (not necessary for marzipan) sift before using, and regrind the larger bits.

economy marzipan:
8 oz (225g) icing sugar
2 oz (50g) caster sugar
2 oz (50g) ground almonds
1 tsp golden syrup
1 egg white
2 drops almond essence
Mix everything together in a bowl, and knead well until smooth. Store in a polybag until needed to prevent it drying out.

economy fondant icing:
1 lb (450g) icing sugar, sieved
2 tsp golden syrup
1 egg white
Put 12 oz (350g) of the sugar into a bowl, add the egg white and syrup and mix well. Put the remaining sugar on a work surface, tip the mixture out onto it, and knead until all the sugar has been taken up and the fondant is smooth. Add more sugar if necessary. Wrap in greaseproof paper, then foil, until ready to use.

When icing a cake with fondant icing, bought or home-made, once the cake has been covered, sift a very little cornflour over the top of the cake and lightly smooth this over the top/sides of the cake with the flat of your hand (fingers only), this will 'polish' the surface of the icing and give a slight sheen to the icing.

Ham (pork) Hash: serves 2 - 4
1.2 lb (500g) potatoes
salt and pepper
8 oz (225g) cooked ham or pork
1 onion, quartered
half green bell pepper, de-seeded
pinch dried thyme or sage
2 tblsp butter
1 tblsp olive oil
Boil potatoes in salted water until just cooked (but not too soft), then drain thoroughly, return to the pan and place over a moderate heat, tossing potato until any excess moisture has evaporated.
Very finely chop the potatoes, ham/pork, onion and pepper together. Even better mince them together. Or even give a quick pulse or three in a food processor. Season to taste with salt and pepper, add the chosen herb and mix well.
Put the butter and oil in an 8" (20cm) frying pan, then add the hash mixture and shape into a even cake using a spatula or palette knife to flatten surface. Fry over moderate heat for 5 minutes or until the 'cake' is crisp and golden underneath. Remove from hob and finish off toasting the top under a hot grill for 3 to 4 minutes. Serve immediately, cut into wedges.

Leftovers Pie: serves 5 - 6
5 tblsp butter
1 onion, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
4 tblsp flour
1 pint of lamb or vegetable stock
12 oz (350g) cold cooked lamb, cut into chunks
12 oz (350g) mixed cooked vegetables
2 - 3 tblsp red wine
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp soy sauce
salt and pepper
6 oz shortcrust pastry
Melt the butter in a pan and saute the onion and celery over medium heat for 6 minutes. Stir in the flour and continue to cook for 10 minutes until the flour has changed to a deep golden colour. Gradually add the stock stirring it in quickly to prevent lumps, the simmer for 10 minutes. Add the meat and vegetables, then stir in the wine, Worcestershire and soy sauces, adding seasoning to taste. Pour mixture into a 1.75 pint (1 ltr) pie dish, cover and leave to cool.
Meanwhile prepare the pastry by rolling out to a size 2" (5cm) larger than the top of the pie dish. Cut a half inch (1 cm) wide strip from around edge of pastry. Brush rim of pie dish with water and press the pastry strip around the rim, brushing the pastry with water, then lift remaining pastry over the top of the pie, lightly pressing edges of pastry and pastry rim together, trimming off any excess from around the edges. Pinch edges together to seal well, and - if you wish - decorate with leaves made from the pastry trimmings.
Brush the pastry all over with beaten egg, then make a hole in the centre of the pie to allow steam to escape, place on a baking sheet and bake for 30- 40 minutes at 200C, 400F, gas 6 or until golden brown on top and heated through inside. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Picture This...

This 'new-improved' collection of recipes (a few rather than too many) begins today with an interesting savoury bread recipe that can be made by hand, but also has instructions for making the dough in a machine. It looks very particularly good if baked as a 'plait', but could be kept as one oblong 'baguette' shape if you wish - or even bake in a loaf tin..
Read the recipe first before making by hand because the dough needs to rise more times than usual, and you need to be in the house, even if not actually sitting over the dough, to control it.
Blue cheese and Bacon Bread: gives 20 slices
1.2lb (500g) strong white bread flour
14 fl oz (400ml) cold water
1 x 7g sachet instant dried yeast
1 tsp salt
6 oz (175g) lean back bacon, rind removed
3 oz (75g) Stilton (or other blue) cheese
Put a quarter of the flour (125g) into a large bowl and mix in two-thirds of the yeast. Pour over 125ml of the water and mix with hands to a sticky dough. Cover, and leave in a warm place for an hour.
After the dough has risen to a spongy mass, add the remaining flour and yeast to the bowl, add the salt and remaining water, a little at a time, working in with the fingers to make a sticky consistency. You may not need all the water.
Tip the dough onto a floured surface and sprinkle over a little flour, then knead well for about five minutes (see below re the kneading process).
Put the dough into a large bowl, cover and leave for an hour until doubled in size. Then, when risen, dry-fry the bacon until crisp, then chop it into small pieces. Sprinkle this on top of the dough along with the crumbled blue cheese (keep it chunky rather than fine crumbs), then work these into the dough, turning and kneading as before (see below) for a further 3 - 5 minutes. Dust with flour if it becomes too sticky.
Place in a bowl, cover and leave to rise up to about a third higher, then turn the dough out onto the table and cut into three equal pieces. Roll each into a long sausage shape (about 20"/50cm) long, dust with flour, then put three side by side. You can either start plaiting at one end, then tuck the ends in under, or - as I prefer to do - start plaiting from the middle, then turn the dough and plait the other end, tucking both ends in under.
Place the dough on a tray lined with baking parchment and leave to rise again for a further hour, then bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for half an hour or until golden. Cool on a wire rack before slicing.
kneading process:
When the risen dough has been put onto the table, push down into the dough with the heel of your hand and stretch the dough away from you into a long strip. You should see the dough stretching into strands. Roll the dough back towards you, give a quarter turn, and repeat the stretching, rolling, turning, for the required kneading time, by which time the dough should be smooth and silky.
baking the loaf using a bread-machine:
Add all the ingredients to the pan (in the right order for your machine) except the bacon and Stilton. Set to middle loaf size (usually 750g) and add the Stilton and bacon when the "add additional ingredients" bleeps. Leave to rise up to the second rising stage, then remove dough and continue by cutting, rolling and plaiting, baking it off in the oven, OR leave the dough in the machine for the full cycle to make a whole loaf rather than a plait.
Flapjack Trifle: serves 5
4 oz (100g) porridge oats
1 tsp mixed spice
2 oz (50g) soft light brown sugar
4 oz (100g) butter
4 small eating apples, peeled, cored, sliced
1 oz (25g) caster sugar
handful blackberries
1 pint fresh custard
1 x 284ml tub double cream
Mix together the oats, spice and brown sugar. Melt half the butter in a frying pan then stir in the oat mixture, fry for about 5 minutes until lightly toasted and crispy. Tip into a bowl to cool, then melt the remaining butter in the pan, add the apples and fry over medium/high heat turning often, until they begin to colour. Sprinkle over the caster sugar and cook for a couple more minutes until the apples are just softened. Remove from heat and leave to cool.
Take a glass serving dish and layer half the apples and not quite half the oats, then repeat (keeping back a few oats for garnish). Scatter over the blackberries, and spoon over the custard. Whip the cream until thick, then spread this on top, finally topping with the remaining oats.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Respecting Your Wishes

Here is the recipe using cooked lamb, and as it is taken from "Have a Goode Year", am also including the 'chatty bit'.
Harem Hash: serves 4
"We Western girls use left-over lamb for Shepherd's Pie, but Eastern ladies prefer to turn it into something more tantalising. Sultanas are probably the nearest I'll ever get to a Sultan but I can still hope!"
4 tblsp sunflower oil
8 oz (225g) long-grain rice
3 pints (1.75lts) boiling water
1 onion, chopped
8 oz (225g) cooked lamb, diced
1 red (bell) pepper, de-seeded and diced
2 oz (25g) sultanas
1 oz (25g) toasted flaked almonds
salt and pepper
Put half the oil in a deep frying pan and when warm, add the rice. Stir for a few moments until the rice has turned transparent. Pour over half the boiling water until all the water has been absorbed, then add more boiling water, a little at a time, until the rice is very nearly cooked (al dente). Drain, put in a sieve, cover and keep warm over simmering water.
Meanwhile put the rest of the oil in a large saucepan and fry the onion until soft. Add the meat, pepper, sultanas and almonds, adding seasoning to taste. Fry gently for 5 minutes, then stir in the rice. Toss together for a couple of minutes before piling into a hot dish. Serve with a a cucumber and yogurt salad (Raita).

For those of us who need to be frugal, we could serve this Danish version of Christmas Pudding. This is a cold dish in which the 'mandelgave' (the almond 'prize') is hidden. Whoever finds the almond gets the prize.
As long as a dish is traditional - thus having a good reason to be where it is when it is - then we should take opportunities like this to save those pennies.
Ris a l'amande:
1 pint (600ml) milk
4 tblsp pudding rice
half tsp vanilla extract
2 oz (50g) chopped almonds
1 tblsp caster sugar
5 fl oz (150ml) whipping cream
1 tsp sherry
1 whole blanched almond
Put the milk into a pan and bring to the boil. Stir in the rice and vanilla extract. Simmer gently for five minutes, stirring constantly, then cover the pan and cook gently for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the rice sticking to the bottom of the pan.
When the rice is cooked, remove from heat and leave to cool. Stir in the chopped almonds and the sugar. Whip the cream with the sherry and fold this into the cold rice. Tip into a pretty glass serving dish and finally push in the whole almond, slightly to one side rather than in the centre, so that it arrives in the dish of one lucky person.