Thursday, January 22, 2009

Could we? Would we? Should we?

Read some good tips yesterday about fuel-saving, especially when it comes to electric ovens, although may work also with a gas oven. Pastry, cakes and biscuits etc should be cooked in pre-heated ovens as they do require a specific cooking time, although the oven could be turned off towards the end of the cooking time.
If savoury dishes need to be cooked longer than 45 minutes then it is said that these can be put into a cold oven so they can begin to warm up at the same time. Also, after the food is reaching the end of its cooking, the heat can be turned off 10 minutes before the end as ovens take a fair amount of time to cool down. Best not to open the oven doors if doing this, as heat can be easily lost. So - within reason - we can make use of both the warming-up and cooling-down oven heats, which can save a considerable amount of energy costs over a year.

Microwaves are said to take half the power of a conventional oven, but it did not specify whether this means the new-style microwaves which can now roast and bake, or whether it means the old-style.

One recipe for you today, this time using those green lentils that make much more substantial eating than the red split lentils. First had these during the war, when we had moved to Leamington Spa, and took in evacuees. The family were Jewish and had come over from Prague. They seemed to live off the lentils, and although they did not eat bacon, told my mother that this would add flavour to the green lentils, and it certainly did.
This recipe also uses the cheap chicken thighs, which have far more flavour than the breast, particularly when cooked with the bone (easily removed once cooked). If you have no wine, use water with a dash of white wine vinegar and a sprinkling of sugar (not quite the same as wine but almost).
Chicken, Lentils and Bacon: serves 4
4 rashers streaky or back bacon, trimmed and chopped
2 tsp sunflower oil
4 chicken thighs, skin removed
2 medium onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tblsp plain flour
1 tblsp tomato puree
half pint (300ml) white wine
14 fl oz (400ml) chicken stock
4 0z (100g) green lentils
spring thyme (or 1 tsp dried thyme)
6 oz (175g) button mushrooms, halved
salt and pepper
Put the bacon in the pan with the oil and fry quickly until just beginning to crisp. Remove to a plate and set aside. Put the chicken into the oils in the pan and brown on each side, then add to the bacon.
Put the onions into the pan and fry for five minutes, then add the garlic and fry for a further minute. Stir in the flour and tomato puree, reduce heat and cook for 2 - 3 minutes, then slowly stir in the wine, stock and lentils. Bring to the boil, reduce heat, add the thyme, and simmer for 5 minutes, then stir in the mushrooms, chicken and bacon. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked and the lentils tender. Season to taste and serve hot.
A suggestion for this dish is to serve it with boiled potatoes, but feel that it would go even better with rice or another carbohydrate - maybe hot crusty bread. Cook's choice.