Sunday, January 04, 2009

Making Comparisons

When we begin to analyse a dish, it is often the accompaniments that give the flavour. What is salad without a good dressing? What is beef (or other meats) without a good gravy? What is lamb without mint sauce and/or redcurrant jelly. Cold meat can be boring without the mustard, pickles and other tracklements. So even if the basic meal is frugal fare, by adding something very cheap but flavoursome it can be lifted into a dish worthy to serve to a king.

Here are some examples of adding flavour:
fish pate: use smoked mackerel, kippers, sardines, tuna etc. Flake and cream the fish with softened butter (ration 2:1 of fish to butter) then add the flavours. Beat in a little creamed horseradish, lemon juice and add a pinch of cayenne pepper, with salt and pepper - all to taste (which means add a little at the beginning and continue adding more of each until you have the flavour you desire).

fried cheese sarnies: mix together 4 oz (100g) grated Cheddar cheese and the same of cream cheese. Add flavour by grated up 2 peeled dessert apples and adding these with a couple of drops of Tabasco or other pungent sauce, and salt and pepper to taste. Divide between four slices of bread, and cover these with bread to make sarnies. Fry in melted butter on both sides until golden and the cheese is melting slightly. Serve hot.

Tomatoes needing to be cooked for quite a lengthy time to bring out their flavour. Only the quality Italian canned tomatoes have the richness of taste we look for. Lengthy cooking time of fresh tomatoes can be costly, so it is now worth paying that little bit extra to buy quality canned tomatoes, and cook for less time. Adding tomato puree/paste can also intensify the flavour.
Here is a recipe for a tomato fondue with so much flavour that - without the cheese - would make a good pasta sauce or soup in its own right. A smaller amount of cheese could then be added after if wished.
Tomato Fondue: serves 4
2 oz (50g) butter
1 small onion, finely chopped or grated
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 x 794g (28oz) can tomatoes
1 tsp dried oregano or marjoram
1 tsp paprika pepper
2 tsp dried basil ( or a few torn fresh leaves)
half pint (300ml) white wine (or half and half with water)
salt and pepper
1 lb (500g) grated Cheddar cheese
Melt the butter in a fondue dish or heavy pan/casserole. Stir in the onion and cook until softened then stir in the garlic. Drain the tomatoes thoroughly then mash them to a pulp (or blitz in a blender). Add to the onion, with the herbs, paprika and wine, adding seasoning to taste. Simmer gently for 10 minutes.
Gradually stir in the cheese and cook over a low heat until melted. Serve immediately with cubes of bread to be dipped into the hot fondue before eating.

When someone is on an upward path to learning how to cook (from scratch), sometimes it can become far too complicated and who can blame anyone for returning to the ready-meals again. Far better to use some convenience tricks to reduce the work load, so that when eventually experience makes everything so much easier, then maybe many of the 'cons' can then be left out.

As this is credit-crunch time - and possibly for the whole of this year and the next - we can now avoid calling cheap food 'frugal fare' and instead call it the 'crunch munch'. Strange isn't it how changing a name can make it more appealing? Wonder how long it will be before some cook book comes out with that as a title.