Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Spoonful of Sugar...

When baking, usually we need to be pretty exact about measuring the ingredients, but sometimes a little more or less does not make that much difference, and certainly with savoury dishes there is even less of a concern. So as it can be a right pain to drag out the kitchen scales. especially when wishing to measure small amounts, today am giving the alternative - and old fashioned - way of measuring by the spoonful. With a bit of practice we can soon remember and go back to cooking the easy way as our grandmothers did. Just one thing, make sure the tablespoon is the correct size, some are much larger than others. An easy way to check is that three level teaspoons equal one tablespoon.

solid measures: all are level tablespoons
1 oz flour = 2 tblsp
1 oz sugar (gran/caster) = 1 1/2 tblsp
1 oz icing sugar = 2 tblsp
1 oz fat (marg, lard, butter) = 2 tblsp
1 oz honey -=1 tblsp
1 oz gelatine = 2 tblsp
1 oz cocoa = 3 tblsp
1 oz cornflour = 2 1/2 tblsp
1 oz custard powder = 2 1/2 tblsp
1 oz uncooked rice = 1 1/2 tblsp
1 oz gran. yeast = 1 tblsp

1 oz ground almonds = 4 tblsp
1 oz fresh breadcrumbs = 7 tblsp
1 oz grated cheese = 3 1/2 tblsp
1 oz desiccated coconut = 4 1/2 tblsp
1 oz curry powder or spices = 5 tblsp

For those who may wish to use an American recipe that uses the 8 fl oz cup measure, here is another conversion. If you can find a mug that holds just 8 fl oz, keep this to use as a measure.
cup to ounce conversion:
1 cup flour = 4 oz
1 cup sugar (gran or caster) 8 oz
1 cup sifted icing sugar = 5 oz
1 cup fat (marg, butter etc)= 8 oz (same weight solid or liquid)
1 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed = 4 oz
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs = 2 oz
1 cup dry breadcrumbs = 3 oz
1 cup uncooked rice = 6 oz
1 cup cooked rice = 5 oz
1 cup mixed dried fruit = 4 oz
1 cup grated cheese = 4 oz
1 cup chopped nuts = 4 oz
1 cup coconut = 2 1/2 oz

liquid measures:
1 pint = 20fl oz /600ml = 32 tblsp
half pint = 10fl oz/300ml = 16 tblsp
quarter pint = 5 fl oz /150ml = 8 tblsp
1 fl oz liquid = 2 tblsp

For what its worth one egg (for cooking purposes) should weigh 2 oz, although slightly more should not make that much difference. If the recipe needs (say) four eggs, we could get away with using three larger ones (or any amount of any size as long as the total weight is 8 oz).

With the above, it is fairly easy to pencil in the tablespoon equivalents against many recipes, and the recipe below is mainly by the spoonful and a very interesting way to make pork fillet go a long way. Thin slices of plump chicken breast could be used as an alternative to the pork.
Roman Money-Bags: serves 4
12 oz (350g) pork fillet
half tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper
8 tblsp canned or cooked sweetcorn
1 x 250g pack broccoli
2 tsp olive oil
1 red bell pepper, trimmed, seeded and diced
2 tblsp ricotta or curd cheese
2 tblsp torn basil leaves
1 tblsp chopped fresh oregano
20 tiny cubes of mozzarella cheese (approx 1 oz)
Slice the fillet into 20 rounds and beat each out between clingfilm until three times their original size and almost transparent. Season lightly with half the salt and a little pepper to taste.
Separate the broccoli into 20 tiny florets, and peel and finely dice the stems. Blanch both briefly in boiling water for 1 minute, then drain and set aside.
Mix all the vegetables with the ricotta and remaining salt, then stir in the herbs and divide this mixture equally between the 20 pieces of pork fillet. Gather up the sides to nearly enclose the filling, leaving just a gap in the centre so some of the veggies are visible, and push one cube of mozzarella into the centre of each.
Sprinkle over a little more black pepper then place each 'money-bag' in a large, shallow ovenproof dish that has the base and sides greased with half of the oil. Brush remaining oil over the exposed surface of the meat.
Bake in the centre of a 190C, 375F, gas 5 oven for 15 - 20 minutes until the meat has cooked through and the edges are just beginning to colour. If you wish the mozzarella to melt further, remove from the oven after 12 - 15 minutes and finish off under a hot grill, but do not over-cook for the pork will stiffen up too much. Serve hot with what you will (rice, noodles, couscous, salads etc).