Thursday, October 15, 2009

Variations on a Theme

Today's recipes are showing different ways of making something that we might expect to serve not just at Christmas meal, but quite often at other times of the year. An added bonus is that some can be prepared one or more days in advance.

Whether needed or not, in the Goode kitchen both roast potatoes and mashed potatoes are served with the turkey. B dislikes mash, but he does like this next recipe. I particularly like it as it can be prepared the day before, then cooked on the day, so is ideal to accompany the roast spuds, and being a bit more 'upmarket' than ordinary mash, good to serve when entertaining, so can be served at any time of the year. Increase the amount according to how many portions you wish to serve.

Good potatoes for both roasting and the following dish are Maris Piper or Desiree.
Dauphinoise Potatoes: serves 4
1 lb (500g) potatoes
12 fl oz (350ml) milk
1 x 284ml tub double cream
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
sprig fresh thyme
salt and pepper
3 oz (75g) Gruyere cheese, grated
Peel the potatoes and slice fairly thinly (no larger than thickness of a pound coin).
Put the milk and cream into a pan and heat to the simmer, then add the garlic and herbs, adding seasoning to taste. Simmer for 2 minutes.
Put the sliced potatoes in another pan and strain the creamy milk over, discarding the garlic and herbs, then simmer for 7 - 8 minutes until the slices are just beginning to soften, but still hold their shape.
Using a slotted spoon, layer potatoes to a shallow, ovenproof dish, sprinkling in 2/3rds of the cheese between the layers, then pour the creamy milk over the potatoes and scatter the remaining cheese on the top. Cool, cover and chill in the fridge until needed, then cook at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 15 - 20 minutes until bubbling and golden. Stand for 10 minutes before serving.

For years we have eaten stuffing either made into balls, or from a stuffed turkey, or maybe served in one dish with a little butter on the surface to give a crispy top, and perhaps because of tradition we have never considered making it in any other way.
This next recipe has all the flavour of a stuffing, but the texture of a 'crumble', and this then leads me to considering using it as a topping for a savoury pie instead of using pastry. Certainly a different way to give the Christmas flavour to the bird of your choice.
Herb and Onion Stuffing: serves 8
7 oz (200g) fresh white bread crumbs
5 oz (125g) butter
1 onion, finely chopped or grated
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 large sprig each rosemary and thyme
6 fresh sage leaves
grated zest of 1 large lemon
2 oz (50g) flaked almonds, chopped
salt and pepper
3 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
Melt the butter in a large frying pan and gently saute the onions for a bout 5 minutes until softened. Stir in the garlic and fry a further minute.
Remove leaves from rosemary and thyme and finely chop these with the sage, then add to the pan, frying for a minute to release the flavours, then add the breadcrumbs, stirring until all the butter has been absorbed. Sprinkle over the lemon zest and almonds, adding seasoning to taste, then stir-fry over medium heat for about 8 minutes or until the crumbs are browned and crisp. Mix in the fresh parsley and serve in a heated bowl.

Whether for the above recipe, or other uses (bread sauce, burgers etc) a bag of fresh breadcrumbs should always be kept in the freezer, then half the job is done, and also a good way to use up the ends of bread that is just turning stale (stale crumbs soak up more moisture than very fresh ones).
Here is a very traditional recipe with very few ingredients (one being breadcrumbs) that grown men plead for. How is it that something so simple can be so pleasing?
Treacle Tart: serves 4
8 oz (225g) shortcrust pastry
4 oz (100g) soft white breadcrumbs
4 oz (100g) porridge oats
4 tlsp golden syrup
Roll out the pastry and use to line an 8" (20cm) well greased, shallow cake tin. Mix together the remaining ingredients and pour into the pastry case.
Bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for about 25 minutes. Serve with custard.

This next recipe has a double use. It can either be used on a biscuit base to make a type of cheesecake, or eaten as an alternative to the brandy or rum butters we make at Christmas. It will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days after making.
Boozy Cheesecake Cream: serves 6
4 oz (100g) full-fat soft cheese
1 tblsp caster sugar
4 oz (100g) orange marmalade
2 tsp rum or brandy
5 fl oz (150ml) double cream
Using an electric whisk, beat the soft cheese and sugar together until the sugar has dissolved, then beat in the marmalade. In a separate bowl lightly whip the cream with the chosen spirit. then fold gently into the cheese mixture. Spoon into a serving bowl and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes or (covered) for up to 3 days.