Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Bending with the Wind

If we have room in the freezer, then it is not too soon to start preparing for Christmas as most frozen food has a 'shelf-life' of at least three months as the nearer we get to the winter solstice, the busier we become. It helps to have 'ordinary' food to take from the freezer to cook while we get on making something more festive.
Dip gougons (finger width strips) of fresh raw chicken, turkey or fish in seasoned flour and egg and crumb, then freeze them raw. These can be deep-fried from frozen and take only a few minutes, or can also be cooked in a hot oven.
Make fish cakes and home-made beefburgers and freeze these. As the ingredients for fish cakes are already cooked, they can be shallow-fried from frozen (or oven heated) until heated thoroughly. Thaw burgers before cooking.

If there is room in the freezer, make plenty of different soups, pots of tomato sauce to use on pizzas and with pasta dishes. Have pots of home-made chicken stock to use for soups, and to add extra impact, stir in a little Marmite to turn it into a rich gravy.

Don't forget the cook's time savers. Make up tubs or bags of pastry mix, crumble mix, scone mix, boxes of grated cheese, and store in the fridge or freezer. Even uncooked bread dough can be frozen in balls to thaw, rise and use for pizza bases and other 'flat-breads' or to bake as individual rolls.

If serving stuffing with the turkey, the stuffing balls could be made now and frozen ready to cook on the day. Here is a healthy stuffing recipe that freezes well and can be formed into balls or used to stuff the neck of the turkey.
Brown Rice Stuffing: serves 8 - 10 (F)
2 eating apples, peeled and grated
9 oz (250g) brown rice, cook until just tender
4 rashers rindless streaky bacon, chopped
3 oz (75g) flaked almonds,
2 oz (50g) raisins
2 eggs, beaten
1 level tsp dried thyme
1 level tsp salt
pepper to taste
Drain the rice and add the grated apple. Put the bacon in a dry pan and fry until the fat begins to run, then add the nuts and cook until the are slightly browned. Add contents of the pan to the rice with the remaining ingredients. To cook from fresh, use to stuff neck of turkey (allow for this extra weight when timing the cooking) or make stuffing balls and place in roasting tin under the bird as it is cooking and cook for 1 hour.
To freeze: pack into rigid container, seal and label, and use within one month.
To serve: thaw stuffing for 4 hours, and cook as above.

Although we like the idea of eating a traditional Christmas Pudding after the main course, we are usually too full to enjoy more than just a spoonful, and not everyone likes the heaviness of a full-on Xmas Pud. Here is a lighter version, very similar to Sticky Toffee Pudding, that can be enjoyed by all, including the children. Serve it after Christmas lunch, or at any other family gathering. Very definitely a winter pud that is a winner as it cooks in only 15 minutes in the microwave with no pre-steaming.
Christmas Date and Chocolate Pudding: serves 8
4 oz (100g) softened butter
6 oz (175g) dark muscovado sugar
3 eggs
8 oz (225g) self-raising flour
5 fl oz (150ml) milk
1 tsp ground cinnamon
5 oz (140g) stoned dates, chopped
3 oz (75g) dark chocolate, chopped
2 oz (50g) walnut or pecan nuts, roughly chopped
6 oz (175g) each butter and golden syrup
2 tbsp dark muscovado sugar
cream for serving
To make the pudding, cream together the butter and sugar, then beat in the eggs. Sift the flour with the cinnamon and stir into the mixture, then using a wooden spoon, beat in the milk for 2 - 3 minutes until light and fluffy.
Stir in the dates, chocolate and nuts and spoon into a buttered 2 pint (1.2ltr) basin and cover with cling film.
Pierce the film several times and microwave on Medium for 12 - 15 minutes until firm to the touch and a skewer inserted comes out clean (melted chocolate may stick to the skewer). Leave to rest for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, put all the sauce ingredients into a small pan and heat gently until butter and syrup have melted and sugar dissolved. Simmer for 2 minutes until syrupy.
Remove clingfilm from pudding, and turn out onto a shallow dish. Pour over half the sauce and serve with a jug of remaining sauce and a jug of cream for pouring.