Friday, November 06, 2009

Closing the Gap

If a whole sponge cake is too much to serve at any one time, just make or take one sponge layer, cut it across into two semi-circles and sandwich together to make 'half a cake'.
Another way to make a decorative sandwich cake is to fill one 'half cake' with (say) chocolate butter cream, and spread the top and outer side also with the buttercream and coat with chocolate vermicelli or flakes. Fill and coat another 'half cake' using a different flavoured filling and coating. Then cut each into three or four wedges and re-assemble as a complete cake, alternating the slices. Looks very attractive.
Flavours that go well with chocolate are: orange, peppermint, and coffee.

This is an interesting version of Bubble and Squeak that my mum always served on Boxing Day with the cold turkey. It can be prepared the day ahead (and if this means Christmas Day, but let someone else do it for you), or can be made earlier on Boxing Day and allowed to rest for a couple of hours. For speed, the microwave cooking method is given, with a conventional oven method also given if that is your preference.
Bacon and Cabbage Bake: serves 6
1 large (approx 2 lb/1kg) Savoy cabbage
6 streaky bacon rashers (pref unsmoked)
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp butter, plus extra for brushing
salt and pepper
Remove any damaged outer leaves from the cabbage, and then strip off 8 of the large outer leaves and cut away the central hard part of the stems. Set aside.
Shred the remaining cabbage finely, discarding the central core. Set aside.
Cook the 8 large leaves in boiling salted water for 4 - 5 minutes until tender, then drain using a slotted spoon (keep the pan of water on the boil) and refresh under the cold tap (preferably in a bowl of iced water - a bowl of water could be put in the fridge for an hour to use for this purpose).
Put the shredded leaves into the pan of boiling water and cook these also for 4 - 5 minutes, then drain through a colander and refresh as above.
Chop the bacon into lardons and cook in a frying pan (no need for extra fat) until just becoming crispy. Remove and set aside. Add the butter to the pan and when melted stir in the onion and cook over low heat for up to 10 minutes until the onions are tender. Set aside and leave to cool, then add to the shredded cabbage with the bacon and season to taste.
to microwave:
Line two microwavable plates with clingfilm and brush with butter. Cover one plate with four of the large cabbage leaves, leaving a small border, fill with the shredded mixture, then fold over any hanging edges and top with and tuck in the remaining four large leaves.
Put the second plate on top, film side down, and lift the plates, pressing together tightly, so any excess liquid is squeezed out and can be drained away. Place a weight on top and chill for at least 2 hours, or up to 24 hours.
To serve, remove the top plate and film, and reheat in the microwave on High for 4 - 5 minutes. Have ready a warmed serving plate and invert the 'cake' over, removing the plate and its covering of clingfilm. Allow guests to cut it into wedges and serve themselves.
to oven-cook:
prepare as for above, but omit the clingfilm and just brush the (ovenproof) plates with butter. After squeezing out excess liquid, weighting and standing time (see above), cook in an oven at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 20 - 25 minutes and then serve as above. Cooked in a convential oven causes the cabbage to discolour slightly, but does not harm the flavour.

Buffet foods can be easy for the cook as most can be prepared in advance, allowing time to mingle with guests and down a drink or two without having to rush back to the kitchen.
So here is a Turkish version of the Italian pizza in mini-form, and although the recipe does not mention this, experience has shown me that the dough can be made in advance then frozen in small balls to remove, thaw, form into the bases and rise slightly again. The 'topping' can also be cooked and then frozen, to again thaw and use as shown below.
When baked, remove the 'pizzas' (Turkish name being Lahmacun), cover with a clean towel to prevent a hard crust forming, the idea being the 'pizzas' then remain soft enough to fold into two or can be rolled up to eat in the hand. For everyday use, make less dough, less filling, then bake into one or two large pizzas and eat hot in the normal way.
Lahmacun: makes 25
5 oz (150g) strong bread flour
4 oz (100g) plain flour
1 tsp instant blend dried yeast
half tsp salt
6 fl oz (175ml) warm water
1 tblsp olive oil
Mix the flours together with the yeast and salt, then add the water and oil. Mix to a dough and knead for 5 - 10 minutes (depending on whether using hands or a mixer) until the dough is soft, smooth and elastic.
Place in an oiled bowl, cover and leave in a warm place for an hour until doubled in bulk.
1 onion, finely chopped or grated
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
9 oz (250g) minced lamb
pinch each cayenne pepper and allspice
half tsp ground cumin
2 tblsp tomato puree
2 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
1 tblsp lemon juice
salt and pepper
2 tblsp melted butter
To make the topping, fry the onion in the oil until softened, adding the garlic towards the end. Stir in the minced lamb with the spices and stir/fry until turning brown, stir in the tomato puree and continue to cook making sure the lamb is moved around constantly to prevent it clumping together. After 10 minutes stir in the parsley and lemon juice. Check flavour and add seasoning to taste if necessary. Set aside.
to assemble the 'pizzas':
Knock the dough back and form into 25 small pieces, weighing about half ounce/15g each.
Roll into circles about 6 - 7cm in diameter. Place on oiled baking sheets and drape over clean tea towels for 10 minutes to allow them to slightly rise again.
Put a heaped teaspoon of the filling mixture in the centre of each 'pizza' and spread over the centre, almost but not quite to the edge. Paint over with melted butter, esp. the edges, and bake for 8 - 10 minutes at 220C, 425F, gas 7 until firm but not browned. Remove from oven, cover with clean cloths so they remain soft and able to be folded or rolled to be eaten in the hand.
Serve with tzatziki (chunky Turkish verson of Raita) - a blend of yogurt, diced cucumber, chopped mint and a little garlic.

Another buffet dish that can be made ahead and also frozen are Latkes, a European version of Hash Browns and similar to Rosti.
Extremely easy to make when using a food processor, all they need after the initial cooking is either serve at once or reheat in the oven, and this can be done while still frozen. For adults serve them with an upmarket topping such as smoked salmon and creme fraiche, for children just top with apple sauce and maybe a small slice of cooked sausage.
Latkes: makes 50 (F)
a good 3 lb (1.4kg) potatoes, peeled
1 onion, chopped
2 large eggs
half tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 - 4 tblsp self-raising flour or matzo meal
sunflower oil
Finely grate the potates, using the fine grater of a food processor, then put the gratings in the centre of a clean tea-towel, twist the ends tightly to squeeze out at much liquid as possible. Alternatively put into a sieve, pressing down firmly to extract the liquid.
Put using the normal double blade, put the onion, eggs, salt, pepper and flour or matzo meal into the processor, and pulse until just mixed to a light pulp. Do not overmix to a puree.
The mixture should be thick and sticky. If too runny add more flour/matzo meal.
Put oil into a frying pan to a depth of 1cm, and when hot add dollops of the mixture and fry for about 3 - 5 minutes on each side, flattening slightly when turning. Drain on kitchen paper and cool slightly before topping and serving OR...
...cook as above then spread out on a baking sheet, cool, cover and chill overnight (or freeze)
then crisp up in a hot oven 220C, 425F, gas 7 for 5 - 7 minutes (7 - 9 minutes from frozen), cool slightly, add chosen topping, then serve.

Final recipe today is for coconut Tuiles. These very thin curly biscuits are another upmarket favourite, but because of the thinness, a little of the mixture goes a very long way. Chefs make their own templates for forming tuiles, sometimes cut from those thin pliable plastic sheets sold in a selection of colours to use for chopping and preparing foods, at other times cutting the templates from the plastic lids of ice-cream containers. Use a sharp knife so the edges have no frays, and the templates can be used again and again.
If you wish for round Tuiles that can be draped over the handle of a wooden spoon to curl up, then cut a 7cm round from the chosen plastic, or - as other chefs seem to prefer - cut out triangles that have two long matching length sides, when cooked curl these round something thicker, such as a rolling pin. If they break - well who cares? They taste just as good.
Coconut Tuiles: makes 24
2 oz (50g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
3 oz (75g) desiccated coconut
3 oz (75g) icing sugar
1 oz (25g) plain flour
2 egg whites
Whizz the coconut in a blender or food processor until finely ground (but not to the powder stage). Add the icing sugar and flour, then pulse to combine, then add the egg whites and cooled but still runny butter and whizz again to form a smooth and slightly runny paste.
Scoop out into a bowl.
Line baking sheets with parchment and place over a template. Put a teaspoon of the mixture in the middle of the template and spread over very thinly to fill the template. Some will spread over the sides of the template, but that doesn't matter (it can be scraped off), the idea is to have a very thin and even layer of mixture on the paper. Carefully lift the templace and shape 3 - 4 more Tuiles, keeping them well spaced apart.
Bake in batches for 7 minutes at 180C, 350C, gas 4 until just golden round the edges, then carefully remove using a palette knife and place over a rolling pin pressing slightly round before it cools (or keep flat on an airing tray). Remove when cool and crisp. When all cooked and cooled, used as decoration or garnish with a dessert. If not used immediately, store in an airtight tin.
tip: to prevent crispy things (including vol au vent puff pastry cases) from going soft, place a layer of salt over the bottom of an airtight tin, cover this with a layer of kitchen paper, and then place the items you wish to store on top of this. The salt will absorb any moisture and helps to keep the goodies crisp.