Friday, November 20, 2009

Foiled Again!

Many of us fall by the wayside and buy a ready-meal just because it can be popped into the oven without having to do anything to it. Often it stays in its own tray (with just the plastic film removed), so no pans to clean (some of us eat from the tray instead of putting the cooked food onto a plate).
Almost certainly it is the lack of preparation that appeals to us. So today am giving some suggestions as to how to make up our own 'packs', that can then be frozen, thawed and then put straight into the oven. Saves a lot of cleaning pans, although slightly more expensive due to the disposable foil (but wiped clean it can go into a recycle bin).

Portions of chicken, turkey, meat, offal and fish - together with herbs, vegetables and seasoning - can all be wrapped in foil for oven baking (or can be frozen, thawed and then baked).
All treated in the same way by first taking a sheet of foil, large enough to enclose the food(s) to be cooked. Lay the foil flat on the table, shiny side up (this reflect the heat towards the food), and have the longest sides parallel to you. Brush the foil with oil and place the chosen food in the centre. Lift each side of the foil to meet in the centre, and make a double fold, pressing them firmly together. Fold each end over twice, really firmly, to make an airtight (and leakproof) parcel.
Note: for freezing, closely wrap the food, then undo the foil and re-fold more loosely so that the heat can reach the food. If not freezing, then wrap the food loosely. But in both instances makes sure the package is tightly sealed.
All suggestions below are cooked at the same temperature: 190C, 375F, gas 5. See each suggestion for the timing.

Pork and Apple:
Put a pork chop in the centre of the greased foil, finely chop a small peeled apple, and a shallot and spread this on top of the chop. Season with salt, pepper and sage, and moisten with a tablsp of cider or stock. Wrap tightly and freeze, or wrap more loosely and bake for 45 minutes.

Trout with Orange:
Put cleaned and prepared trout onto centre of the greased foil and top with 3 slices of orange.
Squeeze juice from remaining orange and pour this over. Wrap tightly for freezing, or loosely for baking' Bake for 40 minutes.

Chicken Escalope:
Put a slightly flattened boneless chicken breast onto greased foil, top with a few sliced button mushrooms, add seasoning to taste, and moisten with 2 tblsp cream or white wine. Seal and bake for 30 minutes.

Gammon with Apricots:
Put the gammon steak onto the greased foil, and top with a couple of canned and drained apricot halves. Spoon over 2 teaspoons of the apricot syrup. Seal and bake for 30 minutes.

Savoury Haddock:
Put the fish onto the greased foil. Top with some thyme and parsley stuffing, and spoon over 2 tblsp parsley sauce. Seal and bake for 35 minutes.

Liver, Bacon and Onions:
Thinly slice 4 oz (100g) lambs liver and place, overlapping, in centre of greased foil. Snip one bacon rasher into small pieces over the top of the liver, then arrange thinly sliced onion ringson top of that. Season to taste and moisten with 2 tblsp red wine or beef stock. Seal and bake for 35 minutes.

Lamb with Courgettes:
Put a lamb chop or lamb steak onto the greased foil. Top with 3 or 4 slices of baby courgette and also a sliced tomato. Season to taste and sprinkle with parsley or mint. Seal and bake for 45 minutes.

Cooking vegetables in foil packets:
Save fuel by cooking several vegetable in the same pan.
Put the vegetables on a square of foil, season to taste and add a knob of butter. Gather up the four corners and twist tightly together. Put into a pan of boiling water and cook.
The following timings are for 1lb (400g) fresh vegetables. Reduce the time by a quarter if the vegetables are frozen.
35 minutes for: broad, French and runner beans; broccoli and cauliflower florets; baby (new) potatoes.
30 minutes for: diced swedes.
25 minutes for: sliced courgettes; peas.

When freezing food, a lot of us use the ready-made foil tins, sold in various shapes and sizes. If only used once these are costly, but lining with 'layering tissue' (Lakeland sell this) before putting in the food, once frozen this can be lifted out leaving a clean container than can be used again (and again). Covering the surface pf the food with the tissue means the lid will also stay clean.

To make our own foil containers, choose the container you wish to copy, then turn it over and place a large enough square of double-thickness foil over the base, pressing firmly down the sides, pleating if necessary. Remove the container and trim/turn over edges of the foil.. If filling with liquid, stand home-made container on a baking sheet before filling, and leave to set or freeze before removing.
To make a sturdier base, cut an old container lid to size, and slip this between the double sheet of foil, where you wish the base to be. Old lids can be used again if the surface of the food is first covered with foil, the lid then placed on top.