Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Measure First Cut Once

Today's title refers to mistakes that can be made by not double checking. So often we choose a recipe then decide to make it without first reading the method. Generally I try to give the preparation at the side of ingredients (eg 1 lb carrots, trimmed and sliced), but often some things need to be done at the time of making (eg 'whisk the egg whites'), so the more utensils and appliances we can assemble before starting, the easier it becomes. Also double check the spoon measurements because even when written in full or in short form, one teaspoon (1 tsp) can often be mistaken for 1 tablespoon (1 tblsp).

Quite often we hear of cooks adding sugar to a dish instead of salt, and vice versa, and as many ingredients can look exactly the same, we need to label carefully if we remove them from their original packets to put into a storage jar.

Always prepare dishes and baking tins before the preparation of ingredients starts, there is nothing worse than reading 'immediately pour the mixture into a buttered dish/ heated frying pan' if you haven't yet greased the dish or heated the pan. Sometimes speed is necessary to get the best results from preparation to the actual cooking.

Check also oven temperatures as sometimes cooking begins with one heat that later needs to be can be lowered. On the hob take especial care when simmering because this means barely a bubble on the surface of the liquid (AWT calls this a 'burp'), far lower than a slow boil. If necessary stand a saucepan in a dry frying pan (or even in a pan with boiling water) to reduce the heat even more.

Back to the Goode kitchen. Around this time of year feel that a stock of assorted condensed soups are always a useful thing to keep in the storecupboard. Undiluted and straight from the can, the mushroom, chicken and asparagus condensed soups make a good filling for vol-au-vents. Just fold in more veg or meat according to the flavour. Diluted, half a can of oxtail will make a good 'stock/gravy' for a casserole, and undiluted except for perhaps a little cream, and maybe extra seasoning/spice, could turn into a credible dip. Any unused condensed soup can be decanted into a small container and frozen to use another time.

We do not often eat pork, for no reason other than we prefer beef, lamb or chicken. But pork is an excellent meat, lower in fat than most meats (once any visible has been removed) and when minced or cut into chunks, cooks fairly quickly. So here is a recipe for a pork casserole that cooks in the oven in less than one hour. The easy way to make it is use a can of condensed soup, and depending upon how you like the thickness of the 'gravy', a little more liquid can be added if you wish. As ever, reduce the amount of meat when you wish to lower the cost, just add more of the vegetables to make up the shortfall. This is one of those dishes that can be frozen although as it takes longer to reheat in the oven than cook in the first place, feel that this is a bit of a waste of freezer space and time. Bearing this in mind, am giving instructions for reheating in the microwave which cuts the time down by half.
Pork Casserole with Apricots: serves 6 (F)
2 lb (900g) diced pork
2 tblsp flour
salt and pepper
2 tsp dried thyme
2 tblsp sunflower oil
8 oz (225g) onions, sliced
5 ribs celery, chopped
half a pint (300ml) orange juice
1 x 295g (10.4oz) can condensed cream of celery soup
8 oz (225g) no-soak apricots
Put the flour in a bag with the dried thyme and salt and pepper to taste, add the diced pork and shake until coated.
Heat the oil in a large pan then add the pork (best done in batches) until beginning to brown, then using a slotted spoon transfer to a casserole. Add the onions and celery to the pan juices and stirfry for about 4 minutes, then add the orange juice and condensed soup. Blend well then bring to the boil. Pour over the pork in the casserole, add the apricots and mix well.
Cover and cook at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 45 minutes or until the pork is tender*. Serve with boiled rice.
To freeze: When the pork is cooked (*), cool and store in a rigid container leaving half an inch headspace. Seal, label and use within 3 months.
To serve: thaw for 6 hours in the fridge, then transfer to ovenproof dish and reheat at above temperature for at least 1 hour or until piping hot.
Alternatively, transfer to a microwave dish, breaking the block down with a spoon, then microwave on Full/High for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally until heated through.

When we first moved to Leeds, many of our neighbours were Jewish, and lovely they were, so